Traditionally, I've always felt a strong affiliation with the idea of the Olympics and Paralympics, mostly because of my love for sports in general, and especially for the determination and perseverance that I know athletes must have to pursue in order to be at the top of the world in their skill area.
I am also fully aware of the business that IS Olympics, the political repercussions, the expenditures that could be so needed in other areas and the big business behind it all that is interested only in the bottom line.
Having said all that, the allure of the Games is nevertheless attractive and appealing. The simple fact that venues such as the Olympics and Paralypmics feed the dreams and aspirations of athletes to push themselves to the limit, not only physically - but mentally, emotionally, financially and probably in many other ways that we, the audience, can only begin to understand - is what draws me to take the events so seriously.
We see the moments of the main event, but there is so much more that goes into the day-to-day, year-to-year path.
TV broadcasting schedules and timetables for the Summer Olympics in Rio:
Canada: CBC Olympics Broadcast Schedule
Here are 8 things we can learn from our equestrian Olympians, as they head off to the premier horse show at Rio.
It's more about technique than strength.
It's true when they say that Equestrian is the great equalizer in sport. It is the only Olympic sport where men compete against women on equal terms. This is because riding doesn't depend on raw strength. In fact, it's more about timing, coordination, strategy and character.
The never ending learning potential that is horse riding is one of the key factors that keeps us coming back for more over the hard times and the plateaus that we invariably cross.
Age doesn't matter.
Then there's the age factor. The elite level of many sports is reserved only for the very young. Not so with horse riding. At age 52, both Beezie Madden and Phillip Dutton are the oldest competitors of team USA at these Games. Ian Miller of Canada competed in his tenth Olympic games in 2012 at the age of 65.
Equestrian is one of the only sports that rewards experience and longevity. Regardless of the riding discipline we choose, age really is only a number. And years in the saddle, acquired knowledge and muscle memory can carry you a long way for a long time.
Para competition - riding is for everyone.
All abilities are included at the highest level of sport thanks to the Paralympics, which is the elite level of the sport Para-Equestrian. 11 medals are up for grabs this year. With 29 countries participating, it will be an awesome and inspiring competition on some of the world's finest horses.
Horses provide an alternative for people of all stripes, and serve in many ways to promote independence, confidence, mobility and sheer joy.
It's all about the horse.
Equestrian is the only sport where your teammate is an animal. While we are all vying for the medals in the competitive arena, we are also all bonded together by our love for the horse. At their core, all equestrians are horse lovers first and foremost.
Gotta put in the time.
Dedication and commitment take on a whole new meaning when it comes to horses and horse showing. Not only does the rider have to work on herself, but she also has to put as much, if not more, effort into preparing her horse. While the elite riders have grooms and support personnel, the rest of us tend to assume a D.I.Y. approach for everything from riding to grooming to training to loading up the trailer and transporting.
The show at the Games is only the tip of the iceberg.
It really does take a village.
Imagine the iceberg that is horse showing - at home, or at the Olympics. There is so much preparation behind that momentary kick at the can. It starts years before, for both horse and rider, and is the result of the coming together of many efforts by many people, some of whom might never have been part of the initial Olympic plan.
Let's take the horse. Years before the big show, that horse was just a young'un learning to walk, trot and canter, just like the millions of other horses in the world. People fed him, other people walked him to the field, and back to the stall. Farriers took care of his feet, chiropractors keep his spine aligned.
The rider, too, might have been putting in the long hours of sitting trot, or two point at the canter. Graduating from coach to more advanced coach, riding first one horse, then the next, always seeking to improve and develop her skills.
The road converges when both horse and rider become a team, when lady luck smiles on them and keeps them both safe and sound, and they make that trip to their destination that is the Olympics... or the local show down the road.
You can't always peak when you want to - and it's still worth the trip!
There are so many variable that must come together that most people will not actually get the best performance of their life on the day that it really matters. But here's the thing. It's about the process, not just the result.
Even if things don't pan out exactly the way we want them to, the whole lead-up to the Games (show) is worth every minute. Both the rider and the horse are richer for the experience, and can carry what they've learned onto new venues and situations.
Having ridden (literally!) side-by-side with some of the top riders in my area, I have seen the regular effort, persistence, and sometimes downright stubborness that is essential to get back on the horse (pun intended) - all to culminate in this Olympic "dream" that they are now a part of.
I watch and marvel at the perseverance of people who touch me at the core of my being because of their:
- and probably most importantly, because of the disciplined raw energy they put into their chosen field of endeavor.
It makes you think, what would the world be like if everyone put just a percentage of that intensity and devotion into something we feel equally attracted to?
Enjoy this fun FEI video for the horses going to the Olympics.
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If you’d like a structured, but personal tool to set goals, take a look our Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. The pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.
Included in the book:
- design your overarching goals
- long- and short-term planning,
- debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
- reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
- sample goals and pages
The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.
More fun reading here:
8 Ways To Help Your Horse Achieve His Highest Potential: Regardless of what we want to do with our horses, our first responsibility is always to the horse.
17 Wise Reflections - Straight From The Horse's Mouth! My horse, Annahi, is full of words of wisdom for those horses around her who are willing to listen.
Eight Legs Plus Two: A poem.
Starting to Breathe Again: Written before Hickstead’s untimely passing, this post described what it felt like to watch his $1 million CN International winning round.
5 Life Lessons From Horses: How can horses help us grow and develop in our own lives?