You had a bad lesson. Or a bad hack. Or are having a bad week/month/winter. You’re stuck in the indoor and you and your horse are getting a little bored and a little stale. You miss days of riding because of work. Or class. Or cold temperatures. Or because you are too tired to move and can’t motivate yourself to ride. Since when don’t you want to ride?

It’s too cold. I’m too tired. I had a long day. I need more sleep. She’s got too much energy, I can’t handle it right now. She won’t do _____ . She isn’t learning _____ .

Right now, I am stuck. I am working 30-40 hours a week in an attempt to cover both mine and my horse’s expenses and squirrel away money for summer showing. On top of that I am in class the majority of the day. I also need to find time to ride during the week, especially before my lessons. There are days I work 3 of my 4 jobs in 1 day. Depending on when I work, I could start my day at 6:30AM and be going nearly straight through between classes and work until 11PM or later. And then I can do my school work, get to bed as soon as possible and do it all again the next day.

The hacks have become increasingly shorter to squeeze in between classes, or turn into lunging sessions if I don’t have time to ride. The times I do ride I am on such a time crunch, I spend more time aware of how much time I have left before I have to go, than I do enjoying my horse.

I am frustrated. With my schedule, my lack of flexibility, with myself and (unfairly) with her. She isn’t to blame when I am in a rush and she doesn’t do what I want on the first try. I expect her to keep pace with my break-neck schedule and when she doesn’t, I feel like we are moving backwards instead of making progress towards our goals.

What are our goals? I couldn’t even tell you anymore. I had lost sight of the finish line and was preparing to grab my white flag in surrender.

It was in this moment that a weekend of showing with my IHSA team was desperately needed. So we packed it all in and headed off to a weekend of adventures, starting with our normal pre-show jam and dance sessions, complete with pump-up music and our team song, The Booty Song (don’t ask, it’s just kind of our thing). We put in a solid effort on Saturday, scoring a total of 35 points, although we just squeaked by to win by 2 points. We left a barrage of ribbons on our team banner next to our primary tricolor team ribbon, and got ready to do it all again on Sunday.

Except we didn’t. Jam session? Check. Booty Song? Check. And then…nothing. We had a dismal 7 points total for the entire fences phase, 14 points behind the leading team. What happened? How could we even attempt to make up that lead? We would need to pull out all of the stops in the flat phase for our team to even get close to winning. My team sat in the bleachers, staring at the points board, with furrowed brows. What was going to happen? Was this how the rest of the day was going to go?

The coaches walked back to the bleachers and while the hosting school adjusted the ring for flat classes and started flat schooling, my team took a walk. We took a literal lap. Our coaches very matter-of-factly told us where we were sitting as a team in that moment (basically, not too hot to say the very least). And in that moment, that same feeling of frustration, that same feeling of hitting a wall, that same feeling of no longer being able to see the finish line…I could feel it among my teammates too.

Our coach looked at us all and very succinctly told us that she knew we all know how to ride. That we’ve done it a million times. And that we needed to leave what had happened in the fences phase outside with us, and to start fresh. To do what we know how to do, to ride the horse, to leave it all in the ring. We had a moment to consider her words, a moment to gather our thoughts and our morale as a team, and we dusted ourselves off. It didn’t matter that we were 14 points behind, our coaches had some kind of faith that we could still ride well enough to make up that gap.

We walked back into the barn, and as we did, I think we all caught a glimpse of the finish line. We all started running again.
We came back with a vengeance and added a near-perfect flat score to our fences points for a total of 37 points, and we won by 1 mere point. We rallied together like no other. The drive, the fight, the desire to win was palpable. We added another tricolor ribbon for the weekend, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team for the effort that they dug deep to find.A very happy team
So why do we ride? Why do we pay money for someone to give their opinion of us, and why do we care so much? Why do we spend our money and time participating in this fickle sport?

But you didn’t start riding horses so you could collect blue ribbons.
You’re here because you fell in love with horses, riding took a hold of you and you never looked back. You’re here because it is not just a sport, or just a hobby, and your horse isn’t just a pet. You’re here because this is your life. You’re here because without horses, you aren’t sure who you might have been, or who you would be.

You’re here because riding has given you the best group of friends and your biggest competitors. You’re here because sitting on a horse makes you come alive. You’re here because you don’t think that at this point you could ever leave, nor would you want to.

You’re here because this is your fun, how you de-stress, how you spend your free time. You’re here because you are an athlete. You are here because nothing makes you happier than being around a horse. Everything else is just extra.

So if you are feeling stuck, remind yourself that you’re here for the long haul. When you lose sight of the finish line, remember why you started running. Or in this case, riding.

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