BY LAUREN KEILTY
This past summer, I received a concussion from a naughty pony. Only a week away from the finals that I had planned on attending for the first time ever, it was devastating news. I cursed the doctor who said that I shouldn’t even go to the barn to brush my pony. AllI did was lay around for a week imagining how well we would’ve done if I had been able to show.
Not only was this a week before finals, but two weeks before the end of my lease. Despite what the doctor recommended, I went to the barn anyways to groom my pony and watch lessons. Anyone in the equestrian world knows how difficult it is to stay away from the barn for even a couple of days, let alone a couple of weeks!
I didn’t anticipate it, but being at the barn without riding enabled me to learn so much. Instead of riding, I focused on one of the most important skills in our sport – observation. Being able to watch other riders at my level allowed me to figure out what I had been doing wrong.
As our sport becomes more and more competitive, I feel we focus too much on ourselves. While in some situations this is a good thing, in many it can be beneficial to focus on others. Watching other lessons inspired me to work harder when I could get back in the saddle, and encouraged me to do the exercises my doctor instructed.
Because of this, I completed all five levels of the concussion protocol in two weeks rather than the usual month. While this still wasn’t in time for finals, it did allow me to get a few more rides in on my pony before he had to leave. On my first ride back I felt stronger than ever. The doctor’s exercises helped me gain strength, and the daily grooming and occasional lunging for the pony kept him in tip-top shape.As strange as it may sound, I am thankful for my concussion. It gave me the time that I needed to focus on my weaknesses and improve them on the ground.
Saying goodbye to my pony was sad, but I kept all the funny stories and difficult challenges that I gathered during our four months together. I will never forget all of the experiences that this pony gave me, and the time away from the saddle allowed me to make even the most difficult experiences enjoyable. Not riding was a good break from reality, but I gained strength and improved. I truly believe that it made me abetter equestrian.
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