I strive for perfection…

But I own horses.

There is a duality in this lifestyle that is so hard for people like me. And by me, I mean my fellow adults or teenagers who play this game day in and day out.

I have dedicated my life to horses. I own horses. I ride horses. I deliver baby horses, and I research horses. I hold a doctorate in equine reproduction and every day I wake up with little more on my brain than thoughts of my equines.

Because of this love of horses, I also realize and understand that they are living, breathing, moving and changing creatures. They have opinions and moods, and sometimes they just don’t want to play. But because of who I am, and my very specific type of personality, this frustrates the crap out of me.

I grew up an athlete. At a young age my days consisted of soccer, softball, dance, riding, downhill skiing, and any other athletic endeavor that my parents could find me. In addition to that, I was a straight A student and a classically trained pianist. I went to college and decided to focus on two things: biology, and javelin, and I did well in both.

I didn’t realize I was abnormal until my boyfriend pointed it out. He oftentimes jokes that I’m the clumsiest athlete he’s ever met, but also laments the fact that there are few things I am not good at, if and when I put my mind to it.

I just am that type of person. I like hard work. I like long hours and the blood, sweat and tears. I like getting an A or moving up a level.

I like to win.

But in my mind winning isn’t a blue ribbon. Winning isn’t a pewter trophy or a big fat check. Winning is setting goals for yourself and achieving them, and if you are an equestrian that can be difficult at times.

Unlike softball, or javelin, or even piano, we equestrians have a partner; a 1,350 pound breathing animal to tangos alongside us. There are days where we want to dance, and they don’t; and other days where they’re ready to dance, and we wake up with two left feet.

I had a day like that today. My horses weren’t bad, per-se, but my rides weren’t exactly good.

My goals were fairly simple: I wanted confidence building rides and to leave the XC schooling on both horses with my head held high, knowing that I had done everything possible to get them that encouraging schooling and a positive lesson.

I failed, on both.

Both horses got sucked behind my leg, and both times I flailed instead of supporting. I grabbed instead of kick.

In a nutshell, I didn’t dance.

Since they are well trained animals that usually have a decent rider for a mom, they packed my butt around 90% of the course. But both had stops, and the stops were unfair—at least to them. I called my girlfriend Courtney on the way home from the first round to lament. I was in a funk and didn’t know the answer. Like the good friend that she is, she didn’t sugar coat it. She didn’t blame my horse, and she didn’t outright blame me. She offered calming words of wisdom and ideas for the reasons behind my lack of drive and my horses lack of will. By the end of the conversation I felt better, although not great. I knew I still needed to work on me.

Because I am good at a lot, but I want to be GREAT at something. I am unsure of what that something is just yet, but I do know that at the end of the day, I want to be a great rider. This doesn’t mean I will ever gallop around Badminton, or jump a 1.60m fence; it doesn’t mean I will be selected to any team or earn that red coat.

No, I just want to be great at being me. I want to be the best rider that I can possibly be; the best rider for the horses I have underneath me.

I wasn’t that rider today, and my frustration over it is evident. But tomorrow is a new day, and both me and my horses hope to wake up on the right side of our beds and carry on…

And I hope when they ask me for this dance, I can say “yes” and actually lead.

About the Author

Carleigh Fedorka holds a Ph.D. in Veterinary Science from the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center. A Pennsylvania native, she moved to Kentucky after graduating from St. Lawrence University and has worked closely in all aspects of the thoroughbred industry. She spends her free time eventing as well as training, selling and rehoming OTTBs. Read more about her horse life at her blog, A Yankee in Paris.