A few year’s ago, my hopes and dreams fell apart.
You see, I quite fancied myself as a budding dressage rider. I had lessons with a great instructor at least twice a week and trained almost every day. I would wake at 5 am and start the 30 minute drive to see my horse. Rain, hail or shine I was there. Fitting it around work, it added a minimum of 20 hours to my week.
In short, this was an all consuming hobby. Although if you had called it a hobby at the time I would have boxed your ears. I had stars in my eyes that one day I would be an incredible rider, poised and perfect, competing at the highest levels in Australia and perhaps overseas.
Then, it all came undone. The horse I’d bought from interstate started to exhibit problems that were difficult to diagnose. A fortune in vets bills later I finally received the news that my horse had some back pain which was not going to go away overnight. It was a sad day for me. I was emotionally spent, financially drained, and in dire need of time out from this all consuming sport.
At the time, I didn’t think there was any silver lining. Today, I feel very differently. I’ve spent the last few years honing some very different skills that have made me a better, calmer, happier and I think wiser person.
If things hand not gone pear shaped, I would never have had an opportunity to start this blog, discover yoga or undertake mindfulness and meditation work. Altogether, I’m so much happier that I can’t help but think…. thank God life did not go my way! I feel these skills will shape my training now and in the future, and perhaps put me in a better place to achieve my lofty equestrian dreams.
Yoga & Pilates.
Apart from the power of these activities to calm my nerves and clear my mind, the change in my flexibility and core strength is profound. I have a far heightened sense of body awareness and can feel when I am imbalanced. Good riders know that if you are imbalanced, the horse is imbalanced. If you are inflexible and stiff, the horse will be inflexible and stiff. I felt I never had time to pursue yoga and pilates in earnest before, but after realising the potential of these activities to enhance a competitive training regime, they will need to be prioritised in the future.
Mindfulness teaches you to be an observer to your life. While you are taught to be present, and have full focus on the present moment, it also teaches you to observe your actions and reactions, and to control your impulses, nerves or fears. What is the point of training all week…. all year…. putting everything into your training, only to fall apart on the day of the competition due to nerves or a lack of focus.
Its all about the Journey…..
Focusing on winning brings with it incredible highs and lows. Incredible highs when you win, incredible lows when you do not. What about all the moments in between? The last few years have taught me to appreciate the ‘ordinary’ moments. I’m more patient to let things evolve as they evolve.
The paradoxical thing is that the more I relax, the more opportunities seem to stream in my direction. I could not have planned it this way. I could not have said “relax and opportunities will come your way“. For some reason, it happens when it happens. The stars align when they align. Forcing things in your life won’t necessarily make them happen any quicker.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens
I do not know if I will realise my ambitions of becoming a successful dressage rider. The desire is still there and I will work toward it again one day. The big difference in my mindset now is that if I don’t get there, I can honestly say that it is no longer important. As Pooh taught me in the Tao of Pooh, its all about the journey:
The honey doesn’t taste so good once it is being eaten; the goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it has been given. If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much. But if we add up the spaces between the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit. And if we add up the rewards and the spaces, then we’ll have everything – every minute of the time that we spent. What if we could enjoy it?
The Christmas presents once opened are not so much fun as they were while we were in the process of examining, lifting, shaking, thinking about and opening them. Three hundred and sixty five days later, we try again and find that the same thing has happened. Each time the goal is reached, it becomes not so much fun, and we’re off to reach the next one, then the next one, then the next one.
That doesn’t mean that the goals we have don’t count. They do, mostly because they cause us to go through the process, and its the process that makes us wise, happy or whatever.
If we do things in the wrong sort of way, it makes us miserable, angry, confused and things like that. The goal has to be right for us, and it has to be beneficial, in order to ensure a beneficial process.
– Benjamin Hoff, Tao of Pooh.
Maybe we have to take a step back in order to take a step forward. I have acquired some new life skills to apply to my sport, so the last few years have actually been a brilliant use of my time.
There’s always a silver lining to any situation. It might take time to see it, but its there.