I’m at the point in my riding where I will take any victories that I can get—no matter how big or small. The days where my confidence is at a high are few and far between lately, so when I am feeling like I can conquer the jumps in the ring, I try to take advantage of it and run with it as far as I can. After having the majority of the summer off , Ax has been a superstar and I’ve been on top of the world. By that I mean, we’ve managed to jump over a few 2’3″ and 2’6″ fences without me panicking, pulling, and otherwise getting in my horse’s way.
No doubt, there are days when we both resort back to our old habits—him rushing, me pulling, and both of us anxious about what the other will do next—but lately those victories, though small, are becoming more common. To me, that is a reason to celebrate.
Being focused on preparing for the next show used to consume my riding in the summer months, resulting in mental exhaustion for both Ax and I. Instead of thinking about how steady and straight Ax felt through the five-stride, I’d overanalyze how he should be more adjustable or how I should’ve done something differently. Mastering our level wasn’t enough—we needed to be better, jump higher, canter slower, equitate harder. The list goes on and on. It was so easy to skip along to the next thing, forgetting how much we did to get to where we were, that the small steps in our progress that are so important were often overlooked and unappreciated.
The small things that make you feel like you’ve grown wings and could fly to the stars are some of the best. Taking the summer off from showing for the first time in years has shown me the beauty in the little things that I hadn’t been noticing. Finally conquering that swedish oxer that I had been avoiding in the ring for months, getting through an entire ride without stirrups (and without dying), finally quitting my habit of shortening one rein more than the other, jumping the scary coop in the jump field, feeling an unwavering confidence as we canter around a course—whatever it may be, this summer I’ve come to appreciate the minor victories that should, and now do, feel so major.
As a result, our bigger accomplishments are so much sweeter. Suddenly, riding a foot-perfect course can put me on could nine because I know how hard we had to work to get to that point. We all know that feeling of dismounting from a ride that easily could top the rest. Appreciating the sweat, swearing, and strength that it took to climb that mountain makes reaching the summit feel like a far off dream that just became reality. The goal wasn’t to win a ribbon, but to simply enjoy riding my horse.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate the small victories. They are bigger than you think.