“Obstacles do not block the path, they are the path.”
I love this proverb. It speaks to an attitude of mind that is applicable to everything we are trying to do. We can face challenges with frustration and disappointment, or we can understand that the challenges are what make the journey worthwhile.
There’s another phrase I like that captures the same sentiment, in a little more straightforward language.
Embrace the suck.
Think about it. Reaching our goals is hard. Pushing ourselves physically and mentally is hard. Reaching outside of our comfort zone is HARD.
Embrace the suck.
Are you trying to improve some particular aspect of your riding? Maybe your leg is a little weak and your sadistic trainer has suggested riding without stirrups. But riding without stirrups makes you feel even more weak and insecure and has your thigh and calf muscles screaming. EMBRACE THAT SUCK.
Maybe you are having trouble staying off your horse’s back when landing from a jump and your (surely evil) trainer has suggested riding more in 2-point position to strengthen your base. But practicing 2-point makes it hard for you to walk the next day. WALLOW IN THAT SUCK.
Maybe your riding skills are strong but competing in a horse show in front of an audience and actually paying money to have someone judge you makes you feel like you’d rather throw yourself out of an airplane without a parachute. CELEBRATE THAT SUCK AND BAKE IT A CAKE.
I’m serious. We have willingly chosen to participate in a sport that is littered with uncontrollable variables and dependent upon the cooperation of a large fragile animal that is genetically predisposed to leave the scene. Riding is very challenging and requires years of concentrated effort to achieve a moderate level of skill.
In other words, you could work hard at riding for a long long time and still not be very good at it!
EMBRACE THE SUCK.
By accepting and even welcoming that which is hard and frustrating, by recognizing that setbacks and disappointments are the path, and not a deviation, by embracing failure as a necessary component of success, we are then open to seeing and appreciating our moments of brilliance.
Our brief, focused, intense pinpoints of perfection.
I was at a horse show this weekend and the conditions were less than ideal. It was blustery, cold, and drizzly on and off throughout the day, and my horse Rainy was fresh and enthusiastic about showing off his athletic ability. There was bucking involved. And squealing. I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the schooling ring, just cantering. Lots of cantering. Cantering is wonderfully rhythmic and calming, and for my horse it’s a great way to blow off extra steam and settle into a zen space.
At one point I cantered across the ring to change direction and without hesitation or any break in rhythm my lovely horse changed his lead at the same moment that I formed the thought of a lead change in my head. No big deal, right? Every well-trained horse should have a nice lead change. But this horse is returning to work and competition after a long lay-off. One of the challenges we are facing in his return to real work is that he has seemingly “lost” his lead changes. They used to be easy, almost automatic, and now they’re not.
I am embracing that small suck. I am relishing the opportunity to work through the step by step training process to reinstall the lead change. As Rainy is reliving his youth through a revitalized energy level (there was actual BUCKING AND SQUEALING), I am reliving the happiness I felt the first time he and I went through this stage together. Of course I have felt frustration about it. But the obstacle is the path, and how grateful I am to be going down this path again.
“The Flying Change”
The canter has two stride patterns, one on the right lead and one on the left, each a mirror image of the other. The leading foreleg is the last to touch the ground before the moment of suspension in the air. On cantered curves, the horse tends to lead with the inside leg. Turning at liberty, he can change leads without effort during the moment of suspension, but a rider’s weight makes this more difficult. The aim of teaching a horse to move beneath you is to remind him how he moved when he was free.
A single leaf turns sideways in the wind in time to save a remnant of the day; I am lifted like a whipcrack to the moves I studied on that barbered stretch of ground, before I schooled myself to drift away
from skills I still possess, but must outlive. Sometimes when I cup water in my hands and watch it slip away and disappear, I see that age will make my hands a sieve; but for a moment the shifting world suspends
its flight and leans toward the sun once more, as if to interrupt its mindless plunge through works and days that will not come again. I hold myself immobile in bright air, sustained in time astride the flying change.