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Feel the fear and ride anyway – May 2018

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I start this month’s column with a confession – I threw in the towel. Despite being motivated by the lighter evenings, I had a tough few weeks when I was rushing around for work and doing more writing, and keeping two horses at different yards was seriously over-stretching me. I constantly felt overwhelmed and no amount of St John’s Wort could help lift my mood. Something had to give, so it was with a heavy heart that I advertised my beloved Bender for sale.  

Put yourself first

Within a week he was on his way to a lovely new home and I felt like a total disappointment who’d given up at the first sign of things getting too much. But sometimes you have to focus on yourself and there’s no shame in putting your mental health first. I knew Bender wasn’t a forever horse for me because we didn’t get each other like Pat and I do and this lack of bond reinforced my decision. It really is okay to call time on a partnership if it isn’t working.

Setting goals

With more time on my hands, I’ve turned my attention to getting the best out of Pat and set us the challenge of tackling all the training exercises featured in each issue of Horse&Rider. It’s really inspired me because using the exercises has made it easier to plan and structure our schooling sessions, and I’ve wanted to ride every day.

Here’s the thing about me and goals – I get excited at the prospect of setting them and look forward to planning how I’m going to reach them, but I fall flat on my face when it comes to executing them. I get complacent, and if I have more than two days of complacency and don’t ride, it reignites my fear of getting back on. This results in another few days out of the saddle and before you know it, I’ve given up on the plan and the goals.  

Excuses, excuses

I can find a million excuses not to ride – for example, it’s too windy, too wet or too hot, Pat looks frisky or there are three more clouds in the sky than usual… you get the idea. Some days I’ll do anything not to ride, but as soon as I’m in the saddle it feels amazing. I go through a similar thing when entering a competition.

I’d dearly love to qualify for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup finals, which are held at Badminton, but to start the journey I first need to enter an event! I also need to be placed in the top three, then come in the top 10 at a Regional Final. It seems such a long way off when I’m struggling to ride at home, let alone get out and compete.

Break it down

I’ve found out the best approach is to break things down into small steps. So, I plan to hack more in the lead-up to an event… no problem. I’ll go to a dressage show… that I can cope with. I’ll jump more often at home… easy peasy when I can get my husband to lug the jumps around! All these little things are useful preparation to help event days go smoothly. 

Looking forward

It’s early days in terms of this year’s competition season, but I take comfort in the fact I’m riding more than twice a week. I’m celebrating the baby steps I’m taking and, piece-by-piece, putting the puzzle together again. Remember, there’s absolutely no shame in feeling scared, but don’t make excuses that aren’t valid. Be braver than you think you are and focus on the small things you achieve each week. It’ll all come together in the end.

Love as always

Vic and Pat

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