I did a survey about my blog a while back to see what my readers liked and didn’t like about the blog. I got a lot of requests for more posts about my own riding experiences, so I’ve decided to start a series on my blog called “Confessions of an Aspiring Amateur.” While I think it is self-explanatory, I would like to show in the amateurs one day, and I am working towards that – hence, the “aspiring.”
This is my first post.
For those of you that don’t know much about me, I have been riding for 19 years. During that time, I didn’t do a lot of jumping. I had a period of a few years where my confidence was completely obliterated by terrible trainers, being overmounted, and my war with riding anxiety that I still am waging to this day, though it has gotten easier.
I never competed because the barn I grew up at was not into competition. They weren’t into jumping very high either, and I really never got experience cantering jumps. Most of my jump work was trotting courses and cantering in between the jumps but always breaking to the trot before the next one. When the barn I rode at for 10 years closed, I bounced from barn to barn trying to find a good fit – and it was extremely hard.
I began working with my current trainer almost two years ago. She has an amazing riding background. She trained her show horse, who came from an abusive owner, and showed in the 3′ equitation classes while schooling 3’6″ at home. She didn’t have the money to buy a horse that could do the 3’6″ equitation, so she never got to do the Big Eq. She also started teaching lessons as a junior rider. She eventually left her show barn and found a trainer job at my current barn.
When I first came to my trainer, I was a nervous wreck about riding. I wanted to start riding consistently again, and I wanted to get my fitness back. At the same time, I didn’t want to canter or jump due to my bad experiences and my completely shattered confidence. My trainer saw me ride and told me she couldn’t help me at the walk and the trot. She encouraged me to canter and do a few tiny crossrails. From then on, I was paired with Rascal – a horse I have written about before and that completely changed my riding ambitions. I discovered last year that I wanted to really start jumping and working towards showing. And then, he died.
I eventually found my current horse, L, so that I could work towards moving up to the 3′ jumps. My trainer says that I progressed extremely quickly. I went from not being able to do a full course to cantering full courses in 2 months. Then, my horse got hurt and was out of commission for 10 days.
My goal was to reach 2’6″ by the end of this summer and 2’9″ by the end of this year. I know my goals are ambitious, but that is how I am. I am a perfectionist, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I work better that way. My horse getting hurt frustrated me extremely. My barn doesn’t have a lesson horse for me to ride and/or jump, so I wasn’t able to ride the whole time my horse was on stall rest.
I am now working full-time, and I won’t have as much time to ride. My riding time will be cut in half more when winter comes because my current barn does not have an indoor – though I am working on finding a new facility. My lack of time to ride has frustrated me more because I had two weeks to really work on my riding, and one of them was taken up by stall rest, emergency vet calls, hand walking, and wrapping bandages. I want to clarify I am extremely grateful that my horse’s injury wasn’t worse, but being unable to ride was killing me. If you’ve ever seen the t-shirt that says ‘I ride so I don’t kill people,’ I am sure you understand. I am very motivated towards reaching my goal, moreso because my former second trainer and barn manager told me that she didn’t think I could reach my goal this year, and she also has cut down my long-term goal of competing at the 3’6″ level. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to prove the haters wrong and not being able to.
My horse in back in work, but during all the frustration and waiting, I realized that I want more than being at a backyard barn for the rest of my life. While I knew this for months, the intention and drive was even more clear due to being unable to ride. I am judged at my barn for how serious and focused I am on my lessons and on progressing. I am truly passionate about riding. I watch videos of big name riders when I’m not riding. I study them to see where I can improve and what I need to excel at that level. I am constantly observing. I do it any moment I can. I school when I am not lessoning. I am always trying to improve, and I actually ask my trainer to nitpick my position so I can be the best I can be. Many of the riders at my barn think I’m nuts.
So here are my confessions:
I wish I was able to ride as a junior. I never got the chance, or rather, I didn’t have the desire because I was never at a barn that promoted it. I wish I was a pony kid. I have met some amazing riders since starting my blog and since getting serious about my goals and realizing I want something more for my riding: My trainer – we’ll call her LD – Dani, Ashley, Georgie, Kendra. I look up to so many big name riders – Lillie Keenan, McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Liza Boyd, Kent Farrington, Tori Colvin. I know I’m missing some. I wish I could be half the riders they are. I am envious, and I use the word envious because it is appropriate when one lacks a quality another has. Envy is actually a good thing, as weird as that sounds. Jealousy is the one we have to watch out for.
I want more than being at a backyard barn where I am considered “weird,” “crazy,” “too intense” for being passionate about my riding, for having goals, for being a little too ambitious.
I went to a Grand Prix with my trainer a few weeks ago, and she was detailing someone’s ride to me. I commented that she could totally do Grand Prix classes, even if she had once told me she could never do it. She responded that I would be doing them one day, and she meant it. That’s how driven I am. She believes that I, a rider that has never jumped over 3′ in her 19 years of riding, could make it to Grand Prix level one day. Even if you think that’s ridiculous (I admit, I did too), I do have the drive and the motivation. I want something so much more for my riding career than what I have, and the injury, and the setbacks in my riding have fueled that desire more and made me even more frustrated at the same time.
I am making a big change in the next week, and I do believe it is the best thing I can do for my riding and sanity at this point, but it’s scary. I am looking forward to a new chapter in my riding life that is taking me towards where I want to go not keeping me where I want to be.