June 2020 - How We Rise
Written by by Amelia Enzminger
Thursday, 28 May 2020 04:03
PDF Print E-mail

pandemic

Equestrian upbringing prepares us for today’s challenges.

by Amelia Enzminger

As equestrians, we’re used to life not always going exactly the way we planned. You lose your stirrups jumping out of a tight one-stride; your points don’t quite add up for that qualification you needed; your horse injures a tendon in the turnout right before the show you’ve been looking forward to all year.

 


Though upset for the time being, we calmly look within to remind ourselves that there’s always tomorrow, there’s always next year, or there’s always another show. As a community, however, we’ve just been hit by an obstacle so much greater than a fallen rail or even a cancelled Grand Prix. The world has been turned upside down by COVID-19 and like many of us out there, you’re probably wondering what on earth to do next.

 

If you’re like me, you’ve spent hours reading books by the great riders of the past, watching “Madden Method” videos, and have tried to keep up with at least one of Kent Farrington’s workout regimens. Nonetheless, you can’t help but feel powerless to the storm swirling above us, threatening the sport we’ve dedicated our lives to.

Those among us stuck in the house can think of nothing but riding again, while those able to ride can only dream of getting back in the show ring. Our ambition is shaken, our goals adjusted, and life just laughed in the face of our plans for the rest of the year.

Such a joyful picture I’m painting, I know. As a community, it feels as if we were just bucked off in the mud during a rainstorm over the warm-up ring. This time, however, we aren’t hitting the ground alone. In a way, we never were.

Not Alone

When I was 17, my dream of qualifying for a North American Youth Championships team finally became a reality. I spent weeks riding without stirrups, going through gymnastics, and researching strength training for both myself and my horse in preparation for the Championship.

About two months before the show, one swift buck landed me straight on my tailbone in the hard footing beneath a ring divider. Rushing to Urgent Care in hysterics over the prospect of losing this opportunity, all my thoughts could relay to me was “Oh no, please not now.”

When the doctor told me that it was merely a bone bruise, relief was interrupted by the awareness that it would still be awhile before I could ride without feeling pain. Upon hearing that I would need some time off before the show, I remember my trainers being almost as upset as I was. I did not fall alone.

My horse would need lots of work on the lunge line and arduous schooling sessions to keep her in shape. I did not fall alone. Friends called and texted me pictures of the barn and all the horses, saying kind words like “we miss you!” and “see you soon!” I did not fall alone.

During that time, I studied, practiced, and wrote down every idea that crossed my mind about how to be better when I returned. Finally, with three weeks left before NAYC, I climbed back aboard my horse with a comical cushion taped to my saddle to lessen the impact of riding while still very sore. In those short weeks, I worked harder than ever before and grew stronger with each foot I put in the stirrups.

By the time we touched ground at the airport in New York, I felt even more prepared than I had before my fall. My mare and I rose together and fought for solid rounds on behalf of the Zone 10 jumping team we represented last summer. Whether my next ride will be tomorrow or several weeks away, I learned to value my time at home to reflect on what I can improve on to be better for every horse I meet.

Students Of The Sport

Riders become true students of the sport the moment they realize that they get a step closer to their goals every time they hit the ground. Right now, we aren’t back in the saddle yet. This isn’t the kind of fall where you jump to your feet, dust yourself off, and climb right back up to try again.

As a community and a world, we’ve hit hard ground and, my gosh, does it hurt. In our minds, we don’t think of the pain we feel but only the crushing reality that it may be awhile before we can get back in the saddle.

After years on end of early mornings, late nights, and long days running around show grounds, we’ve learned to suppress the aches and pains that come along with pursuing the thing we love. Quite admittedly, we’re self-taught masters of the pushing through twisted ankles, back pain, and blisters galore. But every once and awhile, we hit the ground so hard that we’re forced to stay home, slow down, and recover.

The situation we’ve found ourselves in now is much like a bad fall – we know it won’t last forever but it troubles us nonetheless. Things we know and places we love will never look the same to us again, yet we still long for the day the storm passes to get back to what we knew. Our rational minds understand that everyone is going through this pandemic together and that light will shine at the end of the tunnel.

Sitting at home, however, we struggle to remember that we never fell alone. We were built tough, not untouchable.

This is how we rise:

1. Check up on friends. They’ve hit hard ground too. Think about how much hearing from a friend meant to you when you were sick or injured.

2. Learn. Watch videos of your own riding and take note on habits you can work on with our currently limited resources. Jot down ideas you have for exercises, courses, training, and improvements to past routines. Take advantage of the USEF Learning Center and the endless videos that top riders have posting on YouTube and other platforms. Many amazing riders have written books for those willing to learn. All the information is out there!

3. Exercise. After all, we are athletes! Take the time to develop a workout and healthy eating routine that you can stick to when we get back to competition. Even going for a walk when you feel stressed can make a huge difference in your ability to cope with staying home.

4.  Spend time with the people you are quarantined with. For many of us, our years are marked by running from show to show with lots of training in between. This crisis calls us to hold family close and spend time with the loved ones that have done so much to support us over the years.

5. Keep your horses happy. Remember, they have no idea that the world is in crisis. If you’re lucky enough to be riding, work on smoothing out the basics and developing good habits before heading back in the show ring. Go on some trails if you have access to them, there’s no time like the present! A friend of mine also reminded me how great a time it is to make sure all your horse’s veterinary work is in order and up to date.

6. Look forward, not behind. While it may be tempting, try not to constantly scroll through albums of your favorite shows and wallow for the good old times. Yes, it’s easy to miss the days when you could high five a friend passing in the warm-up or head to your barn’s favorite restaurant after a successful day of showing. Instead, I encourage you to FaceTime your horse show friends, see how they’re doing, and talk about what you are excited to get back to after this is all over.

Alone Together

While this may be a strange and uncertain time for all of us, I assure you that there is light at the end of the tunnel and hope in spite of darkness. Our shows may be cancelled, but our dreams, goals, and love for the sport can never be.

Before this all began, the phrase “alone together” would be thought of as silly, contradictory, or even pointless. Now, we can see the value of being by each other’s side even when we’re stuck miles away. In the grand scheme of things, we’re lucky to be equestrians during this time of peril. Rooted in our very upbringing, we’ve learned time and time again to get up when we fall and work as a team towards a better future.

By remembering the trials and tribulations that’ve made us who we are, that is how we rise.

Author Amelia Enzminger is an 18-year-old, amateur rider, currently studying animal science at the University of Connecticut. Upon moving from LA County to the East Coast, Amelia began training full time with Jennifer and Frank Madden of Capital Hill Show Stables. This year, she made her first WEF debut in the High Amateur Jumpers abroad her mare, Evergo, aka Evy.  Amelia spent the first half of her spring semester studying and working on campus during the week, while showing in Florida on the weekends. Now back in California for the quarantine, she’s been keeping herself busy by helping exercise horses at her old barn, Myrtle Hill Farm, and taking summer school classes.