There is a general conception of success and failure being defined by outcomes to certain events. I tend to look at a bigger picture. If I happened to fall off at my first horse show of the year, by most accounts it would be deemed a total failure. However, by looking at the bigger picture, I saw what was to be gained from the experience. My horse successfully (and because it was a schooling show I was allowed back on) cleared the obstacle in question, and we successfully finished all of the remaining obstacles cleanly. Despite perhaps more logical thinking, the relative success of this endeavor has spurred me on to try bigger, better things.
A moment of back story though, to better understand where this is coming from. My herd of horses, all five of them (minus one, plus another) have one thing in common. In their lives with me, they have been asked to jump varying obstacles for the fun of it. I once saw a bumper sticker that read Jumpers Jump for Joy. I’ll freely admit, that has not always been the case. I have, at various times, been absolutely terrified by anything over three feet in height. At one time in my life, it was a measly two and a half feet. Again, logic might have dictated that I give up on jumping, perhaps even horses in general, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and so I endured. After a terrible fall last year (over 3’9″ fences) I was faced with the very real dilemma of continuing on as I had or trying a different path. For six months I tried the different path of pure dressage. Unfortunately, while I admire the principles of the sport and truly love the upper movements, to school only for Second Level or below was, in a word, boring. I had my now 15 year old Thoroughbred learning piaffe, my Mustang freely offering airs above ground, but to go back and recover the basics made me venture back into those forbidden waters. This time, however, when I came back to jumping, something had changed. One would think, after the near back breaking (literally) fall I had endured, I would have freely moved on without looking back. Such was not the case. Instead, my Mustang and I are now poised to enter into the registered circuit, a world long held at arm’s length due to the idea of failure and the sheer price of it all. At home, we’ve jumped his height (he’s 14.2 hands, so that would be a 4’10” fence). My Thoroughbred mare has been allowed back up to 3’9″ after accepting that cross rails can be noticed too. The newest addition, a 17 year old Thoroughbred who is doubling as a lesson horse, has been taken up to 3’3″. The three foot glass ceiling, it seems, has finally been broken.
I suppose the point I’m trying to make in all of this, and since when have I ever made any sense for so long, is that simply seeing a pass or a fail on a single day is doomed to failure. We cannot look at a single ride on a single horse and judge ourselves so harshly. We have to be able to look back over the course of weeks and months, and, more importantly, we have to be able to look forward. I have experienced truly soul shaking failure. I was unable, after years of schooling, to complete my first Prelim event. But then, after severe pep talks to myself, I managed to win a Prelim Combined Training class on the same horse. I’ve fallen, had horses stop, and cried in frustration and self deprication, but today, I can only see the progress I have made. If not for those failures, then the success of that 4’10” fence would not be so sweet. I would not go out for the sheer joy of feeling the difference in my horses when the height surpasses 3’6″ or 4′. I would never have known that because I was not able to look beyond. For all those who feel limited by their fears, or by past failures, stop dwelling on a single moment in time. If you love what you do and can do what you love, then do everything in your power to do just that. Believe me, it is well worth the effort.
RIP Strabo Tempest aka Fence Destroyer Extraordinaire.