A few days back Carly posted this entry on her blog about social media in ponyland and comparing ourselves to everyone else. I still consider myself a newbie to the blogging world, I'm only a couple months in, and while I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's stories, I admit seeing all you uber accomplished riders made me a bit insecure at first.
Why was I comparing myself to you guys? Why did I suddenly feel incompetent or less knowledgeable?
I have been on the back of a horse since I was a year old. My riding started as leadline therapy for a minor handicap. My parents purchased a pony not long after, and once my right leg had developed correctly I really started riding. I grew up in the blue ridge foothills. There are quite a few trainers in that area now, representing all disciplines. In the early eighties, however, there wasn't a lot going on and even if there had been my parents probably wouldn't have sent me anyway because they were very frugal with their money. I learned to ride on my own. Every time we passed a book store I would always beg for the horse books on clearance. That is where I got all my info on position, equipment, care, feeding. My parents both came from farming families so they were not completely dumb to livestock care. But they had working farms, not hobby farms with pleasure horses. I learned from trial and error. This works. That doesn't.
I developed a natural seat on my own, and occasionally picked up some tips from neighbors who were more experienced. I was only taught hows. Not whys. So I knew the buttons to push but didn't know why pushing the buttons in a particular manner worked.
About 4 or 5 years ago I had my first real dressage lesson. It was at that point that all my acquired knowledge began to come together. Like a 1000 piece puzzle with twenty or thirty pieces missing, the holes were beginning to fill in. For someone who'd been riding their entire life I was surprised at how much I was clueless on. How did I miss all this growing up?
My riding has come along quite a bit the past few years. I've learned way more than I thought I ever would. I now know what it is about pushing certain buttons that makes them work. Its really hard to describe exactly what I see in my mind's eye but I'm able to visualize things that help my riding. I can visualize my pony's inner workings. And I'm able to understand that simply turning my head left makes me shift my weight ever so slightly on my left hip, which pony can feel. I trained for roughly a year and a half on two different horses.
Now I ride on my own. I channel all that knowledge when I need it. But I would love a coach to assist me from time to time.
Being a blog reader has given me an inside look at what all of you have going on. Some of you are importing horses, some of you are earning usdf medals, some are hitting up every three day on their side of the Mississippi. It is when I read your stories that I begin to question my own abilities. I do get envious of your riding and your horses. I should be totally capable of doing what your doing cause I've been riding longer than you've been breathing. Yes it makes me feel inferior and irrelevant. I start to question my own life choices. What if I hadn't moved to TN as soon as I turned 18 to work on the ranches? What if I had taken a different route? My riding abilities were definitely good enough to move up through the levels in whatever discipline I chose, I just needed the instructor to tap into those abilities.
It is these times I have to talk myself down. I can still ride the hell out of a horse. I have stickability like nobody's business (although now that I've proclaimed it I'll prob have my ass handed to me). I can ride difficult horses and get results. And not only riding but horse husbandry. I've seen a lot in my 36 years. Even though I board I'm totally confident in my ability to keep a horse on my own property without assistance and be completely functional. I am an excellent horseman, blue ribbon or not. I shouldn't compare myself to anyone else. Our paths have led us to where we are, and maybe if I'd taken the same path as others I would be in the same spot. But my path led me to eastern NC, where nothing big or exciting ever happens. I have a gorgeous daughter who is tops on her colorguard team, I have a big, healthy pony and tons of places to ride, I'm not in debt nor do I have to worry about finding sponsorship to fund my pony habits.
A small part of me will always compare myself to others, and be envious. But as long as I keep it all in perspective it's not so bad. It keeps the fire lit. And we could all benefit from a little fire inside, right?