Doubt Doubt

“The only thing you should doubt is doubt.” It seems like kind of a silly quote, but if you let it sink in, really absorb it, it is absolutely the truth. Here’s another good one for you: “Fear is the mind killer” (from one of my favorite guilty pleasure nerd movies, Dune). Put doubt and fear together, and you’ve definitely got a problem. Hmmm … sounds a little like a math equation:

Doubt + fear = problem.

Okay … so stick with me here. If doubt is a negative, how about this equation?

Doubt + doubt = positive!

Right?! I mean, I am by no means a math scholar. (There is a very good reason why I have degrees in English and journalism and NOT math or anything even remotely connected to math.) But I do know that if you put two negatives together you get a positive. So when I was sitting in church on Sunday and my pastor uttered those words about doubt, my mind started spinning and I knew I had the beginnings of a blog post.

The bottom line is doubt is bad. If you’re an eventer, doubt can be “hit the ground” bad. It can be “don’t move up a level” bad, or “don’t buy a new horse” bad, or any number of other “stopped dead in your tracks” bad. The thing about doubt is that it is just as paralyzing and debilitating as its good buddy “fear.” Either/or can mean the difference in success versus failure. Put them together, and you’ve probably got a dream killing situation on your hands, or at the very least a disaster.

I have been doubting myself a lot lately. And truth be told, I have also been doubting my horse. Put the two together and the equation has looked more than a little bit like this:

Doubting myself + doubting my horse = going nowhere fast.

Let’s start with the horse issue. It’s slightly easier to deal with. I have the most wonderful, “always takes care of me” horse (check out my last post “A Valentine to my Horse“) Last fall my very faithful steed was having some issues with his front feet. Those issues have now VERY thankfully been resolved, but the period of time leading up to resolving them really shook my already shaky confidence. I went from having a horse that had refused a fence maybe six times in his entire life (he’s 16) to six times in a one-day event. Even after successfully treating the physical problem, I wasn’t sure I could trust him anymore to get over the fence, any fence.

Then winter came. And cold. And rain. Lots of rain. (It’s pouring right now!) I woke up one morning recently to the very scary thought, “When was the last time I jumped?” Maybe not so frightening if you’re a dressage diva, but if you’re an eventer? HORRORS! It’s what we live for! Something had to be done, and fast! The longer I put it off, the more ground my nemesis Doubt gained. And once doubt took hold, Fear was next.

So … back to me and my shaky confidence and the first part of the equation, doubting myself. If I am absolutely, totally and completely honest, I have never been a very confident rider. In fact, I’m not the most confident of persons. Yes, I love people. Yes, I SEEM confident and out there and secure, always meeting new people and smiling, and trying to please (I have 25 plus years in the retail and restaurant industries for goodness sake!) but inside, well … totally different story. It’s probably a little bit of an oxymoron that I AM an eventer. The very nature of the sport requires confidence. I absolutely LOVE what I do, but confident about it? Well, not so much. That’s why my horse is so perfect for me and why it’s been so very difficult to doubt him!

Back in the fall of 2010 I made the very shocking announcement that I was going to qualify for the AECs in 2011. At the time even the thought of WALKING across an open field PETRIFIED me. A friend of mine literally laughed at me, “You can’t even walk across that pasture! And you think you’re going to gallop across country? Over fences?!” In her defense, I really think she thought I was joking. But that’s just how absurd it seemed. One year later, and hundreds of hours and millions of baby steps later, and I not only qualified, I COMPETED at the American Eventing Championships and did well (17 out of 42!)

My point is this: I never for one second DOUBTED that I would qualify. I never allowed myself to doubt it. I just worked hard and believed it. Sure there were times I was afraid. Sure there were times I wanted to give up. But in the end, my lack of doubt, my belief that I could do it, carried me through.

So last week I had a trainer friend of mine jump my horse. It was a great idea for so many reasons: I knew she could feel if something wasn’t right physically, but more importantly, I knew she had the lack of doubt to get him over every fence in the field. She did. And he loved it. And he was perfect, and I had my perfect partner back. It vanquished fear, and it gave me the confidence to push away the doubt, set up some x-rails (you gotta start somewhere!) and go to work. Which is exactly what I did.

So sure, I still have a long way to go. But not as far as I did in 2010. And …

Hard work + belief = success!

Go eventing!