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Sunday, February 16, 2014

…On Riding With Confidence, Part II (All Jokes Aside)

Alright, so I had really good intentions of writing a serious blog about my recent struggles with confidence in the jumper ring yesterday.  I apologize for being one of those people that makes jokes of important stuff because they need copious amounts of therapy or something.

The truth is, I genuinely have been struggling with my confidence as a rider lately.  The funny thing about riding is that it's unbelievably difficult, but half of the battle is belief in oneself.  A rider can have all the tools in the toolbox, but if they are questioning each decision as they make it (or in my case, in the car on the way to make it), well, disaster. 

I’ve never been one to think I’m amazing without cold, hard proof.  When I first started showing Richie in the Hunter Under Saddle in 2010 one of my trainer’s biggest critiques was that I didn’t go out there and show like a winner.  I didn’t give off the impression that it was just one more class out of the hundreds I’d already won.  “Boooooring.  This again?”  Of course once half the season was behind me and Richie and I were undefeated in our division, I started to get a little swagger. 

That said, I’m new to the jumping.  It’s really hard for me to admit this to myself, and even harder to write it on the internet. However, in the absence of a licensed therapist, I decided it’s important for me to say out loud(ish), in public, no takebacks:  I don’t suck.  I’ve been at it consistently for about 12.5 months, and sometimes I get so focused on where I want to go that I forget where I’ve come from.  It’s really hard for me to truly believe I’m any good when I don’t have a plethora of wins under my belt.  In fact, it’s one of my biggest peeves that so many people take for granted that they are wonderful riders.  They don’t work hard, they don’t listen to critique, they don’t eat/sleep/breathe it…and yet when they don’t ride effectively they pout and (an even bigger peeve of mine) buy a new horse. 

Stop the music!  WHAT?  You show up for 45 minutes twice a week and you have tantrums at the shows when you aren’t the winner?  Who is your fairy godmother because I need to ask her for some of the bullshit confidence she gave you?

Yeah.  It's a hot-button.  I digress...

I got bucked off a very large, very athletic (read: gravity-defying) mare on the backside of an oxer yesterday afternoon.  Hard.  I stood no chance.  After we caught her I got back on, the mare and I came to an agreement, and we had a couple more goes around the course.  I’ve thought about it all night and all day today.  I really thought it was important to go ride again this morning, but there are parts of my body that disagreed, so I took the day off.  I didn’t think it was important because I got bucked off and I wanted to go “get back on the horse.”  What I thought about all night was that even though I put the mare in a perfect spot for takeoff, I was infinitely weak with my upper body, and maybe if I hadn’t thrown myself over the front of her she wouldn’t have pulled the front rail and scared herself.  I’m not going to say she wasn’t being naughty, but if you asked her she would probably tell you that I was being a cow, too. 

My point is that getting bucked off does absolutely nothing to my confidence; it doesn’t scare me, and it doesn’t make me any less secure in my basic abilities.  Knowing that I probably got bucked off for a reason…well, that hurts.  But the worst part – the very worst part – is that I’m sitting here writing about it now.  The more time that goes by the more time I spend convincing myself that it was my fault, and that I should have done X, Y and Z differently.  I like to think that this is how I learn from my mistakes, but at some point about 18 hours ago the learning ceased and the self-flagellation commenced.  

“I’m not that good of a rider!  I'm horrible and the horse is perfect and it's all my fault!” said no Olympian ever.  So here I am, not joking, vowing to be a little easier on myself, and to believe in myself a lot more.  I have revolved my entire life around competing with my horses.  I’ve all but eliminated time with friends, missed a lot of important events, and spent every dollar I ever made in an effort to do this well.  I’ve got the right instruction, I’m getting access to the right horses, I’ve got the will and the work ethic to do it, and now it’s time to get my mind in the game. 

Sometimes it takes getting whacked in the head (and left shoulder and lower back, combined with a little bit of whiplash) to start to see clearly.   Today I see that there are a lot of things in the world that will hold me back, but I’m certainly not going to be one of them. 

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

Saturday, February 15, 2014

...On Riding With Confidence

Sometimes I have issues with my confidence as a jumper rider.  One of my favorite instructors tells me that jumping is not a sport for perfectionists, and if I try to be perfect I’m going to drive myself crazy.

He’s right and I do.  I have spent the last few weeks vacillating wildly between elation (“Yes!  I did that right!  I rock!”) and despair (“Oh my god, I’m terrible.  I’m TERRIBLE!!!").

Seriously.  I spend too much time wondering if I’m good enough – if I’ll ever be good enough.

Then I came across this, and I just want to say…

Bitch please - I ride just like Beezie.

Beezie Madden, World Cup Winner and Olympic Gold Medalist

Me.  Yep.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

…On Snow Days

When I was a kid (in ever-sunny California) snow days were something about which I got excited.  We’d get a quarter of an inch of snow and the entire state would shut down.  We’d stay home from school, build the world’s smallest snowman, and by 10am it would have melted and all the neighborhood kids would be outside rollerblading in the sun.  Snow days - how exhilarating!

Now that I’m an adult in never-sunny New York, snow days only mean one thing to me: hard work…in the cold…and people getting stuck on my driveway.  Still, the one thing I can be thankful for in winter is a roughly two-month break from riding while the ground is frozen.  And when one has four horses to feed, clean, groom, tack, ride, untack, groom, feed and clean, a two month break is a good thing.  So maybe, as much as I complain about the weather here, it’s a bit of a blessing in a big, messy white disguise.  

When the sun rose (technically) yesterday on a foot of new snow, I tried to tell myself it was a good day to read and relax.  I did my morning chores and retired to the house for a bath and an apocalyptic book.  My friend, Alia, regaled me with text messages about her horrible day of plowing and shoveling snow and ice, and getting her tractor stuck in a snowbank.  I sat on the couch and felt sorry for her.  By the end of the day, my truck and trailer were sitting under a foot of snow and an inch of ice, but what did I care?  I’m taking February off. 

I crunched through the ice-capped snow while performing my evening chores.  I filled hay nets and water buckets, and then cleaned stalls.  I dumped the wheelbarrow in my manure bin, and only then did it dawn on me that at some point in the next two days the manure bin would need to be hauled away, an empty one put in its place.  This meant that I needed to move my truck and trailer, and plow a path to the dumpster so the delivery truck could access it.

Here’s the thing:  I don’t own a plow.  I own a small tractor.  I also have a gravel drive around my barn.  Attempting to use the front loader of a small tractor to plow gravel without making a massive mess is like a brain teaser for rednecks.  I had dreams about it last night.  I tossed and turned and fretted and worried.  I strategized.  My goal for today was to get up early, get the donkeys fed and turned out, stalls cleaned, and proceed with the task at hand.

The only unexpected holdup was Johnny deciding that he didn’t know how to walk in ice covered snow.  I led The Twins to their turnout together per usual, but as much as they look alike, they do not behave in the same manner.  So while Richie was panicking as if the ice was trying to swallow him legs first, Johnny was frozen in terror.  I had Johnny at the other end of the rope that I was pulling on with all my might, and Richie piaffing around me while I spanked him and yelled at his brother. 

By the way, yelling at horses is futile. 

I finally had to leave Johnny in the middle of the driveway, fairly certain he wasn’t going anywhere, and take each of The Twins to the turnout individually.  It took Johnny 20 minutes to walk from the barn to the paddock.  Twenty long minutes of pulling on Johnny while Hauns banged on his stall door inside the barn, eagerly anticipating his turn to walk like an iguana through the snow. 

It then took me three hours to plow the gravel path to the barn and liberate my truck from its igloo.  Only twice did I have to stop to help people that were stuck on my driveway – the dry cleaning delivery guy followed by the plumber.   By the end my toes were frozen, my ponytail smelled strongly of diesel fumes, and my horses had a somewhat less terrifying trek back to their stalls.


Is it March yet?