What people say affects us, even when we don’t want it to. Even if we are strong enough to know that what they say comes usually from their own set of insecurities, their own set of weaknesses.
When I was little I loved to compete, and I would miss birthday parties and school excursions, and my friends would say, “it’s just a competition, it’s just a horse”.
Their words had little effect on me, because my best friends were the ones who never commented, and even though they new nothing about dressage, they would still ask me “if I won the race” when I returned to school on Monday.
When my dad died I took responsibility for my mum, and believed that if I did everything to take care of her I could make up for the loss of my father.
I went away to boarding school when I was 15, and for the first time in my life what people said affected me. They would say “how can you leave your mother alone?”, “How will she cope without you?”, and these words hit me like fire, and sent an ache through me that I couldn’t shake off. I felt guilty, and I felt selfish, but actually my mum was fine. The people that said this often meant well, but sometimes even good intentions can have harsh effects.
I think through this experience I learnt to actually gain strength from other peoples’ comments. When I arrived in Portugal they said I would never make it, they said I would never ride Batialo, they said I was an amateur on a Ferrari, and I would absolutely never compete internationally. What they said made me more determined.
But I didn’t do it for them, I did it for me. I did it for Batialo, a horse that I feel knows me better than most people do.
Right now I’m thinking of sending Batialo away while I recover, and yesterday when I came to the stable a little girl was patting Batialo. When I arrived and Batialo saw me, he made a noise and titled his head, and looked up like a kid at christmas, and the little girl, who knows nothing about horses, said, “look, he loves her”. It was a nice thing to say, but I swear I nearly broke down.
If the last 5 years has taught me anything, it’s that quite often the stronger you are, the more you feel. I used to believe that strength was found in showing no weakness, no emotion. I know now that true strength is in showing and feeling emotion, and letting yourself just be who you really are, and having the courage to know that the people around you, the ones you trust, will stay there through the good and the bad.
I have been told many times over the last 5 years that “it’s just a horse” and that may be true, but to me it’s not. That doesn’t mean that I will never find another horse like Batialo, or that I am not happy with my decision, and as much as I hate to admit it I feel a little relieved. It just means that I’m honest and strong enough to know, that if I make the choice to put my happiness and health over my partnership with him, when people say “it’s just a horse” I will never believe them.