The Re-build

I shattered recently.

And by shattered, I mean that my self-confidence and belief in my own riding abilities shattered. For as much as I have spoken here (and elsewhere) about overcoming fear in the saddle and pushing back fear thresholds — I am presently living it.

As with anything else in life, be it a relationship or a skill set in the corporate world, there is an account that is either being put into or drawn from.

In my case, my riding account become overdrawn within a period of 24 hours.

I had one ride where I didn’t feel fully emotionally (or physically) secure, followed the next day on a different horse I didn’t feel confident on.

That was it. That was all it took to shut the party down for me. With fear of getting hurt being greater than my love of riding, I dismounted and haven’t mounted since.

During this time, I haven’t quit horses or left the horse world– not by a long shot. Rather, I am playing the long game with my riding, by taking a step back and re-building my mental and physical foundation for being in the saddle by doing the following:

  1. I sought out a therapist. In this case, I specifically sought out one that was NLP-certified to help me work through subconscious fears that are hijacking my riding.
  2. I gave myself permission NOT to ride and to feel into whatever emotions came up rather than repress them.
  3. I allowed myself to dream new dreams. For many of us driven-equestrian types, it can be easy to push through and do whatever needs to be done — for the horse(s) each day and to bring us closer to our goals. Instead of continuing down that path, I spent time journaling around “What am I holding onto that is preventing me from being open and curious about something greater than I could possibly imagine?” and “What am I missing out on because I expect things to be a certain way?”
  4. Staying in shape through yoga, pilates and walking several miles up hills every day. I’m also continuing to see my chiropractor and massage therapist to stay in good physical shape during this time.

How are you playing the long game with your riding? Are there areas you are neglecting where you are playing a short game rather than a long one?

But what if you WERE worthy?

A talented up-and-coming rider shared with me his fears this morning about being taken apart in front of 2,000 spectators by a highly decorated rider giving a clinic. As he explained, another capable rider he looked up to had been dismantled by this clinician some time before.

After the conversation, it struck me how interesting it was that I was having nearly the exact same conversation with this person as I had with a software founder I coached about getting into an accelerator– and that I had with a friend about being invited to be in the same room as a bunch of self-made millionaires!

Different scenarios yet one common thread: all were invited to participate in these invite-only experiences, and yet all of us felt unworthy. That there was some mistake made and that would would all be found out a fraud, after all.

There is only one question to clip the talons of this fear: But what if you WERE worthy? What if there was no mistake, and you are EXACTLY the right person. What then?

Most of us find we have nowhere to hide.

We are left with no other excuse, except to step up and swing the bat as hard as we can.

Marianne Williamson has right — we are more afraid of our success than our failures. Or to put it a differently, we are more afraid of our light than our darkness.

Being in the room with a group of successful entrepreneurs propelled my professional life to new heights.

What are you shrinking back from in your life because you feel unworthy?

Maybe you have also been invited to participate in some event you feel unworthy to take part in. Maybe it’s a new relationship or a professional opportunity opened up.

Play with me here: Suspend your beliefs about your situation. [I know it’s difficult and seems impossible. Try anyways.] What if you WERE worthy, and that it was exactly what you needed to take your career or life to new heights? What would be possible then? What would you be doing?

Feel free to drop a note — I’d love to hear what comes up for you on this one.

Whose voice do you follow, really?

You are the one that you have been waiting for.

There is a time in every rider’s life, where it is time to step into what you know. Time to back yourself, to let your intuition and years of learning lead the way. To let those twin guides be the loudest voice in your life– louder than the doubts of your mind, louder than the voice of any instructor or clinician, no matter how good they may be, and louder than any client.

Only you are in the saddle. Only you are in that moment.

No matter how well intended the instruction or how good of an eye, you are the only one who is answerable to the horse.  And you WILL answer to the horse.

It is up to you to forge a partnership, to make them a willing partner. No one else can do it for you; you must go at it alone.

Learning dressage takes a guide. Despite the many written texts the riding masters left us, it is a skill still primarily passed down from person to person.

Yet, there comes a time when you realize that you have a system, an approach of your own. You realize you know what you are looking for at a particular level– a certain feeling, a particular series of responses from the horse– and you realize you know how to create it.

At this point, you need to dig deep and back yourself. Trust your knowledge and intuition. Create what you know how to create. Push forward and discover what you know– and what you do not. Here, it is of upmost importance that you let your intuition and knowledge be the loudest voices. If you continue to “outsource” to an instructor or coach, you will lose faith in yourself and stunt your development.

Later, when you reach the edge of your knowledge and experience again, and you find yourself in new territory, you can let the voice of your coach once again take center stage.

If you haven’t experienced a “confirm” stage yet in your riding journey and you’ve been riding for awhile… trust yourself and let your intuition take center stage.

You know more than you think you know.

Let’s Talk About Your Fear

There’s a popular quote by George Addair the internet loves–

George Addair quote

While Addair’s sentiments are admirable, he leaves his audience with a sense that fear is a line to step over, a wall to punch through or a glass ceiling to shatter. Fear is something to combat. Once you’ve won, you are in paradise.

Yet, for most of us, fear is a conduit. It is not a line or a wall or a ceiling. It is a tunnel that transports and transforms us into being who we are meant to be. It is a tardis that takes us to a place beyond our imaginations.

Only by stepping into the fear, only by leaning in to the discomfort, we can be taken to the other side. It is not something to fight, but shows us the way through to greater freedom/peace/harmony/trust.

Fear is not something to be combated, stuffed down, or disregarded. It asks to be acknowledged, honored, respected– but at the end of the day, it does not get to be in the driver’s seat of your aspirations and dreams.

Over a decade ago, I had a riding accident that put me in the ICU. As a result, I became a timid rider. To this day, I still consider myself a timid rider. This surprises a lot of people who watch me ride, because it is not readily apparent. However, I have made it a practice every.single.time I get on a horse, regardless of how many times I have ridden that particular horse or how many other horses I rode that day, to acknowledge and honor my fear. Then, I choose to move through it and let joy, creativity and my dreams drive the car.

It works every time.

 

 

 

 

Lamp Lights

Plateauing is never fun.

For the first day it may be (“Hey look, I’m the same as I was yesterday. Hooray!!”), but another ride or two and the “Crud. I’m stuck.” feeling sets in.

In reality, we’ve probably plateaued every 3 weeks and we’re in a holding pattern until the hindquarters are strong enough to continue increasing demands again. But it feels different.

Everything is starting to feel murky. I start second-guessing myself on how to handle situations to keep us marching on towards Grand Prix.

Here’s the thing: it is all a feeling.

While I feel like I am closing in on the edge of my experience base, in actuality I have been in this phase before: I’ve ridden schoolmasters at a higher level than where I am now; I’ve trained other horses through this phase, including my most recent horse.

Feeling like I on the edge of my experience base here is a story (an unhelpful one) that I am telling myself to justify my doubt and second-guessing. It keeps me playing small instead of boldly reaching towards the FEI levels.

When I set aside my self-doubt and fears for a moment and ask myself what exercises did I use on the previous horses and what feelings did I look for when they were in this stage, the way forward is clear: transitions, transitions, transitions, circle work and half-passes.

The answer is always inside of me, even when I doubt myself.

At some point in the future, I will be in new territory again. But not here, not now. When I DO enter that new territory, I will have the Masters and a host of mentors to show me the way.

 

These things are lamp lights for me. They show me the path forward, even when I am uncertain.

What lamp lights do you have that exist to show you the way forward?

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.

Do You Take Your Inner Child Along for the Ride?

Dressage riders have a reputation for being so serious and heavy.

They lightened up the freestyle music to encompass pop and even –gasp!– some vocal music, but even that hasn’t fundamentally lightened up dressage riders.

Watching a couple of kids ride sometimes feels like the antithesis of dressage riders. They often egg each other on, daring each other to try new things, to take bigger and bigger risks until their limits are reached– or they scare the adults too much!

In the midst of their games, their riding begins to take shape:

  • Their seats become more secure and independent from testing their balance on the horse so frequently.
  • The horses become increasingly responsive and animated as they catch on to the games.
  • A partnership of mutual trust forms as risks are successfully taken.

As kids grow older, many turn their attention to eventing and jumping– natural extensions of their earlier games.

However, as a dressage rider, do you also take your inner child along for the ride?

Do you “dare” yourself and your horse to go bigger, to execute a more daring combination of moves…or do you keep it safe and “known?”

Do you lose all inhibition when you ride, or in the back of your mind, are you concerned about what others might think, might say about your riding?

Do you laugh when you ride, deep, heart-felt laughs?

When was the last time you didn’t care if you made a mistake because you were having fun?

Dressage is an expression of a feeling; let that feeling be child-like joy.

Does your inner child have a say in your riding?