My creativity has been less than mediocre lately, which would explain my lack in blog posts written by yours truly. I do have quite the valid reason for my absence. In two weeks time, I casually packed my entire life into the back of my little red car, returned to my hometown nestled in the Texas Hill Country, settled into my new full time position at the tack shop, and most importantly, hovered over Leah to ensure she adjusted in our new training facility just perfectly.
Forgive me, please?
So, per usual, I consulted help from my loyal, and freakin’ awesome, 5 THOUSAND (Still can’t believe we have arrived to that number. It’s surreal.) followers, hoping they’d provide ideas that sparked inspiration. You all did not disappoint, and I thank everyone who enlightened me with your thoughts on what you want to see on the blog!
Comments came pouring in, all which I intend to cover overtime through various posts, so don’t you fret. However, for right now, one stood out the most: helpful advice or lessons I’ve learned along my dressage journey. Shout-out to Lexy Smith (@wexysmiph)! This idea really got me thinking; so naturally, I knew I had to dedicate a post around the topic.
Eleven years of training inside the walls of a white, plastic, glorified box all began in 2005 when I rode my very first Introductory Level test with my Welsh Pony, Brightwood. Since then, it has been a journey. Understatement. It has been a long journey with many ups, downs, twists and turns. You never really think about the underlying lessons you’ve cultivated until you really get to stew them over in your mind.
If you’re like me, that usually happens at 2AM.
We each have our own centerline, because dressage is personal adventure, so to say. Hence why I titled this article “lessons from my centerline.” So, without further ado, and without my rambling – I’ll stop now, promise – let me share with you some important lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. You will make mistakes, bad decisions, and most likely drown your sorrows over a beverage of choice.
Like wine. Or if you’re under 21, or alcohol isn’t your fancy, then a hand spun peach milkshake from Chick-Fil-A… something of the kind. Your mistakes will range anywhere from minor to major. You’ll dwell and beat yourself up with the “would have, could have, should have.” But the most important part of making mistakes is the aftermath; what you learned from them and what you took away from the experience. Dressage is about trial and error – if a saddle doesn’t fit, you try another model, or if you horse won’t execute a proper flying change, you ask a different way. The same rule applies for decision-making. There is a probable chance you’ll make wrong decisions, because if we didn’t, would be really be human? The beauty of bad decision-making is this: you’ll be able to find out what works and feels the best for you and your horse in the long run. Through the bad decisions and mistakes, you’ll find your silver lining. Cliché, but I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.
2. Comparing yourself to others is a total lost cause.
In a world consumed by social media, it’s terribly difficult to not compare yourself to other fellow dressage riders. However, please don’t. For your own sanity and confidence, just don’t! There are always going to be riders in this world with top quality horses, flashier tack, perfect riding outfits, incredible facilities; it is part of life. But that’s the beauty about what we do. We each have our own dressage destiny, our own path that we are intended to follow. The minute you start comparing yourself, your riding ability or level, your horse’s strengths and weaknesses to others, you lose sight of what this journey is supposed to be about. Dressage is unique in that we are theoretically competing against ourselves, training to better our scores and improve the marks found on the inside of a test. Turn your energy from comparing and contrasting into focusing on your goals, what you want to achieve, and work your hardest to reach that point.
3. You know your horse the best and that’s that.
This particular lesson applies to those of you who have become quite familiar with your own horse over a period of time. It’s so dang easy to let other people’s opinions and thoughts, or the latest trends and fads, influence the ways you ride, the ways you dress, and most importantly, the ways you care for your horse. I’ve become so attentive to Leah’s every quirk, characteristic, and personality trait that I can recite her entire being from memory. And I am proud of that, I might add. She has a special way of letting her human know when something doesn’t feel 100%, and my intuition stemming from our incredibly special bond has helped me to be able to resolve any issues sooner than later. At the end of the day, I am Leah’s voice. I am her advocate. With these thoughts in mind, the bottom line is you know your horse best and always trust your gut. It’ll get you far in life.
I love the centerline, but it's hard to beat this view.
4. Dressage is an endless abyss of information, and if you think you’ve stopped learning, you’re in the wrong sport.
This is important, and I’ll keep it short and sweet. When you’re involved with horses, the opportunities for furthering your knowledge are ceaseless, especially in the mystifying realm of dressage. Approach each training session, and day, with an open mind, readily available to take in ideas, facts, advice and tidbits. Never hinder your opportunities to learn new things, because you absolutely never know when something you acquire along the path of your journey may benefit you or your horse. It’s as simple as that.
5. Your attitude will either make you or break you.
Personally, I believe the three most significant characteristics a person can bear are sportsmanship, humility, and professionalism. Life can work in mysterious ways… For instance, the minute you start feeling on top of the world, your horse dumps you in the middle of a crowded warm-up at a competition. I may or may not be speaking from experience here. That’s right, I’ve had my fair share of reality checks, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Why? Because they taught me that staying humble, working hard, and letting your successes speak for themselves are the keys to prosperity in the arena. Professionalism and sportsmanship will make you or break you, as your attitude defines the type of person you are and affects the type of reputation you want.
6. Plans will not always go accordingly, so be prepared disappointment, heartache, and discouragement.
Dressage is not for the faint of heart. A thick skin is a requirement. Just recently, Emily dedicated an entire post to her tribulations, opening up about her butchered show season and matters of the sort. You’ll learn to accept the good and the bad, because very rarely do plans actually go according to, well, your plan. Horses will go lame, budgets will be sparse, trucks will break down, and competitions will be cancelled. It’s just another piece to the dressage jigsaw puzzle. This is a bit of a tender lesson I’ve learned, due to the fact that I did not compete at the Regional Championships this year because the cost did not seem feasible for the budget I had originally set. It was a blow, working so hard over the course of six months, earning my qualifying scores, and knowing what Leah and I could have accomplished during competition, but we made the right decision for us, despite it being a challenging pill to swallow. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it, knowing that when something disappointing happens, something good is soon to follow.
After much intensive thought, these six life lessons were the most prominent to me. That’s not to say that dressage hasn’t taught me anything else; oh, definitely not. However, it’s these lessons I share with you today that have helped shape the type of woman I am. My strong sense of self is prided on my experience with horses and dressage. It’s magnificent what lessons these creatures we so dearly love can instill in us, right?
They’re invaluable and they’re irreplaceable.