Last week I trailered over to Sue Berrill’s for a couple jump lessons. I have not jumped in front of anyone since December, and to say I felt rusty would be a major understatement. I was anxious about riding in front of a professional. I was worried about my horse’s fitness and ride-ability. I was wondering where my three stride eye had vanished off to.
Fortunately, I had minimal expectations. I arrived at her farm with a simple mission: Get my horses away from Tamarack Hill Farm for a day, and make sure they go over every jump I point them at. This might sound incredibly pathetic, but whenever I expect a life changing ride I am setting myself up to fail, and to be disappointed. I have discovered that riding is less stressful when you remain open minded and go with the flow (something I have not always been accustomed to). Not only did my horses meet my slight requests, but they ultimately exceeded my expectations.
Even though my horses jumped fairly well and felt pretty good under the circumstances, I couldn’t help but wonder how you can go from feeling like you are on top of the world in the midst of the summer, to feeling like a useless individual who seems like they have only been riding for three weeks in the winter?
As a rider, my biggest challenges are my expectations of myself. Whenever I am having a rough ride, or a difficult lesson, I am not mad at my horse, or my trainer, but rather I am furious with myself. If I have the innate ability at certain moments in my life to ride a certain way, then why can’t I tap into those skills all the time? If I can ride a certain way in August, why can’t I ride similarly in February? Why do I feel like I have lost half of my skills, and muscle memory? Why do I feel like I am coming out of the winter ten times worse than I came into it? Is it because am I not competing? Is it because I am not getting any help from Denny or Lindle? Is it because my horses have lost fitness from not hacking? Is it because I have lost fitness? How can you become worse at something you care so much about, and work so hard at on a daily basis? When does this rust start to peel off?
Whether you have been riding out in the snow, up and down dirt roads, or have been stuck inside all winter, many of us feel agitated and trapped by this never ending season. Not all of us have the privilege of packing up our belongings and heading south to Aiken, Ocala, or Southern Pines for the winter. This does not mean that we don’t want it just as badly as those who can afford to leave want it. This does not mean that we are inferior to all those southerners. This does not mean that we are incapable of progressing.
What does this mean for all of us frozen icicles? For starters, we are tenacious. We trudge through snow banks. We hammer out frozen ice buckets. We have chapped lips, and dry cracking hands. We push ourselves beyond what we think we can handle. We have drive. We have dedication. But what we really want is for this winter to be over. We want trail riding on warm spring days. We want to see the color green. We want to hear water rushing through rivers. We want to watch our naked horses roll in their fields. We want to wiggle a nozzle, and watch water instantaneously trickle out. We want to give our horses baths. Even though it would be uplifting and inspiring to offer some grand advice for all my fellow sufferers, all I can tell you is this: start praying now!