Though most of my lesson on Sunday was great, all I can seem to remember and play over and over in my head was the point at which I failed my horse, and–to some extent at least–he failed me. I went into my next ride expecting the same attitude from my horse that he gave me Sunday, and though we had a good ride despite that, it still wasn’t fair to my horse. After a lot of success, I seem to have forgotten a very crucial part of any riding career: It’s OK to fail.
After the lesson I was left feeling like maybe we aren’t ready for the move up because my eye isn’t accurate enough, or I’ve done something to shake my horse’s confidence. We’ve had so many good rides lately over bigger things, that I suddenly feel like I must have done something to ruin him forever.
But that’s just not true. My little horse doesn’t hold a grudge, and he’s certainly more than capable of jumping around at 3’6. Our few bad moments were just that. Moments. Moving up is supposed to be messy and a little ugly–if it was easy it wouldn’t be a move up. This is a hard concept for me, because I want so badly to keep getting better and being better, but you can’t get there without a little struggle.
While I was wallowing in my negative headspace a couple of days ago, If the Saddle Fits posted this piece about just showing up and being there, and I suddenly had words to put to what I was experiencing.
When you’re working on any kind of change, the initial excitement eventually fades and you’re faced with the hard part: maintaining forward progress while it is still hard but no longer exciting. It’s here, both in and out of the saddle, that I’m having to learn how to push forward and wait at the same time.
We’ve been doing bigger jumps and harder questions for a few months now. We’re just far enough along that it’s lost some of the shiny newness, but we’re still struggling sometimes and it’s still far from easy. Even though I’ve been riding for my whole life, I still haven’t learned how to fail gracefully. Outwardly I pat my horse and feed him cookies and tell him I’m sorry for that bad distance, but inwardly, I simmer until three days later I’m ready to give up riding entirely.
This attitude is silly, and it’s a miracle I’ve made it this far in riding without quitting. It’s not fair to my horse or myself, and we’ll both have a lot more fun if I can just move on from a mistake and think forward, not back.
So next time I miss a distance, or my horse is tired and doesn’t want to play, I’m going to remind myself that it’s OK to fail, moving up is supposed to be messy, and tomorrow will probably be better. Maybe I’ll even remember this in my real life.