Horsemanship / Neu Perspectives

The Privilege of Competitive Pressure

Why do some of us add to the pressure of riding by competing on the horses we own? There’s not a simple answer to that question.

Our horses bring us focus, responsibility and a reason to duck out of social events early (“Sorry, gotta feed!”). For some, their horses are a source of great joy, or maybe a source of income. For another group of horse owners, competing under pressure drives them. 

Apparently, I belong in the latter group. And every time a show draws near and I have to set aside my “work clothes” and pull the “really good work clothes” out of the closet, I wonder to myself, why do I feel compelled to compete? Why do I add the pressure to my already high octane life?

I suppose I’m in the group that needs goals and accountability. And we need something to get our blood pumping while we sit in the saddle. We seek a reason to put added pressure on ourselves, our talents, our weaknesses and stack up against others with the same, unexplained pull. 

Kelli Neubert competes under pressure at the Snaffle Bit Futurity
Kelli Neubert competes at the 2021 Snaffle Bit Futurity.
Photo by Primo Morales

Quite recently I was fortunate enough to finally realize a long-term desire of mine, and that is to enter and compete in the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity. Not only did I get to show in the non-pro division, but I truly had a nice horse to do it on, too. Granted, I’m about as green as can be when it comes to putting three different successful runs together in different events, but my big ol’ gelding packed me through it and we even fluked a buckle and some money out of the deal. 

Note that it’s not easy for me to pack up a trailer and go show. I consider the rare pockets of spare time I get as precious diamonds. So, carving out time to be competitive has taken a back burner to many other things. So when it finally became a reality, I did my best to focus. My husband and I worked hard to have a horse that was ready and have ourselves prepared as well. It took two years of thought, training, cattle, decent footing, preparation, dry cleaning and focus to have a 3-year-old equine athlete ready to respectfully enter the arena with a number on his saddle blanket. 

I do have a new level of admiration and respect for those that wing it out there and enter up. I have a stronger empathy to the highs and lows of being involved in a world class, weeks-long event that holds a lot of pressure on each entry. I too,  have a better understanding of why some folks don’t crave competing under pressure in their lives. But for me? I feel that stronger, fiercer competition—and more of it—is going to sharpen my skills on my horses at home and allow me to grow as a horseman and a human, too. 

At the end of it, I have plenty to work on and plenty to be pleased about. I truly enjoy the process and feel lucky to be an active part of the community that appreciates good cow horses enough to cheer them on. My horse is sound, my clothes are back at the cleaners again, and I’m ready to cut, rein and run down the wall as soon as they’ll let me. SBF 2021 was the first of many for me, and I really do look forward to what’s to come. 

For me, my horses do it all—they are my means of income, a reason to leave parties and (I unashamedly admit) a source of great joy. So to add a little pressure to my everyday routine with entry fees, more mental focus, countless physical hours of preparation and the sheer accountability of competition? I feel that the pressure to compete truly is a privilege. 

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