I’m not going to lie, being an equestrian is one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting sports you can compete in. Between the constant exercise of both the mind and body and the need for patience when dealing with your horse, it’s no surprise that most riders are exhausted at the end of a lesson or show.
Before buying Trooper, I was the top amateur jumper in my barn, both height and talent-wise. I knew that getting a young gelding was going to involve training him from the ground up, however I was not prepared for the significant knocks on my self-confidence and mental attitude. My trainer warned me that riding such a young horse would involve me developing a “sense of humor” and a high tolerance for “baby moments,” two things that I had apparently not fully developed through riding older horses for the majority of my life.
This week in particular has been one that is in need of being mentioned, regardless of the fact that it is only Friday and I have two more days of riding ahead of me before my day off. I had gotten back from a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana this past Saturday, and had scheduled a late-morning ride on Sunday to jump back into training as quickly as possible. My ride on Sunday was miserable, to put it lightly. Jet-lagged and a bit sick, I tried to power through the lesson in a ring that neither me or my horse was used to and ended up breaking down into tears when I couldn’t execute what my trainer was asking of me properly. The lesson ended on a tense note, after a full hour of wrestling with not only my own emotions but with Trooper’s lack of focus as well, and that following day I got increasingly sicker.
This little story brings me to what I want to talk about today, which is staying positive in your training. Whether you are an equestrian, play a different sport, go to the gym, or are pushing yourself to get a higher position at your job or better grades, there is something important to be said about the importance of having a sense of humor and staying positive. Humans are notoriously imperfect creatures, and we are prone to making mistakes, even at things we have been doing for an extended period of time. Personally, I am a perfectionist at heart and push myself past my breaking point constantly, but I have learned lately that I need to be able to distinguish when I’m pushing myself to succeed, and when I’m pushing myself as a form of punishment. Sometimes taking a step back like I did this past week and evaluating how you feel in relation to the place you are at in your training currently will give you a sense of clarity as to how to move forward from this bump in the road. Reminding yourself of the work you put in to get this far and how close you are to attaining your goal is one of the most important things you can do for your mental health in a difficult position such as this one, and learning to laugh at your mistakes is a skill that you will find yourself using when it feels as if absoultely everything is going wrong. I’m not saying that these skills come overnight or even over-month, however even if you find yourself being able to laugh at mistakes you have made in the past that you have since moved on from, you’ve found a way to make a difficult situation more bearable.
However, if all else fails and you need to take some time for yourself to relax, take a bubble bath, read a book, talk to a friend or parent (my mom always has my back when it comes to my riding struggles), and get some sleep. You’d be surprised at how much better and ready to take on the new day you’ll feel if you allow yourself to unwind and talk about your problems to someone, trust me.
Until next time, happy training!