I love social media. It’s actually my day job. I watch social media for trends, analyze those trends, try and duplicate those trends so that my company gains the right kind of traction. Naturally, I’m a millennial, so I love my social media platforms for personal usage, too. I love it because I can keep up with my friend’s new cat. She’s in Chicago and I don’t hear much from her and don’t want to bother her, but it makes me happy to see her little, new, fluff-nugget making her happy. Without social media I wouldn’t have access to that sort of joy. I can see all the amazing places my other friend, a flight attendant, flies to. I can see all the cool things she does and the incredible views she gets to see.
But, the other side of social media can create a detrimental place for the human psyche. I used to post videos and images of my (now retired) beloved 1* horse jumping huge things, galloping full speed, knees up to his friggin nostrils with scope. I could post a video and brag about the 28.3 dressage score and watch the likes, comments, and views roll in. Instant joy.
Now, my super spotty boy is retired and fat and sassy and no longer competing. Now, I have a hot and delicate OTTB who oozes crazy potential but, is still a green bean. I feel that I am behind, that I am taken less seriously because I'm having to develop a horse from the ground up in the sport. I'm not actively competing at Preliminary with objectives of moving up to Intermediate. Instead, I'm struggling with a consistent connection and teaching an overly athletic thoroughbred that he doesn't need to jump the standards when the fence is 2'6".
I had a breakdown in my tack room not long ago. One of those good, full body sobs, nose dripping like a nap-deprived toddler. The ugly kind of cry. I was pissed that I wasn’t already doing more with my new boy. I spend the last 15 minutes before bed scrolling through instagram watching fellow riders achieve more and achieve it quicker. Why wasn’t I already competing Novice? That puts me behind to move up to Training! That puts me behind for running a 2* and that puts me behind for going to Burghley! This kind of thinking was ruining me and ruining the development of my relationship with my new boy.
My barn owner is a saint. Like I seriously think she should be sainted or however that works. (I should know that. I went to Catholic school, after all.) She mentioned that my personal checklist of what I thought were “worthy accomplishments” is not considering things outside of the competition world. She said that the ribbons and qualifications will come. But that special horses deserve the extra time. And y’all. This horse is special as all get out.
So, I went forward and made a checklist of accomplishments that Rye and I have accomplished together. It was little things like the following: Got Rye to eat a treat; Figured out Rye’s tickle spots; Accomplished a BN CT; Walked through all the puddles; Accomplished overnight trip alone; He nickered to me; Got a ribbon at our first show; Scored a 32 in BN-A; Walked on the scary mud pile; Jumped everything at the show without stopping or thinking of stopping; Went through the water without being schooled; Placed 2nd at recent Unrecognized HT; Rode somewhat calmly without a calming supplement off property; Rye is now a lunging king….etc. These are such little accomplishments, but I had to take the time to realize not every step towards riding in the Kentucky 3-Day or at the WEG has to come from a first-place ribbon. There is so much that happens behind the scenes that, because of the ability to be so selective on social media, the public doesn’t see.