Written by Jay McGarry on July 23, 2012 at 10:17 am
Good or bad, every experience provides a learning opportunity. Sometimes, the challenge is to figure out what the valuable lesson is. The lessons can be multi-layered relating to both the obvious and to the subtle aspects of life.
I haven’t written much about Sean lately and thought I’d catch up on that. I have started taking Sean to his first sanctioned horse trials this summer. We have done three, focusing this summer on the Vermont Eventing Challenge. We have done Hitching Post, GMHA and Huntington. We actually did well in the first two, finishing a third and fifth respectively. He was wired, but manageable in the warm-ups and he was really bold and brave on cross country. He was a trooper in the pouring rain at GMHA. Gaining confidence, I assumed he was “growing up” and was so surprised, (okay not really), when he was a disaster in the dressage warm-up at Huntington. He had never been there and was rearing, backing, and exhibiting a lot of other unpleasant behaviors to the point where I almost said it wasn’t worth it. We did manage to stay in the ring but scored very poorly…no shock there! Off to cross country we went where he warmed up a bit fresh. However, once on the course, he was really great out there being very adjustable and galloping nicely. He spooked a tiny bit once, but on the whole he was very brave. Stadium was good but I messed up one fence and dropped a rail. We had moved up eight places but we ended up one out of the ribbons due to my mistake.
So many lessons in that day and not all of them obvious. Some of the obvious ones include a better warm up routine which I had already started practicing including a shorter warm-up and then letting him settle after the warm up as racehorses often do at the track, so that his adrenaline declines somewhat. I also learned that if I am patient and just keep plucking away, we can get through the challenges, maybe not in a pretty way, but through them nonetheless. I just have to look at this experience as one more notch in our repertoire of exposure to new situations. I have learned that our actual cross country, when we get into a rhythm, is far better than our schooling sessions which is a big relief.
The subtle lessons are far more valuable. I could have given up or dismounted in the dressage warm up and perhaps the collective spectator group would have breathed a sigh of relief, but I do feel the slow and steady progress we have made has established some bond of trust and somehow, I knew we would be okay. Pretty would be nice, but accomplishment is better. I have learned that I can’t gain unless I give, which also applies in my daily doings as well. I often think about how it is so easy to get stuck in a habitual pattern, whether it be in riding, saddle shopping, thought processes and so on and how important it is to be open minded and available to learning. We all know that is easier said than done. It is always easier to do what you are comfortable with but is it worth it if nothing ever changes?
All of us have our comfort zones, our idiosyncrasies, prejudices and behavioral patterns. What is the worst that can happen, as Andrea Waldo mentioned in one of her “Stress Free Clinics”. What if you give a little on your reins, lengthen or shorten your leathers, try a flocked saddle instead of a foam one, picture a positive outlook instead of a negative one, be a little more accepting of those around you? I know I digress a bit but I do believe that a life with horses teaches us many things. It is not just about winning or getting to the next level. It is taking the time to enjoy the process of learning and just being. To me they are more than farm animals; they are partners, athletes, personalities, and teachers. The subtleties and nuances, the ups and downs in riding and enrich my life beyond measure.
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