When I was a kindergartener, I used to loathe every snack time. The thought of eating and hanging out with other kids who were supposed to be my friends was beyond daunting. Every day like clockwork, I would unobtrusively ask permission to use the ladies room in order to eat my snack in silence. I would actually sit in the shower, with a closed curtain, while guarding my food as if wild animals were hunting for me. I’m not sure what a therapist would have uncovered from this abnormal behavior, but I like to title these as the “I’m painfully shy, please don’t talk to me, and don’t ask me to talk to others” years.
I am not exactly a risk taker, nor am I innately bold in any way shape or form. However, a few days ago, I reached another milestone in my riding career: I jumped 4’10” on Skybreaker and could have done it 50 more times! Even though Skybreaker and I will not be heading to Rolex anytime soon, I am beyond grateful for the skills and confidence I have acquired over time on this particular horse. He is a jumper through and through. This is what he was bred to do, and loping over 5-foot standards seems like second nature for this talented hunk. Not to mention he has allowed me to gain confidence jumping anything over Preliminary height, which is pretty incredible.
Back to the other day. I have to preface this by saying I did not just willy nilly canter down to that gigantic oxer. Denny had me set a two-stride line consisting of a small vertical, about 35 to 36 feet to an oxer. So, all I had to do was get him in right to the vertical; the rest was easy and basically set us up for success. Regardless of the set distance, I still managed to jump basically 5 feet without feeling too overwhelmed or even that scared. In fact, I felt sort of how Skybreaker felt … pretty damn relaxed. Great horses have a way of transferring positive energy to their rider.
The feeling was incredible. I actually felt as if we were in a movie where some random person controlling the remote actually had control over us. The whole thing felt as if it were in slow motion. We jumped in, then ONE, TWO, PAUSE FOR A NANOSECOND, THEN OFF THE GROUND HE LEVITATES … WE START CLIMBING UP A MOUNTAIN, THEN JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU HAVE PEAKED, A SURGE OF ENERGY AND POWER COMES THROUGH HIS BACK AS HE BASCULES. I almost felt speechless after that jump!
Gaining confidence takes a serious amount time, as does learning how to ride. Am I content with my level of confidence? Oh, heck no … so much to gain still! Have I learned all there is to learn? Yeah, right! I didn’t just wake up one morning to answer a phone call from Denny saying, “Today, Lila, you will jump a big ass jump.” No, this did not just randomly happen. I have been learning and jumping and riding and learning and jumping and riding with Denny for EIGHT years now! Nothing happened immediately. In fact, I probably went 20 steps back when I started riding with Denny before I could even fathom taking five steps forward.
Some riders are more timid and more afraid than other riders. This fact is set in stone and seems unwavering. Although, just because you are not innately bold and confident does not mean you cannot succeed and reach tremendous accomplishments. I used to cry when I fell off various ponies when I was a kid. I use to think Training level in eventing was my be all end all. I used to get made fun of when I would not get in right and jump up my horse’s neck. I use to be called the scared and timid little rider.
But now I am so much more because I made something happen. I was determined to reach certain goals, and I am adamant about continuing my search. Whether you want to be a 2nd level dressage rider, an endurance rider or a grand prix jumper, you can do anything you set your mind to. You can prove others wrong left and right if you put in the time and make the effort. Don’t sit around waiting for a phone call — go tackle your dreams and believe in yourself along the way.