I, however, have higher expectations. I struggle to ride him the way he should be ridden, to accept what he has to offer, and to bring my share to the team. He is a such a beautiful, talented horse. I tell myself that I should be able to show him successfully.
I want to be in control of the ride, to dictate our speed and direction minutely. I want to be able to execute every maneuver exactly according to plan. Unfortunately, my efforts to control change the way I ride, and distort the cues I am giving to him. Our ride ends up being tentative and discordant, and the judge can see it. The score reflects the judge's opinion, and my confidence plunges. When my score is announced, I hear "You are not good enough."
The message is repeated as my coach gives me advice and feedback on the ride. "You need to sit back when you stop him (you are not good enough)."
As I go over my ride, I repeat the message again, "I think I turned him around better, but I got a penalty (I'm still not good enough)."
This message has been haunting me for most of my life. When I am in a good place, it's easy to tune out. When times are difficult, like they are now, the words ring in my ears. I offer up everything I do for review and approval. If the response is critical, well, that's to be expected because I. Am. Not. Good. Enough.
Miss Goodie Two Shoes
Maybe the message originated during my childhood, as a middle child. My response to a house full of girls was to be the good girl, to get along. If my older sister struggled with her grades, mine would be A's. If my younger sister quit her miserable California job and moved back home, I would tough it out and work an awful job. The problem is that even as I tried my best to do the right thing and to be good, what I longed for was attention.
Naturally, no one worries about a good girl. No one lectures her, or encourages her, or tells her she is tough enough to overcome obstacles. No one rushes in to save her from a disaster, because she never risks having one. Instead, they leave her alone, because she has it all figured out. Right? Although I was good, I was never good enough to receive the praise I craved.
My older sister recently bought a bottle of wine for me - "Middle Sister Goodie Two Shoes." She probably wouldn't have if she knew how much it hurt. The description on the label pierced my heart, because it was true, every word.
One of my favorite quotes from the Wizard of Oz is "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" That's because I feel like everything I do is a mirage, a carefully constructed play to hide the fact that I am not good enough.
Riding and showing Sergio is fearful business. Not because riding him scares me, although sometimes it does. What is really scary is the possibility of failing. I am afraid that everyone can see right through the self-controlled masks, right through the good girl, and discover my secret: I am not good enough for this beautiful horse.
The whole purpose of showing is to be judged. I am painfully aware that I am being watched by not only the paid judge, but also my coach (who I have a sinking suspicion already knows my flaws), my friends, and my family. When I ride in the show pen, I feel as though I am being held up to the light. As the bright light of my desire shines through me, it reveals all of my flaws.
This scares the hell out of me.
Don't Give Up
Showing horses is a hard business. The rules keep changing, and there's always someone who rides better, has a better horse, or has more money. The cold, hard truth is that I will never be good enough. I will never have it all figured out.
Nobody ever promised me that I would be good at showing horses. Even so, no matter how sternly I address my heart, I cannot deny the love I have for riding. To quit is to give up on myself. Maybe my dreams don't tie to the reality of my ability (or funding). Without horses, I am lost, and empty. So for now, I will continue to slog it out, and hope that I can find peace from my good girl, and acceptance that not good enough is still Enough.
Can you see that person dancing in the flames on Sergio? That's me - dirty, grubby, imperfect me.
I would like to thank Emily Freeman and her book, Grace for the Good Girl, for the inspiration and for the words I just couldn't find.