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Who would have thought that ONE email could change my entire university experience (in a good damn way).
It all started when I decided to tryout for the University Equestrian Team. I hadn’t been on a horse for over three years and figured it could be a good opportunity for me to get back in the saddle! By the grace of God, I managed not to fall off and somehow made it through the tryout.
The following Sunday, I was sipping my latte in my absolute favourite Italian cafe when I got the news. I was sitting there with all my polish friends, opened the email, and basically lost it: “ja pierdole, jestem prawdziwym jeźdźcem”. Next thing you know, I raided Greenhawk and showed up to the first show looking like an Elation ad.
Everything happened so fast: we had our information session on the first week, tryouts on the second, the Welcome Show on the third and our first official show at the end of the month. I had only ridden about five times before my first IHSA competition. It took a bit for me to get used to the process, but let me tell you, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me! Had I felt otherwise:
A) I wouldn’t be writing this, and
B) I’d seriously be regretting my custom Team jacket.
And in this insane year of setting endless 4am alarms, I learned a lot from being on the team and decided to share it with everyone.
So here it goes.
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF
Due to my situation (and by situation I mean that I’m a beginner), I often have to take a step back to not get ahead of myself. Believe me, it wasn’t easy for me to be a newbie(ish) to the sport when most other riders on my team had previous experience. It might sound silly but I wanted to be like everyone else, flawlessly cantering and going around a course like it was nothing. I soon learned that riding skills took time to develop and that being patient was a key ingredient in succeeding!
DON’T PUT YOURSELF DOWN
Evidently, riding comes with a lot of trial and error. You can find yourself making stupid mistakes in the barn or in the ring; Learn from them. If you get something wrong, correct it. Do it until you get it right. Don’t beat yourself up for a simple mistake. After all, you are there to learn, and to do so you need practice. I found it difficult to accept some of lower place ribbons. I would criticize my run in every possible way and find anything to blame my bad performance on. As soon as I came to terms with my own faults, I used my criticism for good. It was about time. I always remind myself that I am doing my best and will progressively work out my flaws. Turning this negativity into constructive criticism is the best thing I have done so far and gave me more to look forward to when training.
Be nice to everyone. No one wants anyone bringing fellow riders down, no matter what your level of riding. I’m so lucky to have the most amazing teammates. They literally support everyone, whether on the team or not, and whether you won your class or didn’t even place. It’s important to have people like them around; People with whom you work with to make yourself a better rider both in and out of the ring.
Riding looks pretty when done right, but is far from easy. It’s a discipline and it’s a passion. What I’ve learned is that nothing can be achieved by ignoring your mistakes and faking your success. You have to accept the level you are at, and the experience you have coming in.