It’s been a year of growing for me on a professional level, which is usually followed by some personal growth. Like most dedicated athletes we want “It” so badly. “It” is different for most people. When I ask my students their goals, I find a common theme that is no surprise. We all want to push ourselves to be better. Whether it’s cantering on a 20 meter circle or getting your gold medal, we all want to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and not sheepishly hide under a rock. This is why we work so hard.
There are a lot of variables in Dressage. More than I realized, Dressage is a mental game. This summer I have once again had the chance to show some really cool horses. My horse Felix and I are dipping our toes in some small tour CDIs, where you can’t help but feel like a small fish in a big pond. It’s hard for me not to wear that, “oh my, I’m going to make an idiot out of myself” feeling directly on my sleeve. Anyone that rides knows how this negatively only allows the tension to creep in and affect how well the body functions. My brain is constantly questioning if I’m doing everything I can to achieve “It” and therefore my riding sometimes is like weeding through the mist of feelings and emotions, usually resulting in me going off course, sometimes even trying to convince the judge I did not go off course, and more recently owing $200 to my bossy trainer as punishment for going off course. That is the lovely mental game of Dressage. My trainer has been on me to stop wanting “It” so bad, prepare for what’s coming, ride like I know how, and stop thinking so much. So I need to stop being the old me that screws up royally in the show ring holding onto that negativity like a child clutching her mother’s hand on the first day of kindergarten. I watch as other riders have tests with honest unfortunate mistakes and they come out of the ring with a smile on there face oozing confidence and looking at the positive. Funny, because I sometimes want to heave myself on the ground and cry when someone asks me, “how was your ride” and I can hardly stop my face from scrunching into a miserable looking expression. I’m a horrible liar and faking it till you make is has never been my strong suit.
Dressage is a sport of perfection and so it’s easy to be your own worst critic. So this past weekend, I went to a smaller show and tried out my new method. Shocking, it works. My mother has always said that life is about perception. If you ride every test like you are on the brink of chaos and failure then most likely you will be on the brink of chaos and failure. So the novel concept of thinking you are the cats meow, you are not going to royally screw up, and you know what you are doing, does the trick. They call that confidence.
The next two months are lined with the most important shows of the season. Felix and I are competing in the small tour at regionals, also showing my sometimes naughty mostly brilliant six year old second level, a couple green four year olds. Then we are headed to Devon to once again get our feet wet with the small tour CDI. Finally (fingers crossed), heading to nationals. So my goal is not to win or get the highest scores of my life, although that sounds nice, but think in the ring, prevent mistakes from happening, take each ride as gaining more experience and not get so wrapped up in my score. I’m going to enjoy the horses I love riding and training with confidence.
Some people are born with natural confidence. People like myself need to fight for it. I am super lucky to have a huge support system and to be able to surround myself with people who give me confidence, inspire me, motivate me to be better, never kick me when I am down and help me find what my “It” is going to be. It’s been a super season so far and I’m ready to give the next two months hell!