"When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer. Superstition, ain't the way." Back in 1972, Stevie Wonder sang about the risks of holding on to rituals, and warns to be careful with superstitions. He mentions a daydream hell and the devil on his way. Now, that's a bit extreme, I know, he ends his famous Motown song with "shut up!" I equate that with the "knock on wood" action. We use this phrase all the time. To touch wood, then knocking on it, creates a loud sound that instantly wards off any evil consequences or bad luck that might be conjured up because of some untimely boasting about a good fortune. It is my silly established rite.
We've all heard of the established silly rite of the athlete that has to eat chicken before every game or the baseball player with the lucky socks. How can you overlook the football players and their personalized ritual dances, obviously indebted for the stardom and asking for more? The eventing rider is no different. They have their favorite whips and lucky boots. Riders have their customs and strategies that they believe works for them. In fact, a fair amount of riders are convinced that these regular patterns may actually influence success in the competition.
A riders ritual may be a certain behavior or action that the athlete performs with the belief that these behaviors have a purpose, or power, to influence their performance. I have even witnessed one rider having to listen to one particular song, everytime, before they blast off onto the cross country course. How about the groom that will never go on another course walk again, because of what happened to the rider the last time she walked. Then there is the rider that absolutely can not go without her coffee or the entire day will be ruined. That's probably just a caffeine addiction, never the less, it's a habit that if missed might just weigh heavy into some kind of superstition.Superstition is generally something that initially starts off as some kind of hindsight or by accident. A superstition comes to life when a rider has a particularly good (or bad) performance and then tries to establish a "cause and effect" by reviewing the incidents of the day. The facts of what they ate or wore, or what songs were played, anything unusual possibly a haircut, a certain phone caller calling, whatever it is, it then gets labeled into affecting the outcome of the performance.
Perhaps, the biggest value in superstition and ritual is that they may boost the confidence and the sense of control for the athlete. What ever a person truely believes, that belief is always true for them. Then there is the other side of the coin. Superstitions are nothing but a crutch. Especially, when dealing with a partner, (the horse) poor animal just doesn't understand that all the "hell that broke loose" was because a "lucky whip" got left behind. The horse just knows the rider is bummed out, and in return the horse most likely will also be broken up. That being said, "When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain't the way, no, no, no, shut up!"