The American adventure of 2014 is over, and it’s time to take stock. Through the course of 2014 as a whole so far, I feel as though I have begun to refine my place in the horse world, and where I might like to take my career. I’m still hesitant to say it aloud or commit to it in writing, because I’ve changed my mind before and may do so again. Part of this is also down to the fact that my outlook has gone through some big changes this year, and I’m still getting used to them.
My horsey future is actually currently remarkably uncertain: I’ve returned home with nothing but an empty bank account, so the priority has been to find a source of income, and I decided not to be fussy about the job in question. What actually happened is that I got offered my previous winter job back, and decided to take it – it suits my current purpose of earning money, it’s something that I enjoyed, and it’s fixed-term (I’ll be working in a pop-up shop until Christmas). As it’s just for the festive season, I know that I won’t get stuck in the trap of being content to earn money in a straightforward job – I’ll be forced to find something else in the new year, which gives me time to find something more focused towards the long term… if that’s what I decide I want.
Because the other option is to spend another summer at camp. The offer’s there already, I just have to accept it. But at the moment, I’m not sure whether or not that’s the right thing to do. I’ve got some thinking to do!
So my life for the next few months is dedicated towards a little shop: as always with my jobs, it’s goodbye to weekends and, as I don’t have my own car but live in the countryside, evenings are going to involve nothing more than sitting at home. Where does this leave my riding? Well, the run into Christmas is probably going to be horse-less for me. I’m not returning to the riding school I was visiting earlier this year – it was a miserable experience that I have no desire to repeat. The friend whose horse I was riding prior to camp has moved to a different part of the country – it’s been a great move for her, her husband and their animals, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to go and visit for a couple of days before I start work.
When I looked back on my wishlist from 11 months ago regarding what I’d like to achieve in terms of my own riding, I’m happy to say that there have already been some successes, and I’m unsurprised that there are also already some deviations.
The biggest win for me is that I think (I say this a little hesitantly) I’ve got there with my confidence issues. When I look back on this one, a lot of it was tied to my riding situation at the time – the place I was riding at really wasn’t helping me, which is a huge shame. Fortunately, the problem has, I think, resolved itself. I needed time, I needed to rediscover my belief in my own ability, and I needed a reminder that I could fall in love with a horse again. I still wouldn’t get on a strange horse and happily pop it over a series of fences, but I’ve forgiven myself for that because, realistically, how many people would? Yes, you do that sort of thing if you’re a true, gung-ho jumping professional. Or if you’re an adrenaline-junkie 12-year old. Or if you’re an adult who suddenly gets excited and feels like they’re 12. But nobody’s forcing me to do that. I’m not on a deadline, I can go at whichever pace I choose. The itch to jump is well and truly back and, having done this before, that’s far more than half the battle.
I’ve made huge progress this year with the idea of working with my own horses, though not in the way I anticipated. It hasn’t been so much about schooling a horse and achieving something which is correct and looks pretty, but it’s been more about improving relationships and behaviour. I was given almost carte blanche with the horsemanship programme at camp, and largely left to my own devices if I didn’t have any students. It was a daunting task, as my experience is still so limited, but I just had to get on with it. I quickly developed a coaching pedagogy for myself, the horses and the kids. With or without realising it, I was assessing and adjusting as I went along, and taught myself a lot about patience and progression. Whilst there’s still a lot for me to learn about producing horses, I’ve made a self-guided sort-of start.
The idea I was probably least certain about is the one I’m still most reluctant about – undertaking qualifications. A very wise person advised me that the best way to change something is from within it: I agree with this sentiment, but I’m not sure that I’m in a position to overcome some of my feelings towards this system at the moment. There are a lot of positives to being part of a secure system and a large organisation, but I struggle to see beyond some of the bigger negatives at the moment. I haven’t abandoned the idea completely, it’s more that I’m trying to figure out which part of it will work best for me and my future.
I guess the biggest thing is that I’m kind of in limbo – I’m between what happened this summer and whatever is next. I can go back around in a circle and essentially spend another year delaying the inevitability of committing to a long term decision. I know it would be fun, and it would be another fairly relaxed year. But it also wouldn’t be much of a step forward at this point. I just have to figure out what I want…