A friend on an online equestrian forum recently created a thread that invited fellow members to post their earliest and most recent photo of them on their horse. I went searching through my laptop for photos while feeling that aside from trying new disciplines not much else would have changed in terms of my riding. How wrong I was. I found a photo of us competing at dressage in 2009 at the AIRC festival and another of us competing this summer at the same event.
The difference is far more than I expected. I am sitting taller than before, my shoulders are back, my head is up, the horse is more uphill, we have more impulsion, we have moved up a grade and my current jacket is a much nicer fit than my old one. The sad part is I had never realised this until I stopped to look. I was too busy analysing the most recent performance and planning the next steps – the lessons I needed, the things I was doing wrong, the goals I had for next year – to take a backward glance.
Likewise last night I was chatting to my other half about the weekend of side saddle riding I had just come back from. The first time I hacked side saddle at Mount Juliet I had only ridden aside twice before and was so in awe of the more experienced riders jumping the cross country fences with ease while I tackled my first small fence on a hired pony. This time I brought my horse and finished up the weekend feeling very proud of (and truth be told amazed at) myself having jumped the smaller option of most of the cross country fences on the course. This was something that seemed impossible a while ago. I looked across the field and was delighted to see friends who had started side saddle at the same time cantering and jumping confidently on their horses. Wow I thought, so much can happen in a year. It was only later on last night that it dawned on me that the first hack I went on was only in Spring 2013! Wow, so much can happen in five months.
So next time you are frustrated at not progressing fast enough, are feeling that you have not improved or are planning and setting goals for the season and year ahead take the time to take a quick glance backwards because you can’t get where you are going if you haven’t realised where you are.