Okay, so, if you read my last post- you may have noticed that the transition to the jumper ring hasn’t been the smoothest so far.. due to both fluky trips/falls and a decline in confidence for Team Kathlyn and Will. Coming off of Summer Smiles it would be safe to say my confidence was at a low point. With two weeks to prepare for Beach Party, I had a lot of work to do. And work I did. The first thing was to get my body back to a functional point. A couple days of rest, and a date with my AT (and some suction cups) got me back in the saddle and riding like I wasn’t in severe pain anymore. My goals for my horse and I in the weeks leading up to the next show were to work on our transitions, and to get Will moving a bit more on his back end.. He was starting to get too heavy on my hands for my liking. Transition work day after day worked to correct that. Sometimes you have to go back to the basics, even with experienced, trained horses!
In our first lesson after Summer Smiles, C was pleased to see that I was back to a normal riding style.. she noted that seeing me ride at Summer Smiles (with bruised ribs and a stiff entire body) was frightening. I have to admit too that in this lesson, even though we were doing nothing out of the ordinary (albeit jumping some large-ish jumps), I was pretty nervous. I’ve been dealing with somewhat random anxiety when it comes to riding ever since breaking my leg, but this was more then that. This was a fear that I wasn’t confident in my abilities anymore. And as any rider will tell you, confidence in this sport is the be all and end all of success. Thankfully I have coaches that are impeccable at picking up on things that their riders don’t always say out loud. The training I did leading up to Beach party was all about building both my horse’s and my own confidence back up.
Going into Beach it’s safe to say I was pretty stressed. Between finishing spring term the week of (including writing an exam almost immediately after doing schooling rounds Thursday), coming off two challenging shows, dealing with the stress build up of my insane schedule(s), and just having paid all my bills for the month (aka seeing all my money vanish)- my head was in constant chaos. Besides the chaos, I was pretty stuck in a negative thinking pattern. I was sure that I was going to mess up every single thing all weekend, fall off, and do something stupid like break another leg. I was experiencing a severe case of what a prof refers to as “rectus oculosis”.. or.. a crappy outlook. I knew that this was a horrible way to enter a competition, and was really trying to snap myself out of it. All the thanks to my two ever supportive teammates Megg and Lauren who listened to me vent, and constantly reassured me that I wasn’t the worst rider ever. During warm-ups I was actually feeling pretty calm, until I added in the two stride which triggered frustration. I got over it pretty quick and went to write a Intro Business exam (that I studied for 30mins for…yikes).
The next morning started out with my stress levels running high, as my alarm didn’t go off and I was late.. rushing to get on in time for my first class. When I finally got on and warmed up, I realized that I had misread the schedule and actually had another 15 rounds before I went… Cue more self-frustration. But.. when I finally got in the ring..this happened:
My horse and I were back in sync, and I felt like a rider again. I could breathe after day one at Beach!
Day two got even better:
The rides I had this day felt amazing. While we didn’t pin in anything, I felt like the rider I’ve trained to be. My leg was solid, my seat was efficient, and I was making better decisions on course. Best of all, I wasn’t terrified. My confidence was coming back. FINALLY. My mental outlook greatly improved.
Day three was a fun day, we entered just the .85m and the .85m relay with fellow rider Courtney and her horse Vinnie. This was the first time I’ve ever done a relay, and it was a blast! Definitely one of our best courses all weekend- purely because we were just having fun and not thinking about what we might do wrong! Courtney and I ended up 4th.
This past weekend was a prime example of how much of a mental game this sport is. I know I’m not the first rider in the world to doubt themselves. Every single one of us does it, and we all are very good at telling ourselves that we don’t know what we’re doing. Especially when we’re riding up to a combination and not able to see a distance. Why our brain tells us to take our leg off, fall forward, and stop riding is an unfortunate mystery… but that’s exactly what happens. All those things you can do impeccably at home become the farthest thing from functional in an actual performance when you over-think, lose confidence, and see only the negatives.
It’s very difficult to approach any sport or performance and not let those little negative thoughts slip through your mind. I was one “tears hidden by sunglasses mental breakdown” away from scratching the entire show and giving up. What stopped me? For one I wouldn’t have been any happier not showing that weekend. Sitting around at home being miserable is worse then being in the saddle and mildly terrified. Secondly, I have an AMAZING support team behind me. Every show I am SO thankful for my coaches, my teammates, my mother (who has sat through my legendary freak outs more times then I can count) and supports me regardless.
Because of all those factors I keep pushing myself to meet whatever challenge came up. This show presented no physical challenges to overcome. The only thing standing in my way was myself, and for me that is more frustrating then any amount of physical pain. I overcame my crappy outlook, and I’m very glad I pushed through it. My thought process after something challenging happens is something I know I need to work on more for future competitions- because I know I’m going to have plenty of challenges to face in the future, but getting through this weekend and reviving my shaken confidence was a huge step in the journey.
Some other fun points in the weekend were entering the bribe your horse competition (Will will do ANYTHING for carrots), entering a team in the Beach Vball tournament (and winning it!!), and watching my teammates kick butt in their divisions. I’m so glad I didn’t quit this weekend!