This week is the final week of preparations for the show that we work towards all year- Regional Championships! Manes are getting pulled, the horse trailer is being serviced, and in our training rides we work on those final little details that will influence the quality of our tests next week. And you know what? I hate the week before a big show! Well, hate is maybe a bit too strong a word...
Our group has ten horses heading down to Houston next week for the show and I know, for me, I tend to get hyper focused the week before a show, which can be both a blessing and a curse! (But honestly it’s more stressful than not)
In today’s blog, I invite you all (and myself) to embrace imperfection. Maybe that seems like a negative thing to say before a big show. Maybe that comment seems like I’m lowering my expectations but it’s part of my beliefs that we are all here for growth and anytime we get outside our comfort zone we out ourselves in a place to experience growth.
I’m not sure there are many other sports where we can get 30% taken off the score and be pretty happy. In school, a 70% was barely passing but in Dressage it is considered “fairly good”. Boy are we gluttons for punishment! This sport tends to pull in the perfectionists yet perfection in unachievable. The sooner we realize this the better! Even if a 10 is given (which is a rare event indeed), it means excellent, not perfect. The world record at the Grand Prix is a 87.46%, held by Olympic champion, Valegro. That’s the highest score given in the international Dressage ring. Ever.
So, please, I beg of you to stop the quest for perfection now. You’ll save yourself so much heartache! Instead, focus on what is truly important- your individual journey of growth and development with your horse.
Think about how far you’ve come. Think about all you have learned on this incredible journey of riding. Who have you become as a person? In the quest towards achieving our goals, it’s not about what we accomplish but rather who we become in the process.
Give yourself some credit. We can be so incredibly hard on ourselves. Whether we win our class with a 75% or score in the 50s, what do we look at? What do we see? We see how we could have made it better...where we lost points. While it is a great thing to strive to better ourselves, it is not worth it to destroy self esteem in the process. Then we end up in a cycle that can be very hard to break out of.
Striving to be better leads to being overly critical and unkind to ourselves which leads to a destruction of our confidence which makes it impossible to become better!
Accept yourself just as you are. Instead of looking ahead and seeing how far you have to go, look back and see how far you’ve come. Think of all the goals you have achieved and what you have learned in the process. It’s all about progress, not perfection!
I’m not saying to just be content where you are at and never aim to get better but realize that growth is a journey, not a destination. It’s through time, through experience and especially through making mistakes and through failure that we experience the most growth. Have compassion for yourself through this experience.
I’m going through this right now in my riding. As I spend more time at the FEI Level, I am realizing more and more really how forward thinking the horse needs to be to be successful at this level. My knowledge has expanded a lot this year, which is great, but it has illuminated some areas I need to go back and repair in my horses training. Instead of beating myself up for making mistakes, I am going to shift that perspective to one of gratitude. I am so glad I’m learning these lessons now so all my future horses will benefit from this knowledge! Plus, going through the process of teaching my horses more about true engagement now will make me a better trainer for my clients.
Changing your perspective is a choice you must make. It often requires reprogramming your subconscious if your routine your whole life has been to beat yourself up when you make a mistake. We see life through the lens that we have developed through our life experiences. If your lens is based on negativity and the thought that experiences are happening to you rather than for you that is precisely the experience you will create for yourself.
But guys, this is so hard to put into practice so please be kind to yourself. Even with all I’ve learned and all the tools I now know about and use to keep myself from getting self destructive, I still have days where I question if I know what the heck I’m doing! I have times where I get angry with myself for not training my horses better in the first place. I know there is nothing productive about getting in that state but hey, what can I say? I’m human. I’m a work in progress.
My goal for championships? While it would be fun to win a regional championship (and I really hope I do!), I am going to go into the show arena and simply ride my horse the best that I can. At the end of the day, that is all I can do. I can’t control if other horses in the class have nicer gaits than my horse. I can’t control the scoring or what the judges think about my freestyle music. All I can do is ride my horse forward, straight and balance them the best that I can. I aim to keep my horses (and myself) confident and hopefully we all have some fun too.
Horse training is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a journey often spanning many years so remember that one ride is only a small moment in time. We have good days and bad days and so do our horses. Learn from those tough rides and move on.
So please, love yourself, imperfections and all. It’s not your life experiences that define you but rather your reaction to those experiences. So, this week as I prepare myself and my horses for the show, and next week as we compete, what determines if I win or lose? For me, it won’t be the score and it won’t be the placing but it will be how I handle myself if and when adversity arises. I will base my success on how I feel the moment I leave the arena after my test. If I did absolutely the best I could, what more could I ask for?
I invite you to Awaken to the Truth of your Divine nature. You are love, you are loved and you are always enough.