One of the hardest realities I’ve come to terms with while training my OTTB Murphy is that I can’t do it on my own.
I bought Murphy as a green horse with a good brain and temperament, confidently assuming that everything would go smoothly as long as he had these traits. Don’t get me wrong; you always want to look for these qualities in a horse. But that doesn’t always translate into having a perfectly obedient horse all the time.
In the beginning, everything did go smoothly. We have always struggled with dressage, but jumping went well, other than the green moments you’d expect. We moved up the levels through novice with some successes and some failures. Some rounds were foot-perfect and I beamed from ear-to-ear as we crossed the finish line, while we just scraped through other rounds, leaving me holding back tears, wondering where I went wrong in our months of preparation.
More often than not, I concluded that our failures would turn into successes “with time,” as everyone says. It seemed as if our story would turn out just like everyone else’s on social media- I would bring up my young horse on my own successfully, go to Young Riders or win Championships and create an amazing, flawless partnership.
But my failures didn’t turn into successes. In fact, they seemed to keep coming. We would have a few successful months and then more setbacks in training. Last year was the breaking point for me- we had a rough summer since Murphy had a stone bruise right before eventing rally when I was trying to qualify for championships, and soon after developed a bucking issue. I couldn’t even canter him.
My confidence took a hit, and riding my own horse was not fun anymore. But I was doing it all on my own, so that’s what matters, right? I didn’t have anyone doing daily training rides, or my trainer warming him up at shows. I usually don’t even have a coach at shows. I thought this was all that mattered- being able to produce a green horse entirely on my own successfully. But clearly, this strategy was not working no matter how much I kept pushing.
I finally decided to say what I had been wanting to say for so long. I needed help. I needed someone else to get on Murphy and help me get him through this rough patch.
I hadn’t wanted to give in to my failure, but now I realize that’s not what happened at all. I wasn’t giving in. I was stepping up – stepping up to fix the problem, even if that meant admitting that I couldn’t completely train my horse on my own.
Both of my trainers, two of my biggest supporters, had my back. My dressage trainer watched him go countless times to help assess what was wrong. My jump trainer started riding him regularly when he was bucking (after we thoroughly checked to make sure it wasn’t pain related) to figure out what needed to change in the way I was riding him.
There is no way that I could’ve gotten through last summer without the “village” of people that it takes to have success in eventing. Thanks to the small but mighty group of people that make up my village, Murphy and I have strengthened our partnership and are excited to get back out eventing after a year of questioning whether we were the right match.
This humbling experience taught me that when nothing makes sense and it’s taking everything you have – mentally and physically – to not give up, your village is there for you. They’ll help lift you up and support you to get back on track. You should never feel like less of a rider – or less of a person – when you have to ask for help. That’s what your village is there for.