Experience makes all the difference

World Cup Finals 2018 – My take away

So I’ve just come back from our trip to Paris (I know you’re all hating me right now!), where we went to watch the World Cup Finals (WCF).

Since I used to be pretty into dressage we didn’t just watch the Jumping Final but also took an interest in the Dressage Final. And, I’m glad we did, because I had a huge take away from watching the mental aspect this year in particular.

I’ll set the stage:

Isabell Werth (from Germany) has around 40 medals from major championships to her name, and is the reigning WCF champion from 2017 (we watched that one too in Omaha). She clearly has a lot of experience to draw from.

Laura Graves (American) is a young up and coming rider with one fabulous horse she has grown with and trained herself. She too was at the WCF in 2017 and placed 2nd overall to Isabell.

In the Dressage Final they ride the Grand Prix test and then the Freestyle, where they all come back on an even score. The Grand Prix test is basically to set the order for the Freestyle it seems, as they come back in nearly reverse order (the best 5 from the GP test come back as the last 5, in a drawn order – a bit more confusing than needed!).

So Laura wins the first night with about 3% higher score than Isabell. Isabell had some pretty clear mistakes in her test so ended the day in 2nd. At the press conference Isabell cheekily says, “C’est la vie”, and Laura is determined to bring her ‘A’ game to the Freestyle the next night.

Night 2: The order for the top 5 from night one is drawn and Laura goes 4th last and Isabel goes 2nd last. In my humble opinion Laura’s ride was conservative at the beginning and got stronger and more confident by the end. When Isabell came in she looked like she always does – as though she rides 10 horses a day and this is just another test. Nothing about her looked nervous or tense. Her test was strong, accurate and it was hard to pick out a mistake.

My take away from this is that it seemed that Isabell’s experience and seemingly ‘nothing to lose’ approach is what gave her a stronger Freestyle. And Laura’s less experience made her a little conservative, maybe riding to not make a mistake rather than going for it.

It makes me think about my own riding. Two things: first, ride your ride every time, go out with a plan that is competitive and do that; second, let go of the mistakes, it will get you further. Everybody makes them… EVERYONE. And everybody knows when they mess up but you can’t go back anyway, so go forward instead.

I’m sure as we get older and wiser in all aspects of life we will wish we could tell our younger selves things we have learned, so maybe instead we can watch and learn and skip ahead by gathering others’ knowledge and save the strife? Maybe J

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