I strive for perfection…but I own horses.
There is a duality in this lifestyle that is so hard for people like me. And by me, I mean my fellow adults or teenagers who play this game day in and day out.

I have dedicated my life to horses. I own horses, I ride horses, I deliver baby horses, and I research horses. I hold a doctorate in equine reproduction, and every day I wake up with not much more on my brain than thoughts of my equines.

But because I love horses, I also realize and understand that they are living, breathing, moving, changing creatures. They have opinions, and moods, and sometimes they just don’t want to play. 

But because of who I am, and my very specific type of personality, that frustrates the crap out of me.

I grew up an athlete. At a young age, my days consisted of soccer, softball, dance, riding, downhill skiing, and any other athletic endeavor that my parents could find me. In addition to that, I was a straight A student, and a classically trained pianist. 

I went to college and decided to focus on two things: biology, and javelin. And I did well in both.

I was a damned good javelin thrower


I didn’t realize I was abnormal until my boyfriend pointed it out. He oftentimes jokes that I’m the clumsiest athlete he’s ever met, but also laments on the fact that there are few things I am not good at if, and when, I put my mind to it.

I just am that type of person.

I like hard work. I like long hours and the blood, sweat, and tears. I like getting that A or moving up that level. 

I like to win.

But in my mind, winning isn’t a blue ribbon. Winning isn’t a pewter trophy or a big fat check. Winning is setting goals for yourself and achieving them.

And if you are an equestrian, that can be difficult at times.

Because unlike softball, or javelin, or even piano-we equestrians have a partner. A 1350 pound breathing animal that tango’s alongside us.

And there are days where we want to dance, and they don’t. And other days where they’re ready to dance, and we wake up with two left feet.

I had a day like that today. My horses weren’t bad, per-se, but my rides weren’t exactly good.

My goals were fairly simple: I wanted confidence building rides and to leave the XC schooling on both horses with my head held high, knowing that I had done everything possible to get them that encouraging schooling and a positive lesson.

Good XC schools


And I failed, on both. 

Both horses got sucked behind my leg, and both times I flailed instead of supporting. I grabbed instead of kick. 

In a nutshell, I didn’t dance.

But because they are well trained animals that *usually* have a decent rider for a mom, they packed my butt around 90% of the course. But both had stops. And the stops were unfair–at least to them.

And I called my girlfriend Courtney on the way home from the first round to lament. I was in a funk and didn’t know the answer.

But like a good friend that she is–she didn’t sugar coat it. She didn’t blame my horse, and she didn’t outright blame me. She offered calming words of wisdom and ideas for the reasons behind my lack of drive and my horses lack of will.

Getting them back in front of my leg


And at the end of the conversation, I felt better, although not great. I knew I still needed to work on me.

Because I am good at a lot, but I want to be GREAT at something. And I am unsure of what that something is just yet, but I do know that at the end of the day, I want to be a great rider.

And this doesn’t mean I will ever gallop around Badminton, or jump a 1.60m fence. It doesn’t mean I will be selected to any team or earn that red coat.

No, I just want to be great at being me. I want to be the best rider that I can possibly be; the best rider for the horses I have underneath me.

I can be better. I will be better.


I wasn’t that rider today, and my frustration over it is evident. But tomorrow is a new day, and both me and my horses hope to wake up on the right side of our beds and carry on.

And I hope when they ask me for this dance, I can say yes and actually lead. 

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7 Comments on “Two left feet

  1. Carleigh…your blog is the ABSOLUTE BEST!!! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the way you have so much insight into what people are going through with their horses and their riding abilities. Keep it up!!! Whatever flack you may have gotten from the negative people in this world…push aside. You have a great deal to offer equestrians whether they be professional or amateur.

    • Thank you Lorraine! That means a ton! I was joking with one of my students who said I had a following, and I told her it was only because I was the only one willing to talk about the crappy times! Someone’s gotta!

  2. So when I was in university and got an exam back that said 96% I went looking to see what I had wrong.I did that for all three of my degrees. So I totally get this. I can obsess over riding but I am learning to be better. And by better- I mean more in the moment and less focussed on perfection. My mare is doing a good job teaching me that.

    The ability to throw myself into something and never say die is probably my major strength and my major weakness.

  3. Interesting insight on something both equestrians and many others grapple with. I am intrigued by what those “calming words of wisdom…” were. They seem to have inspired you. Please let us in on how they seemed to have triggered and renewed your enthusiasm to strive to be the best equestrian and person you can be. Those words may turn another’s frustration from becoming a failure to once again striving to fulfill their potential. Thank you for another thought provoking blog.

    • It wasn’t really any one thing in particular–a lot of rationalizing with my brain that most of my issues were at combinations that I won’t see at the level I’m currently competing, but also pointing out that a) we ALL have bad days, and b) my good days with both Mak and Kennedy have heavily outweighed those lately. Just gonna realize that tomorrow is a new day!

  4. Carleigh, as always, you are spot on! Thank you for taking the time to put it out there…we all experience “the funk” as we try to achieve our “best” with our equines. Its good to know we are not alone.

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