I've been trying for the past few days to sit down and write a post that looks forward eagerly to the new year, with goals and dreams and potential plans of attack. It's been a happy tradition of the past few years, and has brought me into the new year feeling bright and hopeful. Even last year when faced with a long six months ahead with no horses at all, I still doodled some goals and set them aside for the second half of the year. (though I never put them on the blog).
(In unrelated news, we made it to the beach yesterday! Enjoy as these very happy photos decorate what is otherwise a kind of depressing post)
But this year, I'm having some trouble. Honestly, I feel like I'm in a big funk. It mostly has to do with Kiki and what I want to do with her, but Ringo is tied in too. I've been enjoying the dressage, but is it a direction I really want to move in more seriously? I'm excited to be showing Ringo again but it's hard to get as excited for pure dressage shows as I used to for events. I'd like to think that this means I'm still an eventer at heart... right?
But the problem is, I didn't really enjoy eventing this fall either. Granted, I only went to two shows, and both had some highlights, but I found the whole process more stressful and an opportunity to beat myself up than I'm happy with.
It was this feeling that led me to think that I should sell Kiki this fall. On paper, this still seems like the best idea. But part of me has also come to realize that the things that were making me so stressed out and unhappy didn't really have much to do directly with Kiki. Over the past break I've done some reflecting, and have been able put together a timeline in place that explains a very different explanation of my current feelings.
Basically, I started riding Kiki right at a time when my own confidence and my confidence in/ability to trust my trainer was severely shaken. Even though I stopped riding with that instructor, my misgivings and low self-esteem remained (not that it was particularly great to start!). I felt like I improved Kiki very significantly pretty much on my own over the spring and summer of 2010, and then left her in the care of a trainer I trusted very much and departed for my six month leave with high, high hopes of her continued improvement.
I came back in March to check on her and was shocked to have her feel as bad as when I first got her, unable to pick up both leads or canter over a pile of poles on the ground. The explanation I was given was that I was riding her too poorly, which left me feeling rather unconfident and mistrustful of my (different) trainer. Again. For the second time in a year. When I got her back she was basically unrideable for the first week I had her, and generally felt awful. Added with some other information I learned, I now felt VERY mistrustful of my trainer (again), and gritted my teeth to try to get Kiki looking and going better again.
With this 'vendetta'-style approach (which was completely subconscious at the time; it's only looking back that I realize that was what was going on), every slight against Kiki felt like a slight against me and my attempts to improve her. And since she wasn't going that well, there were a lot of slights. They built up and built up, and suddenly I reached the end of the fall and realized, when I almost went to pieces jumping a school horse over an 18" vertical, that my confidence was totally gone basically without me even realizing.
I had self-sabotaged myself into misery by making everything to do with Kiki into a me-versus-trainer/me-versus-the-world type ultimatum. I am already such a perfectionist that this was a pretty deadly set up. Mistakes are already almost the end of the world for me (and I normally work very hard to make them not a big deal), and now they couldn't be anything but the end of the world, because they implied not only that I'd made a mistake at that given moment but had also ruined my horse, completely devalued myself as a rider/trainer, and 'lost' this stupid conflict I'd set up for myself.
I also felt hard done by because I honestly felt (and feel) that the reason she was going so badly was because of the program she'd been in while I was away and I was just doing everything in my power to right the ship, and not getting any acknowledgement of that. How I expected people to know that when they just met me for the first time in August or September, I couldn't tell you. I was completely to blame for these feelings, and the ensuing bitterness merely contributed to the mistrustful me-versus-trainer ultimatum stated above.
Sigh. A real recipe for success, right??
So now that I've pieced this all together, I'm at a real loss as to what I should do moving forward. It doesn't seem like Kiki herself is the problem. It's just the completely toxic tangle I've gotten myself into surrounding Kiki and my progress together. I don't know a good way out. She needs more training and I don't really have time for her and Ringo and my 80 million other commitments at Stanford, but I am honestly terrified of entering into another professional training nightmare the likes of 2010 and 2011.
I feel like if I could just take a deep breath, get some positive juices flowing, and get into a positive groove, everything would be fine again. New Years Wish, anyone??
(Ma, Pa, Acorn, and Duck all enjoying an awesome day at Cranes Beach)