BY PUBLISHER PIPER KLEMM
No, seriously. I used to hear these stories of people jumping oxers backwards and laugh and wonder who was that oblivious and dumb. Me. That’s who. I could make excuses like I was nervous and I didn’t know we changed directions and blerg, but the truth is, after riding since age 7, I barreled down to it and didn’t notice I was wrong until I was in the air.
As you read the 30 under 30 in this issue, the collective accomplishment is astounding. It is also important to recognize all the false starts, blips, bumps, and straight-up rolling backwards it takes to achieve anything. Because, when we’re rolling backwards, sometimes it takes us a little bit to process. Then, once we process, we need to take the time to stop the roll, change directions, and start to press on.
I started rolling backwards in many aspects of my own life a few years ago. While focusing on production and doing too much all the time, I lost the perspective that attitude mentality allows for nothing. I didn’t give myself time to heal from anything – physical, emotional, financial – just jumped right back in as fast and as hard-working as I could muster.
On that day in January, the day that I jumped the oxer backwards, a lightbulb went off for me. In the words of my mother, I needed to shake a sheep shank. (Etymology: Instructions on how to wake up a sleeping sheepdog. It has great alliteration and flow when you say it out loud). I had lost control, slowly and gradually, of so many pieces and areas of my life that I didn’t know even where to begin.
The first step was to address my riding focus. Talking to Tonya Johnston, we got to the fact that to some extent I needed to make a mistake and know I could survive and forgive myself and that was part of riding. We worked on visualizing and ways to harness long division waits and showing late in the day, both of which have always been big struggles for my mental game. I was able to come back the next week and meet my goal for the circuit, which was to ride at my ability as frequently as possible.
Next was business. I became overextended in trying to chase and take advantage of every single opportunity that came anywhere near my sphere. I wasn’t doing right by myself or the people with me. Over the course of this year, every aspect of The Plaid Horse has been streamlined for higher focus, higher quality, and, ultimately, success. I have said no to projects consistently for the first time in my tenure at the helm. I have said less is more, I have a healthier relationship with our social media, and I have listened to, but not pursued, more ideas than ever. When I find an idea that gets me really excited, I’ve had the energy to pursue it full throttle. I’ve fallen in love all over again with what we do, whom we serve, and the opportunity to spend time with our readership. The opportunity to tell great stories, ones that unite all of us as people, horsemen, and individual characters, is truly a gift I cherish daily.
On a personal note, I needed to stand up to my fitness and relationship with food. Much of my lack of mental fitness in the saddle came from struggling to ride on a physical level and trying to compensate. My fear in the saddle came from literally being sure I would fall off every misstep. Sometimes I would be riding in a straight line and just think I was going to fall off. For no reason of any geometry of the horse or circumstance. That was weakness of my body translated into weakness of my mind. I don’t know when I got so weak and even admitting that to myself was a struggle. How did I allow this to happen? It was gradually going backwards for a long time. I needed to turn the ship around and develop a healthy, an adult relationship with food and exercise to give my body the opportunity to help me accomplish my goals instead of standing in my way.
This was really kicked off by Adam cooking me BlueApron 3 nights per week. We eat at home, we enjoy it, we eat reasonable portions, and healthy. It helped reset our brains to make healthier decisions on the other nights. And the feeling of success has ultimately been the most addictive. As I feel changes in myself, I’m inclined to keep it up. I participated in Daniel Stewart’s Equestrian Athlete program at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, which has given me the confidence to show up and push myself at the gym in a whole new way. I’ve come to enjoy food in a whole new and healthy way.
Will I slip and go backwards from here? I’m sure I will. Are we all going to get backwards at points? Of course, it’s human nature. I just recommend making mistakes on a kind souled horse with way more scope than needed for the job at hand and a trainer who can guide you past the moment you’re having and onto the path of success. Commit to the process and enjoy the roll.