I’ve been riding as a professional for a while now, but it isn’t typical that you will find me at a horse show without a trainer This weekend, I decided to step outside of my usual box and brave the WEF Summer series sans trainer. This isn’t because I’ve reached a place where I feel like I no longer need help – I don’t believe that day should ever come – but because sometimes I just need to do it by myself. Because I’m tired of paying someone to tell me to stop making the mistakes I already know I’m making.
I’ve always been the type of person who HAS to make my own mistakes in order to learn. If someone tells me not to do something, I have to do it anyway, just to see. This isn’t always a conscious thought. When my father told me not to max out my credit cards, I didn’t think “I want to find out what will happen if I exceed my limit.” It just happened. And at 23 years of age, I had to deal with the consequences.
When a trainer tells me not to override, it’s not that I enjoy overworking and getting minimal results, but somewhere along the line, it became my instinct and it takes a lot of concentration to catch myself AND reverse habits. A level of concentration that is hard to keep with a 3′ jump coming with no distance in sight, a voice yelling in the background “Give! Give!”, and the voices in my head telling me I’m about to F*** up royally, accompanied by visions of poles flying everywhere as I crash my horse into the jump.
Besides, there is a certain feeling that you get when you make a mistake and you dust yourself off, try it again, and succeed. It’s called confidence. And confidence is one of the major building blocks to becoming better at anything. If you have confidence, it’s easier to get up after a fall. You forgive yourself for your mistakes and you try again because you KNOW you can do better, and you won’t give up until you reach your potential.
I’ve struggled with confidence in the jumper ring. I make mistakes that I KNOW I shouldn’t be making and I kick myself for doing so. The fact that making those mistakes had become a subconscious ritual for me, was making me a bad rider. I expected to fail, and hoped I would succeed. When a jump is coming at you in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, you can’t just hold on and hope that it works out. You have to know that you have a the correct stride and impulsion and time to make a proper correction without overdoing it.
How many of us can agree that 90% of the mistakes we make over fences come from an “Oh Shit!” state of mind? Either you didn’t act at all because you were too afraid, or you put your hand in a hat and pulled out a solution and threw it at your horse as quick as you could without contemplating the circumstances. Panic makes you kick and pull, confidence gives you the ability to stay steady and know that you have time to contemplate the right choice AND trust your horse to react.
So this weekend I decided to have a leap of faith. Faith that I would ride with focus, certainty and patience. Faith that I would not judge myself or be distracted by the judgments I presume everyone is making of me. Most importantly, faith that I would accept the outcome and learn from my disappointments and become better as a result.
So here’s what happened:
First of all, I did not ride any worse, or any better than I would having a trainer present, but I saved about $255 (assuming a rate of $85/day, which is the average of trainers I would work with in my area). Since I trailered in, my show fees were only $193, so I cut my expense by over half, but that’s not the important part. That is just the icing on the cake. The important part is that I was not thrilled with my ride on Friday, but I took all my pros and cons and used them to improve on Saturday. I went into Saturday’s ride with more confidence than I had on Friday because I didn’t hold Friday’s ride against myself. I knew where I needed to improve and that I was capable of improvement.
Insecurity was definitely riding on my shoulder both days. More so on Friday, but even Saturday she put up a hard fight for the reins. She is a beast that I have vowed to mute, but the only way I can win is to get in the ring and fight.
So the point of this blog isn’t to tell you to fire your trainer. It’s to encourage you to bet on yourself. What have you been dreaming about, but have been afraid to do? What have you told yourself you can’t do? If it’s something big, why can’t you take the steps to get there? What’s holding you back? Tell me why you can’t, and I’ll tell you why you can! I dare you!