May 2020 - My “Why” In Sharp Focus
Written by by Lauren Billys
Wednesday, 29 April 2020 00:38
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pandemic

Qualified 2020 Olympic eventer finds wise perspective on the Tokyo Games postponement.

by Lauren Billys

Over the past four years, I have worked tirelessly towards the opportunity to compete in another Olympic Games. I cannot think of one area of my life that I haven’t sacrificed or agonized over to optimize myself and my program to be back on this world stage.

I know it is common to hear, but never fully grasped what we are sacrificing. It is every night I have woken up at 3 a.m. running through a list of what needs to be done. It’s every time I call the veterinarian out to check a bump hoping it’s nothing. It is all the prayers my friends and family have put behind each competition.  

 


It’s the willingness to get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes me tick and what parts of my emotions and thought processes need to be improved to optimize my performance. It’s getting to empty in every sense of the word. It’s vulnerability until it hurts.

 

I don’t regret having chosen this path, and I know it is relentless and will never cease to challenge me. Sometimes I feel like I might break inside, but I know each of these trying times are not in vain because there is always a sense of refinement when I look back at these trying times later.

When I first heard about the postponement of the Olympic Games, I could not help but feel devastated. I have felt more peace with every day that we have checked off the calendar getting closer to Tokyo that was set for this summer.
    

Photo: Kim F. Miller

Ready!

I have been so incredibly happy with how Castle Larchfield Purdy and I have been training and how strong Purdy has been feeling. He is ready for Tokyo 2020. My team is strong and has a silent fierceness that has inspired me and propelled me towards the prospect of a successful competition at the Olympics this year.

I know our planet is struggling right now and I have no intention to underplay what we are all collectively suffering from. The unknowing is spreading fear in all of our communities. I know we will overcome this time and learn to become stronger from this time as a whole of humankind. The Olympic spirit and the fight for an Olympic spot in me knows this is possible.

I know that I am not the only athlete feeling heartbroken from postponement. I will continue to make daily choices to keep this fight moving forward. The game is changing a little bit in this Olympic cycle and once we know the parameters of the new playing field, we will make every decision possible to optimize our opportunity.

I guarantee this will not be my last time having a shot at the Olympics. Until we know more, we will keep committed to practicing daily and keep the horses feeling healthy, strong, invincible and happy. The team of owners, clients, family, friends, veterinarians, federation, sponsors, and staff that makes up this team is incredibly strong, kind, and fierce. I am taking those attributes with me through this time to become better and stronger in this craft.
    

Photo: Sherry Stewart

Reflecting & Re-grouping

Since learning of the Olympic postponement in mid-March, I’ve had the time to mourn, reflect, and re-group for upcoming, very long, slow push ahead.  I truly mourned the loss of this competition for this year. I mourned it because of all the hard work and sacrifice, but also for all the promises I have made to sponsors, owners, friends, and family.  

Choosing the journey of a professional equestrian is not easy for obvious reasons. But, I personally put my neck on the line asking sponsors and owners to bet on me for an opportunity to go to the world’s biggest competitions. By supporting me through ownership and product endorsement, owners and sponsors see the fruit of their labor and products showcased throughout the daily journey all the way to passing through the finish flags on the final day. I felt like I was letting down these people because I wasn’t going to be giving them that opportunity this year. And I felt I was letting down my friends and family who have already purchased airline tickets, lodging, and event tickets for the Games.

A few weeks ago, as I was feeling these disappointments, logic started to kick in with the help of my sports psychologist, Dr. Darby Bonomi, PhD. These are all things that I cannot control and moving forward I need to focus on the things that I can control. I started to zoom out in my mind, away from this exact moment, to where I want to see myself at the end of this journey in my life, what kind of experiences I want to have, what relationships I want to build with horses, and how I want to learn to be better at my craft.  

When looking at the long game, I started to connect back to my personal “why.” Why do I love to ride horses? It feels like home when I am with them.  

With this wide view and connection to my personal “why,” I was able to come back to focus on today and tomorrow as specific opportunities to master the craft of riding. My days have become more enjoyable because I feel that I have accepted our circumstance and am enjoying training my horses without the daily pressure of an upcoming competition. This has helped me to take the time to work on the fine details that will make my horse better trained for the remainder of their lives.
    
Olympic Spot Still Secure

I turned back to my focus to how this affects me for my Tokyo Olympic spot. From a logistical standpoint, the most important detail is that I will keep my allocated Olympic spot. This means that the seat that I worked towards securing in 2019 is going to be mine for the 2021 Games.

With this in mind, I have to keep listening to Purdy.  The hardest part of mourning was the uncertainty of my horse’s ability to stay competitive for another year. That being said, Purdy feels the best he has ever felt in our entire partnership.  Even the younger version of Purdy and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games version of Purdy, doesn’t compare to the horse I have now. Yet, I need to keep listening to Purdy. Right now Purdy is telling me to keep going and that he is ready for the challenge ahead. Our goal this year is to keep his training going without the pounding on his legs. This goal aligns with my personal sentiment of focusing on becoming better at my craft.

In all, this period in life is a challenge I never could have expected or planned for, but the experience is helping me settle into the ultimate reason I ride. I love to ride because I love the journey with horses, and I love the person I become by spending time with horses. My team and I are keeping our heads down and continuing to work with our horses to build deeper partnerships for the more successful future ahead. I am so thankful for those who have supported us to this point and am eager to see what transpires as a result of this time of training when we go back to pursing our competitive goals.