Are your excuses bigger than your dreams?

I had many reasons to skip out on the appointment my friend made for me to try horses at a top barn.

–> I could have slept in, claiming I was too tired to get up that early.

–> I could have said it was too cold to go that far, especially since I had left my shell jacket behind.

–> I could have let fear get the better of me, saying I wasn’t enough of a rider to see those horses (let alone try them).

–> I could have said that since 2 of them were so far out of my budget it wasn’t funny and there was no way in &*(^ I’d ever be able to afford them, that it would be a waste of everyone’s time seeing them.

–> I could have also said that there was no way I’d be able to get home from the barn and no way I’d walk to town (~2mi) in my (pull-on) tall boots.

Or– I could look at the appointment as a gift to make a new connection and maybe see a good horse.

I pulled on my breeches and boots and called an Uber.

(Yes, I did end up walking the ~2mi to town in my tall boots to call my Uber home. But it was worth every step.)

We self-sabotage ourselves far more frequently than we realize.

We look at ourselves and get caught up in the stories about the muchness and many-ness of our own self-worth and how we think others perceive us, that we so often miss the point of it all: we show up and push through the discomfort because there is someone waiting for us to step up and show it can be done.

The best thing that I did for myself last year had nothing to do with horses– it was to surround myself with people committed to playing bigger.

Watching my mentors take risk after risk pushed me to do the same.

Choosing the gift of the appointment over my insecurities brought an even larger gift with it: the new fuel of seeing what is possible and within reach.

Just like watching my mentors take risks invites me to do the same, the risks you take free the people around you to also step up in their lives.

Who is needing you to step up in you life, to choose not to settle in some area or to see you conquer your fears?

The next “stretch” decision you make may be the push someone else needs to take that risk they are running from.

P.S. — By the way, a deal was just worked out for one of the “impossible” horses I tried in that appointment. What you want IS closer than you think.

Are You In the Room With the Right People?

Do whatever it takes to put yourself in the room with them.

Tonight, looking around the table at dinner, I realized I had done it: I had created the same environment for myself in business as I had in other areas of my life.

Many years ago, I realized that in order to be the type of rider I wanted to be, I needed to put myself in the arena with the type of riders who were already doing what I wanted to be doing. I realized that it was better to be a fly on the wall–absorbing everything in those barns– than to be top dog at some lesser training barn and work my way up in the sport, going from barn to better barn.

I learned far, far more than training techniques: with the barn came a set of expectations for performance, for quality of horses, for level of care and how things would just run. My learning curve was steep. I cried many, many more tears than I’d ever care to admit. But I did learn and I did rise. At some point being a fly on the wall morphed into riding the horses no one else wanted, which soon became keeping the top horses fit when their main rider was away, and then into being asked questions about my own training approach and getting top horses of my own to train.

About a year or so ago, I realized that the same principle held true in other areas of my life, whether it was in entrepreneurship or another aspect of business. Looking around the table tonight at dinner last night, I realized I had done it: I had put myself a table with a bunch of successful, self-made entrepreneurs the same way I had put myself in a barn with top riders. I have lots to learn, but I’m at the table.

Who is it that you need to be in the room with to help propel you to the next level of growth?

I challenge you today to identify and reach out to 3 people that are noted for achieving success in an area you’d like to grow in. Tell them how much you admire their success in a particular area and open the door to have a mutually beneficial relationship with them. See where it goes!

 

Permission to be horrible: Granted

Are you letting yourself be bad or are you trying to hold everything together in the name of, well, having it all together and being “good” at something?

The greatest source of stress in my life these days comes from when I believe I have to keep it all together. That I have to be good at something.

The greatest areas of freedom in my life are the areas where I have given myself permission to be bad. When I first started riding again, I gave myself permission to be bad. Horrible, even. I was 3+ years out of the saddle, and only 2 months back into semi-regular exercise (yoga). My health had given way on me, and I figured that as long as I could walk, trot, canter and still stay upright and on the intended figure, I was doing alright.

But in letting myself be bad, really, truly, bad—I found freedom.

The freedom to experiment. The freedom to connect with my horse (thanks, Gani!). The freedom to laugh at myself and most of all, the freedom to have fun again in the saddle.

When I ride, I don’t have to be perfect. I ride to the best of my abilities in the moment and let things sort themselves out. I have my trainer to help me become a better version of the rider I am, and the horse to tell me what works (and does not). My trainer isn’t a screamer, so I never feel pressure to perform or be more than what I am in the moment.

Given everything I’ve just written, you’d think that I’d have this whole “failure-thing” down pat.

I don’t.

There are times where I still try to hold everything together and be “good enough.” This isn’t my first time bringing a horse up the levels, but there are still plenty of times where I’m hard on myself, feeling like I should have things more figured out than I do.  Time and time again, I have to give myself permission to be bad. Horrible. Permission to make mistakes. Permission to learn.

It can be frustrating when you think

Yet, as item after item gets crossed off my list on what I want to feel, of what I want to be able to do in the saddle, as 2 good collected strides become 5, which in turn become 10, I can see the FEI horse emerging, becoming stronger and more real, ride by ride.

Then I remind myself to be bad, have fun and enjoy the ride.

Let Yourself Be Surprised

Dressage rider and control freak are eerily synonymous.

There’s something about the discipline that I can’t quite put my finger on that hones– no breeds– control freaks. Perhaps it’s the objective to have everything “just so,” at every moment, all of the time.

Yet, in agonizing, even obsessing, over the things that we think should be ordered, we sell ourselves short of the bigger picture: the relationship.

By trying to order things, we lose trust in our horse. In place of what should be a mutual partnership, we are micromanaging control freaks. Instead of a willing partnership, we become like parents nagging their kids or that clingy, nagging girlfriend.

In trust, we become vulnerable.

What happens when we let go of the control freak?

The horse begins to give generously. We push for a “7;” the horse offers an “8+.” We ask for a half-halt, the horse gives half-steps.

When the horse offers more quality than you ask for– take it!! Let go of the control freak and let yourself be surprised by the horse’s generosity.

What would it take for you to relinquish the control freak and ride from trust?

 

Make Both Sides of the Horse Equal

We’re given the conundrum to work both sides of the horse equally, to have the horse equal on both sides, yet the horse is an asymmetrical creature, who prefers to be anything but equal on both sides. How do we manage?

Ride for any amount of time and you’ll notice certain deviations in your mount– carrying the shoulders out or swinging the haunches, bends too easily (hollow) on one side, while doesn’t hardly bend on the other.

As for the maxim, there are two options:

  1. Ride the same exercises on both sides, working a bit harder on some things on one side vs. the other

or

2. Ride different exercises on different sides, depending on the deficiency targeted

While some horses are naturally more equally strong and supple from side to side, others, such as ex-racehorses tend to have more noticeable differences between the sides. My experiences with ex-racehorses taught me that under option A, the sides naturally became smoothed out gradually over time, with the left hind gradually becoming stronger and the horse gradually more supple to the right, but there were still noticeable differences as the horses moved up into the medium levels. Under option B, I found that strengthening exercises for the left hind leg and supplying the horse to the right could be carefully chosen and honed in on, creating a more equally strong and supple horse by the time the horse reached the mid-levels of dressage.

The most effective training is to select exercises to work on that develop an equal feeling of strength and suppleness between the sides.

For instance, if you have a horse that badly wants to escape through the left shoulder, why would you spend a lot of time in shoulder in left unless you know you have control of that shoulder– if ridden incorrectly, it could be construed to be an invitation to further escape through the shoulder. Instead, renvers would be a targeted exercise that would address controlling the shoulder, as well as getting the inside hind leg to step further underneath the horse’s body.

What is your default method– do you tend to ride more of Option 1 or Option 2? Why?

 

 

Take your heart along for the ride

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes, my ambition unhinges me.

I get greedy and want everything RIGHT. HERE. RIGHT. NOW. and will do everything in my power to make it so.

I’ve been in enough big show barns to recognize that a lot of ugly comes out of people when they feel the pressure of their goals come within reach.

Yet, the funny thing is– those are the times where I LEAST enjoy riding.

The goal and my scheming mind team up on how to obtain it. Slowly, they creep in together and take over my heart.

Usually the shifts are subtle: try and cram in a few additional things here or there, push a little harder in a new direction, be in a bit more in a rush and BAM! my heart gets left behind.

I began to wonder: what is it REALLY that I am after?

A ribbon?

Scores for my “r” judging credential application?

A reputation?

To do be at a certain level again?

To do the tricks?

No, no, no, no, and no.

I’m here for the joy of the ride.

For the partnership.

For the journey.

I need to keep my focus on why I ride, not just the direction I want to go in. Maps and arriving at the destination are good, but enjoying the trip is even better.

When I get busy and want to pack in even more in my life– those are the times I most need to make sure my heart is leading the way.

What about you?

Next time you go to swing your leg over your horse, take a few breaths and make sure you’re taking your heart along for the ride.

Cheers,

Meredith