For those of you who know me well, you will know that my life is run at a million miles an hour, with most of it being a logistical nightmare. To be fair I don’t know many people who lead lives that are different to mine, but is it healthy, do we get so used to not taking a breath we get numb to celebrating life’s joys?
With a risk of sounding like an earth mother and starting to bang on about mindfulness I will get back to point… eventing!
All winter I had waited for the start of the season, planning and plotting what I’d like to achieve and new events I’d like to compete at. Isleham is my local, so it made sense that I entered there as I knew the course, knew the going would be good and hey… why travel 2 hours when there is an event half an hour down the road. Winter has dragged on and getting up at 4.45am every morning to do the horses while my kids slept had taken its toll. Add to this a load of life stresses and I was starting the season feeling burnt out, ill prepared and majorly stressed. It’s hard to be passionate about the thing you love when you feel like that. In turn this brought on a load of guilt about spending so much time with the horses, the expense and all that goes with an equestrian lifestyle.
The week before the event I was changing my mind about competing on a daily basis… shall I, shan’t I? What if? I can, I can’t and everything else you could imagine. My friends tried hard to keep me buoyant, so many telling me I was a fighter (which I guffawed at) but you can’t be on the phone to friends 24 hrs a day. I was pretty much ready to jack everything in and take up a cheaper hobby. I don’t know if I am alone when I say that for me, eventing is a good 60% mind games. I have a great and very honest horse and I know, to some extent, what I am doing. It’s just my mind that messes things up!
Very fortunately for me I got in touch with a trainer that I hadn’t seen since I was 15 (you can do the maths but that was over 20 years ago…). After some wise words, a training session the day before the event and a course walk I felt a little more like I was getting somewhere. But in the car on the way home I was thinking No I can’t do this…
So why? I really couldn’t tell you. I do think that stress is almost like water dripping into a bucket. You get to the point where the bucket is at overflowing. So add in a bit of pre competition nerves and your ways of dealing and coping with things just don’t work anymore. I’m sure sports psychologists have a great way of explaining this in a more eloquent way but this is how it feels to me. I wonder if I am alone?
Event day came. Fortunately I was early so I didn’t have all day to stress. My dressage warm up was crap as I faffed getting ready – stalling tactics. Working my little mare in a rush, not really thinking what I was doing apart from just get it over and done with. Into the arena with a fake smile on my face. The test was ok, 5 satisfactory. Towards the end a low flying flock of geese flew over honk honking. It was way too much for Wanda. Cue mini explosion as I was about to serpentine, next doors bell rang to start someone else… had I gone wrong?… pull up horse… judge looks puzzled… Oh shit not wrong… calm horse and carry on. If I am being really honest I didn’t even try. That way I could just pack up and go home, sit on the sofa, cry lots and feel very sorry for myself.
So I wandered back to the car park and by chance met my friend Karla sitting on her friends lorry ramp. I haven’t really known Karla for long, mainly chatting on Facebook and sharing our manic life of bringing up boys, being skint and generally getting grief for spending too much time with our horses.
Karla is a good person, will always talk straight to you. I like that.
What followed was a bunch on snivelling from me, quite a lot of I can’t and every reason to WD that I could think of. I haven’t jumped a course since last year… my horse isn’t fit… I just CAN’T DO THIS! Many people would have gone… ok, have a coffee and a hug and go home. But not Karla! After talking with her for about 40mins saying can’t can’t can’t she literally dragged me back to our lorry still telling me can can can. Jumping tack was thrown on Wanda and I sat in the lorry in floods of tears. Like proper floods… Karla recalls… there was snot… a lot of snot and tears! Ok so a compromise… get on and ride to the warm up and pop a cross pole. Ok well maybe, yes I can cope with that.
Cross pole became and upright, became and oxer and then a ah sod it… may as well show jump. Went in and jumped a super clear round. A total big smiles moment and wondering what I was making such a fuss about. Before I could talk myself out of XC I was down at the start. I know I get butterflies before XC so that was to be expected. I also know as soon as I am out of the start box the butterflies fly away and I kick on. I loved the ride, a real partnership feeling from my little horse. Not the fastest round but a clear round. So I went from a ‘I can’t do this’ to a confident double clear… dressage with geese we can forget about but a DC will do for me.
So what’s the point of this blog? Why spend an hour or so of my time writing it in the hope that some lovely people will have read this far? Well I guess it’s a tale of how friends can turn cant’s into cans, how when you really think that something is unachievable you just have to pull your finger out and kick on and do what feels right in your heart even if your head is telling you otherwise. It’s also about learning who to listen to and who to ignore… as the wise trainer who I mentioned earlier told me:
‘Those that can, empathise, whilst only those that can’t, criticise’.
Kind words and a bit of support can make all the difference.
See you in the start box…