When I started to write the above yesterday, I thought it was going to read: Experience + [Something] = Confidence.

I suppose there’s more than one way to formulate an equation.

Equating would not have been my strong suit, back in my schooldays. I am fairly certain that I am the maths version of illiterate, which would be innumerate. Oh, the wretched memories, struggling with my algebra homework at the dining room table! Word problems: why??? I think they are called logic problems, nowadays? Hmm, I wonder if I am an illogical person… yes, I think I might be.

I do tend to react emotionally to situations. So, in a situation with a horse, a situation in which I felt that I had a lack of control, I would immediately get lost in some sort of ‘I am crap’ response. I remember once, in a private lesson, being given an astonishing piece of life wisdom: I had made a bad turn towards a fence, and got all freaked out by how bad the turn was. I talked about how bad the turn was, and in response my instructor said, basically, that you have to ride the turn you’ve got, and if it’s not perfect, then you have to get over it right away.

Oh, you mean like, don’t dwell on the last thing you did, and get on with the next? Huh.

So, when Rebel swerved away from the turn to a high enough fence, and pelted once more for X — I don’t know, I think I thought about it for a second, realised that I wasn’t going to get him to the fence in any semblance of order, swung him around in a circle, made a proper turn, sat and sat and sat and then took the 80cms [90? Maybe???] perfectly.

I wonder if experience and confidence are results of something else, that eventually add up to not falling in your arse; I might call this competence. I am a competent rider, and can’t even believe the joy it gives me to say that. I do pretty darn well for someone who is my age and has only been riding for six years. I have utterly unreasonable fantasies that implicate my perfect horse and the Dublin Horse Show, but that’s entertainment. I know what my limits are, I think I know how I can push them a bit, and I realise that I am, like, never going to be on TV, riding a horse. Ha! My inner dreamy adolescent is appalled at this apparent lack of ambition, but my actual grown up lady self is purely delighted.

Experience + Competence = Confidence?
Competence + Confidence = Experience?
Experience + Confidence = Competence?

The thing I hated about algebra was that you had to show how you got the answer, and in my memory, there was only one way to get at the answer. There was, in fact, only one answer to be got. This could be wrong — it wouldn’t surprise me! I got so, so little right when x>y — but I have to say that my equine equations offer so much more scope for development, improvement, and combinations of thoughts and emotions.

Experience and confidence — confidence that I was making the correct decision based upon experience — helped me decide to not just keep bashing at the fence, hoping that Reb would come good at the proper moment. Where am I in this equation? Good question. In this particular application, I was conscious of choosing to do-over, rather than get all prideful about not having done something ‘right’. Instead, I chose the correct course: get the horse back on track to a good approach and an excellent jump. This wouldn’t work in a show — in a show in the RDS in August, say — but with experience, maybe I will make a different decision in future. I’m confident that I can, and will.

It’s all starting to add up!