elf-sabotage! How good are you at noticing when you’re setting up situations that doom you to failure? Oh, now, don’t even think that you don’t do that. Everyone does, but some folks do it more often or more effectively than others. If you can’t see it in yourself, look around you. I’m sure you can point a very quick finger at your arch enemy in the next cubicle who is cutting his own throat so effectively that you need only sit back and smile and wait to move into his office.
In the horse biz, there are more opportunities for making oneself miserable than there are spots on my Appy. These include (but are hardly limited to):
- Buying a horse that is far too big, small, fast, slow, untrained, over-trained or smart for your ability level
- Hooking up with whichever trainer is the Flavor of the Month among your friends despite having a completely different goal and enjoying a discipline that he doesn’t dabble in
- Wearing stretch pants without investing in a full-length mirror for your bedroom and venturing out amid the loud-mouthed rabble that constitutes the horse world
- Letting a child set the family on a fast downward spiral by announcing he has to have a horse
- Spending money on a hobby (yes, horses are a hobby, despite their obvious intrusion into every corner of your life) that should have been earmarked for something frivolous like groceries
- Quitting too soon
- Quitting too late
- Quitting for the wrong reason
- Not quitting
- Never getting started
The list could go on forever. We humans are infinitely patient and dedicated when it comes to making irrational decisions and trying to find someone else to blame for the outcome.
|Sometimes scaling down is a good plan|
For many of us Riders of a Certain Age, the biggest failures we can force on ourselves involve either not accommodating the changes in our lives and bodies in relation to our horse experiences or over-accommodating. We do not necessarily need to slow down, which is the path too many of us choose. We lose interest in our sport after only a few minor setbacks and choose to blame the aging process for our inability to work through the problems. It doesn't have to get better or worse; it only has to get different.
If you can walk, you can probably ride. Barrel racing might not be in the cards right now, and you might have to hang up that sexy red hunt coat for a bit, but adjustment doesn’t have to mean shutting down the process entirely. It might mean that in addition to the board bill, you're going to need a gym membership or a few rounds of PT. On the other hand, the Well-Seasoned Rider who insists on hopping aboard a horse that is five levels higher than the best she’s ever done in her youth is cruising for a bruising, as my dad used to say.
|What I will NOT be doing|
Women are far more likely to have a negative self-image (and horrific body image) than their male counterparts. If you don’t believe that, go stand in the diet pill aisle at the drug store for an hour and count how many men filter through. It’ll only take one finger on one hand, whereas counting the women would require supplemental digits. From there, it's easy to extrapolate that if you’re overly conscious of how you look on your horse—your clothing, hair, and manner of moving—you are not focused on your riding skills, and it will be obvious to the casual bystander. Watch a low-level equitation class at any small show. I’ll put money on the girl spending more time fidgeting and self-grooming before the class to be the one turning in the worst ride. A big smile can’t cover up tension in your shoulders and hips that are transmitted to your horse as “I’m terrified, so you should be too!” The horse responds accordingly (for which he often is roundly beaten for his lousy performance).
We women are caught in a space between worlds. A recent HuffPo article reported that women who are too feminine tend to fail in the workplace because they are seen as weak and will be overlooked despite their talents. Women who are too masculine are treated as pariahs by both sides and again are passed over. Unlike men who need only show up and keep a tight zipper during work hours, we spend an inordinate amount of energy self-monitoring…and self-defeating.
|What I CAN still do...moderation is key|
There’s another side to self-sabotage. There are times when our Inner Lunatic is screaming at us that it really doesn’t want whatever the goal we’ve set might be. In those cases, the self-sabotage is subconscious but purposeful. Afraid your horse is going to act out and embarrass you? What better way to avoid that than to be an hour late for your lesson. “Oh, shucks! Really? I can’t reschedule and ride now [whew!]?”
Making excuses instead of putting in the effort—and it can be overwhelming, as I can attest as someone who opted to get back on a horse after a long illness—is about as self-defeating as a behavior can be. Which brings us back to adaptations, modifications, and being true to yourself. Know what you can do. Push yourself in small ways to build up to the Big One. Know in your heart that it’s worth the effort. Stop making excuses and make efforts. You’ll find a whole world of experiences out there waiting for your smiling face to join the group photo.