Lucky/Unlucky and Bad Things vs. Good Things

Confessions of an AA Event Rider and Convicted Over Thinker had a very interesting post on this topic.

She confessed to feeling humiliated, unlucky, and always having bad things happen to her. That's a HUGE confession and yet, she's only speaking how we all feel with horses sometimes/usually/all-the-time/pick your frequency.

I wrote on her page and thought I'd include some excerpts here. If you think I'm erring in any way, please feel free to say so in the comments!

"It's not about you. It's about the horse. It's taken me (and I still need work on it) a thousand years to realize that ultimately, it's the horse and it's how you respond. You're working with an animal - an animal that while smart and beautiful, requires learning a whole new language in order to communicate. And learning that language defies rational thinking.

I completely get the feelings humiliation, shame, and ego-deflation. But they have no place in your work with your horse. "I can't" - is absolutely correct, of course you can't! You can't MAKE a horse do anything if you want to go the path of horsemanship. No one would ever think, "oh, she's less a rider because she can't make her horse cross a creek." What we'd think is, "ohhh man, been there! That horse really has issues with water, poor lady is doing the best she can besides carrying that pony across. It's time for some learnin' that creeks don't eat horses!"

1 - We all make mistakes, that we learn from them is paramount to our growth. Will you ever forget to release her from the trailer before unloading? Nope! Will you devote some time to water crossings? Yep!

2 - Why should we allow ourselves to be humiliated and shamed by our horses? Or by ourselves when it comes to our horses? We're doing the best we can and so long as you are not abusing your horse, overfacing them, or giving them no release, you are simply trying to work with your horse. They are animals who will never ever speak English. Maybe you need more time with a trainer to help you better communicate with your horse, maybe your horse just needs more exposure.

It's all learning. That's it. You don't get to graduate horse school, you just keep learning.

You might want to dig deep and ask yourself WHY you felt humiliated. And don't go with the first reaction you have - dig deep (although sometimes the first reaction may the right one if we let it speak loud enough).

Of course bad things happen to you, of course you are unlucky with horses. Bad things happen to everyone and we are all unlucky with horses. It's inevitable. My horse once jumped a muddy creek and smashed my knee in a tree, another time she refused a fence and I came off and broke all my toes in my left foot, another time a horse kicked her and tore the skin off her leg, another time she got cellulitis and a year later she's got it again. One time she nearly took her eye out and had to have stitches along her eye nearly all the way around. Another time she refused a ditch and I came off and torqued my hamstring. Earlier this spring she spooked at a deer, sent me flying, and went galloping back home, 2 miles away. Another time at a mini-trials she spooked at the second to last show jumping fence and I came off. And don't EVEN get me started on our dressage rounds."

Now here's my favorite part, the part I'm most proud for writing.

"Bad things happen to us and we are unlucky with horses because this is real life. So you can't even use that train of thought because no one is "lucky" with horses, no one has "good things" all the time. Things happen if you open yourself up to being an equestrian."
That's the end of my comment. Below are additional thoughts. 

I KNOW I wallow in self-pity, I crave perfection. I HATE that we're "That Pair" (less frequently outside of dressage rings now that DragonMare is in her late prime and can't be bothered with the extra effort to commit to spooking unless truly imminent death is on the line/a deer lurketh has grown up). I want to be so flashy and so cool and an Upper Level Rider. I want my horse to be admired and me with her. I want us to be everything awesome and perfect.

But that life is a mirage - it's only found in the images and videos SELECTIVELY shared which we star-gazers and admirers then create a story around. Stories that have no basis in truth or reality.

"Oooooo, look at that BNR (big name rider) and their 4* horse, they are so fancy, I want to be them. They are awesome and ride all the time and live on beautiful farms and visit the world riding."

Awesome = clearly nothing bad ever happens to them and they never feel humiliated or ashamed or ready to send their horse off to the nearest kids' camp. 

What we see are only glimpses into their lives. We don't know what happens behind closed doors (or closed Facebook pages/blog posts/media sites). How many times have they retired on course? How many times has their horse pulled up lame? How many times have they been yelled at by owners, faced financial hardships, gone to bed at 1am w/ a colicky horse and gotten up at 4 to ride 8 horses, or dreaded crossing the pond for the 3rd time this year. They are running businesses, they are real people, riding real horses, and living real life. 

It's okay to admire them and aspire to reach those levels - that's perfectly appropriate. What's not okay is to think they are living some dream where everything is perfect all the time. Or that their hardships are easier to handle than ours. Or that somehow they are better than us amateurs. Better riders? Sure, I'll entertain that. Better trainers? ENH. Juries out on that one, I highly doubt they are better than most of the bloggers I follow. Certainly not better than my trainer. Better at being people, better at living? No. Just different. 

So when we feel humiliation, shame, failure, and hear the demons whispering in our heads, we need to step out of that frame. Get off the horse (even if it's on a muddy creek bank) or set the reins down for a second, step away from the computer, put the phone down, walk away from the railbirds talking trash about the riders in the ring, step away from the stall door, and go kick a cat stretch your arms to the sky. Laugh at the absurdity of what we are trying to do. Raise your eyes up and scream, "THIS IS FUCKING SHIT!" And then take at least 10 deep breaths - 10 seconds in, 10 seconds out. Then you can cry, you can kick your tires, do some jumping jacks, drink some water, and refuse to beat yourself up. You are worth it. You do not deserve to have your closest ally, YOU, be your cruelest voice. Pet your horse. Settle down. Talk to a friend who knows you - be vulnerable and tell them what you are believing about yourself. 

And then get thee to a therapist. Dig deep, don't just settle at Cognitive & Behavior Therapy (which is valuable stuff) but dig down (with a professional to guide you) and uncover why you are so mean to yourself. Whose voice are you actually channeling? Would you let someone speak to your dearest friend/your child like you speak to yourself? How can your inner child thrive by hearing/internalizing what you think about yourself? How does it make you grow and mature?

And if you think I'm just preaching, realize I'm preaching to myself. I'm headed to the barn to confer with my vet on next steps for cellulitis treatment. We've missed our last mini-trials of the season, haven't jumped in a month, and she recently spooked at some tree branches. Also,DragonMare is not my biggest fan and I know she only nickers at me or comes up to me for treats. So that's a bit deflating. #keepingitreal

Also, be sure to look up Brene Brown's works - Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfections, and Rising Strong


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