December 2, 2018

Taking the Pressure Off

For a few weeks now, I've been tossing this thought around in my mind that "Connor is not the horse I will get 'there' with."

Now, before you start thinking that I'm abandoning my goals for me and this horse, that's not it at all.  That statement isn't even really about Connor.  This is about reframing the way I think about riding to be more sustainable and healthy for both of us.

All my life, I've never known how to operate without pressuring myself.  In my workouts, in my sports, in school, in my job.  There's no one chasing me with a stick, but I push myself anyway, even if I don't really know why.

No one chasing me but my own inner voice.

About a month ago, I was listening to an NPR story about a TED talk by Simone Giertz, who has become famous for inventing useless machines.  She talked about how it started with her being curious about mechanical engineering, something she had no training in.  But along the way, she realized that playing at it was helping her get over her fear of failure, because even if she succeeded and the machine worked, it was also still a failure, because a robot that brushes your teeth for you is not going to set the world on fire.  She was doing it because it was fun.

Simone Giertz

I started thinking about how Simone's story relates to my own life - I, too, once dropped to a lower math class because I was going to get a B instead of an A+ in high school.  And here I am pushing myself to be good in a sport that I've only been doing for a couple years, on a horse that is learning right along with me. 

Somewhere along the way, I stopped feeling like I could explore and experiment and goof off with Connor.  Even though I don't compare myself to others, I thought there was a timeline I had to be on, and not aligning with it was failing.  And as much as I truly enjoy Dressage, it's not as much fun when your type-A brain feels like you're not "getting there" or "taking this horse as far as he'd be able to go with someone else".

Me, my sister and our cousin Katie on Festus sometime around 1996

My rides lately have been playful instead of work, while still being productive.  Full of "I wonder what would happen if..." and not "I must make progress on shoulder in this week".  "I wonder how softly I can ask for..." and not "I'm going to be disappointed if we don't get to school _____ today"

Because the moment I stopped thinking of us as needing to get somewhere, I started having fun again.  And making progress again.  And clearly, I'm not the only one with these thoughts in my head.

Serious productivity happening right here /s

Maybe Connor is the horse I get my bronze on.  Maybe he isn't.  Maybe we race through Second Level in a single season or maybe we spend five years here.  One way or another, acknowledging that I don't have all the answers, that we're both learning together, and that maybe failing isn't the worst thing in the world if we're both having fun has been so good for my brain. 


  1. I've been nursing along old horses for the past few years, so my riding had almost no direction at all. And my running was a struggle, so I had practically given that up. This fall though, I took this exact approach you're talking about to get back into running. No more hunts for PR's for me! I'm just running for the fun of it. If that means I run a 12 minute mile, so be it. And you know what? I'm actually enjoying it again! It's nice to remember the journey counts too, not just the destination.

  2. Where has this donkey photo been????? love it!!

    1. Haha! I have lots donkey photos buried somewhere in a photo box. He was my jungle gym as a kid.

  3. oh and we need to do some trail rides!

  4. Oh, I feel this! You articulated something I have felt this year here and there with Ellie, too. She is "two years behind" being six this year but more like a four year old since she was never really started fully under saddle until I bought her in fall 2017. And we are just about solid Training level at this point, which is frustrating when I see horses her age doing Second. But I have to tell myself this is about the journey and I knew buying her that she was "behind". And honestly, who cares because I didn't buy her to go GP, I bought her to enjoy for the rest of her life until someday she is buried here on my farm, hopefully when she is in her thirties. I love your approach and mindset. Sometimes we need to reframe our thoughts before they run away with us.

  5. Interesting. I've been struggling with this myself lately too.

  6. I feel like winter brings introspection, at least regarding riding.Its hard sometimes to master goals and still have fun with that type A mentality. Glad you found that mindset

  7. Such a healthy attitude and things should be fun! If we let them be!

  8. You definitely gotta do what works for you, whatever that means. I'm just glad you'r having fun!

  9. Ugh I totally know how you feel. I have a lot of trouble functioning between "We need to do all the things" and "we need to do nothing" and then feeling disappointed that we aren't moving forward. Here's hoping we all get the chance to play more with our ponies. :-)

  10. I think there has to be some amount of clarity as to the horse's abilities. It may not mean that you won't ever get there - it just might mean it will take longer to get there :) And sometimes, yes, the horse is in the "wrong" discipline, or is unable to attain a certain level. It doesn't mean that the horse is useless or any less a partner, and I think that's where a lot of horse owners find out the real meaning of horses and why we ride. <3 I'm glad you are enjoying your time with Connor - it's important and it is what you will look back on with a fond smile <3

  11. OMG i am so behind the times with Remus and I panic every once in a while thinking he is 15 this year and time is ticking. Then it rains again and I think oh well. It is okay having a horse be a pet dog? Right? LOL

    I love Connor and think you can do anything you want with him but might as well enjoy the ride along the way!

    And your Festus is the third donkey I have heard about this week called Festus! :)

  12. This is what saved my riding career. When I took the pressure off, I became instantly happier. I used to cry about going to the barn but now I enjoy it immensely. I used to hate the very idea of my horse, but now I love seeing him and dousing him in hugs and kisses. I'm glad you're working everything out :)

  13. I think this is SO important! I often say this about the people I have on Fbs kids...who are being drilled into lilttle amazing riders but don't seem to be having the "fun"part of it. We all need that. That is what brings us to the horses in the first place!

  14. Great take on the subject! I'm glad you are finding those moments of play and enjoyment again :) that's what it should all be about, loving and doing things with our horses.