Wednesday, February 21, 2018

still gonna call it a win

This past January I laid out some personal goals for my horsey endeavors this year. Specifically through the first quarter of the year, but also included a few overarching, longer-term biggies.

Most of these goals revolve around my own riding and Charlie's well being and development as an event horse. But one, in particular, was: "Be my friends' biggest cheerleader. Nothing has revolutionized my horse habit quite like having great friends to share it with - don't take this for granted!"

matching smiles post-ride :)
While the latest in Charlie's never-ending string of dings has taken us back out of the action again, all is not lost! Because our little team of riding buddies still got to head out to Loch Moy's Cross Derby last weekend, and I happily settled into my role of horse chauffeur, chief cheerleader and videographer extraordinaire.

Rachael and Birdie sailing like stealth ninja warriors over the corner
And it's funny because I'm so much braver when I'm not sitting on a horse in the moment lol. Like it was so easy for me to be like "oh you should totally jump that" when I knew my friends couldn't turn right around and likewise encourage me to challenge myself too haha.

Brita and Bella making a big jump look small
As it was tho, both riders had really great rides. Same as last time, the format at these Derbies includes about an hour break between each level for that level's riders to school whatever they please.

Bird's gonna need a bigger oxer!
Brita already had a pretty clear idea of her objectives after our first outing last month. Namely: school more of the T course. And Rachael aimed to knock some of the rust off and get solid, confidence-building reps for Birdie's first outing of the season. You'll be able to see in the video below that both riders were basically pretty freakin successful in meeting their goals lol. 

Bella says, "follow me this way, Birdie!!"
So obviously I was pretty happy to see both of them have so much fun. And also it was kinda reassuring in a weird way. Bc I definitely had some serious fomo going on, and admittedly had moments of feeling really bummed that Charlie had to be sidelined from an event yet again.

Birdie made the skinny T house look downright easy (hint: it's not easy!)
And lately those feelings of disappointment have been manifesting as self doubt, and hindsight that makes me question some of my choices.

For instance, it's no secret here that I'm naturally a pretty conservative rider. I plan things out very carefully, and spend a lot of time on incremental, intermediary and possibly unnecessarily small steps. Anybody who's ever asked me for advice on something like moving up will know that I'm a big believer in building confidence rather than trying to prove confidence.

Bella meanwhile cruised over the skinny T wedge like a heat seeking missile
As such, I made a lot of really conservative choices last season with Charlie. Like choosing to keep him at starter level through the first full half of the year. Or even this year, choosing not to run our timed round at last month's derby after he schooled so well.

In the moment, these choices make sense to me. They were made in the interest of establishing a rock solid base so that my horse and I would be as prepared as possible for challenges that lay ahead of us. And all of these conservative choices are made with the expectation of continuing the steady push upward and onward. I kept Charlie at starter level in July last year fully expecting him to go novice in November.

Birdie strutting like the superstar she is
We all know how that turned out tho. And history is repeating itself in miniature this winter too. I make these conservative choices early in the plan with the hope to be ready for an upcoming big challenge -- but then something happens (an abscess, splint surgery, a nail hidden in arena footing, another abscess...) and the 'big challenge' is postponed.

and Bella giving us a sliiiiiight heart attack pulling up three-legged in a dramatic reenactment of Charlie's nail impalement -- luckily she was just protesting a slipped boot!
And I'm left feeling.... underwhelmed by our accomplishments in hindsight, being only able to point to the fruits of my very-conservative choices. I know that Charlie is capable of so much more, probably capable of more than I'll be brave enough to face. I know in my heart that he will carry me to experiences I would've never dared dream of even a few short years ago. I know this.


But right now it's all kinda conjecture, ya know? And sometimes I wonder if maybe I've been making the wrong choices for Charlie. Like maybe I should have moved him up earlier last year. Or maybe I shouldn't have scratched from our timed ride last month. Maybe I need to spend less time thinking about my rides tomorrow, next week, next month, and spend more time thinking about where my rides need to go in the *now.*

happy horses all well back at the trailer post-ride, plus our favorite Lyra dog!!
Idk tho. That's not really my style. I just..... Idk taking the long view in riding just makes more sense to me. And knowing my own style as a rider, my own strengths and weaknesses, I know that being very careful with laying a strong foundation in the now will make for a safer, more fun experience later on when things are not so easy.

So mostly I'm just trying to resist that mind trap, resist that feeling of self doubt that says "you should have gone for it when you had the chance!" And resist giving in to the temptation of skipping ahead to where I so badly want to be.

Because watching my friends last weekend -- friends who have similarly taken their time with their horses and been careful and purposeful in developing their foundations -- Watching them go out so early in the year and knock it out of the park was really reassuring to me.

The process works. Charlie and I *will* get back out there soon. It's all ahead of us. It'll just take time. Probably just a little more time than I expect, given Charlie's status as King of the Dings.

I know I can't be the only one who deals with thoughts like these, fears of missing out or being afraid of going too slow, being too careful? Or maybe you're the opposite, likes it's always been easier for you to push onward?

45 comments:

  1. They both look like they had a super time last weekend! Glad you were at least able to go spectate and support. :)

    I have long term goals for myself that I know will have to be passed on to the next horse. To be comfortable and confident at Novice is my ultimate goal for myself. And I know that since it's mostly my confidence holding me back rather than my skill level, it's something I have to nurture along because it's such a fragile thing. I will forever be grateful to Duke for giving me a season at Novice as it gave me a great deal of experience on a horse I trust completely.

    The horse goals are a little more complicated because the hard truth is Duke is 23 at some point this year (all I have is 1/1 on his Coggins) and as much as I would like him to he can't keep going forever. My main goal this year with him is "ride the horse I feel and see, not the age". I spent last year convinced it was his last competition year and he would be done and retired this year. I think I obsessed over "But he's 22, he's OLD". While I will keep his age in the back of my mind I want to focus on what he is actually telling me. So we will make plans as if we are going out to run a few BN events and see how he feels along the way.

    I can imagine though planning goals with a young horse is a totally different ballgame. I think so much pressure is put on eventers to move up ASAP. I think that your methodical approach will pay off in spades in the long run as the foundation will be there and be solid. I'd much rather have a solid foundation under me when it did come time to move up.

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    1. yea i definitely feel ya on knowing that rider confidence is often the key to success above the skills in and of themselves. that's kinda the same boat i find myself in. horse goals are so hard tho, especially as we face the realities of goals that diverge with our current situation. Duke is the absolute coolest tho and i'm so glad he gave you that awesome season at N! and glad he's still giving you such a good feeling now. apparently nobody told *him* he's 23 haha!

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    2. Whoops! Wrote a novel. I shouldn't be allowed to comment before coffee kicks in all the way :D I think the other side of the coin is too that we who tend to overanalyze will question the decision no matter what it was. If you had decided to push in those moments instead of taking the conservative approach, you may still be asking yourself the same things. That's the tough thing, it's hard not to question the decision no matter what it is when you are grounded and have too much time to think. How is Charlesaurus doing? I hope he's feeling better!

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    3. lol @ the Charlesaurus haha.... he's good. hopefully better soon!

      and 100% agree -- bc charlie definitely seems like a horse who associates activities with moods, and while he's so good and easy and straight forward right now with the jumping, i could just as easily see him get soured or see us get into a situation where i'm in over my head.

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  2. I'm a pretty conservative rider as well and honestly, I've seen more terrible things happen because of impatience THAN patience. Trainers and other professionals also help as a gut check to whether or not your methodology is sound. They'll also push you further than you think you can go, in a safe way. I'll get to the point where I can figure that out on my own some day, I swear

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    1. yea definitely agreed that a huge function in the role of trainers is to be that barometer or gauge for keeping a rider on track. and i'm grateful that i've got a team that i trust so much to push when i need it, but to also let me go at my own speed.

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  3. For sure the process works. There are always exceptions to the role, but that is good and bad. Follow your gut and don't look back.

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    1. yup, that's the hope and the plan. it ain't always glamorous or super exciting, but i'm cool with that!

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  4. I cannot even express how much this applies to me. I have so many big future goals and dreams, but I always tend on the conservative side in the now. However, I fully believe we will reach those goals one day.
    But I know how it can be hard looking back and thinking your accomplishments don't seem big or flashy. In the long run, it will give you a better foundation the day you actually do something big and challenging. You and Charlie are going to be *amazing* (provided he stops trying to kill himself).

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    1. aw thanks haha, and hopefully he can lay off the self harm long enough to prove you correct!! just being able to believe that good things will come in the future is a big help in keeping me honest and realistic about the now.

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  5. It's always fun to go out and cheer on friends :)

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  6. Bella is such a cute jumper! Sidelining eventually happens because horses, as you know. I don't think you are being too conservative with Charlie. In the end he's no dummy and all the work and rest will pay off, even in rehab there is some amount of work on the ground being done ("no stand here, no be quiet, yes another bandage etc") and there is a bonding going on which will come into play in the saddle (or at least I believe so)

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    1. yea honestly i think you're right. i just need to keep trusting the process even when we hit road blocks. so far, charlie's come back from every unexpected break stronger and better than before. he's a good boy and he's catching on even if we can't be as consistent as i'd wish.

      also yea, bella is so freakin cute! she and brita are having a blast!

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  7. I'm the same way - I'd rather end the day feeling like I could have done a little more then going shit, I shouldn't have done that!! But a large part of the reason I have a trainer is that she does push me a little more than I would myself.
    Your friends look great!

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    1. yea i feel the same way about preferring to wish i had done more vs wishing i had done less. sorta like type I and type II errors, maybe haha

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  8. Looking at the pics of Charlie from when you first got him to where he is now, and how far he has come in his body and his development, I think you're doing just the right thing. A good trainer around here said it takes at least 3-4 years to develop a good horse, so you are only a quarter of the way in! I tend to be conservative too, but I like the idea that you are building confidence - both his and yours - as you go. As we all know, confidence is such a fickle thing, and it is such a long road back (for horse AND rider) once that confidence is shook. I'd rather leave a little on the table, then do too much too soon.

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    1. "leave a little on the table" is the perfect phrase for it. yes. that's it exactly. i'd always rather have a little something left in the reserves, have a little extra wiggle room. i feel like i can't always push up against our limits without eventually hitting some sort of wall.

      also tho, yea charlie's SUCH a different horse now than he was. it's so easy for me to dismiss that bc he's legit been pretty easy to bring along.... but it has taken time. and he's still got a lot to learn.

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  9. I'm so glad this post ended the way it did. I think your slow and steady approach is a great one and not one to change due to injury temporarily slowing you up. I was thinking back on my own progress with Gav and it's been slow going for us (significantly slower than it has for you and Sir Charles). In some ways, it's disappointing to think of how much farther he could've gone by now with a more experienced rider, but my pony (and your pony) don't think that way. I'm guessing they appreciate our careful, thoughtful approach with them. :)

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    1. thanks, and i think you're spot on in saying that the horses aren't worried about how fast we're getting where we're going. charlie does seem quite happy with his job so far, and that ought to be satisfaction enough that we're on the right track!

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    1. A) Your friend's horses are SUPER cute and really look like the love and excel at their jobs.

      B) I know what you mean about doubting your choices. I do that A LOT too, and I am trying to make my self quit it. Obviously, we can't change the past, and we definitely can't control the future. You are spot on when you said you need to focus on the "now". Making the best decisions you can for the moment at hand. I'm trying to do that right now!

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    2. don't those horses look great tho???? i had a lot of fun watching them! and yea it's so hard not to get caught up in the cycle of self doubt. but it's pretty natural, i suppose

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  11. so glad you got to have fun even without Charlie and both Racheal and Brita had such good runs!! YAY I hope to get to the March one to watch and hopefully get to see you all (including Austen and Lyra!) YAY! (and dont second guess yourself woman! You are doing an amazing job with sir charles!)

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    1. i hope you can come next time too!!! we'll (theoretically) be at the march starter too, if the derby doesn't work out!! and thanks, i'm definitely trying to do my best for chuck. now if he would just do his best to stay sound!

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  12. I spent last weekend cheering on friends at a horse show and it also left me with mixed feelings. Obviously I am so excited for them, and loved being there...but sometimes the correct way to do things seems like such a long road! And that everyone somehow got ahead of me.

    I try to remind myself that while the process is long, it's the only way I want to do something. And at the end of the day, I will regret rushing more than I will regret being a little behind the group.

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    1. yup that's basically it. and it always looks smoother from a distance too - watching someone else go through the process always has this way of making it look somehow easier or faster. it never is tho. even tho i can watch my friends jump around so seemingly effortlessly in that video, i've also seen them put in the blood sweat and tears, and seen them struggle through difficulties just like i have too. but things have a way of working out in the end if we're patient enough!

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  13. I wish I could be a cheerleader for friends, but I have ZERO local friends who event! You'll be out there before ya know it

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    1. aw :( that's kinda a shame. tho that's how it used to be for me. maybe at your newer barn some of your barn mates will get really interested after watching you start off your season this year and will want to start going with you too? lol maybe you need to lure them in with all the Lainey grids you've been setting up?? haha

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    2. KC we need to live in the same general area. Just think the fun we could have :) (Why instead of a laugh and I am thinking of an evil cackle?) HA!!

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  14. Slow and steady wins the race! It's better to take things the pace you want to take them rather than rush and find holes in the training as you gallop into a big fence! It sucks when you feel like you're missing out but you guys will be back out there in no time, and Charlie and you have come such a long way already. And ya know, maybe as Charlie gets older he will stop hurting himself!

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    1. ha yea galloping up to a big fence only to discover an issue in our training is like.... my worst nightmare lol. and it's also not totally unrealistic with charlie either. he's been so easy to train, so easy to make progress with, and the jumps are so easy for him, that it would be just as easy to keep pushing him up to a place beyond where i can help him out if we get into trouble. and he *will* get into trouble bc it turns out he's still pretty freakin green lol. also i hope you're right about him not hurting himself when he's older.... tho he's 9 in april so.... he ain't exactly that young right now either haha

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  15. I think you’d be more upset with yourself if you pushed him and ended up in the same place of rehab only not an unavoidable abscess from the worlds most unlucky nail, but instead a pulled suspensory you could have avoided had you built a better base of fitness and education. Your process works and once you get back out there I’m sure you’ll be glad of it.

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    1. i think (and hope) you're right. i'd be so angry with myself if i did anything to get charlie hurt bc he was overfaced, or to undermine his confidence -- seeing as i'm already betting pretty heavily on relying on that confidence of his later on!

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  16. Ok so here is my most heartfelt, honest advice to you. As someone who is much like you- conservative and always taking things slow, I can honestly say, you're doing it right. Now, remember, I was about to do my first prelim, Georgie and I were READY. I had gone Training for 3 seasons so that I knew we were READY. And then, she blew her suspensory and we'll never go prelim together. It wasn't until some mean person said "Do you wonder if you had done less at Training if she'd have gone Prelim" that I even had the thought I had done something wrong. But, to be honest, knowing I was moving up with a horse who was ready and prepared and a rider who was too, meant more than having gone prelim and blown it all. So, take it slow with Charlie. He's gonna continue to be a delicate flower and do this shit, so maybe things take longer? But, you live back east, there are like 5 million events a year (slight exaggeration) and you'll get to where you want to be. And you'll be ready. And you'll rock it.
    That's the advice from someone you don't know but who is one of your biggest cheerleaders, just like you are for all your friends!

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    1. thanks Nadia - i really do appreciate that, and i know you are right. i recognize that it's kinda silly to sit here getting so angsty about missing a small derby in february (winter!) bc of an abscess, when i've got every reason to believe my horse will come back out and get back on track in no time. patience isn't always my strength lol. like you say tho, there really are zillions of events here and i agree completely that feeling fully confident that both charlie *and* i are 1000% ready means so much more to me than trying to do it just to say we did, and possibly having a terrible time. and for the record i really admire the choices you made with Georgie and am so gutted that you didn't get your prelim on her. but what an amazing few years you guys had together! if charlie turns into half the horse George is, i will be *very* happy!

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    2. You're the nicest. I'm honestly beyond the moon excited for you and Charlie :) You're going to be a fun pair to watch!!!

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  17. Oh Nadia, what a nasty thing for someone to say! I hope that person is out of your life.
    Emma, you need t9 get back in the saddle. Being out of it lets you think too much (ask me how I know) 😉. I have a horse that’s 8 this year and we’re just doing first level! But it is what it is. I know I made right choices to keep us on track. The only way is forward. And, like it was said above, the horses aren’t in their stalls thinking “when is my human going to let me shine!”

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    1. lol Teresa i'm showing this comment to charlie. so that he can see "yes, i need to stop hurting myself so emma can keep riding bc her idle mind is much too unkind!!"

      in some ways tho i kinda envy you a horse like Carmen who makes it very clear that pushing her too hard or too fast won't work, and who will reward all that time spent on foundation building. charlie, like any other horse, is the same - none of them want to be overfaced, and all of them benefit from learning the fundamentals - but his quieter, more go-with-the-flow disposition makes it easier to miss those signs, and easier to think "but what if we just pushed a little bit farther!" which is yet another temptation to resist...

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    2. Thanks Teresa! She is- she may not know it because she is so self involved..but she is :)

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  18. Oh Emma,

    Great post. I wonder if it is just that time of year? If that is possibly a thing? Winter blues? I just shared a post with similar "feels." We absolutely all have them. Regardless, have faith in knowing that you are right and the process does work. Also, enjoy others telling you this :). I would be lost without the encouragement of others. You guys will, of course, get there.

    Personally, I struggle often, making peace with the difference between my schedule and Jean-Luc's. Recently, I wrote about the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen - (essentially) the goal is to become 1% better today than yesterday. I try to keep that in mind so when the inevitable feeling of becoming overwhelmed hits, I am not consumed with doubts, but rather, I find peace in all.

    In other words, da Vinci said, “Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they.” Doubts are part of life and natural and having a great support system to get you through is invaluable. In short, YOU'VE GOT THIS.

    D

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    1. i mean, i don't think it's the winter blues so much as it's the "my horse is lame and he's always going to be lame and what if eh always hurts himself forever and ever and i can never get him schooled/conditioned/prepared enough for what i want to do with him???"

      when he's in work, everything feels like a million bucks. he's learning, he retains what he's learned, and he genuinely seems to enjoy some of the work (dressage.... maybe not always haha). the problems come when we get sidelined by an injury. it's hard to be 1% better today than we were yesterday if my horse is lame today. that's when i start wondering, "well maybe i should have gone *2%* better yesterday while i had the chance!" it is what is it tho.

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  19. I know I'm coming a bit late to the party on this post, and I've never commented on your blog before, but this really struck a chord with me. I've had some major setbacks to my confidence since returning to riding after graduation, and have felt a lot of FOMO and worry that I am behind where I should be and am not pushing myself hard enough. But I firmly believe that it is better to look back and think that you could have maybe done just a bit more, rather than regret doing too much. Especially with young horses. I just recently bought a weanling filly, and I am going to try to keep this mentality at the forefront of my training with her. I got a youngster because I wanted to enjoy the journey together, not because I wanted to be running training level in 2 years. I would much rather that she stays sounds and happy for years and years, than run her into the ground early pursuing some goal that in the end is not the reason that I ride and love horses.

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  20. Man I like that little Bella horse. Will take one of those please!

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  21. Dang Bella really gives it her all!

    And yeah...second guessing choices is so hard!! But I really think you're doing it right by taking it slow. Q is teaching me how valuable it is to go slow. I still struggle so so much and second guess things, but her behavior is proof it's the better way. I'm slow with Grif,too, and it's definitely been awesome.

    But at the same time, I have to really work to get to competitions and the like so I'm pigeon holed into slowness to an extent! Definitely keeps my personal FOMO at bay knowing I don't have time/money to get to the cool thing much lol

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