“You talk all the time about how horses are allowed to be where they are; how Fender’s allowed to feel like his butt fell off, or how Midge is allowed to lose his confidence sometimes, or how sometimes Ella’s going to feel a little tired after three hard days and really just needs to go out for a hack and it’s OK,” my friend Joan is saying to me. “So why aren’t you allowed to be where you are?”
Let me take you back. Last year, I failed to reach almost every competitive goal I set for myself. Fender didn’t qualify for the 4-Year-Old Championships (too unorganized in his body), Midge didn’t qualify for the Developing Horse Championships (too much exuberance), Fender didn’t rock Devon (too much rain), and Ella did qualify for the Brentina Cup, but then couldn’t go because she caught the flu. 0 for 4.
That fall, I had a terrible breakup, and I hate pulling that card, because I’m a big, tough, Alpha female, don’t-need-nuthin’-from-no-man kinda girl, but it wrecked me something fierce.
Then I went to Florida, where nothing really went as planned.
And now I’m back up North, where nothing’s really going as planned either, AND I’m running myself into the ground figuring what the heck, since you can’t seem to succeed in the show ring, you might as well make financial hay while the sun shines.
And I’m a little depressed. I feel like I’m riding poorly and falling short of expectations. Yet I feel like I’m so lucky to be in the shoes that I’m in that it’s preposterous for me to feel anything but overwhelming gratitude, and that feeling sad and frustrated just makes me more sad and frustrated.
Which leads me to my chat with Joan.
“Why aren’t you allowed to be where you are?”
What she means is this: I’m 26. I am 15 years younger than the median age I’m competing against for the attention of USEF. And I’ve accomplished all that I’ve accomplished while working almost exclusively on my own, at least for the last few years. The last time I was getting consistent training, Cleo was 9, Ella was 6, Midge was 5, Tres was still in Spain being made into a bombproof babysitter by his previous owner, and Fender was a spot on an ultrasound. Four of the five of them have become Grand Prix horses on my watch. That’s nothing to shake a stick at.
And yet here I am, shaking sticks.
Her point is spot-on. If I was holding Ella, or Midge, or Fender to the standard to which I’m holding myself, they’d be miserable. Why don’t I allow myself to make mistakes? Why do I berate myself for not being able to get Ella’s piaffe and passage to where they need to be without help? Why don’t I lie awake at night fretting that Midge is still stuck in the same place he was six months ago, when I do lie awake fretting that I am stuck in that same place? Why don’t I ever cut myself a break? Why don’t I ever take myself out for a hack?
I don’t have an answer. It’s certainly my own drive for excellence that makes me do a nutty about not meeting my own expectations. I don’t think it’s pride; truly, I don’t. I know the best riders in the world get regular help, and I’d be a fool to not want that same help. But as to why my expectations of myself are so astronomically high and unforgiving, I have no clue.
But I do know that it’s making me quite crazy, and that I need to change those expectations, stat. Not sure what Step 2 is, but here’s me going through Step 1: Hi, I’m Lauren, and I’m a success junkie.