Road to the 2020 Real Rider Cup: Overcoming Disappointment

Melissa Bauer-Herzog has encountered unexpected challenges while training for the Real Rider Cup.
Author Melissa Bauer-Herzog has encountered unexpected challenges while training for the Real Rider Cup. (Melissa Bauer-Herzog/America's Best Racing)

If you’ve been around horses, you know they can be a lesson in learning how to handle frustration. Unfortunately for me, I’ve had a lot of the frustration in the last month though it has come with bright spots.

When I last left you, I had just transitioned over to a new trainer and that part of this journey has gone great. I’ve learned a ton from her and feel like I’m improving with every lesson, though that improvement is coming slower than we’d like.

Droid the Quarter Horse (Melissa Bauer-Herzog/America's Best Racing)

My mount Droid, who is a retired racehorse of the Quarter Horse variety, has been a saint. He’s the kind of horse everyone should get a chance to ride because he’s great at teaching while also making his riders look better than they are. A horse with a sense of humor, he isn’t above testing me sometimes but has the perfect balance of difficulty and kindness that makes for a fun ride.

He’s already taken me over trot poles a few times and humors me when I don’t set him up right for exercises we do. But he’s also extremely lazy and needs some extra motivation to go faster than a slow walk so basically he’s my spirit animal.

But while I could just write about the unicorns and rainbows side of this journey (though if someone can tell me where I can get a unicorn, I’d be extremely grateful), when I started it I promised I’d write about the ups and downs so here we are.

If you follow me on social media, you likely know I have cerebral palsy and I often talk about how much hippotherapy helped my disability as a child. Riding made my legs a lot stronger, helped me “learn” to walk correctly, and also turned me into a pretty good rider who took home my fair share of ribbons and belt buckles. But after not riding seriously as an adult for a few years, I hadn’t realized how much my improvement had regressed – especially when it comes to riding. So getting serious about this journey has been an eye-opener.

Of course, with challenges come plans so my trainer and I are working with some ideas to get those muscles that have decided to nap to start listening again.

As I can only afford to take one lesson a week at the moment, there has been a lot of “homework” between those lessons from stretching muscles (which can be more painful than a gym session!) to trying to get everything back working by going to the gym in addition to my riding sessions. But all that extra work still doesn’t do nearly as much as riding regularly does so it is a bit of a rock and a hard place.

I won’t lie, there is a lot of disappointment in realizing a month into stepping up the pace in my lessons that my body isn’t picking back up right where I left off. It’s not easy to go from being successful at something to struggling when you return to it years later, but I still have hope that we’ll click into gear here shortly with the work I’m doing.

If nothing else, it’s been a while since I’ve been this frustrated with riding so it’s good to refresh the lesson horses have taught me on handling it!

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