Usually at the beginning of the year I'm pretty excited about getting back out in competitions on my horses. This year was no different, with the notable exception that I was shuffling around my upper level horses and starting out only on the lower level ones. I was still eager to get back into competing and continuing to improve.
At my second horse trials of the year, I was in the show jump warm-up with my own Training level horse and, as per usual, had a small knot of nerves sitting in my stomach. Typically once I start concentrating on warming up and on the horse, most of these nerves go away. For whatever reason that day, the usual butterflies in my stomach became like a giant wasp's nest and kept growing, right up until the whistle to start my round blew, and then Just. Would. Not. Go. Away. As level-headed and talented as my Training level horse is, he unfortunately cannot jump without any direction whatsoever, and certainly not with the frozen sack of potatoes that was currently on his back, so when he questioned an oxer and didn't get any response, he crashed through it and the still-frozen sack of potatoes (aka, me) became airborne. Luckily only my pride was hurt, and my horse was only thoroughly confused as to why he had tried to go through the oxer instead of over it.
After talking to my long time coach Lynn Symansky (who I'm continually grateful for, for both her training and her advice and support), she mentioned that I needed to have fun again.
That's what this was supposed to be all about, wasn't it? All the ridiculously early morning hours, the immense amount of time spent doing just the barn chores, the stress of running my own business along with trying to improve my own riding career, all of it was supposed to be because I find this sport fun, and I am incredibly passionate about it.
Living a balanced life is said to be the best way to have the most joyful life. Somewhere along the way, I let my scales tip and become unbalanced. I got so carried away in my desire to become better, to become more competitive, to live up to my own ideals, that I forgot the most important part: to have fun. I'm incredibly lucky in that I get to do what I love every day, and I'm continually astounded to have so much support from so many people in my life, I've just forgotten that competing is supposed to be fun. That the reason I work so hard, in the barn, in practice, in lessons, in schooling shows, is to go out and show what I know and to be proud of that.
There will always be things we do wrong; we are human after all (unless you're Micheal Jung), but instead of taking those mistakes too much to heart, we need to learn from them, maybe even laugh about them, and carry on, just as determined but with a lighter heart. Because none of us know just how long we get in this life and we're darn fortunate to be riding horses, whether professionally or as a hobby, so we need to enjoy all of it. Enjoy the butterflies, the days when you win, the days when you end up walking off the cross-country course instead of finishing, the days when your horse really gives his all to you, the days when you're pretty sure a giraffe inhabited your horse during the dressage test, all of it.
This year my goal is always the same as the past years: improve myself, improve my horses, improve my students, be more competitive. And I'm adding another goal: to have fun. To laugh when things go wrong, to enjoy the moments even when I'm nervous, and to remember that I'm there because I choose to be. So it's up to you as well, USEA, to enjoy every moment and to just have fun, because this is what it's all about.
About Ashley Kriegel Trier
Ashley is a CCI2* rider who is based out of The Plains, Va. Following a lifetime of riding and competing and several years as a working student for CCI4* riders, Ashley branched out on her own as a professional in 2013. She currently is competing her own horses at the Intermediate and Preliminary levels and bringing along a few young OTTBs all while teaching a slew of juniors and adult amateurs to learn to love and compete safely in the sport of eventing. Ashley will be sharing her experiences navigating the eventing world as a young professional in her monthly blogs. To learn more about Ashley visit: http://ashleytriereventing.com/ or read all of her past USEA blogs here.