This weekend marked the last event of the season for Breaking Boundaries and I at Ottawa Fall Horse Trials. It was a fantastic event to end the year on; he was a star in dressage, navigated a tough stadium course and was absolutely phenomenal on cross country!! In the spring we upgraded to Preliminary (Yay!!) and had a ton of fun mixed with a ton of learning! It has been loaded with ups and downs, bringing it to a bittersweet ending. The bitter comes with knowing that we now have to wait a whole six months until we get to do it again! I guess there’s just something about the thrill and adrenaline of competing that makes me sad it’s over. The sweet, however, comes with knowing that I can catch up on some sleep (maybe…) and give my poor bank account a rest for a while!
So what exactly have I learned this year? Almost too many things to mention, but I would like to share a few of the most important ones with you.
1) It is not always perfect…
Not every training ride and every competition goes as perfectly as we planned or as we would like it to. As a perfectionist this took me a very long time to get a grasp on, and I’m still working on it! Sometimes our horses are just not in the same mindset as us that day, sometimes it’s circumstantial such as a windy day, a spooky stadium ring or the every foreboding judges booth! But sometimes it just isn’t your day.
2) …And that’s ok!
Everyone makes mistakes! If our rides were always perfect what would we learn? Some of the best lessons that I have learned this season, and over the last couple of years, have come from making mistakes. Anyone who is great at anything didn’t start out being great. It takes an unbelievable amount of continuous work, effort and time no matter what level you are at. As long as you walk away having learnt something from your mistakes you will be on the right path to fixing them!
3) Learn how to handle stress.
This one was HUGE for me this season. Along with being a perfectionist, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and succeed. This often causes me to have a lot of, sometimes unnecessary, stress. This season, with my upgrade to prelim, I really had to figure out a strategy to handle the stress and focus my energy on riding well. I learned some new techniques, such as visualization and mental awareness, and I became much more focused on controlling the things that I can control and excelling in the areas of my riding that are already strong. I am getting a much better handle on this now, and it has truly made a positive difference in my riding!
4) A good support team is essential!
Your support team includes everyone from your coaches, grooms, team members, family and anyone who helps you to excel in competition and training. All of these people play a vital role in your success personally and professionally. They all want to see you succeed as much as you want it yourself. None of them are there because they have to be, they are there because they want to be! They are the people who believe in you even when you don’t, and they help to get you back on track!! I truly could not do it without them!
5) We do this because we love it!
This is a very easy thing to forget during the pressure of competition and on the down days. But at the end of the day, we continue in this sport because we are passionate and we love it! Why else would we get out of bed before the sun seven days a week to be personal slaves to our horses?! I won’t deny that sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this, but then I think about where I would be if I wasn’t doing this and every time I come to the same conclusion; I could be anywhere else doing anything else but I would not be nearly as satisfied, challenged or immersed in any other place. Any other career would just be a job, but here my career is my passion and my life!
So through all of this I am ready to tackle the winter and be ready for Bromont 2017!!