One of the most satisfying things for me as a horseback rider is when I make a breakthrough with the horse I’m riding.
Over the past four years, I’ve constantly ridden the same horse. Though I would never give up riding that horse until graduation comes, there wasn’t that much I could continue learning on him. One, he was too perfect of a horse and, two, I already knew every little aid, tick, and everything else there was to know about him, good and bad.
But, in November, 2018, I took up the opportunity to ride a second horse, one completely opposite from my slow and steady, older horse I’ve been riding all throughout high school.
And riding him has been a pain, but also I’ve become such a better rider in the process learning to ride a horse completely different.
There were days when I’d get off with sore muscles and complete frustration and dissatisfaction. Days when I had to fight with him just to get him to walk.
Last Saturday, however, I had a breakthrough. Though there were the moments when I had to fight him through the walk, there were only two of them versus ten or twenty. It was the best ride I ever had on him. I got him to easily canter from a halt, canter over ground poles, and do most of those things without any protest.
I hope I’m not jinxing my improvement with him by writing this, but I hope all the future rides are just as successful as this one or else I’ll just keep learning.
It’s a bad feeling. No, it’s an awful feeling. Yet I find myself facing it time and again. I’m currently sitting in the car feeling almost as shitty as how I performed today in practice. I could have gone harder… I should have gone harder. How can I strive to be the best if I’m not even giving my all?
The breakdown: the set was hard, I knew it would be a challenge, so I gave up. Looking back, the emotional pain now is far worse than the physical pain I would have experienced if I just kept trying. For me, muscle fatigue, not being able to breathe, the lactic acid burning in my throat, and the pain of pushing yourself to the limit is nothing compared to the pain I go through knowing I could have done better, knowing that I’m the one holding me back. Because I didn’t want to suffer through eighty laps on a challenging interval, I am currently suffering through the disappointment and regret of knowing I am hindering my growth.
You know that feeling when the teacher pulls out a test on the reading you were assigned last night but you didn’t do it, just because you didn’t want to. Not a great feeling. This got me wondering, if we know the effect of our actions, how come we still proceed in doing the easiest thing in the moment. Why not put in the ten minuets to read a chapter and feel confident when the teacher pulls out the test? Why not give your all in a work out, suffer through the pain and embrace it, to experience the rush of endorphins after and the confidence knowing you did your best?
After reflecting on my errors and embracing the sucky emotions I am feeling right now, I have a goal. Every time I feel like skipping a fifty, reading spark notes instead of the book, going easy instead of all out, not doing what I should just because I don’t want to, I am going to think. Think of how I will feel in the future, and ask: Is the emotional conflict that will take place in the future worth just doing whats right?
When I think about May 31st, 2019, I think about what I’m leaving behind when I walk across the amphitheater to get my high school diploma.
I’m leaving behind the campus I’ve called my home the past four years, the classes where I challenged myself and found my passions, and the teachers who helped me find those passions. I’m leaving behind my friends, who I won’t see at breakfast every morning or go on camping trips with anymore.
These last four years weren’t always easy. As much as I’ve loved them, they were some of the most challenging years of my life. But, one thing made life away from home just a little easier to manage and it wasn’t my teachers or friends.
It was my horse. A bay, appendix quarter horse named Time who I’ve been riding since my freshman year. My family always asks me what I’ll miss the most about OVS when I leave and the answer is always the same: Time.
When the Thomas Fire came on December 4th, 2017, I panicked as we were evacuating on the bus thinking my horse wasn’t going to make it out alive. I cried myself to sleep, despite the constant reassurances. Over the summer, I ended up crying again when I went three months without riding and, more specifically, without riding Time. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I have to say goodbye to him during the last week of school knowing that it’ll be the last goodbye. Knowing hat I won’t be getting back on once summer is over. Knowing that one day, towards the end of May, I will untack for the last time and possibly never get back on him. That, the following September, he’ll get a new rider and I’ll be at a university in a completely different city. I hope that rider loves that freaking horse as much as I do, though. Sometimes I wonder if that’s possible.
So many things happened the last four years with Time by my side. I went with him to my first horse show, on my first horse camping trip, my first dressage clinic, and my first injury, which he gave me after he threw me off at said horse show. Even though I got a fractured back, the story was still funny and memorable.
I can imagine leaving OVS and going off to college, but I can’t imagine leaving Time. I can’t imagine my school day not consisting of me going to the barn at the end of the day and getting on him whether the lesson ends up going well or not. I wish I could take him with me to college, but it’s probably not possible.
Last Friday, my aunt and uncle came to watch me ride. “I don’t understand how some people just let go of their horses or sell them,” my aunt said. “They’re pets too.”
Time may have not be mine legally, but he is mine. At least, I like to say he is and, at least, many other people thought Time was mine before I told them he wasn’t. But, he is my horse. The horse I’ve ridden for all of high school and the animal I’ve developed a bond with.
I’m not ready to let Time go, but I’ll have to and I will. Even if it might be one of the most painful things I’ll ever have to do.
Let’s face it, they’re nice. Who am I kidding, they can be great.
Would you rather win the lottery or work your ass off everyday, struggling to get by?
Would you rather get straight A’s and not even have to try or be in a class where getting a B- minus is a HUGE accomplishment?
Would you rather do your Spanish homework or go on Quizlet and find the answers?
Would you rather tell your mom you swept the floor or would you rather actually sweep the floor?
Would you rather take an hour to fold and put away your clothes or just shove them in your closet in less than thirty seconds?
What I’m getting at here is, shot cuts can be nice. Who am I kidding, they can be great. Yet, as great as they are, most make life harder in the long run.
Cool, Quizlet got my Spanish work done in two minutes, but do I even know what the heck any of the questions are asking?
Cool, my mom thinks I swept the floor, but am I really the type of person who will throw away their integrity just to get out of a thirty second chore?
Cool, my clothes are out of the way, but, shoot, when I went to get dressed, a mountain of clothing fell on me.
Cool, I did twenty push-ups instead of twenty-five, but is getting done first even an accomplishment if you cheated?
Many days, I see people taking short cuts too, so its nice to know that I’m not the only one. But, more than just self-reassurance, I find it comforting that I’m not the only one who occasionally struggles with putting short term effects over long term results.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you need to walk twenty miles to work instead of driving because you have legs. I’m nothing saying to use them, to not even think about taking the car. I’m not saying no short cuts for you. But, if work is a three minute walk from your house, don’t take a short cut and drive. Being efficient and taking a short cut are two VERY different things.
Efficiency is great. A needed skill set in the always-going world we live in. Why would you walk twenty miles to get to work when you can take a quarter of the time and drive? Why take three hours hand-writing a story when you can type it in a half hour?
A lot of the time, people mistake efficiency for cheating. The definition of efficiency is to get the most done in the shortest amount of time with the least work. So, maybe you’re thinking, that you’d rather read the Spark Notes of a book than read the full book.
Here’s the thing, when your teacher asks you what the main character’s last name is, will you have a clue?
When the Spanish test gets handed back, will you get a good grade?
When your mom asks if you did your chores, will you lie directly to her face?
When the race comes and your teammates are strong from doing all the pushups, was the satisfaction of doing less in practice worth the shame you feel now?
Recently, Ive been working on doing the right thing instead of taking the easy way out. I read my English books instead of reading the summary, so I get a good grade on the test. I worked hard in practice and I got a personal record in my race. I took the time to get what I needed to get done instead of putting it off for later or completely ignoring it at all.
I’ve realized that no matter how much you don’t want to, pushing through the little things is what makes you better, stronger, and smarter. Suffering through a hard workout will eventually result in success; thinking about what you say before you speak will result in less regretted words; and putting your all into everything you do will result in a life that you’re proud of.
Take the route that’s right, instead of the short cut. Because, as cliché as it sounds, it’s not the destination that matters, its’ the journey.
Snowflake after snowflake is tumbling down on my shoulders, my gloves, my helmet, down my neck where it slowly melts and stains my skin pink. The air in my lungs is so much warmer than the air around me, but I can’t see my breath within all the white and grey falling through the space here.
I can’t see my skis, the snow is now all the way up to my knees. I try and dig a hole down my legs to tighten my boots one more time. I look around, look up to my siblings that are beside me, the only spots of color within my vision. One more time, my brother throws a snowball at me. I laugh and get a little mad internally, but now is not the time. Now is the time to be happy.
We all get out the handles for our ABS avalanche backpacks and connect them to the left shoulder strap. Our guide looks at us, and says “Geht schon!”, meaning “Okay, let’s go!”. We all push our poles into the snow in front of us and hop out of the deep powder as if it was nothing.
Here it goes.
The first second is nothing but exhilarating. I feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I float down the mountain, constantly fighting the curves and dips in the snow in order to not face plant. Stay away from the trees, stay away from the edge, don’t cross here, you might set off an avalanche. Just go, you love this.
The powder is fresh; we are the only ones here. This was definitely worth the long hike.
I am cold, but I can feel myself starting to sweat. My boots are too loose, don’t lose focus or you’ll twist your ankle. The snow is melting on my mask; the cold air is freezing it into solid ice. My braid is now white and covered in snow crystals. My breath is now in sync with my dashes, it’s cold and hard through my mouth and it hurts to breathe in; my nose is nearly closed up with ice. Just keep going. You don’t get to do this every day.
There is a steep part ahead. Look at your guide, your siblings, follow their lead. They’re better than you. It’s okay, you’re still doing it. The path is narrow, don’t hit the trees, watch out for the branches, the snow on top of them. Focus, use your legs, stay strong. We haven’t stopped this entire time and my feet and thighs are hurting. It’s good. Look ahead, there’s a lip. Jump, try not to fall, think of how hard it would be to get back up. You don’t want to make everyone else stop for you.
There it is, the bottom of the hill. From now on, it’s flat. There are some bumps, we try and jump and push each other over, race each other, spin around and go backwards. We did it.
We have to cross a stream; there’s a fallen tree trunk to walk on. The stomped-down snow on it makes it slippery and, with tired knees, we all make our way across. Now, all that’s left is a long way back to the town, an hour of walking and pushing through the trees in the valley. I’m really getting hot now; I have to open my jacket, unzip the sides of my pants, but it’s good. I feel good.
We get back to the ski lift and catch one of the last rides. Looking out through the slowly darkening alps around me, I see the mountain we had hiked up this morning in the distance. I feel tired, I feel hungry and sore, but the feeling of victory and accomplishment you get when you finally get to take off your heavy boots and cold, wet gloves makes up for everything that has been aching for the past few hours.
We endure vigorous, agonizing, grueling, strenuous sets.
We push our bodies until we throw up.
Our shoulders pop and crack constantly.
We wake up at four A.M. for morning practices.
We don’t only train in the pool, we run, lift weights, and basically do anything coach tells us to do.
We work and work and work for the hopes of dropping time, yet, many times, our times are stubborn and don’t budge.
We stare at a black line for hours. 25, 50,75, 100. 25, 50…
We cry at times.
We are always striving for a bigger and better goal than the one we just achieved.
“Normal” kids are watching TV; we are training.
We work nonstop, constantly, everyday to take off .01 seconds of our time.
We try our best and still get yelled at. We try our best and get rewarded.
We experience being unmotivated. We push through.
We don’t only strengthen ourselves as athletes, we strengthen our selves as people.
We suffer as a team, we grow as a team, we improve as team.
We make friends and experiences that will last a life time.
We have a second family.
We strive for that amazing feeling after working so, so hard. After giving a workout all you have, we strive for that feeling of accomplishment, achievement, effort, proudness, fulfillment.
We may forget it at times, but we love the sport.
We are swimmers.
A couple days in the past couple weeks, I have been in a slump when I go to practice. I am slower than my teammates who go and qualify for the Olympic trials. I feel slow. I push myself, yet still am slower than my teammates, I get discouraged. I feel like a failure, so I don’t work as hard as I should. I regret my performance in practice. I cry on the drive home.
Today, I acknowledged the fact that I am on a fast team; my teammates are some of the best in the nation. I acknowledged the fact that I can be like them if I do what I do best: work hard. I acknowledged that I’m on this team for a reason.
Today, I worked so hard that my legs stung, my arms numb, my lungs burned, I got dizzy, my heart beat at what felt like a million miles an hour. At times, I was practically hyperventilating. At points, I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I pushed as hard as I could. I missed a couple intervals, but I didn’t give up. At the end of the set, my body still ached and burned, but I felt amazing. A feeling of happiness almost beyond words. A feeling that any true athlete understands. At the end of the set, I felt the feeling that makes me remember why I love the sport. Remember why I do all of the things listed above. Remember why I’m so deeply in love with this sport.
synonyms: join (forces), collaborate, get together, work together.
Sweaty hugs; cheering until my throat is raw;the pre-race jitters; hard-earned Gatorade; singing to “Africa” on the bus rides; pushing through almost unbearable pain; the cheers from my coaches and team mates; the feeling of success, when all the hard training and effort pays off; the happiness of coaches bringing food, after you just pushed yourself to your physical max; the endless support we have for each other; the amount of effort we put in; the dynamic and connection between us athletes; the fact that real teammates don’t only care about how you perform, they care about how hard you try. All these things contribute to the the feeling of being part of an authentic team, which is one of the best feelings that exists.
of undisputed origin; genuine.
“the letter is now accepted as an authentic document”
synonyms: genuine, real, bona fide, true, veritable
In my words, the way it should be: caring and real.
I’ve been on many teams before. On some, we’ve won championships and received numerous trophies. On some, we placed last and got our asses handed to us. Winning is great, it’s what I strive to do, but I’ve realized that more than just winning that counts. I’ve realized that to have a good team, winning can’t be the only focus.
On a previous team, every day I would give my all. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, even the slightest mess-up resulted in dirty glares and angry shrugs. It made it so I was nervous to go to practice; I was afraid of my teammates; I pushed myself to the limits, because I was scared the punishment if I didn’t; and I was absolutely mortified before every game. This approach worked. I got stronger, I got better, I became a better athlete, but I forgot the fact that I love the sport.
After two years on that team, another opportunity came up, so I switched to a team with a VERY different dynamic. We pushed each other to do our best, to be our best. When slip-ups or bad days came, we encouraged each other to get better, not to feel like shit. I became so close to my teammates, I had good relationships with my coaches, I was so excited to go to practice everyday, and I pushed myself to the limits, because I wanted to get better for myself and my team. Our team performed just as well as the other one I mentioned and my love for the sport was rekindled.
Recently, I joined another team. I love both of the teams I’m on right now so much, but it’s been a long time since I have felt the feeling of happiness, appreciation, friendship, and passion as I did yesterday at my first ever cross country meet.
I know I love swimming far more than I love running, so it confuses me that yesterday, in this sport that I just joined months ago, has brought me almost as much joy as the sport I have been doing for years. I think it’s just because swimming is more of an individual sport without a large aspect of team. I think its because the swim team I’m on has people who qualify for the Olympics or on the Junior National Team and I’m so slow compared to them, it makes me feel like I’m slow, period. Maybe its because a cross country the team is only as strong as its weakest link, so everyone is needed. Maybe because in the small league we run in, I too place high and feel like a good runner.
I think all of these things are a factor, but what I know for sure is that the feeling of being part of an authentic team is one of the best feelings that exists.