Eventing Nation: Riding waves
Life with horses is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, crests and crashes. Lila Gendal says it's up to us to not only recognize the waves, but ride them out.
I thought I was in a perfect position to be accepted. I basically had straight A’s. I always participated in sports. Even though people harassed me for being mute and anti-social, I actually had a great circle of friends. My teachers and faculty members seemed to support and encourage me in every aspect. I was dedicated and I knew what I needed to do in order to get my credentials down on paper. I thought I had the perfect essay. I worked on that essay for months until I thought it was flawless. My SAT’s and ACT’s scores were where they needed to be. I mailed in my application to the University of Richmond and thought I was golden. I visited the school and fell in love. Horses nearby and a beautiful campus…what more could I want? Truth be told, I was not accepted and I was devastated. I thought my life was over and I had to choose from schools that were merely back up schools. Schools that I was not overly enthusiastic about attending. It’s truly amazing how you think you are prepared, and you think you understand a situation through and through, but there are times when we are thrown for a loop.
Doesn’t this happen with riding and horses all the time? How often have you thought to yourself, ah ha! Eureka! I have found the magical potion! Okay, maybe you don’t use those exact phrases, but you probably have stumbled across similar thoughts. You think you know exactly how you need to ride your horse. You think you have finally figured out why your horse runs out at corners, or skinnies. You think you know why your horse is twisting her neck in dressage, or sticking his tongue out when you are asking for half-pass. You really think you have nailed the problems, and identified the solutions. You know this because you had to change or tweak something in your riding or training and you got the results you wanted. Well, what happens when those miraculous answers and solutions are no longer valid? What if underlying issues exist that have been mounting for years and years that you never really addressed? Then what?
I know it takes years to gain confidence as a rider and it takes years to make a horse really confident as well. Some horses are obviously more confident than others and don’t take as long. It’s sort of amazing how one minute you are on top of the world. You are on outstanding horses who you have unwavering relationships with. You THINK you know your horse inside and out and then BAM. You hit a rough patch. Or, you are eliminated on xc, or you fall, or you retire at the third to last fence on xc. These things happen all the time. So, what exactly do we do about it? Do we give up right then and there? Do we go out and buy the best horse we can gets our hands on? Or, do we go back to the drawing board and find alternative solutions?
Arguably, so much of this depends on YOU and YOUR horse. Each situation is unique, making the answer here quite difficult to pin-point. However, IF you are confident in you and your horse’s relationship, and IF you are confident in what you and your horse can accomplish together, then perhaps, you suck it up and deal when you hit a rough patch. So you have to go back to the drawing board and figure out why manure hit the fan….that’s life. Either you and your horse will figure out your issues together, or you won’t. It seems crucial to keep in mind that riding and training horses goes up and down like a wave. Sometimes you are at the top of the wave, where you can see everything clearly and you are having the time of your life, and the next minute you are crashing down where your view becomes murky and you lose your bearings. It's up to us as the riders and trainers to not only recognize these waves, but at times, ride them out.
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