This week I have been going through a mental meltdown about riding and eventing. As with everything I have moved the mental barriers from just being happy to get round Novice to wanting to be competitive. With this has come lots of soul searching about whether we are good enough, is this the right horse and what is holding us back in moving forwards.
While I have been having this mental blip, one thing that has been consistent is some excellent friends and professionals telling me to get a grip and being understanding about the whole situation.
Being an amateur is very hard in this sport and we all go through stages where we feel inadequate, having a trusted support crew is essential. I am able to rely on the trusted professionals (chiro, farrier, dentist, saddler and vets) to do the horse while I have been away at work and my mother has been kind enough to catch the horse for all these occasions. You have to trust these people to do a great job and I tend to rely on word of mouth recommendations and build an honest relationship as they have to tell me when things are not quite right even though I am rarely there when they come.
At the heart of everything should be your trainer. A really good trainer, will tell you unpalatable truths, support you when having a dip in confidence and show you the way forward. In my crisis this week, my trainer has been excellent. We analysed where things were going wrong and though it hurts to hear you need to become a better rider, you need to have the faith that your trainer will help you get there. When finally my hysteria became the better of me, the night before the event and I was not feeling prepared or like I wanted to go, a simple text back from my trainer set me back on the right path again of ‘Stop being so hard on yourself!, You will be ok. Ride what you have and don’t give up! Work through this its just a small blip.’
I am now relishing the work that will go in this winter to improving both the horse and I, rather than feeling overwhelmed by it all and not knowing what we need to improve on.
Finally and a massive part of everything is friends and family. Really good friends who are supportive but also tell you to get a grip when needed. I have friends who I met through riding club and we have bought our horses on to the same level. As we live close by we often enter the same events and ask for close times. Having friends to walk the course, share your fears or crack jokes about nuts things makes the day less stressful and a lot more fun. We are all very competitive people, but we are genuinely happy for each other when things go well as we all have to juggle the work/horses/lack of money balance.
I also have the friends who I have met through forums. You must be thinking that I am insane at this point, especially as the forum is the notorious Horse and Hound Online. But back in 2005 I came back to riding after several years of living in London leading a non equestrian life. I knew nobody in the area, had no idea about what went on in the area any more and the friends who I have gained from it are really awesome. It culminated in Longleat one year, where I had a horse who was on loan from a forum member, a lorry borrowed from another, wearing kit provided by another and driven and groomed for by another. Getting to know people who share and enjoy the same sport, have the same dilemmas and will often be at the same events makes it all the more enjoyable.
Then there is family. Mine nod and smile at me a lot, but even my other half understood what it meant to me when the horse gained his first ever proper shiny point. Mine are very good at supporting me financially. I joke that my other half pays for real life so I can have spare money for eventing. My father and mother are kind enough to let me keep the horse at their house so I do not have to pay for livery. I appreciate that I am very lucky in this respect.
Professional riders have a massive support crew, which is often underestimated by people. It takes a village to keep a horse and rider on the road from owners, grooms, trainers, professionals like farriers etc. friends and family. A good support crew will help you get through the worst moments and celebrate with you during the best.