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Feel the fear and ride anyway – March 2018

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So here we are again. It’s a new year and the opportunity for a fresh start. It might not seem like it, but daylight hours are getting longer, the mince pie and mulled wine-induced bulges are lessening and I’m determined to feel positive about the challenges that lie ahead, despite a less-than-productive start to winter. 

Best laid plans…

It’s safe to say that I’ve been somewhat lapse with my plan to be the next Geoff Billington or Tim Stockdale this winter. But I’ve taken Pat out to a polework session or two and jumped a soggy fence in the field at home, so I reckon I’m almost halfway to a medal.

I’ve also given Bender an easier time lately. You know how it goes? The dark nights, waning confidence, a lack of motivation… In my opinion, unless you have the patience to complete a Rubik’s Cube in a blindfold, just leave it for another day. I felt guilty about this for a while, but I’ve since realised something – he doesn’t give two hoots as long as he has food in his tummy. And since taking the pressure off, I’m enjoying my horses again.

Rising pressure

Talking of pressure, the time it really hits me is before an outing, whether it be dressage, jumping or a trip to the beach. I’ve worked out that the pressure I put on myself is a key contributor to smashing my confidence to smithereens. 

For me, it kicks in the minute I fill out an entry form or agree to something like a Riding Club clinic. I start to question myself. Am I entering the right level? Will I make it through the warm-up without soiling my underpants in front of everyone? Will my horse decide to turn himself inside out and scare the socks off me when I get on? Just like that, the worrying process starts.

Turn pressure on its head  

I’ve come to realise that worrying is like being on a rocking horse – you go back and forth, and never actually get anywhere. And guess what? It never changes the outcome for the better, it only increases the depth of your frown lines and number of grey hairs. Also, the elaborate circumstances my brain creates when worrying have never actually come to light and I doubt they ever will.

I’ve learnt to tackle worrying by turning the pressures into positives – just as elaborate ones, I might add. What if I can get on without my horse turning into a fire-breathing dragon? What if I do the best warm-up I’ve ever done? And, heaven forbid, what if I were to win a rosette?

This process flicks my brain’s worrying switch to excitement, so I get a surge of adrenalin, which makes me feel ready to prepare for the event. I repeat this process at least twice a day during the week before an outing, but it’s so worth it.  

Failure doesn’t exist

As well as causing unnecessary worry, putting pressure on yourself creates a fear of failure. You’ve heard it before no doubt, but I like banging a familiar drum… ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. If you prepare as well as you can, you’ll never fail, because you’ll always try your best and you’ll learn from it. Vic’s top fact – failure doesn’t exist if you learn from the experience, and make changes to adapt and grow. 

Keep smiling

If you read this page each time you feel disheartened or your plans go awry, hopefully you’ll feel better come your next outing. But no matter what, remember that laughter is key. Join me, and get out there and enjoy yourself… let’s do this!

Love as always

Vic and Pat

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