RSE is pleased to revisit an article first published here on 4 December 2018.
You’re in a riding lesson and your instructor asks what seems like the impossible. It is, to your mind, beyond what you’re capable of; it’s new, unchartered territory that you’ve never breached before; it’s just too much to even consider. You’re apprehensive. You’re prepared to fail. You remind yourself that you’ve failed before, but that even in failure there was progress. Even just the attempt made you a better rider. Deep breath. You’ve got to try it.
Now the unexpected happens: You succeed.... Your heart is ready to burst because you can’t believe it! How did you get so lucky? Your instructor moves on to honing your other skills, almost as if nothing had happened, as if it was to be expected. Which it was for her. But you’re still lighter than air with the glory of success. There’s a whisper in your ear ... didn’t you know you could do that?
It is, unequivocally, your instructor’s job to redraw the lines and push your limits. That’s why we hold them in such respect; they can see what we can’t, they can see what we can become. They see past our current skills and see instead, our potential, what we could be.
Younger riders, on the other hand, have this remarkable belief in themselves, and their horses. They can do anything. Jump 3 feet? Canter without stirrups? Mount from the ground? They dive in headfirst, ready or not, and deal with those pesky consequences later. It’s what makes them fearless, mouldable riders. If told they could jump the moon on the back of a horse, they would nod in unquestioning agreement. Eyes wide just at the thought of it.
Adult riders, even the ones who previously rode as kids, don’t hold onto that attitude. We are too aware of our limitations and past experiences. Self-preservation settles in. We get a little stuck in what was, instead of what is come. When told we can jump the moon, we respond with a hesitant “Are you sure?”
Riders, I beg you - celebrate those little moments of victory and disbelief. Add them to your repertoire of experiences and don’t forget them. Continue to believe in the confidence of others when you can’t believe it yourself. And while you’re amazed and excited, listen for the voice of your younger self saying, “didn’t you know you could do that?”