By Lauren O’Malley
We all do it: compare ourselves to other people.
It can happen in an instant, one quick scroll through Instagram and suddenly we are left feeling discouraged and defeated. We quickly forget that riding horses is hard, and it takes a lot of guts and athletic ability to do so.
This sport is so tough, both mentally and physically, and when you add on competing and comparing ourselves to others, the challenge becomes that much greater. It can quickly suck the joy right out of us. I used to find myself watching other riders and thinking, “Wow, they are able to ride so well and do all of these great things in the ring, and jump these huge jumps…and then there’s me.”
I have been riding for over a decade now and I should be able to do a lot more
than I am capable of right now. Why am I not as advanced as some of those around me? Why am I still struggling with some of the simple basics? I’ve put in the time, and I should be a better rider than this by now. It’s this internal questioning that do a lot more harm than good. When we ask ourselves these questions or have these kinds of thoughts, we are just digging ourselves deeper into the hole, as I like to call it.
Through a lot of reflection and self-motivation, and with the help of some pretty awesome trainers of mine, I’ve realized that I am happy with where I am in my riding ability. I have accepted it and am ready to keep improving.
“By accepting where I am right now, I am allowing myself to set goals and work toward them, little by little.”
I have so much to learn and there is still so much that I want to do in my riding journey. By accepting where I am right now, I am allowing myself to set goals and work toward them, little by little.
I am proud of how far my riding has come. I was extremely fortunate to grow up with a riding lesson every week, and then eventually leasing a few mares before coming away with my own gelding at the age of 16. Having my own horse allowed me to get a lot more time in the saddle, however as any horse owner knows, the expenses add up quickly.
There were many times in college I had to opt out of lessons just to make sure I was able to pay the farrier. Spring shots meant no lessons for a good two-to-three weeks, and I saved up a whole summer just to buy a used dressage saddle for my horse so he could be more comfortable. It was difficult to advance my skills when I wasn’t able to take lessons regularly. The struggle is very real when you are trying to improve while balancing finances, school, work, a social life, and so many other things.
I may not be as advanced in my riding as I want to be, but I wouldn’t change where I’m at, at all. Everyone has a different riding journey and experience.
After all, comparison is the thief of joy, and once we accept where we are right now, that’s when the real growth happens.