I`ve been working with a talented group of twenty something year old event riders who have so many of the requisite qualities to become very good indeed. But they lack one big piece of the puzzle. Do any of you remember from “Star Wars” when Han Solo`s Millenium Falcon made “the jump into hyperspace”, that pedal to the metal blastoff that took the ship from the realm of the ordinary into an almost ethereal state?
This “jump into hyperspace” seems a perfect analogy for the really good but struggling rider who catches the break of attracting the attention, and the subsequent sponsorship, of someone who can afford to buy the kinds of horses that can blast that rider into a new plane of existence. Think Kim Severson BEFORE Winsome Adante, or for that matter, AFTER Winsome Adante, compared to WITH Winsome Adante.
The riders I teach aren`t from families who can scour the globe for those elite horses, who have huge farms, personal trainers, none of that. They work hard for what they get, and, because it`s hard and slow, they measure out their small triumphs in coffee spoons rather than in silver buckets. None is a charming boy with the requisite beaming smile or foreign accent. They may not understand networking, or working a crowd. They don`t have “champions” to pave their way.
The eventing world is full of these good, talented, driven, hard working, brave riders, as are the other various disciplines, but the stern reality is that catching that break can seem very random, and elusive.
The question that they must ask themselves in their reflective moments is how long can they keep grinding away when there`s nothing on the horizon that looks much like land in sight. If they keep plugging, there`s no assurance that they will get access to wonderful horses, but if they quit plugging, it`s a virtual guarantee that they won`t. So what to do, and how long to do it?
The biggest key is becoming very, very good, so good that they win consistently on whatever they sit on. And learning to be friendly to everybody. Nobody wants to sponsor even a talented grouch. But it`s still pretty random, and I sometimes think back to the Le Goff and De Nemethy USET days when the Team could talent search and dole out elite horse to those identified as having elite potential. But those days are gone, and sponsors these days don`t sponsor “The Team”, they sponsor a rider who is trying to make “the Team.”
So what should they do? No magic answers from me, just a personal thought. Try and try to become the best rider in America. Sit the trot until you and the horse become one entity. See your distances. Be tough and brave and fit, and turn yourself into such an elite and athletic rider that you force yourselves onto the radar screens of those you need to reach. MAKE them want to help you, because you are just that good.