Many things about riding prepared me for the greater complexities that awaited me in adult life.
Scrutiny and the ability to accept criticism?
Thank you childhood trainer for making me cry and demanding nothing short of perfection. And don’t you THINK about talking back because then you are taken off the horse.
I owe this one to the 15-20 horses I turned out, fed, and groomed as a 12-year old. Or maybe to the hours spent cleaning tack? Horses I tacked up for well-to-do (but incredibly nice!) adult amateurs?
Yes, I know you are going to spook at this plastic bag for the after bolting 15 times prior at the dog, the weird umbrella, and the wind. But I am not going to lose my marbles because I know you are a baby horse and you need a calm influence.
The power to explain?
Posting is a weird concept even for non-horsey adults. Try teaching it to non-horsey kids.
HA, jokes on me, still can’t figure this one out.
Point being, there are many lessons that we gain growing up with these animals and immersed in this sport that transcend age. There are so many for me, it’s hard to point out one in particular. But there is one that is just a funnier experience to tell. So, storytime.
When I showed as a kid (pre-12 years old), it was humble. It was before I showed on the A’s, they were run out of local barns, and adding strides on a horse was not only acceptable – sometimes it won you the class.
In this environment, where the jumps were 6 inches below what they were supposed to be set at and wearing ill-fitting rubber boots, I became deathly afraid.
Because clearly, this was the most important moment of my life.
Never would I ever amount to anything greater than the Beginner Hunter division of the Northern Illinois Hunter Jumper Association. And it required PERFECTION.
I can laugh now, but back then I would get way too nervous. I was always a working student at these shows, so I would arrive early, feed horses, and have to go vomit in a porta-potty for 30 minutes because I was that nervous. I did not have to do this once a day, but multiple times a day I would be so terrified of messing up that I could not keep food down any days that I showed.
I remember concerned patrons asking me if I was alright when I finally surfaced, harried and red Gatorade in hand.
Yep, it was a glamorous life.
I can’t pin down one show, round, or moment that rid me of my nerves. I know it continued when I moved to the A’s, especially because then things, like, actually mattered a bit more in the context of the horse world. At least then I sort-of had a reason.
I do have a working theory that the catch-riding circuit helped. If you can ride a horse you have never met over 7-9 jumps without even picking up the reins, you can probably deal with the same shit your horse always pulls, even in a show environment.
Outside of riding though, I like to I am a cool customer. I rarely get nervous, presentations, travel, nothing. It does not stress me out. I have a resounding, it will work itself out or I will figure it out mentality.
Chalk it up to another one of riding’s nuggets of wisdom.