Monday, July 18, 2016

The Importance of Finding Your 'Why'

Top 10 placing in the Inter 1 Music at Hartpury CDI
This time last year I was in full competition mode with my international horse Seigner II (Sebastian) and was representing Australia at Hartpury CDI and Hickstead CDI at small tour level. It was probably the most important, exciting, nerve-wracking and life-changing fortnight of my life - my first two internationals as a senior rider, and only a week apart!

However the situation now couldn't be more different. Due to veterinary and shoeing problems with all the horses, up until yesterday I hadn't done even ONE competition this year. And that wasn't even on one of my competition horses, it was on my little project pony Pedro doing an unaffiliated prelim!! It's actually laughable when I step back and think "wow.... so this is my career now".

But I certainly don't let it get me down, because as frustrating as it is to not be out "doing my thing", I have found my 'Why'. Why when everything goes wrong, I keep my faith. Why I keep training every day. Why I still see a bright future ahead. Why I chose this life.

It is an absolute guarantee that any rider will go through lows where their horse is lame or ill, or they have to sell it and are horseless for a while. In a sport where competing is often the main motivation to keep training and get better, what is then your motivation when you can't compete? Or on those cold dark winter days, what gets you out of bed and makes you rug yourself and your horse up and go out to the arena and train, especially when its off-season and competitions are few and far between?

Seb and I at the trot-up at
Hickstead CDI
The time out from competitions this year was actually a blessing in disguise because it forced me to ask myself these questions and try to grasp what motivation I could find on a daily basis for months and months. I have found that my 'Why' is my love for the art of dressage. It is an art that forces you to look at yourself and who you are in order to create your best work. The beauty of horses is that you can't hide your feelings or your frame of mind - if you want them to work with you you've got to sort yourself out and arrive at the training session fully present and focused. I love how that requires such deep investigation into the self.

Just like yoga, this investigation isn't just mental but also physical. The condition of your body has a direct impact on your state of mind. I am kind of obsessed with riding symmetrically and having all my muscles conditioned just right to perform my best on the horse. I have a real thing about my body not being strong, flexible or mobile enough to feel like I can give the horse his best shot at getting the work right. To me, there is no excuse to not give the horse that chance. I like to work on my body just as much as the horse because at the end of the day, it starts with me! The horse will never do it by himself! So when my body feels right, my mind feels more at peace and I can focus on creating good work with the horse, as long as I've been able to let go of any bulls**t that's in my head while I'm in the saddle.

So for this reason I have kept up my motivation, because working on my mind and body alone is such an inspiring task and I find when you add a horse to the equation it makes it even more extraordinary. I can even view riding as a form of meditation, where I can let go of anything that's weighing me down, and focus on one thing - creating. This time out has actually even pushed me to better my career by adding a "bit of me" to what I do, so I am now beginning my yoga teacher training. By December this year, I will be a qualified yoga teacher and be able to use my 'Why' even more on a daily basis.

Ecstatic to be placed 4th in the Inter 1
at Hickstead CDI!
For many people, their 'Why' is to forget about their day and go for a nice hack and chill out. They attach having that connection with the horse with escaping reality for a while. Also for a lot of people their 'Why' is to go out to competitions and be in the limelight. Of course this is nice, and not wrong to be motivated by it, but it is only fuelling the ego. When there is not fuel for the ego, i.e. you can't compete, what is left to keep you going? I encourage you to do some deep thinking and find your 'Why', and watch your experience with your horse change day by day when you focus on this one sole important reason.

And always remember that whatever you do, regardless of why you do it, do it with love.