I loved my junior riding experience. I had fabulous friends, awesome horses, a trainer who got great results, and parents who cheered like crazy from the sidelines. The path from crossrail queen to children’s hunters was nicely paved for me. I prided myself on following the barn’s standards, and found growth in putting in the painstaking hours that, in my opinion, made all the difference when I stepped into the ring. I knew what shows to go to, what horses to ride, and what was expected of me in and out of the tack. It was the expectation that kept me in line, and moving forward towards my goals. Having this standard of riding and care was a comfort.
Perhaps this is why when I started riding again, as an adult, I struggled the most with direction. I joined a fantastic program and loved my trainer. Yet there were days where I just flailed around the arena, unsure of exactly what my path forward was. I wasn’t used to this open format, where the standards differed from rider to rider, especially amongst the adult amateur crew. When my own expectations had been so crowd sourced, it had been easy to rely on the rules of the group to determine what decisions to make. Now, it was me, my trainer and the rest of my riding career laid out in front of me. Years of options. It was incredibly intimidating – so for the time being I continued taking lessons on nice school horses and enjoying my time around the horses.
I remember one day, it just wasn’t enough anymore. I had gotten my sea-legs back, and was active in our lesson program – but I felt like I was badly underachieving. As if I had suddenly gotten to where I was going, and didn’t like the destination. There had to be more!
After a long consult with my consciousness I realized how badly I missed the drive, the purpose and standard at which I had used to approach all things horse related. I wasn’t content to be just a once a week lesson rider any longer. I wanted more, and I needed to figure out how to get it.
First roadblock? I was a barely out of college working adult amateur rider, with no horse. Not exactly the most prime candidate for chasing lofty equestrian related goals, but I knew the area, I knew my trainer was behind me, and I knew that I wanted more. That had to be the start of something.
I wasn’t looking to be the next Beezie Madden or something crazy. I just wanted to feel that steady march forward, towards a shared goal, in my heart. I needed that expectation that I could be better, that I should be better, even if I was the only one holding myself accountable. Slowly but surely, I raised my standard of riding. I pushed harder in my lessons. I reached out to my barnmates, finding others to hack and ride when I couldn’t do more lessons. We set up meetings with my trainer to discuss future horses, and how to get the best option for my rather pitiful budget. Every day I was in the tack was another day that I felt like I was lurching back into progress. And for good reason too, if I was going to spend the time, effort and money to be a part of this world again, I wanted it to be on my terms.
Over time it became ritual, to be this more ambitious version of myself, the one that understands the value of the work I’m putting in towards my goals, and thrives on the dreams I used to laugh at. It showed in other ways too, by fostering a support group full of likeminded people and professionals; and in the confidence I felt in making my riding choices. Maybe I was an amateur adult, but it doesn’t mean my goals are any less important to me. They might just take a smidgen longer to accomplish. And that’s okay, because I was taking steps, I was pushing further, and I was doing for myself.
With my new standards I felt comfortable in my goals, and enthused by my dreams. I went from a rider unsure of where to go next to one that is comfortable wanting more, no matter the size of jump or amount of time it might take to accomplish. The habit of setting standards below what we are capable of is natural, and understandable, but will not push you to where you want to be. We are capable of such great things, if you expect those and your standards will never let you down.