I believe in flexibility; being flexible allows you to do things for the moment without being attached to the outcome. It was the summer of 2007 and I was driving the car behind the horse trailer. Jimmy, the trucker from New York, was up ahead pulling our horses on the eleven hour drive to Lexington, Virginia. My car consisted of myself, a load of bags, and the audiobook set of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Looking back, I wish I had zoned out and listened to my book for these hours but instead I sat going over the trip ahead from arriving at the layover barn to leaving the Virginia Horse Center just over a week later – a champion.
I arrived at the layover farm alone at two in the morning, after pulling ahead of the trailer somewhere in Maryland. After an hour or two of fitful sleep in the driver’s seat of my very small car, I was roused by the trailer pulling in behind me. Jimmy and I worked tirelessly for another two hours – unloading horses, preparing stalls, settling the horses – before I went to find the hotel. Soon enough, I was back at the barn getting ready for the week ahead. For me this meant learning about my competition. I sat on the grassy knoll overlooking the practice ring for hours, sometimes with my horse, sometimes without, closely watching each horse and rider.
A few days later, after moving into the new facility, the pressure was on. I was riding in the first rotation for the team competition. This was my time; I had done everything possible to prepare myself and my horse. We started around the outside of the ring and all I could do was focus. I shut out the long lenses from the press section, clicking in time with my horse’s footfall. I shut out the spectators, clearly hoping for either a fantastic ride or an awful one but nothing boring, mediocre. Cantering around the ring, my horse and I built our energy as I focused on making every movement crisp and clear. The power flowing through my horse was unbelievable, starting in his hind legs and running like a current over his back and neck. I was shocked by the bell signaling my entry. I rounded the last corner and just as he placed a foot into the ring the current broke. I felt his energy slipping away in every direction and there was nothing I could do. It seemed to be over before it even began. This was not in my plan, I hadn’t prepared for this. That was it, any movements that could have been extraordinary, became mediocre at best. I got an average score and ended up in the middle of the pack.
I spent the rest of the day figuring it out. I sat outside the show ring watching the other riders trying to see where I went wrong. I was distracted from my thoughts as one rider entered the ring. She was just coming off a big win at Nationals a few weeks before and I was ready to see her blow away the competition. I never imagined what happened next. There must have been something because her horse was terrified and she lost control every time she went to one end of the ring. I watched as the test fell apart and the rider struggled helplessly. I realized then that all my preparation meant nothing.
I believe in flexibility because you never know what is going to happen. Especially in horses, circumstances can change in an instant and the only way to prepare for everything is to learn to be flexible. Never attach yourself to the outcome just do it for the moment and that is the best you can ever do. I hurt myself with my preparation. By preparing for everything I could think of, I forgot that something could still go wrong leaving myself out to dry with no way to fix it.