Anticipation

I’ve always heard it said that it’s not the destination but the journey that provides so much fulfillment. I suppose this is the logic behind why I am always setting goals or making challenges for myself: always looking for something to work for, to anticipate. I do a lot of workout programs, a lot of those 90-day commitments or what not. What happens when they end? I find another. It’s not the endpoint that I like so much, it’s the in between.

Anticipation. Many equestrians hate it. Some realize its importance and use it to their advantage. As a mediocre pianist I know that anticipation, when well-timed, can work harmoniously in my favor. In horses, it can be crucial in a thoroughly rehearsed dressage test, as the horse anticipates the subtle cues necessary to provide fluid and flawless movement that is so desired in the ballet-like discipline. I can tell you from experience, this stoic position that a rider assumes during these displays is extremely difficult. The goal in dressage is to make you and your horse look like one unit, and the cues invisible. Any sign of resistance from the horse earns deductions. I guess this includes bucking… oops.

However, anticipation can also become an Achilles heel… quickly. Dakota is a shining example: once we start popping over fences in our riding routine she anticipates more fences and gets more excited with every stride. When approaching a line of fences, she sees what lies ahead, anticipates and starts to rush. Driving her through a line can feel like a short sprint with poorly-timed hurdles rather than a collected display of agility and grace. She is eager, excited and anticipates the jumps as as she literally runs to meet the obstacles head on. The positive? She doesn’t refuse. I can be confident that we’re going over all the fences… clearing them is another subject matter entirely. The negative? It’s a little more than slightly discomforting feeling the independently-thinking beast underneath you completely out of control and racing towards hurdles with the intent of soaring over them at warp speed. The only hope you have is to hang on for dear life and pray her mouth will soften to your futile pleas, pulling on her face to try to regain control. Anticipation, in this case, can be a very, very bad thing.

She anticipated the take off, got too excited, and took off verry early.
She anticipated the take off, got too excited, and took off early… we could have fit in another short stride. I went with it.

In horse terms, the racehorse out of a chute effect is also know as “rushing”. A horse sees the job it is being asked to do, anticipates, and bolts at it. It makes for a sloppy-looking ride on the ground and a very stiff ride. The rider quickly gets a sense of zero control and with Dakota this is accompanied by a hard, unyielding mouth. She literally snags the bit and runs where ever she thinks is the destination. When the rushing behavior is thwarted, horses will often head toss, prance, pull, kick out, and otherwise feel like a ticking time bomb underneath your seat. It does not make for a fun or pretty ride. Actually, fun is up for debate… A great example is a barrel horse: they know their job. They often are hopping in place before their run and as soon as they’re permitted, bolt like a bullet into the ring. It works in their favor. The downside? Try having a calm ride in the ring on one of those horses. Not. Going. To. Happen.

How do we break this cycle? We change the course. Often in Dakota’s training I will ask her to stop after fences. I will pick unusual lines to jump, bending often to throw her off-track and make her rely on my commands to know where to go. We will jump, practice dressage, and then jump again. I’ll place poles on the ground in front of or after fences, forcing her to think about where to place her feet. We change the normal routine. I have tried to stop her in between fence lines, definitely harder than it looks, but it works wonders on her responsiveness. We do something unusual.

…but how does this equine lesson of anticipation affect us?

Through my limited 24 years of life on this earth thus far I’ve learned a few things. A lot of those over-used and over-cited cliches are true. Attitude determines outcome, circumstances are subject to manipulation, expect the unexpected, and stuff happens. We futily try to predict things: weather (Blacksburg.. what a joke), health (pulled another muscle doing something stupid), traffic (people are dumb), finances (here’s a vet bill.. surprise!)…. good freaking luck. My philosophy?

Anticipate change. Be plastic, be adaptable. Just when you think that hurdle is your next obstacle, think again.

 

Daily Thanksgiving

Returning from my hand-chilling 10K, I immediately check Facebook… normal for us tech addicts of the 21st century. Facebook was  littered with status updates noting what the respective writers were thankful for: ranging from a new fitness program to family to friends and everything in between.

But here’s my question: why do we wait for one day or month out of the year to be thankful?

I’m a big believer that attitude defines outcome, not circumstances. When we look for what we are thankful for we automatically appreciate what we do have, often ignoring what we lack. With gratitude come a fantastic attitude. True, exhilarating, wonderful joy is not subject to our circumstances. We do need to make an conscious effort to see how numerous our blessings are: the decision to stop complaining and make the most of what I have was the best decision I’ve ever made. Don’t mistake me, I do have my grumpy-pants days and that’s okay, I’m human.

Sometimes being grumpy can be downright hilarious. Thanks, grumpy cat.

It’s easy to be thankful for the novelties in our life and similarly the fleeting things. Money, a new job offer, great weather, a chance meeting, health…. but what about the daily things that we take for granted? Meals- luckily I don’t have to wonder about where my next meal is coming from… unless I’m stubborn and don’t go to the grocery. Shelter, a warm bed to sleep in at night, my family, my friends, my ability to walk, cognitive thought, the ability to communicate with others and to listen. My personal favorite: my ability to learn. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t living. I’ve been closed-minded before and I know how hard it is to actually open your mind and admit you were wrong. It’s tough, it’s not fun but it’s an incredible learning experience. I’m a Christian, I have a certain set of rules that I strive (strive being a key word here) to live by. Some believe that it means being judgmental. I don’t think this is the case- I want to leave the judging to the man upstairs… that’s not my job. To love others we need to be thankful for their point of view and how they see things. It can be an incredible learning experience. Just because their thoughts and ideas are radical compared to your own does not mean that the notions of others are wrong. It simply means that they are different. You don’t know what experiences shaped those opinions after all.

Being thankful for opinions, thoughts and actions of others is crucial. After all, without these ideas we wouldn’t learn. We need the differences to make improvements in our own lives, we need to open our minds, hearts and doors to the differences.

My friend Claire is the complete opposite of myself. I couldn’t have fabricated a more stark contrast to my personality. I am an optimistic Christian, often times overly enthusiastic, former sorority girl, and a devout Ann Taylor LOFT customer. Pearls and smiles. Claire, on the other hand, has a dark sense of humor, atheist, is covered in tattoos, and the mother of perhaps the cutest little 5 year old child on the face of planet earth. Claire and I share one thing in common: we stinking love food. At one point, Claire looked at me while cramming for Food Microbiology in the undergrad days and said “there is no way we could be any more different, is there?” Smiling, I glanced down at the bacteria we were studying and chirped, “NOPE! And I wouldn’t have it any other way”.

I truly value the friendship that Claire and I have. It’s quirky and we bring very different ideas to the table and I love it. I’m so thankful for the differences and the way we usually don’t see anything eye to eye with the exception that food and fitness are two priorities in life.

 

I’ve had some really tough falls from Dakota. Elbow busted, knee slammed, shoulder messed up, hamstring yanked; you named it, I’ve damaged it. My reactions to the falls are what really decides the outcome of the situation and not the fall itself. I choose to get back on. I immediately thank the good Lord that I’m still alive, check for blood, and hop back on. I’m thankful for the experience of the falls, for that is what keeps me in check. I’m thankful that Dakota doesn’t run away from me: the mark of a good horse. Most importantly, I’m thankful for the learning opportunity presented to me. Learning isn’t always easy and I’m thankful for that too. The difficulties are what really makes it stick. I need the hardship, I need the pain and I need the shock value for these lessons to resound in my mind.

Try to make a list of all the things to be thankful for- you’ll find that it doesn’t end.