As we draw to the end of the eventing season with winter looming around the corner, it inspired me to look back at my year at all the ups and downs.
With social media as prominent as it is today it is hard not to become addicted to the daily scroll through Facebook and Instagram, viewing the endless pictures and posts of people smashing life! I too am that person addicted to social media and a lot of the time feel inadequate with what I am doing and what I have achieved so far. No matter how well I think I have done there is always someone that seems to have done better.
At the end of last year I decided after years of wishing and dreaming I was going to focus on my horses and make riding my full time career. So I sold my dog walking company, set up Sophie Martin Equestrian and signed up to a course in Equine Sports Massage. I had it all planned out, I was going to be a professional rider and a successful Equine Therapist…
1 year on and 8 million meltdowns later here I am, I have just finished my last event of the season with my 2 horses and have some massage clients on my books. Did it all go plain sailing, with a gentle rise to the top where I grasped my dream? Hell no!! At one point in the middle of the year I think I cried nearly every day for a month, I wondered when I was ever going to make any money doing what I loved and I felt I couldn’t even jump a cross pole properly. Not ideal when you are wanting to step up to Novice!
I was sinking, social media was taking over and I questioned how stupid I had been to think this could work, I should just go and get a “proper job”. I didn’t know what to do, I felt I was floating through life and even though I had set myself goals at the beginning of the year I felt they were drifting further and further away from me.
After a pep talk from my amazing jumping trainer Toby (and having another mini meltdown in front of him) I booked to see a Sports Psychologist. I needed help, fast. I came away after our first session mentally and physically drained, but I had a plan and some coping techniques to practice.
My goal of stepping up to Novice this year, on the horse I had produced myself, was still achievable. I was taking control and things were starting to turn around until the time came to actually enter his first Novice! It was no longer a goal in the future it was real. I booked a XC lesson and after a lot of thought decided we weren’t quite ready. I wanted a horse for the future and not to destroy him with my own greed. We were sticking at BE100/100plus and a BE105, if I could find one that wasn’t a million miles away!
It suddenly felt like a weight had been lifted and I could enjoy the rest of my season with no pressure, until my next event came: Somerford. I saw Jeanette Brakewell on a beautiful, smart, dark bay gelding which I had fallen in love with at the beginning of the year, when I had seen it at several other events in the BE100 collecting rings with me. It was a little pocket rocket that pinged everything and here is was effortlessly jumping round the Novice.
So, the moment of going double clear and coming 8th at Somerford, qualifying us for the BE100 Badminton Grassroots Regional Finals next year, was ruined by my unrealistic comparison to a multi-medalist Olympic event rider. Even though I was over the moon with Paddy, and 1 of my goals for the year had been achieved, I once again felt I was falling behind and wasn’t moving forward.
I saw endless pictures and posts of friends, peers, nervous and professional riders either doing really well or having the ability to turn what on paper may have looked like a bad day into a successful learning curve which they were still over the moon about. I was envious of their ability to do that and was too afraid to post that my new 5yr old, bought earlier this year to produce, had gone to his second BE event and had a spooky runout XC at fence 2, even though he had done a 27 dressage and flown the rest of the XC course whilst behaving like a dream all day. To me I had failed.
I couldn’t believe I had become so obsessed with what other people thought of me. I needed a break. I decided to go cold turkey on social media! I stoped looking, stopped obsessing and stopping comparing. I went out and had fun on my horses and started helping friends more with theirs. It was working and we were succeeding. Kelsall came and went and we had an amazing time, Paddy jumped mega coming 2nd gaining us another Regional Final qualification for next year.
Did I cure my anxiety with the pressures of social media? No. I still have that, but with the help of others I feel I am able to manage it better. The more I talk to people the more I realise we all do the same thing, we all sugar coat our lives some way or another. There is no shame in doing this and sometimes we all need a bit of sparkle in our life to keep us going. However, it’s important to remember that when you are having a down day – you are definitely not alone.