This may turn into quite a series of stories... Everyone loves to share their success stories, but what about the failures that we all experience before we hit success? I feel it's important we share those stories, too! What do you do when sh*t hits the fan? And how do you recover?
My most recent failure/success story happened just a few weeks ago. I had been working with my young horse Stella all winter. I was ready to get her out in the show ring this spring and make a big splash. We made quite the impression... but not quite how I intended!
In spite of the weather working completely against us (rain, rain, rain!) Stella warmed up fairly well. She was still a little more behind my leg than I ideally like but, she wasn't being bad or flat-out ignoring my aids... she was just a little hesitant and I'm still not convinced that alone was the cause of the trouble that was about to occur because Stella was still very responsive and willing.
We went into the arena and the test was fairly nice. Like in the warm up, Stella was hesitant and a little behind the leg, but overall, it was still a nice test... until Stella noticed the puddle of water in corner of the arena. That puddle may have well been the Pacific Ocean and Stella said NOPE! Not happening!!!
Stella slammed on the breaks. I landed on her neck. I tried with everything I had to salvage the test but it was a wash. For the first time in my life, I raised my hand and I withdrew from my test. I gave up.
Afterward, I was so deflated. This horse that I had invested so much time (and money, though no one wants to talk about that!) into, just freaked out in a show so bad I had to excuse myself! WTF?!
Getting back out into the show arena was hard. I decided to play it safe and keep everything close to the chest, so to speak. I didn't tell anyone I was showing, other than the few that needed to know (i.e. Bobbie driving the trailer, and my husband who would wonder why I was waking up at 4 am).
I also made a real effort to ride my own horse exactly as I coached my students, no matter how crummy it felt or how unsure I was. I have coached my students to great results! However, when I'm riding, sometimes I give up on my own methods too soon because it "feels bad" in my hand. I ignore my own advice of, "just because it doesn't feel nice in this moment doesn't mean you're doing it wrong."
I made a real effort to ride through the tough moments of Stella's warm up at this show and, you know what, IT WORKED!!! At least in this moment, it worked! Stella scored a 68% the first day, in spite of two substantial pilot errors, and a freaking 73.6% on the second day! 73.6%!!! A career high score for Stella and me!!!
The "bounce back" show was a success. It was a success for a couple of reasons...
In order to have a great bounce back story, it implies you had a "crash and burn" moment before. Not to worry, everyone who is anyone has had plenty of "crash and burn" stories. Feel honored to join the ranks.
I took my "crash and burn" moment as an opportunity to evaluate and learn, rather than to focus on pouting or doubting myself. Granted, a little "pout and doubt" may help for a few minutes but, as riders and competitors, be quick to recognize this moment for what it is and be ready to dismiss these feelings and move on.
I did everything in my power to set myself and my horse up for success at my next show. I paid a little extra to have a stall at the show. I cancelled lessons I may have normally taught to make sure I could devote my entire focus to being at the show. I fueled myself like an athlete (healthy breakfasts, less beer at the end of a stressful day, etc..)
I also really committed to riding as well as I could. I committed to riding every inch of my and Stella's warm up... that I wouldn't compromise on the warm up because I was tired or because Stella was stiff, tough, didn't feel tops, etc... I would ride every minute just like I would insist my students ride.
It worked. At least for now, this time, it worked. Stella and I scored a 73.6% in our test. We won, too, but the score is what really makes the success story.
Stella and I had to withdraw from our test in our last show and we came back to win with a 73%. No matter what happened at the last show, work to improve. Be a forward thinking rider, both literally and figuratively. Ride your horse to it's fullest... every stride of every ride.
Keep working hard and don't sweat the small stuff! Whether your small stuff is a tough lesson, a rough show, a horse with a bummer temporary injury... don't sweat the small stuff. And, truly, it's all small stuff...