This is the last blog in this series.  I think it’s time to move on now.  The new year is a good excuse, and I’m taking full advantage of it.  Actually, I heard myself say something about the situation, and it sounded awful.  At that moment, I decided that this was not going to be the defining event in my riding experience.

I’ve gotten lots of unsolicited opinions and advice about why I fell, and how to get my confidence back.  The whole experience has left me feeling more like my horse:  unable to express in words what I think of those opinions (for a variety of reasons), grateful for those who have offered genuine empathy, and a now highly honed BS-o-meter that distinguishes those who are just passing judgment versus those who are offering authentic support.

None of those people were there when I fell, and they don’t actually know the details.  Heck, even the people I have told about the event with more specificity don’t know everything about the day.

Regardless, they’re entitled to their opinion.  I just have to remember that it’s their opinion — not a statement of fact, and not necessarily accurate.  And at this point, I’m done with them all.  [Insert video of me riding off into the sunset here.]

It’s a new year, and we begin again.  Fresh, renewed, wiser, optimistic, and eager for the upcoming season.

I read an article recently that stressed the need for riders to practice their bravery.  Well, I think I do pretty well in that department.  I go to clinics, I attend trade shows, I went to the USEA convention, I try new things, I read (a lot), I take regular lessons, I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know something, and I’m not afraid to ask for help.  Heck, I had to ask Phillip Dutton to park my trailer for me — talk about a big ‘ole slice of Humble Pie.

But even with everything that I do, it still doesn’t mean I have all the answers.  It doesn’t mean my form is perfect.  And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m making a bid for the upcoming Olympic team.

Because I’m an eventer, I’ve got both dressage and jumping to work on.  So there’s plenty to keep me busy.

I look to create opportunities where it makes sense.  With a solid core of dressage riders at my barn, I helped start a Dressage Club.  We bought materials for everyone to study, and we meet regularly for formal theory lessons with our resident dressage expert.  Then between meetings, we each have videos to watch, particular concepts to practice, and then we report back at the next session — successes, challenges, moments of revelation, and instances of confusion.  Some of us even do schooling rides together, offering a watchful eye, or a photo, or maybe even video.

Hopefully, the jumper riders will coalesce similarly sometime soon.  But for now, I’ll focus on the opportunity that’s available in front of me, and make the best use of it that I can.  Even George Morris admits that all riding starts with dressage.  I’ll take that as cosmic acknowledgement that this is time well spent for both Charlie and me.

I would like to take a moment to offer a tip of the hat to everyone who has contacted me with messages of support, and heartfelt suggestions for how to get my confidence back.  Some of them are longtime friends.  Others are complete strangers.  They have come from a variety of far-flung corners of the riding world.  And those honest and positive messages have helped me generate much of our progress.

Two of the best resources I’ve come across have been the Jane Savoie program, titled Freedom From Fear, and a variety of courses offered online by April Clay on her website

There’s also a lot to be said for instructors, friends, and riding classmates who really get it. Their confidence in my abilities, their offering of positive energy, and their willingness to give me “one more crack at it” during class have gotten me over several hurdles on this journey back.

I’d also like to say that I hope I’ve opened a bit of a can of worms.  All riders fall.  It’s just a question of when and what the results are.  So we should all stop pretending that we haven’t ever fallen, that we won’t ever fall again, or that we don’t ever overthink things after a less than perfect ride.  Until we all become Lainey Ashker or Boyd Martin or Kate Chadderton, then we all still have a lot of riding and learning to do.

I won’t say I’m 100% back to where I was.  But I’m no longer using the “incident” to define myself or my riding going forward.  It’s not a benchmark anymore.  If I continue to measure from there, it will continue to consume energy.  And I won’t give it that satisfaction.  I’ve paid appropriate homage.  I’ve learned a lot.  And now it’s time to move on.

So, Charlie and I now embark on the 2016 season.  I’ve already signed up for a dressage camp over the Martin Luther King weekend.  I’m also scheduled to do a series of jumping clinics with a well renowned eventer locally in January, February, and March.  Plus, the Maryland Horse Expo is coming to town, where I’ll be attending lectures by Jim Wofford.  My big challenge right now is not over-committing.

Even though my stated goal was one off-site training opportunity monthly, I’ve already got three riding events and the Expo down for January.  It’s gonna be a busy winter…

So my 2016 resolution is the same one I have for my horse:  Forward!

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