What to say about 2021. As I reflect back on the year as a whole, it seems to be filled with many experiential highs and lows that have settled with an air of neutrality.
Working with my dark horse, Odys, and developing our relationship was certainly part of those highs and lows. I can safely say I have learned more about myself through partnering with Odys than ever before. Our year was largely focused on helping him communicate his emotions more functionally, and learning to listen for myself.
We started the year with many outbursts on his part. Living up to the feared “5-6 year old” year in horse development, it became clear through winter and spring we needed a new language in order to safely move forwards. While I won’t say it was fun most of the time, I will say this time was huge for deepening our relationship and shining light on both of our shit at times.
I spent more time on the ground (by choice) than riding, and seeing things from this level was pivotal. The power of groundwork was proven when we went off site for the second time ever to a local schooling show, and Odys exceeded all expectations. So much so that by the fall we were schooling courses quite confidently at our home shows and even jumped both of our first ever 1m course to finish off the season.
By November I was feeling that it was my turn to do some serious development as a rider, as Odys had begun surpassing my experiences and skills. This, to be honest, is a really nice place to be. It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve been challenged in this way and it’s feeding a part of me I’ve missed.
Some other highlights inspired by my deep dive into the world of riding again was taking on more roles at my home barn. In the spring I took on the role of coaching partner. In a really neat, progressive format by our own design we revised the lesson program to include both my skills as a human focused, biomechanics focused riding coach with the facility owners skills as a professional rider, trainer and expert horseperson. Students alternate between us through the month in a collaborative learning format and have access to onsite cross training and therapeutic opportunities. It’s honestly the athletic development format of my dreams and I’m excited to see it continue to develop.
I also took on the role of horse show organizer. We successfully ran two inaugural schooling shows in the outdoor grass ring at the facility and now have a great format to roll more shows our next outdoor season. Selfishly, this was an awesome chance to get myself back into the show ring with very low pressure.
Outside of riding, I became aware of a newfound stability in my life as a business owner and as an individual as a whole. We brought a puppers into our life, Jake, early in 2021 and he’s added even more adventure to our happy home life. The first summer in our new home went smoothly, my first attempt at gardening was productive and in my other career as a therapist there is a new consistency. I spent a lot of the year figuring out the best schedule. Whether it’s because I am wondering my 7th year in practice, the pandemic or settling into my location outside of the city.. there seemed to be a higher demand for my services and I spent the bulk of the year waitlisted and booking weeks out. This is a good thing business wise, but it has certainly taken me some time to balance and boundary my schedule appropriately. A lesson I feel was only possible in stability elsewhere in my life. I no longer have to work myself into burn out, nor do I want to.
We managed to escape for a quick holiday out west in the fall. Certainly a highlight was spending my birthday staying in the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel on the bluff in Waterton National Park. Adding onto this highlight was G popping a ring on my finger while we were there!
Amidst this newfound stability of course there was space to start sitting with the parts of my life that have induced more of a chaotic sense. In stability we finally get a chance to become aware of things differently. Out of survival mode I began to really feel a lot of things I haven’t been safe enough to feel before. This certainly gave birth to some dark moments and shifts in perspective yet all contained within the safety of my support systems. Like Odys, I spent some time learning a new language and awareness to alchemize my past experiences into present wisdom.
Heading into 2022 I feel that I have so many reinforcements in my foundation as an individual and in Odys and I’s foundation as a team.
For the first time in a number of years I am excited about taking care of myself physically and staying organized in my wellness routines. The last few years have felt lopsided in terms of needing more space to compensate and be okay with compensating as a recovery tactic for years prior to that spent in overcompensation, burnout and endless achievement. 2021 seems like a kind of liminal space that contained me safely while helping me experiment with new ways to care for myself. As these learnings birthed a more routine stability, I at first felt almost bored in the lack of chaos. This seems hilarious to write- who gets bored by stability and safety! But when you’ve spent the bulk of your adult life in survival mode (whether out of necessity, learned cultural behaviours or as a method of building something), ending up in what many would perceive as a calm refuge seems suspicious.
I am intentionally moving towards new (new-old?) things in 2022. Pandemic depending we are hoping to attend some of our first shows as a team both in the indoor season schooling shows this winter and then of course the outdoor season through the summer. A month ago if you asked me I would have expressed a comfortable hesitation at showing again, in the last week or so I have began to witness a building excitement at the idea.
This will require a continuation of the newfound caretaking routines I am implementing both in personal wellness and finances. To be honest, being excited feels a lot better than the hesitation I’ve held so far. I am certain that much of that excitement is building because of the exceptional team at BP Sport Horses and community we are building, and of course the ongoing development with Odys.
While it’s impossible to predict what the year ahead holds, I feel a return to some old familiar parts of myself in a new way. The intention I hold for 2022 is a year of ongoing development, rediscovering myself as an athlete in a mindful way and embracing stability as a support, not a boring routine. I am committing to a continuation of steady self care, with the intention of holding space for what grows from that routine. I trust in myself and my abilities to go into new/old experiences like horse shows with an attitude of open experimentation and 2022 will in essence be a year of exposure based experience. For myself and for Odys.
To sum 2021’s wisdom up into one statement: Emotions are an expression of energy designed to keep us safe. Holding onto them for too long only builds the pressure and doesn’t guarantee you control when they release. Control in itself doesn’t promise safety, either.
Hoping all reading this are heading into 2022 feeling well and hopeful!