Last weekend I took my young horse, Foxtrot Todd, in the Novice at Rocking Horse. It was one of those weekends that was quite good undersaddle, but not as ideal on paper. It was an incredible learning experience for the both of us, and I am enjoying getting to know Toddy (as I affectionately call him) better and better every time I sit on him. He put in a steady test for a 33, a lovely clear show jumping, and an easy cross country after a 20 early on in the course prompted us both to focus a little more. Overall, I am quite happy with both of our efforts, and look forward to returning to the drawing board in preparation for the next event.
That being said, though I had a good weekend riding-wise, I dealt with numerous internal struggles throughout the entirety of the competition. As I intend to use this blog as both a personal memoir and as a possible inspiration to others, I am comfortable with sharing the extent of these difficulties. I recently have been experiencing a flare-up of my Ulcerative Colitis, which proves time and time again to be a permanent nemesis. As I was tacking up Todd for show jumping (coincidentally my least favorite phase), I began to experience intense stomach cramps. This is typical for me; on a normal day, I would take pain medication and go for a nap. However, this, unfortunately for me, was obviously not a normal day. I headed to warm-up anyways, with withdrawing in the back of my mind. Todd, being the young Thoroughbred he is, can be a bit much to handle in warm-up; he does not particularly enjoy being in close proximity to other horses. I became extremely tense, due to both my nerves and pain, which in combination with my horse's mental state was not ideal in the slightest.
My mind completely took over at this point. I convinced myself that because I was in pain, I could in no way possible ride my round adequately. I became fixated on the thought that I was incapable of pushing through, and my anxiety continued to mount until it was unbearable. I did, admittedly, bring up withdrawing to both my coach and my mom, and was told to "take it one step at a time". That I did. I began to relax, and went on to put in one of the nicest rounds I've ridden thus far.
I was physically uncomfortable, yes. However, because I have dealt with this same type of discomfort before, I knew that there was nothing seriously internally wrong with me; I was PHYSICALLY able to ride my round, and it would have no bearing on my health in the future. However, because I was experiencing this discomfort, my anxiety fully took over. I convinced myself that I was unable to ride. I was incredibly fearful of the embarrassment of a bad result, so I would have rather withdrawn and avoided the possibility altogether. In this case scenario, pushing my limits was the absolute best thing I could have done. After the round (and a Tylenol or two), my confidence soared. I am in more control over my body and mind, because I did not let either of them dictate my actions. I know that I am capable.
As a side note, there are some mental and physical limits that cannot be pushed. However, that is a conversation for another time.