Your Turn: Reflecting on 2013 and simplifying in 2014

It’s that time of the year to look back on the old and forward to the new. Jenni Nguyen shares some thoughts.

From Jenni:

This is going to sound terrible, but I hate this time of year. I really do. These few days after Christmas, when everything comes crashing down from a great big crescendo of happiness and joy and suddenly we’re staring the New Year square in the face. Partially, I think it’s the weather and that feeling of knowing that there’s a long, cold winter ahead of me with no end in sight. More so, I think it’s fear. I dread that last 10-second countdown with that stupid ball only because I know that there’s no way I can stop it. I mean, really where did 2013 go? Wasn’t it summer like, yesterday?

I must sound like a great big ball of holiday cheer right now. But I just find this time of year hard. Especially when I realize that I’ve wasted another year. No goals accomplished. Nothing noteworthy done. No dreams made. It was all just one big blur full of stuff and things and not enough time to do anything. And the area in which I always feel the biggest disappointment is, of course, my riding.

My boss gave me this little booklet the other day. It’s been sitting at the corner of my desk with a little mechanical pencil next to it. Why he gave it to me, I’m not sure. But throughout the workday, I find myself glancing at it every now and then. It’s small and full of empty pages. Part of me is tempted to turn it into a flipbook. Although that sounds infinitely more fun, I also feel like maybe it would help me not feel so down about the coming year if I took a moment to jot some things down. Maybe I don’t even need to write them down in the book, but just to take a moment and think about it could do some good.

I know there are a few areas in my riding in which I could stand to simplify in the coming year. Heck, there are several areas in my life that need simplification. But my riding is the one place where I feel like I need it the most, because with all the other craziness in my life, riding is the only constant. It’s my lifeline.

If I really think about 2013, I realize that there are a few things, small as they may be, that have made differences in my riding. A few things I have found to reflect on:

–          I jumped for the first time in a while this year. It was an itty bitty crossrail but after some bad experiences on a naughty little school horse, this is a start.

–          I have learned (and am still learning) how to better control my body in the saddle. Gone (or almost gone) are the days of flailing around in the saddle. I know now how to use my core and my seat effectively.

–          My heel position is improving. Though still a work in progress, I no longer tilt completely forward due to my heels being so far up and back.

–          My two-point is looking and feeling better than ever.

–          I’m learning how to breathe.  Seems like this should be a pretty basic thing, right? I have this terrible habit of holding my breath in situations, thus causing me to tense up my entire body. I am slowly learning how to relax in the saddle.

–          I have learned how to ask questions and not just any questions, but the right questions.

–          I can hold my own when a horse freaks out. If I end up in the dirt, fine. But I now know the importance of keeping your cool when your horse loses his.

These are seemingly insignificant changes. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, each of these small adjustments can make an enormous impact on my riding and seeing them laid out makes me feel like I’m on a path to becoming a better rider. It makes me feel like maybe 2013 wasn’t such a waste after all.

Looking ahead is the hard part. I’ve never been good at making goals for the coming year and sticking to them. Just look at my statement for the gym membership I signed up for a year ago. So how do I simplify my riding in 2014?

My biggest struggle is over-thinking. I make enormous mountains out of just about every molehill I can find, in and out of the arena. So for me, simplification  in 2014 needs to be about not over-analyzing every single little detail. My riding just needs to be well, simple, almost like second nature. When I’m riding, my own mind is my own worst enemy. I have my moments when I feel like hopping off of the horse and walking away. Feelings of defeat are inevitable, but my goal for 2014 is to not let them drive me from the sport I love most. I’ve got to find a way to turn off all the noise in my head and just ride. Easier said than done, but I know that if I can do that now that I will be setting myself up for an even better 2015 (ew, I don’t even want to look that far ahead). Any forward progress, is good no matter how big or small. Remembering that will be key to having a great year of riding.

See? I didn’t even have to write anything in that little book and I already feel much better! I feel a little more prepared for 2014. At least when it comes to riding. As for the other aspects of my life, I guess we’ll see what the year holds!

What about you, citizens of Horse Nation? How will you reflect on 2013 and simplify in 2014?

Jenni Nguyen is a full-time mom, wife and horse freak. Though she does yet not have an equine companion of her own, she enjoys spending her time in the company of some very patient horses who are subjected to her frequent follies. She hopes to become an eventer, as soon as she can stop being such a spaz. Please don’t ask why her car smells like a barn; she gets enough of that from her mother.


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