I’ve written a lot about not showing this summer partially because a lot of people asked me about it, but mostly because I was so surprised by how much it affected me. Don’t worry though, this is my final blog post on the topic.
So much of riding involves moving forward. Working toward a new goal, trying for the next ribbon, looking for the next jump, adding leg for more pace—forward momentum, both literally and figuratively, is a common objective. So what do you do when you are suddenly feeling the need to take a step back? It took me a full summer to understand that stepping away from the show ring didn’t mean that I was actually going backward. (Though I could definitely still use more pace when jumping.)
I have known plenty of people that chose not to compete their horses, but I was never one of them. Heck, when I was younger (and more ignorant) I couldn’t even figure out why someone would ride without the goal of doing well at a horse show. I have taken summers off from showing before, but it wasn’t because I chose to; it had been because I had to. When I got the feeling that I didn’t want to show—when I was the one actually making that decision—I didn’t know how to understand it and I really didn’t want to at the time. The last thing I wanted to do was step in the show ring, yet everything in me was screaming that I should want to. I loved showing for so long that it surprised me and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how or why I no longer did. I tried to blame it on other things like bad rides, a “rough show,” lack of funds, and other excuses that weren’t lies but that also weren’t the real reason. When people would ask me why I hadn’t been showing, I felt like I needed an elaborate answer to give them. Really all I needed to say was “I simply don’t want to.”
Now that the summer has come to an end, I’ve realized that I am okay with taking a step back. It’s okay to not want to. That it’s okay to walk away. It’s okay to be uncomfortable with something that used to be so normal. But it’s also okay to struggle to understand why and to take some time to figure it out. It’s okay to not be okay.
The backward movement that I thought I was feeling turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Instead of collecting ribbons, Ax and I collected moments and memories. I’ve enjoyed my horse more in these past few months than I have in a long time. (And I don’t think Ax really minded having less intense rides.) While I do plan to get back in the ring next year, this season pushed me out of my comfort zone more than a season of showing ever did. For that, I am endlessly thankful.