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Feel the fear and ride anyway – November 2018

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I was chatting to my friend, Sharon, on one of our many hacks, when that ever-lingering question occurred to me – why do we do it? Why do we go to all of the effort of training, getting our horses fit, buying all the clothes and tack, paying entries, learning tests, plaiting manes and spending hours grooming? The worry
and nervous toilet stops are all for what? 

The week before my last event, I decided it was time to suck as much fun and enjoyment out of the day as I could, especially after the amount of preparation, time and money I’ve put in. Ordinarily, I’d worry myself sick for at least three days beforehand and on the day I wouldn’t feel any enjoyment until I’d finished, unclipped my air vest, dismounted and checked my horse was okay. 

So, that was it. I decided to drop down a level and just have fun. No pressure to do well or even stay on – less stress and worry was the main aim of the day.  

Determined to have fun

We arrived in plenty of time and I was allocated number 13 (unlucky for some), but I didn’t stress about it and decided it was no big deal. Halfway round walking the cross-country course, I split my breeches open, then had to find a pin to hold my tummy back in! On any other day I’d probably have cried, but not today. I moved past these things, laughed at my podgy belly poking out and focused on having fun.

I really enjoyed the dressage. Pat was much more relaxed not having a tense, trembling lump clinging to his bridle and we got a very good mark as a result. I showjumped without flapping for the first time all season, taking every jump in our stride and not rushing it. I even warmed up and went cross-country without worrying about having to have my underwear cut off by a paramedic. It was all very enjoyable – what on earth have I been doing all this time?! 

Making myself a promise

I got off and hugged my horse, and laughed as I walked him back to the lorry. I vowed right then that this is how we do things from now on. My nerves will still creep in, but I know where our comfort zone is and it’s perfectly fine to stay within that. No one is making you jump bigger or perform harder tests, that’s just the pressure we put on ourselves and you really have nothing to prove. There’s no shame in going out and competing to have fun – in fact, that’s what it should be about! 

Less is more

So, I’m finishing my eventing season at a lower level than I started. This might not seem like much of an achievement to most people, but I’ve learnt to have fun and enjoy going cross-country, which is something I never thought would be possible. To me, this is the biggest achievement I could have ever accomplished. 

It’s not about testing my skills to the limit and risking my neck through fear. Horse riding is my hobby and Pat is part of our family, and we don’t need to jump big jumps or prove anything to anyone.  

Time for change?

Ask yourself – does fun outweigh fear? Are you enjoying what you do with your horse? Is all the time and money you spend on horses repaying you in happiness? If it’s not, change something. Stepping down a level has been the best decision I’ve made all year and I can’t wait to get out to my next event.  

Love as always,

Vic and Pat

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