I started 2017 with low expectations. Do a few schooling shows with Joey, move up to 2’6, find more ways to ride, find more ways to make money and still ride, and most of all: don’t die. After six months back in the saddle, I was looking forward to enjoying riding again. For me, 2017 was going to be a nice, steady year.
Boy oh boy was I wrong.
Our first show of 2017 was slightly crazy, but mostly fun. Sure I forgot the last fence of our first ever jumper course and fist pumped in the air as if I had just won an Olympic gold medal. When the jump judge informed me I had to exit the ring, she was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes but I didn’t care. I had found my niche and Joey had found his.
Little did I know that we would only get to enjoy a few more shows like that before my worst nightmare would happen: Joey got hurt. As an eight-week stay in the clinic shadowed over us, I knew I was going to have to adjust my riding style to whatever was thrown my way. From ornery ponies to lesson horse saints, I took each opportunity one ride at a time. I catch-rode a Jumper unlike any horse I had ever ridden before and I not only survived, but I also got second place in the Gamblers Choice!
I had the opportunity to ride that same Jumper in a dream-come-true scenario that would soon turn into many peoples nightmare: a George Morris clinic. I left with eyes wide open, thirsting for more knowledge, six stitches, and more bruises than I could count. Inspired, everything about my horsemanship practices, in and out of the saddle, changed for the better. I grew more confident in myself as a rider and began taking more calculated risks, such as investing in my first project horse. One day at a time, I slowly watched my dreams continue to take shape as reality.
A lot of wonderful things happened in 2017. Joey wound up securing two year-end awards in a show series we competed in and I took home the Best Adult Rider award. My idol knew me by name (and also as Stitches Girl, oops), I’ve watched some of my writing spread like fire across the internet, and I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing people. But the most exciting part of 2017 was that I finally felt at ease with myself.
Year after year I have fought the hard fight with my confidence and anxiety. Anxiety is an icky word, many of us shuck it to the side or write it off as a cop-out, but for those of you who join me in the land of always-doubting-every-single-thing-you-do-and-word-you-say, you know how crippling it can be. Pair that with the perceived perfection of the equestrian world and it wasn’t uncommon to see my eyes brimming with tears, tucked behind a horse in a stall, trying to count to twenty just to take my mind off of the nothing that had suddenly become something.
In my college years, I was so caught up in my goals that I lost myself. In my endless pursuit for perfection I was slowly drowning, one show at a time. The fun was draining from my real world escape and I grew frustrated at the fact that I wasn’t progressing fast enough. My anxiety thrived in that environment while I withered away.
Two years out of the saddle was never what I wanted, but taking two years to step back and truly appreciate the wonderful gift that horses give us was exactly what I needed. When I came back, there were no expectations — I just wanted to have fun again and escape from the real world. Suddenly, I was jumping triple bars and liverpools, things I had never even contemplated pointing a horse at. I threw aside my worries about winning and suddenly, we were winning more than ever.
2017 was a great year. A year of growing up, one might say. I was given an immense amount of support, both from friends and family and also from folks I had never met before besides our internet connections. People from all over cheer me on as I tackle one obstacle at a time, literal and figurative. As I felt the large amount of love pouring in, I realized I actually loved myself as well.
And that is the best feeling of them all.
Hold on 2018: Meagan’s coming at you with a whole new attitude on life. Let’s jump some sticks, boys.