Anxiety, fear, competition nerves, general nerves, fear of failure and awareness of vulnerability and the possibility of physical injury. Ever felt like this? Ever felt it before you got on a horse or even before you got to the yard or on the drive to a competition? Of course you have. Ever felt physical symptoms? Stomach ache, diarrohea, vomiting or even just sweaty palms and the little flutter in your chest? I bet you have.
This is something I found myself speaking a lot about last week in person and online. I am, like many others, an amateur rider. Horses are not in my family background and much as they are what I live for, I had neither the talent, the support or the funds to be a professional at this sport. Thankfully I am good enough at other things to manage to be gainfully employed doing them which in turn allows me to enjoy horses which are my true passion in life.
Fresh after our Roland Tong clinic on Friday a couple of weeks back, Sammy was rather intrigued at being put back into the horsebox on Saturday. “Jumps Sammy” I promised as I bribed him up the ramp with a haylage net. We set off for Killossery for the Sarah Ennis eventing clinic but ground to a halt at the M50 on ramp which pretty much resembled a car park. I rang the venue who rather than saying oh well go home, said take your time we will make it work in another session which was really accommodating of them. We arrived an hour later to find the clinic had it’s own delays but we were ready to join a group of four other riders and get going in the indoor.
Scroll through Facebook or Instagram and it is on many ‘inspiring’ quote or hastag #livingmybestlife but you’re not, your horse is. Horse ownership should come with a disclaimer that explains its most about being covered in hair / mud / poo and paying vet bills or replacing expensive broken things. If you don’t agree let’s look at just a few reasons why your horse is living a better life than you right now
Will encouragingly watch you slip, slide and groan as you lug heavy buckets of water that you have slowly and painstakingly dragged from the nearest tap or water source that isn’t frozen solid. Will wait until you arrive before promptly knocking the bucket over looking absolutely delighted
My partner and I spent a week in the UK in August with one of the horses he competes. It was a brilliant week and we learned quite a few things about being an Irish Equestrian abroad!
1. There are some really nice people. I mean ridiculously nice. As in dropping your b & b guests down to the local restaurant for no charge and coming back several hours later for them nice. As in helping another competitor out when it’s their first time at this type of competition nice. Also as in giving up your whole day to travel to a show to help b and b guests you only met a few days before nice.
Why the national championships?
Goals are personal and what matters to each rider really does depend on their own experiences. For me, competing successfully at the National Dressage Championships has meaning because when I first started proper dressage training a few years ago it seemed ridiculously unlikely that I would ever be good enough to be able to do it.
My anxiety around competition was never really just about competition. It was a fear of the unknown, of lack of control, of new things. It started when I was a small child and if I was anxious about something I would feel sick and nervous. Things like exams, trying new things, bus trips. Over time it got worse and I was anxious before things I was actually looking forward to. The anxiety in turn caused illness as I have a sensitive stomach anyway so it got to the point that I was anxious of being anxious. I missed a lot of things because of it – sleep overs, the first day of pony camp, scouting trips. I was afraid to look forward to anything. My poor mother was tormented by it and had the patience of a saint at times especially when it came to high stress events such as the leaving cert (which I did on three Valium and about seven packs of polo mints a day). I managed miraculously to compete on horses as a teenager and adult. It was hard going – I used to meditate on the way over to try and calm myself down (yeah I was the odd ball), couldn’t eat and would be white as a sheet before a competition and exhausted afterwards.
1.Being Stirrupy Mcstirrups
Checking your stirrups before you ride, changing them after warm up, changing them before you jump – this is all grand and expected. Turning in in a group lesson sixteen bajillion times to change them though – no, just no.
- Get used to being on a circle. You won’t be moving sideways at the greatest of ease any time soon. The circle is your friend, embrace the circle. Don’t go large around the arena – this does not go down well. If you have enough grasp of spatial relations to be able to ride a circle that is circle shaped (unlike me) this is a bonus.