By Dr. Elena Perea
Dr. Perea is a psychiatrist and assistant professor at the Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina. She also is an avid competitor in eventing.
My life is a little chaotic.
I have twin elementary-age boys. I both practice and teach psychiatry at a busy hospital and medical school. My husband, whom I still love even after twins and 15 years of marriage and medical training, also has a career.
My mare and my equestrian career are the thing that keep my head in all of those games.
People often ask how I do everything I do AND have a horse — my reply is usually “I couldn’t do it if I did not have a horse.”
I got Beezie directly off the track in late 2016. I brought her doing all of the riding myself, and we had successfully completed two training level events less than two years later. It was exhilarating. I started to believe that we could do anything together, having ridiculous dreams about riding in international events, winning awards, getting sponsors, you name it.
We had a wreck at our third training event in October, because I am an adult amateur, and I make mistakes. I was devastated, and thought I had ruined my horse. I thought she would never forgive me. Then in November, I fell off and broke my wrist in rather spectacular style. I was back in the saddle within two weeks of surgery (don’t tell my orthopedist), healed well, did a lot of flatwork, and then promptly fell off four times in the month of January.
My actual, paying job is where I am expected to be the expert, and my horse does not expect that of me.
I started to despair. I got to thinking that I needed to be riding more, that my mare was hurt, that her shoeing was wrong, that I was simply not good enough. Things at work got harder. The twins started to go crazy. My husband gave me a lot of side-eye.
Then I remembered: I am an adult amateur and I make mistakes. My actual, paying job is where I am expected to be the expert, and my horse does not expect that of me. What she expects from me is my understanding of her wants and needs, to be a fair partner, and to stuff peppermints in her cute, pink nose. I get pleasure from those things.
Yes, I love to compete because it is a marker of our success together, and yes, I’d much rather go fast and jump things than make circles. The passion for my animal and the sport, however, are two of the biggest reasons I get up in the morning.
You can do everything, just like I can; I would like to remind you that as an adult amateur, you will make mistakes and it is OK. It is also OK to ask for help. You do not minimize your success by consulting a professional. Your skill is no less because you ask for a pro to ride your horse and feel what you are feeling.
Your dedication should not be belittled because you take lessons (my husband: “you’ve been riding for 30 years and you STILL need lessons?”). You should not feel less-than because you are “Our Lady of Perpetual Novice”.
You ride so you can live the rest of your life happily. Your passion is why you do this, and passion does not mean perfection. Be good to yourself. Practice positive self-talk. Keep trying. Remember that if you’re not winning, you’re learning.