Here is my story. I am a 59 year old rider. The discipline I ride is not as relevant as to what I have found out about myself and what I hope others can learn from my story. But, I am an eventer – a legitimate Beginner Novice eventer. The great part is that my story continues to unfold. I rode as a kid, stepped away from it for a while and then came back to riding in my late 40’s.
But even when I was young, I never learned to jump. I just rode. Jumping was on my bucket list of things to learn. So, when I hit my late 40’s the horse bug bit again and I found a horse, found a trainer and muddled about. I had dreams but that is about the extent of what they were – dreams. I tried to have goals and I put dates on my goals but I always got in my own way a bit and these dreams remained that, simply dreams. I did not have faith in me. Where that went? I honestly do not know but I became a fearful rider. Fear and doubt are soul sucking and they sits on our shoulder and whisper – what are you thinking? You will NEVER be THAT person. And I listened and let it get the best of me. Fear and doubt keeps us from finding our true selves. Fear and doubt allow us to settle.
I had friends that did not just dream, but they achieved. They did “things!” Things I wanted to do, yearned to do but never truly believed that I could. I was the outsider looking in, the support person while my friends did the things I wanted to do. And, I hated it and I while I wanted it, the whispers continued – why dream? You will never achieve. Now, do not get me wrong, I tried! But, I never go to the place I wanted to be. I was never at a 3 day event with my friends, feeling the excitement of walking up to the start box and hearing the best phrase in the world – the countdown followed by – Have a great ride!
So, what changed? Where and when did the switch get flipped? Well, here is what I learned. We are limited only by ourselves – nothing more. My mare, Josie (16 year old red headed Irish Draught) got injured and had to have surgery for bone chips. This caused a move on our part and a change of focus. I found a new trainer who believed in me. I rehabbed Josie and began working with Beth. Beth Stelzleni is and has been a Godsend to me. I remember having “the talk.” The talk of, here are my goals and are they truly obtainable. Her words? Yes, they are and you should have already been doing them with this horse. You are the only one that has prevented you from achieving these goals. She also said, trust me and do what I say and you will get there. So, I did. Now, the goal was not to WIN but merely to DO! I decided that I would no longer have woulda’, coulda’, shoulda, moments in my riding life. I was no longer willing to settle. I wanted to “do” things. I decided that I would no longer let fear and doubt rule me.
There are quotes and passages that I remembered as I began this journey. There was a blog post from Jane Savoie who said we should look at fear as a positive – “Fear means you’re growing. Every time you stretch yourself, aim a little higher, or take a risk, you’re going to experience some anxiety. So fear itself is not the issue. Fear doesn’t make you a coward. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid.”
From Simon Sinek on nerves vs. excitement- he said in his TED talk – “how everyone deals with situations where we face pressure, and the tendency is to think we are nervous. The body reacts with an increased heart rate; we get tense and maybe a bit sweaty as we anticipate what is ahead. Interestingly, these are the same reactions our body experiences when we get excited. The difference involves learning to interpret the signs through another type of lens. Instead of thinking we are nervous, we need to view it as a level of excitement.”
I will NEVER forget my first lesson going cross country. I had a 45 minute trailer ride to Ashland and the WHOLE way there I went – I am excited, I am excited, I am excited. And when the lesson was over? I WAS excited and so happy and proud! Fast forward to competitions and we DID things. At each one I was pushed a bit more than the last. I was told, you WILL canter this whole stadium round. You WILL canter cross country. And, I did!
Here is what else I realized, the fear and doubt never really go away, the journey is about finding out how to deal with them and how to keep the whispers at bay. For me? It involved finding the right horse and the right trainer. The hardest thing for us to do is to realize one or the other is not in OUR best interest. It does not mean that the horse we have is bad or untalented, it just means they are not suited for us. The same with trainers. Find the trainer that builds you up, but not in a false way. Beth calls my hand on my faults but does so in a way that continues to support me and my goals. I asked her once why I was so dependent on the neck strap – she said because I did not have faith in myself or my abilities. She was right. When I stumble and struggle with an exercise (grids) she will tell me that either it is okay because they are harder or she will say she is surprised I struggled with a particular one. Either way, I know I am progressing. I also know that progress is not a straight line but rather one that has it ups and downs. And, I am okay with that.
My advice is to find a program that works. If a horse or trainer takes from your cup, move on and find a trainer and a program that becomes your tribe. I am so blessed with the people in my life who build me up and support me. My goal is to do the same for them. Find a Josie, find a Beth, find the Holly’s, Jamie’s, Dawn’s, Danielle’s, Amanda’s and Kloie’s in your tribe. The funny thing is? My tribe runs from 11 to 59 and I learn from each and every one of them. Again, we are only limited by what and how we choose to limit ourselves. My other advice? Get in shape and do the work that you are asking your horse to do. That is my current quest and I am on the right path for that as well.
My goal? AEC’s in Kentucky in 2019. I will be 60 and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my 60th year.