Monday, March 30, 2015

Never. Chase. Points.

In my "welcome back to riding" post from the other day,  I mentioned that I won't be likely to point-chase on Mo, in part because of who he is (a baby still, thrives from having a break, stresses out when he feels too pressured--things that may change when he is a grown up, but that's the horse I have today). And in one of my over-used parantheticals, I issued my decree: NEVER CHASE POINTS. Lauren asked me to elaborate.

I don't have any pics for this post, so here are some critters I love. This is Duchess.
 It's not as though point-chasing has never occurred to me. I love horse showing. LOVE. If I had the budget, I would live at horse shows and compete as much as possible. I thrive on the environment, I'm competitive but not to the point that I MUST win, and I love seeing beautiful horses and tack and riders all spit-shined and ready to rock it.

Almost ready for his show career.
 But perhaps I need to back up a second. Let's remember that I'm a jumper rider in my heart of hearts. That has two implications: 1. I don't really know a lot about points in any other discipline, though I have to assume that the set-ups are somewhat similar.  2. The way we try to win any given class is different than how other folks try to win. (NOTE: I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT DRUGGING HERE. Topic for a different day.) When dressage folks and hunters try to win, they're putting in their best test that day, and it is subjectively measured. Of course, dressage horses and show hunters are athletes, and in addition to elegance, they must be accurate and powerful. But I think in those two disciplines, riders are going to be at least somewhat less likely to make the horse absolutely crazy in one class, as jumper riders trying to beat the clock can do. Eventers lie somewhere in the middle, as they must start with a dressage score, but they can of course push the horse very hard over fences if they're trying to win.
I miss my Lexi.

 So here's my philosophy on winning, as a jumper rider and former eventer: Don't try.

Okay, what I really mean is, don't try 95%-ish of the time. I will try to win when these three, and all of these three, conditions are met: 1. It is a money class (which I haven't ridden in in a LONG time, having been horseless for a good seven years and in greenie world for the last few); 2. I'm actually positioned to win if I do things right (meaning there aren't 15 other horses in the jump off who could easily kick my ass); 3. Trying to win will not result in frying my horse's brain; in other words, he can cope with the pressure.

This horse's brain fries at the slightest provocation.

That does not mean that I don't care about pulling rails or time faults, because I REALLY DO. I always prepare to ride clean and inside the time, and I typically pull that off. And sometimes I win because other people made more mistakes than I did that day. And sometimes I don't win even though the horse's performance put me over the moon with happiness. It doesn't matter. It's not worth trying to win, because it isn't worth galloping recklessly around a course and taking huge risks that could demoralize or fluster my horse or get one of us hurt. And I know y'all know what I mean, you've seen plenty of those riders.

Another nutty horse I used to ride. She's an eventer now.
Those kinds of "I have to win this 3'6" jumper class!!!!" rounds just kill me, because they violate the first rule of horsemanship: The horse always comes first. Always. Always.

Now, don't get me wrong, I make rider errors that piss the horse off or confuse him or whatever, as do we all. I'm not saying "be perfect or don't ride." I'm saying that don't throw your education and horse sense to the wind the minute you get your sights set on a blue ribbon.

Ella wants all the points if points = toys.

Further, there are entire horse shows that I won't go to because I don't think it's worth it if you AREN'T going to be competitive (Upperville, for instance, which is less than an hour from my house and I have a really nice show jumper, but we won't be going, because he is not an Upperville horse and I haven't shown in a good 18 months). That doesn't mean YOU shouldn't. If you want to do Dressage at Devon just because and you know you're not going to win anyway, that's fine. I just don't, because I don't have any real money, and that's just how I've organized my life.

Back when I was pretending to be a dressage rider, double bridle and all.
This horse wasn't gonna win any year-end awards, as he reared in half his tests.
Still got his rider a silver medal, though.

So if you draw the line from "don't try to win" to "never chase points," you see that it's quite direct. I can't chase points if I'm not trying to win. And I can't chase points if there are some horse shows I'm not going to go to. Points require being in the ring A LOT. That's great! I love being in the ring a lot. But it means being in the ring a lot on the same horse, and here's the thing: not all horses can or should handle that. And even if they can--if you're getting near the high point award on your horse, and you decide to chase points, remember that someone could likely outspend you by going to shows on your circuit that you can't afford to go to, can't get the time off work or it just isn't in the budget, and all of a sudden you've outspent your means and maybe worn out your horse (and perhaps yourself) and... you're not in the top.

Do points = peppermintses?
So. There you have it. That's why I don't chase points. That doesn't mean you shouldn't, and if you get a high point award, you will receive my hearty and sincere congratulations, because I trust that we are all doing our best to make good decisions for ourselves and our horses.

Forget points. Chase naps.


  1. I'm with you. It's all about realistic goals with top priority to the horse's well-being (not getting fried, as you say).

    1. Yep. They all need a break. I'm grudgingly prepared to admit that having the winter off was good for Mo, even if I was a miserable wretch for 3+ months.

  2. For me as a jumper rider I see point chasing as 2 things. There is point chasing at the show for champion or reserve. I typically don't do all the division classes since I only show one class per day and sometimes not on a Friday. Since I choose to save my horse and keep her fresh for the Sunday money class I don't point chase there. There is also point chasing if you are trying to qualify for finals. This may mean going to extra shows to pick up say NAL points to qualify for NAL finals. This is ok. I can't say I wouldn't do it. I haven't had to but maybe I would if I was close to the cut off and wanted to go. I always ride to win though. Why not? But when I say that I mean I try to give my horse the best ride. If it's a non money class I may view it as schooling but I am practicing for that money class so I am practicing those tighter turns and tidying up. For my NAL classes yes I'm going for it. I don't believe in taking unnecessary risks but I'm going to lay down the best round I can. As I was bringing Poppy along I tried to at least get in the money. Now I want to do better. Winning and ribbons isn't everything but it's the trying that's fun :)

    1. Right, and there are often circuit championships, at least up here. And some organizations have year-end awards.

      I'm not saying don't put in a great round in a non-money class. I'm just saying that in some cases, one can tell that the rider is giving a horse a ride more geared toward winning than toward teaching the horse something and building his or her confidence. Does that make sense? I try to practice excellent turns under all conditions. :)

    2. Oh yes and there's also zone points etc. If I am in a money class I'm not just making an excellent turn, I'm taking that inside turn that's going to shave time off. If I'm using a non money class as a schooling I might not if I'm going for just a positive round. What it comes down to (and I think is your main point) is that you shouldn't put your horse's welfare at stake for the point of ribbons/points/money.

  3. I want a high point award SO.BAD.

    But yeah, not good at shows, not a competitive person, and green horse.

    Definitely agree with what you're saying and an excellent perspective all around.

    1. I want a high point award too. I just want to happen into it by screwing up the least, ha.

  4. I recently discovered that in the dressage world, there are local associations where you can do a handful of schooling shows (at around $50 a pop), qualify for a championship that feels like the real deal, and get a really pretty ribbon at the end of the year without breaking the bank or driving your horse all over creation or wearing anyone out. It's kind of fun! I wish there were local h/j associations that met all those criteria (maybe there are in other regions), it would have been great.

    1. oooOOOOoooo!

      Man, sometimes I think I need to take another look at dressage. Especially because I'm in Florida at the moment, and one of the things I'm bringing back is my Stubben torture-device dressage saddle that's at least as old as me. It's brown, at least.

    2. Not that I'd give up jumping. I'm not prepared to live without the jumper ring yet/ever.

  5. This is really good for me to read, because I also really want a high point award. However, the big thing right now for me is finances. Since I am a new jumper rider, my goals are usually "Don't add. Don't go so deep in the corners. Keep the rails up." Sometimes that gets me towards the top and sometimes it doesn't.

    In my area, there are lots of people who can outspend me by going to shows... it's tempting for me to try and keep up, but I need to remember your words!

    1. Yes, exactly--good goals for each round, and it's educational for you and the horse (valuable at any level).

      Gliterally everyone can outspend me in my area. If Mo wins any high point awards, it won't be this year. Ha.

  6. I have and probably will never win a high point award. Until a become someone's trophy wife, lolz.

  7. Taylor's an eventer now? Kris found a buyer for her? YAY!! How's Riley? I'm very out of touch with everyone. If you see Dutchie give her a kiss and a carrot from me.

  8. i have actually never really thought about it this way (but have also never done a jumper class) - lots of good food for thought here. my riding and competition goals are always really all about me. i want to ride to the best of my abilities and do justice to my horse and her training. anything more than that is a bonus :)

  9. Replies
    1. Apparently I hit 'publish' too early.

      I'm a new jumper rider, and did 2 shows last year in the Itty Bitty division (2' to 2'3"). My goals for those shows were to stay on, try to come in under the time, don't go off course and not to make an ass out of myself or my trainer. At my first show, I put down some decent rides, and was totally surprised when I missed Reserve Champion by 5 points! I love ribbons as much as the next satin ho, but for me, each show is a learning experience, and like you said, I'd rather be out of the ribbons but lay down an excellent ride, than win with a crappy ride (note: "crappy ride" differs for each rider). I was lucky enough to ride a tried-and-true horse for my first 2 shows and we ribboned in every class. But it was much more about getting some show miles under my belt and having fun, and I think that's what's most important for me.