Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: A deeper review

James Clear does this annual review every year that consists of three questions.
  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn't go so well this year? 
  3. What am I working toward?
I enjoy this so much that I'm going to answer these questions rather than setting formal 2017 goals.

What went well this year?

A lot of things went super well this year. As I looked at in my last post, there were some pretty fun and huge changes, primarily hinging around the purchase of the truck. It definitely required some financial adjustment but was so worth it. I spent more time in lessons and became familiar with educational frustration which I think in the end helped me be a better trainer myself. 

I read a lot. This is not a comprehensive list, but important books for 2016 include Tug of War by Gerd Heuschmann, The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh, Level up your Life by Steve Kamb, Antifragile by Taleb Nassim, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Connected by Nicholas Christakis, The Four Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey, The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, Influence by Robert Cialdini, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, Thinking Riding by Molly Sivewright, The Road to Character by David Brooks, Coach by Michael Lewis, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. 

The above books make the list because I have notes on them in my 2016 Bullet Journal, but there are others on my kindle and on my shelf and in my mind that I read -- as well as a tremendous amount of fiction. I learned a lot through these books. 

I did not take as many lessons as I did in 2015, but the truth of the matter is that I think I learned more in this year than I did the previous year for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I rode from a greater number of trainers, and I think that thoughtfully integrating their advice is very very good for me, but might be hugely detrimental to the wrong sort of rider. 

When we conducted an end of year look at all my students goals, nearly all my students had achieved the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of 2016. Maybe we didn't stretch far enough, but maybe we made a lot of progress. 

What didn't go so well this year?

I had two primary goals for 2016. I wanted to explore my strength, and to practice being a beginner. As further definition, I had intended to run another half marathon, hit some weightlifting goals, and to take lessons in at least three different sports than my own. 


This did not go well. 

I set foot in the gym twice this past year, though I did buy TRX straps and had a lot of fun learning to use them this summer. I increased the total weight of my kettlebell swing, though that's pretty much it as far as moving heavy objects around besides jump standards and grain bags. I think I could count every run I went on between my toes and my fingers. 

I did not do well with taking lessons in other sports. It, um, didn't happen. 

I did not blog as much as I wanted to, largely due to a lack of clarity in what I was hoping to find in my blogging experience. I love reading everyone's stories and I've come to love their horses from afar. I love the community. But I definitely battled a fear that I somehow needed to write something more impressive or educational, and that stopped me from writing about the more mundane. But I think that the mundane ends up being what's important for me in the end, and that's really why we blog. Or at least, why I'd like to blog. The posts I write that are 'educational' I want to be more of a clarification for myself, an exploration into something that will allow me to be a better teacher of the subject matter.

What am I working toward?

A four-horse trailer! 

Well yes, but also some other things.

I am, like everyone else who rides dressage seriously, working towards my bronze medal. I have unprecedented access to talented horses and shows, I'm riding with a trainer who will NEVER encourage me to move up a level but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt will help me improve more than anyone else I've ever ridden with, and my access to shows is phenomenal. Wow. I could literally be at a show 42 weekends this year, and never have to drive more than three hours from home.

I am afraid, though.

It's true.

I'm afraid of embarrassing myself in the ring, or being unable to show my horses off the way I want to. 

I have zero rated shows on my record in the dressage ring, and while I've shown extensively at schooling shows, what does that matter. Really. What does that matter when a new client is looking me up, or in terms of "building a resume?" Not very much.

And that transient nature of a score at a schooling show is comforting.

But it's time to take myself, my riding, and my horses seriously, even if that means royally messing up on my 'permanent record'. I've got a wonderful network of support (I'm looking at you, fellow bloggers), and I don't think I'll go totally ego-tastic and move up a level before the horses I'm riding are really ready for it.

I'm working towards more bravery.

Not brute force, 'that horse is a dragon but someone has to get it over the jump', bravery. The quiet, vulnerable type of bravery, where a bit of your heart gets overexposed and it aches a little but you know, you really know, you did the best you could.

It's so easy to hold back, to be willing to fail because "I wasn't really trying" or to take it all as a joke or to ride wildly inappropriate horses for the sport and blame it on them (I've done it, oh yes, talk to me about eventing a Fresian), but I don't want that to be the example I'm setting.

I not only want to be the trainer who stands in the pouring rain laughing with my students as each step is a splash, but I want to be the trainer my teenagers look at and see that authenticity and courage are possible. I not only want to challenge their minds but I want to be an example to their hearts too.

And perhaps it's a whole lotta words for simply trotting and cantering a few twenty meter circles in an strangely labeled rectangle, but the world is what we make of it, isn't it? 


  1. I love those three questions, they're making me think a bit deeper about 2016. I'm working on bravery in a big way (I am really good at not really trying and quitting too soon haha)

    1. I think they're really fantastic because it gives just a little tiny bit of direction to all the chaff that comes up when you think back over a year.

      And I think so many of us are very good at half heartedly trying because we're afraid of failing if we really give it our all. That might be more disappointing to us.

  2. I have those same concerns about showing and whether or not it's something I really want to do, something my trainer wants me to do, or something to do because everyone else is doing it. I think ultimately it's really not for me and my schedule can't commit to it but a little piece of me wonders if it's also because I'm scared. Thanks for being so honest with us and I'll also continue to push on the bravery front

  3. Oh being that kind of brave is VERY hard and VERY scary. Best wishes for the new year!

  4. Ugh I'm working toward that bravery too. It's so hard tho. Feels.... Vulnerable.

  5. You can do it, Horses humble us all so you definitely will not look dumb in the ring at all or embarrassing.

  6. Those are big questions! And only one person has the anwer. ;0)

  7. I love the layout of this review.

    I wish I read more. I am making an effort to do so (both online and in books). I read at least one chapter every night, no matter what else I have going on. I read so much as a child, and it sort of stopped after college. I love reading and I know I have to make it a priority if I actually want to get it done!

    I hear you about not blogging enough. I put this pressure on myself to have a coherent blog that reads well, but my life is so hectic that I struggle to find time (and words) to put it in writing. Half the time I just throw in the towel without saying a peep.

    Your show goals sound reasonable (and fun!) I understand fear of failure or embarrassment, but I hope you find the courage to try. It sounds like you have access to great horses, venues, and instruction!