As the year ramps up and rockets us into the fall three-day season, and the last events of 2014 loom nearer, I can’t help but find myself feeling a little frustrated. After all of the progress that I feel (that I KNOW) I have made over this last year at BDJ Eventing, I wish I had more to show for it in the competition ring.
Now of course as soon as I say that out loud, I realize I am being small-minded and cheap. Of course I have had the privilege of some benchmark results—completing my first CCI*** and bringing my young horse to the point of being ready for his first CCI*, but I am also all too aware of all the ways I have fallen short of my goals and my hopes for this season. I feel like too many times this year I have let a great weekend come unraveled in one phase or another, and although each mistake and imperfect performance has taught me an invaluable lesson to move forward with, it sometimes also makes me want to bang my head against a wall. And I would love to say that I never make the same mistake twice, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, either!
But as far as I know, this process is the only tried and true method to learn a craft. Buck has told me more than once that “learning to ride is effing tough,” and I would have to wholeheartedly agree. But it’s a whole lot more than just mastering the physical act of riding—heels down, eyes up, inside leg to outside rein, when to kick, when to whoa, so on and so forth. It’s also about mastering the mental game so that you can implement all of those physical tools at the right time in the right place when it’s all on the line.
Each of us has weaknesses as a rider, and we train and practice so that we can learn to improve or overcome them. Some weaknesses are more easily improved than others, and learning to identify our own shortcomings is sometimes the hardest part of fixing them. I’ve learned a lot about myself as rider this year, and one of the biggest things that has come to light is that I struggle with my self-confidence; this sometimes impacts my ability to perform under pressure, and so of course it is something that I am continually addressing.
I’m always trying new things to keep my focus positive and my nerves at bay, but admittedly from time to time my self-doubt overcomes me. I work hard to improve this aspect of my riding and it definitely adds a unique aspect to the way I approach my training at home; not only do I practice the physical routine—learning the feel of a good canter or a correct half-pass—but also practice putting myself in a useful mindset and remembering where my mind was when it all went well.
At Plantation Field International Horse Trials, although my prelim horse had a stop and I fell off of my advanced horse at the third fence on course, I would have to say that it was one of my best events….mentally. So even though sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t always post the scores I think I should or could, I try to keep in mind the little successes. Overcoming our faults, no matter how big or how little, can often be the most rewarding victories in the end.
Katy Groesbeck has 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 all of her blogs.