Yesterday my daughter came face to face with a demon that we all face as riders. The fear of being judged. Not by someone who sits in a judge’s box and gives us a score, but by those who ride in the lesson with us or stand on the sidelines watching.
L has the enviable benefit of riding a talented, well-trained horse and if she rides correctly, he will respond.
She loves being the rider who gets the exercise right the first time, whose horse jumps cute, moves great and gets the flying change. DJ was 100% making that happen for her during the gymnastics portion of our lesson yesterday, but when we moved out into the grass jumping field (which is also the cross-country field) we let loose the Kraken and the words “circle”, and “start again” were being shouted repeatedly. I brought her to boot camp because this is the place to learn these skills. I could see the shadow of disappointment creeping across her face. She wasn’t perfect. She didn’t even know how to solve the problem, and she was shutting down, ignoring the excellent advice she was being offered.
She finished the lesson well, but not without causing a double gasp of fear from onlookers when DJ held off the Liverpool and put two in the one stride, barely making it out, causing her to lose her stirrups and pull off the vertical 4 strides away. Judgement was audible. She took DJ for a long hack.
I was almost cleaned up when she finally got back to the barn. I reminded her that we came here to learn and that horses is hard. She said, “I don’t need to be perfect, I just don’t want to suck.”
I don’t want her to suck either. Riding badly can have serious physical consequences. While I have never been as interested in ribbons as my daughter, I do share her desire to have a talented, well trained horse and ride it well. And I do like to know that is what people are saying about me when they watch me ride. There, I admit it.
I have been thinking a lot about judgement now that we are in boot camp, equestrian sport is LOADED with it. We are constantly judging ourselves and each other in addition to subjecting ourselves to the judgment of licensed officials. I did a little research on judgment, and here is the big takeaway. The more time we spend judging the world, and others the less time we spend achieving greater goals. The more we judge others, the less likely we are to allow ourselves to be present in environments where we believe we will be judged.
I have watched friends stop competing entirely because they believe everyone is looking at the scoreboard and passing negative judgement on them. There is a bit of truth to this, it is a competitive sport. But I also think those who are most prone to this psychology are those who so harshly judge others they believe everyone else must be doing the same to them. When we mind our own riding and surround ourselves with people who want to see us succeed our failures are the good stories we tell over dinner on Saturday night and the lessons on which our future success is built.
Now try telling that to a teen.