All the Times I Blew It

Here, in no particular order, are all the times I blew it riding horses as a professional.

1) It was my first day on the job as a rider for Scott Stewart/Ken Berkley at River's Edge, and I was at the Capitol Challenge horse show. I had taken a year off to see if teaching High School English was for me (spoiler alert: it wasn't) and had ridden a bit over that time period, but was a touch rusty coming back. I was flatting around a young hunter when Scott called over, "Sophie, can you jump?" I was nervous and took it as a literal question, so I said, "yes," and before I knew it he pointed at a small vertical in the middle of the busy warm up ring, and told me to hop over it. I missed spectacularly in front of everyone. I was never asked by Scott if I could jump again.

2) I was showing a sales horse to a potential client at Don Stewart's farm in Ocala. It was a nice horse, and it was the second time the person wanted to see it after I had given it a great showing the day before (aside, I had left the barn that day feeling like a rockstar). There had been a big storm overnight that had blown down most of the jumps in the ring, but they had been reset by the time I got on the mare to show it so I figured I didn't need to rewalk the lines. I was halfway through the course, coming down a diagonal that had been an easy 6 the day before, but was now, to my horror, nothing at all. I didn't pull out in time, and the poor mare stopped rather than try to leap into the middle of the oxer. I stayed on, but suffice to say, the folks didn't buy the horse.

3) I was finally going to get to show a horse in the Baby Greens while working for Elizabeth Solter. His name was Jack, and he had flipped over on the crossties as a baby and hit his head, and thus had one eye that was a little wonky. Manuel and I called him Crazy Eye Jack, and he was fancy, but...well...I never really trusted him. Plus he was a TB, so he had lots of energy. The day of the division, we were swamped, so we didn't get him out that morning to flat. Manuel also didn't end up having time to lunge him, so I went down to the ring cold. We had a terrible school. We went into the ring and I couldn't even get him down the first line. Elizabeth just told me to put him away and we never spoke of it again.

Crazy Eye Jack

That's it. Three times. There were of course lots of chocolate chips and uncomfortable long ones and missed lead changes, but these three moments have stayed with me as a rider more than all of the times I DIDN'T blow it. The time I prepped the Grand Championship winner (Highland Park) for Scott at the 2007 Washington International Horse Show. The time I successfully managed Hunterdon through their final season at WEF. The countless times I never missed during horse show schools and morning prep rounds. Those moments seem like accidents - things that I managed to do by sheer will rather than skill and know-how.

I now know there is a real term for this feeling: Imposter Syndrome - the act of doubting your accomplishments, and feeling like at any moment you'll be exposed as a fraud. It's something that I have to manage both in the saddle and in what I do for a living now as a marketer.

The best method I've found for dealing with my Imposter Syndrome is trusting my accomplishments to stand on their own, and knowing that in order to get there, I had to make mistakes so I could learn. The larger the mistake, the larger your opportunity to learn something from it, and when those mistakes turn into wins, you can see a direct line from one to the other.

This does not mean that those moments still don't sting, or come flooding back whenever I miss a distance or a change - but it's not what you did that matters, it's what you do to move forward. Fortunately, that's also the best thing you can do on a horse - move forward.

Courtesy of COTH Missed It Monday. Photo: Debbie Parr


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