A few months ago I had a moment of weakness and threw myself an elaborate pity party. I'm not proud of it, but I can recognize it for what it was. I was truly feeling sorry for myself. Sorry for the fact that I didn't have a trailer or a means to get to a show which would be both my second, and also my last competition of the season, sorry that my restrictive budget meant limited saddle time (despite sharing my WONDERFUL lease horse WallE with his mom and a co-lessor), but generally I was just a bit sorry that I didn't have many of the opportunities that other people around me had. As ugly as it feels to confess, I was envious of others for their opportunities in comparison to my own.
For the past two and a half years I've jumped from half lease horse to half lease horse as the opportunities have come and gone. This means always sharing everything - lessons, clinic days, shows - and generally, I don't mind it. I'm very fortunate to have a fabulous co-lessor and if I had to split my horsey time with anyone it would definitely be her, but at this particular moment the restraints of my situation struck me particularly hard. For some reason on this day the topography looked different. When I peered at the grass on the other side of the fence, I saw opportunity, but when I looked back at my own front yard I found myself staring at limits.
One of the most frustrating aspects of equestrian sports is that equal passion and equal drive to succeed rarely leads to equal opportunities (unless you devise a plan to secure those opportunities, but that's another story...) Because you're desperate to train and compete doesn't mean a fancy imported warmblood appears on your doorstep, nor that you have the deep pockets to attend every clinic that catches your eye. Instead, you and I live in the real world. A world where, if you let it, comparison can truly be the devil.
To resist comparing ourselves to others goes against nearly everything we have been taught to do in sports. The mere word "sport" can be described (according to dictionary.com) as "an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature." As competitors, and as humans, we inherently want to know where we rank among our peers. In dressage, inequality, though not necessarily wrong, can feel like a game of the haves and have-nots. All things considered this can make a person who gets to share their life with horses forget the simple truth that they are damn lucky.
After about twelve hours of swaddling myself in worthless self pity, wondering if I'd ever get a shot at being a truly competitive (albeit amateur) rider, I realized what a waste my lousy mood had become. My situation hadn't changed, but a small comparative indulgence had caused my perspective to sour. Why was I allowing myself to feel this way? On top of everything, I became irritated with myself.
If I had to guess, I'm not the only equestrian who has gone down this path. It's amazing how easy it is for us to beat ourselves up - tell ourselves we must be better, try harder, be appreciative, be competitive, but be happy for others, be passionate, but not get overly emotional. This list goes on but at some point it has to stop. It's up to us to decide what trouble we let that green-eyed monster get up to in our heads. To let it parade around uncensored, I realized, is to be a victim. It means robbing yourself of satisfaction while paying the same price for what you have. And as a die hard bargain shopper, I want the best value for my time and money. So pity needed to find a new host.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner I've taken a moment to reflect on these thoughts. And I'm not promising to never be self destructive again, nor appreciate every little thing that I have without fail, because quite frankly, that's unrealistic. I'm the first to admit that I'm human, and inherently flawed. However, in the future when I get struck by the green influenza, I vow to stop it from infiltrating the depths of my psyche. Because as an active equestrian, if there's one thing I don't have the time or the energy for in my life - it's to be sorry.