“I can tell that you were lost. You didn’t know where you were going, huh?”
I grimace as these words leave my trainer’s mouth. At this point, I’m not feeling good about what his words are saying about my riding.
“Yeah,” I say, as I’m forcing out a chuckle.
I’m not sure why I’m agreeing with him. Vertical, bending six to gate to diagonal line. I knew exactly where I was going—maybe didn’t choose the best path, but I got there.
The lesson started out great. I’m on a saint of an equitation horse and found some pretty dang good distances to all of my warmup jumps.
As background, I don’t have a great eye for distances. Actually, I have a great eye—when I’m about two strides from the fence and it’s too late to save my a** from a chip or a monster distance.
So, after nailing my first five or six fences, I was feeling pretty good. The jumps have been bumped up to around three feet and the course is fairly technical.
And then it begins.
“That was awful. I totally hated it.”
In my mind I’m thinking no sh**. I got popped out of the tack so hard I could have touched the moon.
Unfortunately, rest of the lesson continues spiraling downwards. The weather has warmed up to roughly a million degrees and I’m in a black tank top and breeches. My eyes are acting as a catch basin for the sweat dripping down from my helmet and I can literally feel my skin burning as I berate myself for not putting on sunscreen.
Not only am I getting warmer, but my trainer is starting to get fired up too. I’m getting an earful about how much he dislikes each jump, how terrible my releases are, how tolerant my mount is of my “riding,” etc.
He’s not making it up either, I know I’m fumbling.
Now, this trainer is fairly well known on a fellow rider’s Instagram account for his enthusiastic (both negative and positive) narration during lessons. I think of him as a George Morris figure who probably makes fewer people cry. He’s tough, but he’s taught me a great deal and I actually prefer the tough love method to gentler approaches. Most of the time.
There are those days, however, when I’m a little more sensitive. Days when I’m having a bad ride, and I’m taking it to heart more than I normally would. Days like this one.
We finally end the lesson on an okay note. I pat my horse while my trainer tries to reassure me that this lesson, the worst in a while, was made harder by my horse being extra spooky and difficult.
It was all me, but I appreciated the sentiment.
It’s lessons like this that make me want nothing more than to jump on a fresh horse right away and work on my mistakes. I would do lesson after lesson everyday if I was able to sell a kidney to afford it. But, like many equestrians, my budget allows me one lesson a week and I’m grateful to even be able to do that.
But here’s the thing: when your opportunity for lessons is limited, the bad ones are extra painful. It feels like a wasted chance. And worse still, you have to wait an entire week for your do-over. These lessons haunt me. It’s been three days since I rode with my trainer and I’ve replayed that ride over and over in my head at least four times a day. I tell myself that I could and should have been better
Because more than anything, I just want to be good.
I absolutely want to show and dream about competing on the A circuit every weekend, but what I want more than any ribbon or prize is to be a capable rider who never feels compelled to second guess their skill. Someone who can make a mistake and correct it right away without losing confidence. I want to feel like I really know what I’m doing when I’m up in the saddle and even out of the saddle.
The pursuit of this dream is probably driving me insane. On rides like my last lesson, I know it is. I have no tips, inspiration, or advice to offer otherwise.
But, I also know that I love this sport and the horses that make it possible. And one day, hopefully very soon, I’ll have one of those lessons that makes all the hard days worthwhile.
It’s just not today.
About the Author
My name is Jessica Osman. I’m a 20-something year old trying to work my way up in the hunter jumper world through working student positions, learning by watching riders at shows, and a fair amount of pity from people who offer the occasional opportunity.