How to Handle the Unexpected
When everything’s going well, it feels like the sun is shining and the birds are singing and all is right with the world. But when things go wrong… Lila Gendal shares some advice on getting past the rough patches.
With horses it’s not uncommon at all to take 10 steps forward and 20 steps back. If your riding and training was sketched out on a graph, it would probably appear to go up and down in waves. When our riding and our horses are on an upward trajectory, we feel like we are on the top of the world. But when manure hits the fan so to speak, we feel like deer in the headlights. How can we be realistic about horses and our training scales when things are off balance? How do we cope with unexpected turns in our training? Is it possible to sit back, relax and be analytical about these setbacks?
It’s very important to look at the bigger picture when dealing with any sort of setback in your riding life. With horses, and our riding, it’s very important to not only think of the short-term, but to consider the long-term as well. With horses, as I mentioned before, everything goes up and down. Perhaps there are two months in the summer when your horse can sit and lift in the canter. But then, all of a sudden, in the third month your horse is struggling with its canter and wants to be on its forehand. These things just happen, and it’s up to us as riders and trainers to understand that horses are not always going to be progressing on an upward curve.
Another important piece of advice is to sleep on it. Literally. Try sleeping on your worries and your frustrations. It’s amazing how you can see things differently in the morning. Perhaps you and your horse had an absolutely wretched show jump round and you were 20th out of 20 competitors. You’re driving home from the show thinking the worst. You’ve decided that you are a horrible rider. You are afraid that all of your training has gone right out the window. You feel worthless and at the very bottom of the bottom. You go home, unpack your horse and trailer, and head home. You get a good night’s sleep and in the morning you may, or may not, have new insight on your situation. Sometimes stepping back from our setbacks and just sleeping on it can help tremendously.
Most importantly, keep in mind that our horses are horses and we are only human. Most of us are nowhere near perfect. Some weeks, or months, or even years are really good, while others are dreadful. We have to understand that we are bound to have setbacks here and there. We are bound to have a broken bone, or a lame horse, or minor setbacks like having a refusal on cross-country, or having our horse consistently break in the right lead canter. We should know that with horses there will undoubtedly be obstacles, and it’s up to us as riders to decide how rationally, or irrationally, we are going to handle these setbacks.
My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.
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