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Caroline's Blog Post # 2
Becoming “Big Cheese”
Many people close to me would probably never guess that confidence has been a recurring issue for me. I think it’s partly because I’m a Type –A overachieving control freak living in the land of horses where there is ALWAYS something more to learn and something completely unexpected about to happen. I also think it’s because for the longest time growing up I was afraid to make a mistake. I have learned that mistakes and imperfections are ok, expected, and NO BIG DEAL.
So why do I bring this up?
Last year I traded in my USEF Amateur status for Professional status. I had no plans to really DO much with it, wasn’t thinking of opening a barn or getting sponsors or anything huge. I just had a couple friends who wanted to pay me to ride their horses. This year, I took it a step further. My tax man was unhappy with my lack of a real business name to go with my Independent Contractor status. So one day, hacking through the woods, it hit me: Big Cheese Eventing. And why not?
Being a big cheese is something to aspire to. And it’s funny because my Prelim horse is Pepperjack (and I also have a dog named Cheddar..yes I really do love cheese this much!). So, without taking myself seriously AT ALL, Big Cheese Eventing got a Facebook page. And a website. And now I also have students, more people wanting me to ride their horses, clinics to organize and horse shows to host. Without ever thinking it possible, I have become a “real professional.”
And because I now have students and horses to train for others, there are times that I feel self-doubt creep in. Do I really know enough to help this kid learn dressage? Will I know what to do if this person’s horse has a meltdown at an away show? Can I handle having multiple students at a show for the weekend?
But here is what becoming a professional has also taught me. Overthinking things is NEVER productive. I may still approach a new lesson kid with some doubts, but as soon as I jump in I feel at home. I KNOW how to do these things; I have spent my entire life working towards this moment. I thoroughly enjoy teaching, where I was never sure I would. To share in the light bulb moments, to watch kids learn what they are capable of, to see and feel horses understand their jobs and feel successful; these are all moments where I know I made the right choice.
My current string of horses include Jack, who has just been cleared for normal work following a tendon rehab, and Theo, my rescue-turned Gold Medal jumper pony-turned event pony (he’s for sale; YES, YOU WANT HIM!). Going pro with these two has been eye opening. A successful rehab will always make you feel good about yourself, but for me it has also made me feel more confident in helping a student who may find themselves in a similar situation. Bringing a horse along from a throw-away to a successful show horse is confidence building for future projects. It’s impossible to look at my two horses and not feel a sense of accomplishment and a hunger to do it again, and again, and again.
I think, especially as a professional and a potential role model for others, that it is imperative to know how much you don’t know. I learned that line from my own trainer, who has never steered me wrong. I’m ok with not knowing everything, but I am determined to learn as much as I can. If I want to be a true Big Cheese, I need to practice the habits I wish to instill in my students; patience, respect, sportsmanship, and the drive to always be looking to expand my knowledge and horsemanship. I know I’ll never know it all, but I can certainly strive to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more.