Last year around this time I was working on "Operation Jump All the Things". The goal was to teach my cute little Arabian pony how to jump and then hopefully compete in cross country derbies in the 2017 season.
Well it worked. Believe me, I am as shocked as y'all about that one. I figured out more than just how to stay on a last-second refusal this year and I feel like a different rider now than I was a year ago.
I feel I need to record these gains. Perhaps when things start to go south in 2018, I can read this again, pull up my nickers and carry on.
My own personal little nuggets of gold gleaned from 2017:
1. I can ride more assertively.
This year my progress in riding more like a leader has drastically improved. Some of my early videos make me cringe to see just how timid I could be but seeing that change throughout the summer was also evident. Still far to go on this one, but very happy to be more aware of my riding and learning to ask for more from my horse with a higher level of confidence.
2. Ride every letter like it is a jump.
This bit of advice was taken from a friend's coach and it helped me focus more on cleaning up my tests and preparing better for each letter. Dressage was hard for me this year but we steadily improved every time out.
3. Commit to the jump and stop fussing.
This in part is helped by #1. I learnt to prepare my horse for the jump and then stop micromanaging so much for the entire approach. And believing we were GOING OVER THE JUMP was huge too, as in the beginning my mind was thinking "omg, we are approaching a jump--is she going to jump it?"
4. When the shit hits the fan, breathe, think and proceed.
I think this was the best lesson I learnt this year. Yes, refusals will happen. Yes, I will get nervous/scared/want to quit/take up knitting. I can and will assess the situation, take into consideration the rules and circumstances and then chose the option that I can most handle at the time. I had a few bad moments on xc in 2017. Some of them I pushed on and made lemonade, but some of them I let fear take over and gave up. That feeling after giving up was the greatest motivator. I decided I never wanted to feel that regret and disappointment in myself again and moving forward know that taking a moment to find a way to push on will not be regretted.
5. Losing is not okay.
Okay, let me explain. It is not all about winning. BUT. I did learn this year that I used "it's all just for fun" as a crutch. It was my go-to when I felt not good enough as a rider. Well, it is not just for fun for me. I take riding pretty seriously and want to do well. I am competitive and I am learning to be okay with that and commit to trying my best.
6. Make it matter.
Finally, I learnt that showing up is not enough. If I don't put my all into training or a competition, what I get back will be just as pathetic. It is okay if I want to go out and have fun, but I have learnt my effort put in will often dictate the results, and to own that responsibility.
2018 is looking like it will be just as exciting and challenged filled as this past year. Shiraz will be learning everything Savvy has just been through, only in this case Shiraz will have the benefit of a more confident rider guiding her along the way. ;)