American philosopher and self-help author Dr. Wayne Dyer once said (actually, I think he said it a lot), “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
As midlife riders, a lot goes into how we look at things. We have a gift that the young’uns riding circles around us don’t have – perspective or mental power.
Think back to the first time you rode, the first time you cantered, jumped, went cross-country, fell off, rode in a show or sat a buck. Before that first time, we couldn’t really process the idea of those experiences. Our imaginations have the habit of going to the farthest ends of the spectrum. The show is going to be amazing, the buck is going to make you fall off, and the fall will end up breaking something important… like your neck.
Now think about your 20th show, your umteenth buck, and your… how many times have you fallen off? You get the picture. Instead of being magical experiences rivaling a Disney extravaganza, shows are events which deplete our bank accounts, necessitate very early rising, and make you wonder what sadist decided dressage riders should wear white breeches (seriously??).
It’s not that shows themselves are necessarily that different (OK, they’re pretty different, but work with me here), it’s just that we’ve changed the way we look at them. We realize that, in the grand scheme of things, shows, rides, canters, bucks, and falls are part of the great tapestry that is our horsey life.
Of course, the flip-side of this perspective is that, as adults, we have a lot more riding on the line.
We may have survived numerous falls as a kid, but we never spent those interminable nano-seconds before we hit the ground thinking… “Crap, I have a presentation tomorrow”, or, “Crap, I still have to go grocery shopping – I’m going to be filthy” or, “Crap, have I paid my health insurance premium??”
Back to Dr. Dyer. The trick here is to rein in our catastrophizing just a bit and change the way we look at things.
Yes, shows cost money, but we show by choice, and we’re damned fortunate to be able to participate. Yup, sometimes our horses buck and we fall, and sometimes we fall when our horses haven’t done anything wrong. The ground does seem a heckuva lot harder than it did when we were teenagers. Although, how many people would gladly take the fall in exchange for the privilege of riding?
When we stop for a moment and ground ourselves in gratitude, the things we look at really do change. Remember just how lucky we are to have horses in our lives. So the next time you get to show, bring your child-like wonder with you. And, cue the pixie dust because the magic awaits!
Penny Hawes is a life coach from Monroe, VA, who has taught hundreds of people to ride on two continents. She specializes in helping re-riders confidently rekindle their internal fervor for equestrian sport. Penny offers experience to help guide ‘mid-life’ riding students with any challenge in or out of the saddle.