2021 was supposed to be a great year; after last year, we all hoped for it, even expected it. I think I, perhaps more than the average eventer, particularly needed it to be amazing. It started auspiciously with a vaccine and a sense of an end to the very dark time in my career. I had second successful run at Modified in late January, followed by a ribbon at Carolina International in March.
Then the shit hit the fan. Repeatedly. I was technically eliminated at The Fork in April. I was eliminated with two stops in stadium at a schooling show in May. I was eliminated at my first FEI event at Virginia in very early June. And I fell off in my final prep run for the AEC in August.
Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity—trauma, tragedy, threats, basic run-of-the-mill stress. We are told that resilience is important. We are supposed to build resilience as if it were wealth, to bank it, to hold it dear, and then use it when we need it. As a physician in a pandemic, my resilience bank account has been drawn upon repeatedly over the last 18 months. It was in danger of overdraft charges filed. Then I had to go and blow up two solid years of forward progress in training and going up the levels. It felt, at the time, like the lights had been turned out, and I couldn’t see the way out, much less forward.
Not to give away the end of the story, but two weeks after I fell off (see picture below), I did go to the AECs, and I did kick ass. I did find the way through that darkness; I didn’t do it alone with some mysterious innate “resilience”.
I think resilience is not something with which a person is born; I think resilience is a result of the love of people around you.
I go to shows with my community of friends. This is what we do: we meet at horse shows, help each other, and have a party. When I made a stupid mistake and jumped the wrong jump on cross country, they heard me. I called my best friend, who heard me. My coach, she heard me too. They all listened, and then they responded—they knew what I was going through, and encouraged me to try again. I did, and again, and again, and I repeatedly made different mistakes. Every time, they lifted me up with words of encouragement, stories of their own experiences, and promises to be there. They were the base of my continued willingness to put myself out there.
My community had made plans to go to the AEC last year, were crushed when it was cancelled, and promptly rescheduled. We were going, and falling off two weeks before with no injury was not going to be a reason to not go. So I went. We dealt with a hurricane. One of us had to stay
home with a husband with COVID, but was called and Facetimed regularly. One of us drove from New Mexico. But we went, and we went together, as a team.
The day of cross country, I was so nervous that I had to take a walk, cry actual tears, and give myself permission to not ride. As soon as I said those words out loud to myself in the parking lot, I knew that my community had given me the resilience to try again, and I was not taking
that out. I went to warmup, my coach told me she’d never seen me ride as well, I left the start box yelling “thanks for volunteering,” and we finished on our dressage score. Our community gave each other love, even when we were in the midst of job changes, even when we were worried about our children and the future of our country, especially when our horses weren’t going well. And the entire aisle in our barn, from all over the country, won ribbons and coolers and money. Every single one. Because we have resilience, not coming from some mistic inner source, but from the love we show each other.
Resilience should be built as if it were wealth, banked, and used when needed. And we need to help each other to make deposits so there are savings when the time comes round.