I was going to call this “Monday Feels” and then I realized it’s Tuesday. That about sums things up.
Instead I’m going to pivot and talk about goals and plans and expectations… or the lack thereof. Or how my view of all those things has changed so much in the past 5 or so years.
Long-time readers of this blog have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride. First I didn’t compete much, then I did EVERYTHING and went REAL HARD and always had my eye on the next goal. and then now for the past few years I haven’t done a whole lot at all. I’ve talked a lot over the years about my journey with mindset, and how much of a struggle it’s been for me, and how much work I’ve had to put into it. Honestly, I needed the time away from the competitive side of things to help give me more perspective, and let all of that sink in. Time and hindsight are excellent teachers. But sticking my toe back into that world again, and this time doing it in a healthy way… that’s the road I currently find myself standing on.
Trainer is a big ol’ Planner (enneagram 3, if you know you know) which is probably good to counteract me, who dodges commitment and goal-setting with riding stuff like it’s my actual damn job. It’s funny because in other aspects of life I am extremely schedule and plan obsessed. I have an itinerary for literally everything and every day of my life is planned out. But I think I got so wrapped up in competing there for a while with Henry that now I’ve scared myself away from making too many plans thus ending up a) disappointed or b) so consumed by a goal that I don’t enjoy the journey. I have that obsessive, one-track type of brain that makes it really easy to slip into that. In an effort to not make that mistake again, I think I went from one extreme to the other. It’s probably good to have someone like Trainer to add a little balance back into things, otherwise I’d probably still just be trotting circles out in the field with Presto. I know I’m in a much better place mindset-wise with Presto than I was for so many of those years with Henry, but ya know… the process of learning about yourself and how you think/cope/react is never-ending, and I just don’t want to make the same mistakes. I can see now that it has gone so far the other direction that it’s become a bit of a “paralysis by analysis” thing, so… having her to push me back out of that is probably a good thing.
All of this to say that she’s been planning out my fall and winter season. I’m over here like “yeah sure as long as it doesn’t cause mental/financial anguish” because I have to be deliberately casual about it. First and foremost this is supposed to be fun, and no one can suck the fun out of something faster than my brain on Goals.
It does help that it feels different with this horse. I don’t know why it always seemed to me like I had something to prove with Henry but I don’t feel that way with Presto. If anything you’d think it should have been the opposite. Overall healthier mental state now vs then, maybe? It feels easier to enjoy every single little bit of progress with this horse, and be able to appreciate the journey no matter what it looks like. After all, how many times did all of this come precariously close to never happening? I never forget that. Not for a single day.
I also have no end goal in mind. There isn’t a particular level I want to hit, or a competition that is a “must”. I’m just here to enjoy the horse that I made, learn from him, and see what we can do together. If that looks like 10 years of Novice, that’s fine with me. If it looks like something bigger, then ok… we’ll cross that road when we come to it. I just want to get better and have fun with a horse that I already get so much enjoyment from, no matter what that looks like.
But I can also recognize the fact that being TOO nonchalant about that stuff does lead to the paralysis by analysis thing on my part. Taking a few years off from showing means I’ve settled into a bit of a comfort zone that could probably go on forever if I let it. And the truth is that I do actually enjoy competing. I’m not a super competitive person these days, and I don’t want to horse show like all the time (that is exhausting), but I do genuinely like it. Or at least I do now. There for a while I think I really didn’t, and I wasn’t totally sure that I would again.
But what I’m noticing now (that we’ve got a grand total of two shows under our belt… I know, things are getting serious…) is that the horse shows help give me a little bit of push and direction. Both important things if your priority with your horse is the journey. Apparently this new phase of life is going to be learning to actually go Do The Things but also without taking it too far and imploding my brain, because then I’ll just run away again back into my little brain cocoon.
The very loose “plan” is to do a recognized Novice at the beginning of December and, if that goes well, a schooling Training a couple weeks later. The show season here in Florida is really Jan through April, so things are gonna start to kick off hot and heavy in a couple months. How much or how little I want to participate in that will depend on a lot of things, but… I didn’t move all the way to Ocala to hide in the bushes, did I? I didn’t breed and raise my dream horse to not get out there and do the thing I bred him to do, did I?
I trust Trainer’s judgment implicitly, so I’m happy to go along with her whatever her plan is. I don’t have the best track record for plans, after all.
Both of the last two shows have been the best my mindset has ever been in competition so hopefully that’s a sign of growth. They’ve been fun, and no pressure, and I haven’t lain awake at night stressing about shit that’s completely beyond my control. There are a lot of things helping contribute to that, I think. But it does feel fun again, and I do find myself coming home from the shows and looking forward to the next one. It’s a work in progress but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to find the middle ground.
8 thoughts on “Finding the Middle Ground”
Turning points in life. So much opportunity. So many decisions!
You got this.
Not for nothing — from your posting, it seems that your health and your horses’ health is all very good right now. As you know better than most, this is to be appreciated for the time that it lasts, because those things are not promised and can change in an instant. Enjoy this time. 🙂
1. I’m so glad you found a trainer with whom both you and Presto click well.
2. The showing thing. Now, I didn’t grow up in the English world so this is all a bit new to me. But all English disciplines these days are all about showshowshowshowshowshowshowshowshowshowshow. Riders learn to ride at shows. They try horses, at shows. The world is constantly telling us that if we aren’t showing, we aren’t doing it. Quite frankly I don’t have the budget to do more than a few rated shows per year and in my area the local/regional shows are……. not fun. So I save my pennies and I show when I can, but riding at home and taking lessons is no less fulfilling for me than showing. Like you said, showing gives you something to work towards and I also need that on the horizon to push my horse and myself past just trotting around in circles on the buckle at home. But, at the end of the day I’m pretty sure Coco is just as happy trotting in circles on the buckle at home as she is cantering around a hunter course at a horse show. I would imagine if you get into your head a lot in a not constructive way about competitiveness and showing, it doesn’t help that the environment is telling us that is all we should be doing.
I really struggle with mindset in this sport too. I’m glad you’re in a healthier place now, and have a trainer that seems like a good balance.
I’m extremely competitive by nature. I started showing after I bought a horse a couple years ago, and really got caught up in it. I ended up buying a really fancy hunter about a year ago, and was showing pretty heavily, and I don’t think I was in a great place with it mentally. Well, after a couple falls and my horse straining his suspensory back to back a couple months ago, it all came to a screeching halt. It was a really rough reset.
That time away helped me reframe my mindset, and I was feeling more relaxed and just enjoying riding for riding’s sake (on one of my trainer’s horses). But then a couple friends did well at shows and got new horses, and I can feel myself getting jealous of their accomplishments. I’m struggling to hang on to that contentment and patience now.
So yeah, it’s all a roller coaster.
I really relate to this, especially how we have to be true to ourselves and keep ourselves healthy (mentally and physically) as riders. While I say I “do endurance”, I don’t, really. I do competitive trail, but nobody ever knows what that is, and most of the time it’s “close enough” to endurance for purposes of the conversation. I have gone to a few endurance rides, and at every single one of them, someone has said “but why are you only going X distance? You have a 100-mile horse, you have a Rushcreek [her breeding is legendary in endurance], you could do so much more!” Yeah, I know she could. But I also don’t want to burn her out (mentally or physically), and I don’t want to burn ME out either. I also know, by knowing my own limitations, that doing a 100-mile ride would put MY health at risk, both physically and mentally. I’m happy going shorter distances. So is my horse. So why should someone tell me I need to do more?
It’s awesome that you have someone to push you, but it’s even more awesome that you’re agreeing to that push on YOUR terms. That if it’s ever not fun, you’ll say “Nope.”
I relate so much to what you’ve said here. I thought I was just a big loser having a really hard time committing to making a horse show plan. And then when Al’s quarter crack became a thing, I stressed that I’d missed my chance. (Never mind that he’s SEVEN and has plenty of years left to get to a horse show.) I’m glad you have a trainer to kind of guide you as you get back into the swing of things (on your terms of course). I realized recently that I need my trainer to hold my hand a little the first few times back out there. It is really comforting knowing that I’m not the only one. Thanks for writing this. Seriously.
I’m in a very similar headspace right now. Leaving the professional horse training world and learning how to be, mostly, an ammy (an ammy who teaches some riding school kiddos, but I ain’t sitting on anyone’s crazy youngster again, thanks) has been so, so rewarding. I’m not a competitive person. I tried to be, for a really long time, but I’m not. And now I’m finally enjoying the journey again!
I might get shit for this but my two cents (from an internet stranger): I do kinda miss the competitive side of the blog. Not the beat-yourself-up side when things go minorly wrong (because that does absolutely no good for anyone, and isn’t fair to you or your horse), but the side that took an overlooked OTTB all the way to prelim. Back then you sort of planned Presto because Henry had hit his limit, and while I think it’s healthy you’re not bogging yourself or Presto down with expectations you’re sleeping on his potential by saying you’re okay to stay at novice for 10 years. I would be so interested to see how far the Amanda who got her cheap OTTB to prelim could take a purposefully bred, excellently started horse (that is Presto). There is so much capacity for greatness, in the horse, yes, but also in his rider. Maybe as you continue along the path of finding your “middle ground” you can find some space for dreaming again.
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I love when you write about stuff like this, because so many of us can relate. When I tipped a toe back into the show world and managed to do well, winning a blue on Day 2, I was IN. Totally gung-ho. Then I crashed and burned at the last show of the season and was a basket case. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to show again. And then, somehow by the time the next show season started (about six months later) I had forgotten that I “never wanted to show again” and was ready to go. Fortunately, I’d accomplished a mind re-set. I was going to be GRATEFUL I was showing at all. I was going to have fun. I was going to fully appreciate the highs, and (hopefully) deal better with the lows. And by and large, I’ve done just that.
It’s now been three years of showing my whole circuit (five weekends a year) and while I’ve had my disappointments, it’s all been worth it. This year I didn’t win a single blue but I still had a really good time and garnered a lot of seconds and thirds. My husband/show helper has learned that I might pitch a fit and be bitchy for a little while (ten minutes, an hour, whatever it takes to work its way out of my system) when I’ve made a mistake or been mysteriously robbed, but I WILL get over it. I have purposely avoided looking at the season points book and therefore been pleasantly surprised and delighted at how well I’ve finished overall. My giant “Season Top 2” ribbon is enjoyed every day!
I really like showing, despite the emotional and physical output needed, because it gives me something to work towards and a reason to care about improving. I also love trying new things so I’ve added classes and skills and done things I NEVER thought I’d do (like, show in Western Trail after a lifetime of H/J). I also totally understand people who have absolutely zero interest in showing, too. It’s hard, it’s expensive, it’s a good way for your self-esteem to take a beating, etc. We all have to find a balance and I think you’ve done a fantastic job finding yours!