Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Getting Comfortable with Failure

I have a love/hate relationship with the AERC Facebook page.  Sometimes I learn something and sometimes...well, sometimes, I just cringe and realize that maybe it's not such a mystery why the human race has been dooming itself for millennia. 

A few days ago, though, I saw a pretty powerful post by a gentleman named Bruce Weary.  In part, he wrote,
Ah.  The dreaded non-completion.  It seems that in some things in life we'd rather not proceed if there is a significant chance of failure.  Well, in endurance riding, we fail.  A lot, sometimes.  In saddle fit.  In overzealous conditioning.  In falling off a horse.  Or in a wrong feeding/electrolyting program.  In riding too fast.  In riding too slow.  The list goes on.  At some point, IMO, we have to visualize these things happening to us, and how we would deal with them, so we can put them away and not worry so much about them.  Life is inherently risky.  I think it's also important to de-emphasize the disappointment in pulling or being pulled from a ride.  It takes mental effort, but I think it's important to decide to no longer let the possibility of not completing a ride be a reason for not stepping up to the starting line of whatever ride you've been dreaming of, whether that be your first LD, 50, multi-day, or Tevis.
I failed six times in a row in my first attempts at finishing Tevis.  I got sick twice, and had a pretty sick horse there once.  My mentor taught me to get comfortable with failure and making mistakes in life, because I would see a lot of both of them, so I never took my initial lack of success at Tevis personally.  A horse named John Henry decided he was tough enough for both of us, so he dragged my whining carcass to the finish line, finally.  All those failures made that one success that much sweeter.
So, saddle up.  Heaven helps the man or woman who help themselves.
This post meant a lot to me because I have definitely felt like I'm becoming an expert in how not to finish an endurance ride.  And mostly I'm OK with that, because I've never pinned my self-esteem on completing a ride and success for me means keeping my horse safe and sound above all else.  But, I think Mr. Weary's point about failure being so much a part of the endurance journey is an important one for me to remember.  And it doesn't just apply to endurance; it applies to everything about working with horses and I guess, if you want to get philosophical (which I am prone to doing after 9 pm), life itself.

So, getting comfortable with failure is going to be one of my goals for the coming year.  I'm still not sure what the plan is for next year beyond an intro ride at the beginning of March, but I am sure that I will wrestle with as yet unknown issues, and this post is going to be my mantra during those times, so I can keep my bearings and remember to move forward.

10 comments:

  1. That is a great way to look at failure. Kind of applies broadly to life as well :) Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I love this post. This was such a hard pill for me to swallow. It didn't help that I got really lucky and had a lot of success, especially with catch riding, for many years. My pull streak changed that. Five pulls in a row (four at the FINISH), on four different horses, for four different reasons that I couldn't control hurt at first, but turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to my endurance career. It has taken the pressure off and put the fun back on, and it makes for one heck of a war story. I hope to see you out there again soon <3

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    1. I've definitely been pretty successful at most things I've tried over the years so the difficulties with endurance have been a bit of a surprise. It's amazing how not immediately achieving my goal felt a little like a betrayal by the universe:)

      I often think of your situation with the many pulls in a row and remind myself that if it can happen to you, it can happen to anyone. You're such a skilled rider and so educated, but sometimes that just isn't enough.

      And I hope you see me out there too!

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  3. I really enjoy his posts. My 2016 endurance ride year was a total of two rides-one of which we were pulled for lameness and have been out the rest of the year. It does seem to be a big deal for some but this is supposed to be fun so I just try to do the best by my horse and leave it at that. From what I've read-that's what you certainly do!

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    1. It sounds like you have the right attitude, Matilda! I'm sorry to hear about your horse, though. I hope you are able to get back into things next year!

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  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have a really bad completion rate, on 3 horses in 7 years. It's like 35/40 percent. On mostly 50s, maybe 4 per year. But it was always for different reasons, no pattern, nothing to specifically address. It's hard for me to admit, even to myself, all the money invested (200$ per ride, incl. gas) but the allure of the sport is so powerful, it pulls you to the next one.

    I think I can blame my mentor a little for my fail rate - he let me top 10 my first LD. After that I was never what you'd call conservative. But I always felt more prepared than many in March because I rode all Winter and used CMO to condition.

    And I think how it must be for people like you with alternative breeds. I cannot fathom the challenge, except from what you tell me here. I can slightly fathom, then. : ) It must also be thrilling to try to succeed with a Friesian and perhaps accomplish the dream.

    The other day I saw a Friesian on the side of the busy road I was driving on to the barn. He had found a patch of sunlight in subzero temps, on his north-facing hillside, to stand in, and was fully basking in it. His face was regal and long and his ears were curved, his eyes closed, I wonder how many of the other drivers noticed him.

    Dom, 4 pulls at the finish? Omygosh!!!! Heartbreaking.

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    1. That sounds tough, lytha. I'm glad you've been sticking with horses, though:) And there is a certain sense of satisfaction when I accomplish something with Nimo that isn't easy, but I also spend a lot of time wondering about my sanity!:)

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  5. Great reminder and this is totally applicable any equine discipline. My 2016 LD season did not go as planned and for awhile I felt like a huge failure in many ways. Learning to work though that and trusting myself again taught me more than any completion ever will.

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    1. I like the way you put that, Grace. Trusting ourselves is surprisingly hard sometimes!

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