What idea does that phrase convey to you? Elite sport, being selected for a team, prestige and recognition? It is a proudly mentioned tag line in many riders personal advertisements, an important way to distinguish themselves in a crowded market place. It really means something to have been selected to represent your country; in theory it means you are one of the best. It is a dream which motivates many riders and one which a tiny minority sees come true. Personally, I knew I didn’t stand a chance and that is realism not defeatism talking. I lack the tenacity and the resources; I knew at twenty that I would be setting myself up to fail if I chose that particular dream.
But, the truth is that being a dressage rider automatically makes you part of an international community and that is one of the best things about it. Whether you struggle with a 20m circle or one tempi changes there are people all over the world who share your pain! There are books, DVDs, internet sites in just about every language dedicated to helping you find solutions. Coaches travel the world to share their wisdom and experience. There are job opportunities and training opportunities all over the globe.
I’ve met riders in all disciplines who chose to look outward and take opportunities large and small. I am one of those riders. Equally I have met many riders who know very little about what happens outside of their own county or region. This I will never understand.
I learnt a language so that I could understand one of my coaches and I am learning another in order to make the most of my next training sabbatical. Dressage has helped expand my personal and cultural horizons and the effect on my life has been nothing but positive.
Social media has made it easier than ever to be part of a worldwide network of riders, to buy products from other countries, to source horses, to learn about different traditions and perspectives on training horses. Even if you can’t travel to seminars and competitions you will find detailed reports available online. Finding out which clinicians are visiting your country has never been easier. So if you are leaving school or college check out international jobs rather than working at the yard down the road.
On my travels I have noticed that riders are often intensely proud of their national identity and heritage but the best riders everywhere have an outward looking, international mindset. Looking outward beyond your region, or even your nation, can change you as a rider forever. It could be as simple as picking up a book, or as complex as moving to another country, but either way you should go for it! In many ways its a metaphor for riding itself, look up and look outward.