Throughout my life, I have always failed to understand why we refer to the natural and inevitable face-palm moments of our lives as the “learning curve.”
Curve is a great word; it brings to mind a gentle and gradual turn of events, an ever-ascending increase in knowledge (see, my linguistics degree DOES come in handy!). But in reality, the learning curve is nothing but a bumpy, undulating road. It’s like the difference between driving down Sunset Boulevard with the top down and the wind in your hair in a big hat and sunglasses, and driving down a dusty gravel driveway in an old beat-up pickup truck with broken AC in the middle of July.
The learning curve always tends to hit me particularly hard, like an epic backhand from fate, and it always seems to sting for a while until I can fully recover from seeing stars. My most recent—and current—episode began last season, first with an uncharacteristic run-out at the American Eventing Championships and then an unprecedented “three strikes you’re out” elimination at the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) with my Oz The Tin Man, or “Wort.”
What at first appeared to be an unlucky moment on course in Texas became quite obviously a gaping hole in my foundation as a rider as I went on to attempt greater things. And although it was nice to have a long winter break for my horse and myself after Fair Hill to recuperate and shake it off, as we came back into work I realized that I was not quite mentally prepared to face the reality that he was not a perfect, Cinderella-story horse and I, irrefutably, was at the root of our woes.
Add into this bizarre mental game add a new coach and a new home 3,500 miles away. Suddenly black is white and up is down and FOR GOD’S SAKE WHY AREN’T YOU USING MORE LEG?! (Aside: You might start noticing a theme if you read this blog monthly.)
I can tell you I had more than a few rough rides as I got back into work, on my own horse as well as others, and I just couldn’t seem to get my groove back. Everything I thought I knew about riding suddenly seemed very fuzzy and uncertain; the things I thought I was good at were proving to be average talents, at best. And I realized, too, that my horse had discovered my imperfections and I could feel our trust in each other starting to ebb as he called me out when I failed to make the right decisions.
This was perhaps the most disheartening thing of all, that the horse I had known for 17 years was becoming foreign to me, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to reconcile riding the horse I USED to have with the horse I had now, a horse who didn’t want to bail me out anymore when I took him in wrong to a fence or rode a bad line.
Well crap. You mean I actually have to learn how to ride CORRECTLY? You mean it’s MY responsibility to make the right choices and pick the right canter and find the right line? How terribly inconvenient.
Well at any rate, as is usually the case, I HAVE slowly started to pull my head out of my butt and get my act together. I think I have remembered how to ride (most days) and it seems my horse—in the way only horses can—has forgiven me for all my sins and is ready to get back to serious work.
With the help of the Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider grant I have also purchased a young off-the-track Thoroughbred from Buck Davidson, and I am getting some real quality time in the saddle working on all the little fundamentals that are so vital to success. Being able to compete on something other than your main horse is such an asset, and it really helps me to stay sharp and keep improving without wearing out poor Wort.
Katy Groesbeck has recently packed up her life on the West Coast for the chance to be a working student with Buck Davidson. Follow her adventures as a part of BDJ Equestrian and with her horse, Wort, as she shares the lessons she learns in 2014! Read her introductory blog, “Following The Yellow Brick Road To My Dreams.”