We all have monsters – those worries, doubts and fears that overcome us from time to time. We all live with them, ignored for the most part, yet hiding just out of sight as we go about our days in a blissful state of abnegation. But this year, when I was given the opportunity to work with one of the most naturally talented Thoroughbreds I’ve come across, my monsters got louder.
Each and every day, I’ve worked to build a foundation with Deadly, to give direction to his natural talents and do right by him in providing the proper skills to succeed in an Eventing career. And 8 months into our partnership, I can feel a true upper-level contender start to take shape. Yet, with one last lesson at the horse park before we trotted down centerline at RRP, I told my trainer my biggest fear – the one I had been sitting on for quite some time but hadn’t had the nerve to say out loud. I’m afraid that he’s too nice for me, that someone else could do better with him.
She quickly shot down my fears, reminding me that was not the mindset I needed to be in. So, the next day I entered the Rolex arena feeling prepared and proud of the horse I was riding. We laid down our best test ever, despite one late movement caused by rider error. Deadly did all I asked, we stuck to our plan and I finished with a big smile and pats for my pony as we walked up to thank the judge.
Expecting a warm smile in return, what I got was the one sentence I had been terrified to hear. You have a nice horse on your hands. He wants to be very fancy. But you – you are a sloppy rider. You don’t do him justice.
And there it was – my fears come to light. All the things she said were true, and things I had known for a long time. But they are battles I fight every time I stepped into the stirrups and things I work hard to correct in lessons, in asking for help, and in taking every learning opportunity possible.
So I thanked the judge for her feedback and her time, and I cried the whole way back to the barn.
Since that moment, I’ve felt the monsters in my mind take over. I’ve wondered what I’m doing and why. I’ve questioned why I show. I’ve questioned why I ride. I’ve struggled to catch the monsters and move forward.
But as I reflect on the weekend and try to overcome my mental block, I can’t help but be exceedingly proud of Deadly. Despite what the judge deemed “sloppy riding”, he carried me around new places and big arenas without any hesitation. He willingly answered “Yes ma’am” when I kicked on and whispered “attack the water, buddy”. He confidently finished every task I handed him, with the sole reason being that I asked him to.
At the end of the day, Deadly didn’t notice my leaning shoulders, how my circles weren’t quite round, or how I could have gotten a slightly better distance to that last oxer. He had no idea that I saddled up that morning and every day battling doubts and fears, wondering if I’m doing him any justice. He just showed up and did his job for me.
He fought the monsters in the towering stands of the Rolex arena, didn’t even notice the ones hiding in the ditch 4 strides from the brush wall, and attacked the scary ones swimming in the unknown depths of the water crossing. He took on his monsters, so I’ll continue to fight mine.
And because he listens and takes care of me, because he is brave and honest, because he gives me confidence, I can remind myself that I’ve done the same for him.