Friday, September 23, 2011

Triathlon vs Horse Show

Every time I load my bike into the minivan I marvel at the ease. Ten seconds and done. Growing up, my sport required loading a pony into a trailer (later a horse). Not quite so easy, especially if they were not keen on the idea of getting into a metal box on wheels.

 I grew up riding in that big horse mecca (haha) of suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We weren't wealthy, but my parents somehow made it work, and I am so grateful. (We still joke that horses are cheaper than drug addiction or therapy.) We had to be frugal which meant my horse lived in the low-rent district of the pasture while friends' horses lived in the barn (my horse was happier).

Chance in his field
I rode up until my first son was born. Riding shaped much of who I am today. So did my involvement in the US Pony Club (I'm a lifetime member, graduate HA!) which has a system of ratings based on both riding and horsemanship knowledge. It was through the sport and coming up the rating system that I learned about patience, hard work, frustration, and success. Every child should have the opportunity to really invest themselves in a sport or hobby to learn to deal with the ups and downs and to see how long-term effort can pay off.

first pony Blueberry

As much as I loved riding and showing, at this stage I really appreciate how streamlined triathlon is. Here are some of the differences that highlight why:

Horse Show: Hours to bathe horse, braid mane and tail (only to have them rub them in the stall), clean all the leather tack, wash saddle pads
Triathlon: Five minutes to wipe off the bike and stuff gear into the transition bag

Horse Show: Wear tall leather boots, breeches, high-collared shirt, wool coat, and velvet covered helmet in the heat of the summer
Triathlon: Wear one, or maybe two items of climate-appropriate clothing

Dressage on Santos

Horse Show: You could end up in the first class of the day and last class of the day (time unknown) with endless hours spent standing around in between. You get home after dark.
Triathlon: You jump in the water at a precise predetermined time and keep going till you're done. With a sprint you could be home by lunch.

Horse Show: Horses, especially mares, have moods and feelings, good days and bad,
Triathlon: It's all you, can't blame the bike

Horse Show: Judged
Triathlon: Timed

Horse Show: Post-show requires removing all the braids, rubbing down horse, bandaging, feeding, cleaning poop out of the trailer, unhitching and parking trailer, putting scads of equipment away. THEN you can have a shower and something to eat....if you have the energy.
Triathlon: Straight home to bed/good meal/adult beverage

Horse Show: Horse throws a shoe - $60 farrier bill
Triathlon: Bike gets a flat - $8 tube

Horse Show: Overnight horse can roll in poop, rub braids out, get cast in stall, go lame
Triathlon: Bike is the same in the morning as at night

Horse Show: Horse takes expensive supplements to keep him and his joints and bones healthy.
Triathlon: I take expensive supplements to keep me and my joints and bones healthy

I'd like to make the argument that triathlon is a lot cheaper than riding, but I'm not sure I can. There's no monthly board, vet, or farrier but there is coach, trainer, gym membership, pool membership, orthopedic doc, acupuncturist, chiropractor. My new (used) tri bike cost more than my first horse.

Jumping at Pony Club camp on Chance
As much as I enjoy the three sports of triathlon, there are things I miss about riding, particularly the relationship with such a noble and giving creature. Truly, there is nothing like that. My best memories of riding involve jumping on my horse bareback in the field, no halter, no bridle, no tack, riding around with nothing but legs and seat to communicate. There's truly no feeling quite like that, horse and rider with full faith and trust in one another.

So how come I still can't ride my bike with no hands??