I think equestrians are hard wired to prove themselves. We find competition in the smallest things, and take pleasure in the lifetime commitment that it is to really learn to ride. I had always considered myself a proud member of the “just keep trying” club until recently.
I was in a small group lesson, with some favorite riding companions. My horse for the evening was a well-educated gelding, tall, flashy, and half giraffe (only half kidding about that last part). I knew him well, we had been paired up several times throughout his time with my trainer, and coming off a crazy day at work, I hoped we could have a nice ride.
The moment I swung my leg over, I knew it wasn’t happening. We fought our way through walk, and trot, and even my trainer didn’t seem to know what to say to me. Or rather, everything she was saying – I couldn’t seem to do it. His head got higher, and my reins tightened as my brain put itself on lockdown mode.By the time I asked him to canter, I was basically a sack of potatoes on his back. I am not a crier – or a quitter. But at that moment, I stopped him at one end, held up my hand until trainer noticed me, and choked out, “I can’t do this today,” and walked out of the ring.
I know I couldn’t have really faced her questions at that moment, and I hoped to God as I walked out that she wouldn’t judge me for my moment of weakness. But that’s what it was. I was not mentally capable of handling my ride that day. I don’t care if I would lose the lesson money, or some of the respect from my fellow riders. I needed to walk away.
I’ve never made any claims to be a fantastic rider. But I know that in this case, I did what I thought was best for both myself and my mount. I could never have made it through that ride mentally, or maybe even physically, intact. So however embarrassing it was I was proud I advocated for myself. Maybe I was a quitter that day, but in the long run, I tried to consider it a moment to breathe before trying again.
My trainer never mentioned it, and we picked up lessons like usual a few days later. I’d like to think that she respects the decision I made as an adult and as a responsible rider that day, I know that I do.