As Joey and I sat outside the in-gate at our second show of the year and second time showing in the Jumper ring ever, I found myself in an out-of-the-ordinary place: I was calm. Despite all of the work it had taken us to get to this point, here I was confident in my course and my horse and ready to go in and show off what we had been working on the little less than a year that I have owned Joey. It’s weird how when we finally reach what we had been working towards, sometimes we are riddled with nerves and other times we almost feel ridiculous for ever being nervous in the first place. Yet, here I was, just ready to go in and rock it and let Joey do his job without a care in the world.
I have always battled anxiety, both in and out of the horse world. I finally came to terms and accepted that yes, I face real anxiety- not just nerves – while I was in college. From that point, it became about how to overcome and conquer my anxieties and not just live with them. For the most part, the show ring had never been a source of my anxious tendencies but my return to the saddle after a few years off had somehow shaken a bit of my former confidence.
Joey has definitely been my biggest undertaking as an equestrian. He is the opposite of what I thought I liked in a horse: strong, bold, brave to the point of scary sometimes, and a hair on the speedy side. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Joey was a source for my unseated confidence, but I do think knowing that I now faced a bigger challenge than I had ever worked with before probably contributed to a bit of my nerves. I always knew I could trust him and he would do right by me, but I was mostly afraid of if I could do right by him and guide him in the right way for our success.
Something happened after our last show in February that just clicked. I think most of it was our transition to the Jumper ring. The Hunters has always accelerated my anxiety — you have to look and be perfect and that is just something I am not. I always was looking for something more, a way out, a way to really be happy after a ride and not be afraid to show it. When I bought Joey, after months of us fighting to get the perfect Hunter look, it became obvious that we both wanted something more and so we made the transition.
From that point on, I have been so much happier after every ride because we both enjoy our job. Sure, our first time showing in the Jumpers I felt like I was jumping in the Global Champions Tour and thought my stomach was going to fall out of my body, but after it was all over I was itching to go back in and ride again.
That sense of calm at this show definitely was an oddity, but one that I welcomed with open arms. We rode into the ring confident and I think that reflected in our rounds. Friday night we showed in a large class of 20 and placed sixth in Power and Speed, going double clear and fifth in our Speed class. Saturday, we showed again placing first and third in both classes, only to decide last minute to add at the gate and do the next height division on a whim (a height we had never shown in together before). Joey was going fantastically and I wanted to show him off. There we placed second and third with awesome rounds despite a few steering malfunctions from Joey’s rider.
As we walked back to the barn on the buckle (an anomaly that had never happened before) I cried happy tears and didn’t care who the heck saw them. For the first time in a long time I wasn’t anxious doing what I love most with the animal I love most. It was then that I knew that we had found our place in the world and that as long as we had each other, anything was possible. We went home from that show with nothing but confidence and it didn’t even scare me when my coach said it was time to bump up the fences at home and buckle down on some technical questions.
I guess what I am getting at here is, it is okay to be scared. It is okay to be nervous or even anxious about these things, because one day that fear will go away. One day you will be strong enough to conquer it, to make decisions that help you to battle it, to overcome what you think is your biggest obstacle and turn it into your best asset. And it is okay to decide to change up your game plan and try something new, to go against what everyone else is doing.
There is no reason we shouldn’t love what we do, this sport is way too expensive and risky to do it just because. So be brave, my friends. Be bold and be daring and be calm. One day, you will have your ah-ha moment and it will all make sense.