Eventing Nation: Timing & believing

It’s so easy to discouraged, caught in a negative pattern of thinking that you’re “not good enough.” Lila Gendal says it’s time to let yourself off the hook.

Photo: Valonia attacking the ditch at Tamarack!

From Lila:

So much of life is about timing. People talk about being in the right place at the right time. We talk of opportunities that present themselves at specific moments in our lives. Countless individuals have careers because the timing was right, or have an amazing job all of a sudden because the timing was right. I would have to say that the horse world is completely built upon this notion of the perfect timing.

I have come to this realization rather later in life and I feel more at ease knowing this truth. My horse life has been a game of waiting. Waiting for the “right” horse to come along. Waiting to go advanced. Waiting to nail my distance to a jump 99% of the time. Waiting to have that perfect feel in dressage. Waiting to have more money. I grew up thinking every single one of my friends was ahead of me in this sport, as if riding horses were solely based on a competition, regardless if you were actually at an event or not. From my perspective, all of my friends had better horses than I did, and they were better riders than I was, and of course, better competitors. I was completely inside my own head and nothing I was doing was good enough. Frankly, this was an awful feeling to constantly cope with. I felt like a lesser person, and a weak rider in every aspect. So, yes, in the beginning I was always waiting for something to happen which was infuriating.

As I have mentioned before, 2006 was a pivotal point in my life. This was the year I decided to take a semester off from St. Lawrence University and start riding with Denny Emerson. This was the year I made the conscious decision that I was going to stop waiting for whatever it was that was going to change my life. I decided at that moment that I would stop feeling sorry for myself and stop thinking of myself as a lesser person and rider. When I arrived at Tamarack I had three real goals mind: 1) to become a much better rider and trainer, 2) to ride as many horses as I could get my hands on, and 3) to gain confidence.

Another piece to this time puzzle sneaks up in my life constantly. It should NOT play a role in my horse life, but it seems difficult at times to not acknowledge it’s presence, particularly when you are a competitive being, like so many of us are. Here’s the time issue: For example, both the horses I ride and compete are 8 years old and both horses are currently going Novice with the goal of moving both horses up to training when the timing is right. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought both horses are so far behind for their age. I have several friends that compete their 7 year olds and 8 year olds preliminary and above. I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me and said when are you moving your horse up? Perhaps if some more experienced rider were sitting on my horse, then my horse would be going intermediate…who knows? Perhaps, if both horses I ride were trained and ridden by jumper riders in Europe they would both be grand prix show jumpers right now. How can I even think about that? How does this information enhance my riding and my goals….?? IT DOES NOT! I have to focus on me and my riding. I am not Body  *Boyd Martin, Sinead Halpin, or Becky Holder….I am me and I have to go at my pace with the horse I have.

If all I can ever focus on is how far behind I am, or how far behind my horses are I will literally go mad. I have to focus on ME and MY riding. I have slowly learned to be more confident in myself and my riding. Nobody else in the entire world knows what it’s like to be me. They might have an idea, but nobody really knows except me. I have come to this understanding that you do not have to be winning CIC***’s, or competing 10 horses at Jersey Fresh in order to be a good, or even a great rider. Maybe I won’t be a solid prelim rider until I am 33 years old. I don’t want to rush my horses up through the levels right now and lose confidence or soundness along the way because I didn’t have the patience to make good decisions.

I am writing this blog to anyone who has ever doubted their riding, or felt completely discouraged with the level they are at, at the age they are. I want to encourage those who do not believe in themselves and to offer them support. Once you have confidence then your horse will have more confidence and people will start believing in you more. Once you believe in yourself there comes along this snowball effect. All of this takes time but it can be done. Riding horses will never be like watching a movie-you will never be able to rewind, pause or fast forward, that’s why you have to focus on your goals and your riding. If you never allow time or age to become a focal point in your riding career then you will succeed!



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