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.