I won’t exaggerate if I say that 90% of horse owners I met, including myself, have said or thought at least once, that they are not good enough for their horse or for riding in general. Not brave enough, not skilled enough, not coordinated enough, don’t have enough feel, maybe even don’t earn enough or don’t do well enough in school, you get the idea! It can be a one day thought that comes and rarely returns or it can be a nagging feeling present frequently.
Let me tell you a personal story…
The Great Expectations
In my teens and early twenties I always felt under pressure to do well in pretty much everything I did. Part of it was an outside pressure but a lot of it was due to my own internal push. I wanted my parents to be proud of me, my teachers to be happy with my work, my horse to be worth my time on his back, my trainer to be pleased with my results…etc etc It took me a while to realise the influence these thoughts and feelings had on my self-satisfaction and enjoyment of what I was doing. All these people, their own emotions and great expectations I had no control over were strongly affecting my ability to perform well and do well in general.
Although I started to intellectually understand the issue pretty quickly, I had no idea how to stop it from controlling my self worth and belief in my abilities. Then, one day, I knew…
Recognising Your Real Enemy
In 1998 I moved cities to start University and as a result started working with a different trainer. I took a hot, young anglo-arab stallion with me whom I had since he was three and was rising 5 at a time of my move. All was going well in the first few weeks until one jumping lesson where my horse spooked at a new filler over an oxer. My trainer decided that the best way to help was to whack him with a lunge whip as I approached the second time. I didn’t know about his “genius” idea and was not prepared at all for what was to happen. A few strides in front of the jump, the man ran behind my horse and smacked him as many times as he managed. The horse panicked, jumped the jump in a fashion half crushing into it half jumping it (and it was not a small jump) and then bolted and crashed both of us into the wall of the indoor arena.
I can tell you with surprising clarity that it was the moment in which I knew I would never let anyone affect me as a rider with own pressure or hurt my horse. I was a very shy person at the time but it turned out that I wasn’t after all…I told him what I thought of him, went to the office and handed my livery notice on the same day.
Why am I telling you this story?
You see, I reckon many of us who want to achieve something or aspire to be someone have that mental dude sitting deep in our heads, with a lunge whip hidden behind his back, waiting to come at us when we feel most vulnerable, unsure, struggling to find the right ways. We think it’s our trustworthy trainer who wants us to do well but that’s not the case. This idiot just wants to protect his own ego, indulge in violent streak of his nature and express some dominant aura that should prove his existence.
I believe our minds can deceive us and we should not listen to everything it tells us…
Getting Rid of the “Give Up Dude”
There are two main ways that I found work for moments when a rider feels like giving up – whether it is giving up riding altogether or having negative thoughts about a particular thing about lessons, results, horse’s way of going etc
1) Self-Reflection. This is like a SWOT analysis of your own riding at a time. It is never just about what is supposedly wrong but a big picture of a situation you are in: your weakness but also your strengths, your threats but also your opportunities. It can be as convoluted or as simple as one wishes but it makes you think laterally, gets you to see bigger picture.
2) Realise that you can be wrong…When I personally have negative thoughts and think that I am not good enough to do something I make myself go back in time to that jumping lesson…It is possible to trust someone, to value someone, to look up to someone and believe them based on their competition results and for them to want to crush you. That someone can very well be the very us…a part of our own mind…
Apparently, our thoughts can conspire against us. What if the part of us that thinks we are not good enough was simply protecting us from further struggle? Further efforts? Further inevitable failures that every one of us has to go through to finally get a breakthrough or two? Further possible humiliation when we can’t yet sit well to our horse’s trot in a test or when we go wrong on the course and get eliminated from an event our horse could potentially win?
I say, thanks my dear mind, I know you worry but let’s look at the whole picture shall we, not just at the imaginary black screen you are showing me right now…
I now also have another great tool to deal with many negative aspects of creative mind (as I see it) and that’s yoga…I will write a separate post about it soon…
How do you deal with your low moments? Any tried and tested methods except of a glass of red and kick up the backside? 😉