It’s not always my fault. I must keep reminding myself of this fact. Those of us with a steadfast, tried and true, never take a wrong step (or jump) partner tend to take for granted that it is always our fault and never the horse’s. I have one such horse.
Il Sogno is my horse’s show name, but those who love him, and there are many, call him Syd. His show name comes from my love of opera music. (I know. I’m weird. I have a background in classical music, and I’m a nerd. Go figure.) Il Sogno is Italian for “the dream” and is also the title of one of my favorite Andreas Bocelli songs. Andreas Bocelli is my favorite opera musician. Syd, my horse, is also my dream and my very favorite pony. Do the math. (Whew! THAT was painful!)
Anyway, I digress …While I have been riding for a very long time, I am by no means an advanced rider. In fact, I am anything but. While I do consider myself to have a lot of “head” or “book” knowledge, the challenge for me has always been to put that knowledge into practice. Couple this with the fact that I don’t ride with a trainer regularly, I work, have a child, I live in Arkansas, yada yada yada … In a perfect world … well, life is by no means perfect, and you get the picture.
My horse on the other hand is downright amazing. Always has been. He’s a total diva, who loves to have his photograph taken and always rises to the occasion. Me? Where can I hide. Syd never refuses, knows the movements, the pace, whatever and 95% of the time gets me out of whatever bad spot I got us into. If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say (and we’ve been together for 11 years, so it’s been a lot!) “Thank God for that horse! He sure does take care of you!” I would be rich. And it’s true! He’s beautiful! And amazing! And I love him! And he does take care of me … most of the time. When he doesn’t, well it’s somehow still my fault. I mean, he’s the fabulous one, right?!
I am a typical adult amateur. I over-analyze everything. And when I’m done over-analyzing, I start taking blame for, quite literally, everything. My horse loses weight, it’s my fault. Pulls a shoe … my fault … gets a bug bite … somehow my fault. We get a bad dressage score, my fault. Refuses a fence, my fault. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be Syd’s fault! Could it?
Back in September, Syd and I had a very well documented disastrous run at a one-day event. As soon as I took my walk of shame off the cross country course after our elimination, my self-flogging began. “I must not have been forward enough. I let him take control and didn’t make get him over the jump. I crawled around stadium. I didn’t practice my dressage test enough. I wasn’t relaxed, so he wasn’t relaxed, and on and on …” Name a vice, a flaw, a sin and I MUST have done it. We had never been eliminated. And we’ve been a partnership for a LONG time. It MUST have been something I did. Even with the worst spot possible Syd never refuses a fence. What on earth did I do wrong this time?
Because I do read a lot, and because I do have a great farrier and a fabulous vet, who were both due to come out and shoe/look at Syd, I began to think some things through. I finally took a deep breath and listened to the nagging voice in my gut. You know that instinct that you have that if you’re like me, you never trust? That small voice said, “What if it’s something physical? Syd is a senior horse now. Or what if it’s his feet? We’ve had a crazy wet summer and battles with thrush.” I stopped beating myself up just long enough to listen, and to really stop and think about the circumstances and the environmental factors that were different since I competed in the spring. I am so glad that I did!
When my vet appointment rolled around, I greeted him with a “Can we talk about some of my worries about Syd?” Thankfully, I have a phenomenal vet who puts up with all my questions and is always happy to answer and discuss. We talked about the differences in my horse, his movement and his attitude. After flexing, radiographs, and much searching, my vet determined that Syd DID have something physical wrong. Nothing horrible. Nothing that couldn’t be handled with some maintenance and a change in shoeing, but enough to change the way Syd competed. (And before anyone makes the blanket assumption about hocks, stifles, etc. Syd’s hocks are already maintained, and his stifles are fine.) I followed that doctor visit with a visit from my farrier. Now that Syd’s issues are being handled, he’s back to feeling like his old self, tearing up the galloping lanes like he’s seven again.
And me? Well, I learned a valuable lesson. Yes, I am not perfect. NOT EVEN CLOSE! I do make a lot of mistakes. But so does everyone else. The lesson is that sometimes, not only is it NOT my fault, sometimes, it isn’t anyone’s “fault.” It’s just life, and aging, and things happen. Sometimes you really do need to stop. Take a deep breath, slow down, and listen to that gut instinct we all have as riders and caretakers of these magnificent creatures. Sometimes it takes becoming a detective and putting all the pieces together. Because sometimes as easy as it is for me to take the blame, sometimes it’s not my fault.