A Victory Over The Past

Perspective is an interesting thing. I tend to lean more toward the optimistic side of things: When one door closes, another door opens.

A couple of weeks ago I was unexpectedly let go from my job. After the initial feeling of complete terror struck my body, I realized it was a blessing in disguise. The financial stability was nice, but the freedom and love for what I was about to dive into was incomparable.

As you might already know, I have set my sails for vet school. I met with my academic adviser and I’ve got about a year and a half of full-time undergrad classes to finish before applying to Vet School. In addition to school, what I didn’t realize was that I needed about 3,000 hours of vet assistant type exposure.

So for this, I am grateful I was let go. I am taking this as an opportunity to grow and expand the things I love to do. I’ve spent so much time creating a Plan B to my life that I had forgotten what it felt like to focus on Plan A.

Plan A has been set into motion: I’ve successfully competed in my first horse show with Fable for the first time in 5 years and we came out at 4th level test 1 with a 59% and I’m proud of it. I have been beating around the bush for the last 5 years because a lack of confidence in myself and that is OVER. The spell has been BROKEN! I will continue showing and striving for my Silver Medal this summer and continue training for my Gold. I will continue sharing my knowledge and keep the door open to any students who want to join the journey and be a part of the process. I will continue reaching out and advocating for myself and my team because I believe in the dynamic differences of DuFour Dynamics.

Yes, I will have struggles. Yes, I will still have doubts. But I am SO grateful for my partner in crime, Allison, and my wonderful friends and family who support me and encourage me to truly live my dream. I am ALSO grateful I did not give up on myself. I fell again and again, and I will continue to fall, but most importantly I will continue to get back up.

Well here it is: What you focus on expands.

So where is my focus? Horses. Fitness. Love.

I’m putting it into the Universe. My heart and soul are invested. Fear will no longer be my barricade. This girl is unstoppable. ❤

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Coffee and Ice Cream, The Bullies

It’s official. I’m an addict. Coffee and Ice Cream. Today they tried to get the best of me.

I’ve been able to break free of the cycle, but it’s usually pretty difficult and I have to wean myself. Cold turkey never usually works. Over the weekend, I’ve cut myself back to once per week and It’s only been three days for the Ice Cream, and one day for the Coffee.

This morning Coffee made me stare intensely at the Keurig for about 30 seconds, but I heated up my tea and proceeded to walked away.

As the day went on I felt my body getting heavier, my focus becoming blurred, and I noticed I was staring at the same screen for about an hour. Ice Cream gave me a little nudge of excitement, and although I thought I was leaving for some fresh air, Ice Cream had other plans.

My body took me straight to Dairy Queen. I sat outside in the parking lot looking at the delicious choices. I turned my car around and took a cat nap to sleep off the craving. All while fighting the urge to pout like a child being denied of Ice Cream.

I woke up feeling a bit more refreshed, but Ice Cream still wasn’t finished with me… He had another idea. I started driving back to work and my body turned into a parking spot right outside of the grocery store. I walked down the Ice Cream isle like a zombie for about 10 minutes. As I realized what was happening I put my foot down and decided to walk out.

However, Ice Cream was waiting in a freezer right by the register I had to walk by. I stopped. I stared. I opened the door and grabbed an Ice Cream Sandwich and waited inline.

After watching the person in front of me scan each of his 300 tuna can’s that he had in his cart I looked down at Ice Cream and pondered if all of this was worth it… Just to feel equally as miserable if I did before. I put Ice Cream and his wicked plans back in that freezer and left.

I ran back to my car and drove to work as fast as I could before Coffee or Ice Cream popped out at me again. Here I am, two cups of water and an orange sitting on my desk proud to say I did not cave to my two sneaky Addictions.

Coffee, Ice Cream… Not today.

A Mile A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Cross Fit was my Catalyst.

Pre-Cross Fit:
I felt weak, fatigued and my body was constantly getting hurt. From an achy wrist from massaging horses, to a sharp pain in my traps from cleaning stalls. My motivation and energy levels were parallel: I felt like I was on survival and sustain mode. My weakness was visible. Shoulders were concave, deltoids minimal and I could barely lift a 5 lb dumbbell above eye level.

The Act of Cross Fit:
Allison finally persuaded me to join. I jumped in wholeheartedly and could not walk for the first week, but I kept going. It pushed my out of my comfort zone and out of my self doubt. It got me hooked on doing things that scare me. Box jumps, thrusters, burpees… I remember standing at the base of the box just visualizing my shin ramming right into the edge. My coach helped me take baby steps… Starting with a shorter distance, working my way up. I remember my hands were shaking with adrenaline just from trying to jump on this stupid box. I had to prove to myself that I could do it.

After that workout I started treating my life like a box jump. I have to prove myself that I can do it. I felt myself setting bigger goals, visualizing myself following through and growing through the process. Some days I fall right back to square one, but I keep getting up. I keep taking one step at a time.

After a couple of months, my courage to try new things and my persistence to challenge myself turned into something visible. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling a sense of gratitude and hope from my newly sculpted shoulder muscles. 

Post-Cross Fit:
Although I am no longer training with the Cross Fit crew, I taking that freshly ignited motivation and persistence with me as I go. When the days get busy with school, horses and work… I remind myself that I am still challenging myself, just in a different way than the physical and mental workout of cross fit. With school, I am strengthening my focus and my appreciation for the material being presented, as well as my ability to take one step at a time toward my goal. With work, I am strengthening my perseverance, people skills and persistence. With horses, I am strengthening my confidence, gratitude and presence.

I fell out of the loop for a couple of weeks, I noticed my eating habits declining in addition to the lack of exercise. However, this week we’re back to it.

Just like the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, I have found a source of meditation that goes hand in hand with that physical perseverance I found with cross fit: A mile a day keeps the doctor away… Along with EATING to fuel my body.

Allison and I are going to strive for running one mile every day. Little by little, we will work ourselves up. I would love to run a marathon in the fall.

Goal: Keep setting goals that are challenging.

 


Wasn’t My Path

Six years ago I applied for the Junior Young Rider Olympic Dream Program. This would consist of the top Junior Young Riders over the United States that would travel all over Europe and learn from the world’s top trainers for a period of time. We had to send a video of us riding certain movements and give a brief overview of our history with dressage and our goals we wanted to accomplish.

I remember pulling my car over when I got the email that would give me the news… As I was gathering the courage to open the email my goals and dreams flashed before my eyes, Olympics, Gold Medal, Europe, Traveling, Training… My heart dropped when I found I was not accepted into the program.

I hadn’t thought about this for YEARS… Until today. I was going through some pictures of an old friend that was training in Florida during the same time I was down there as a working student. The fancy horses, the beautiful stables, the double bridles and big necked horses… Then the light-bulb appeared: It wasn’t my path.

The dots are connecting.

Yesterday morning I woke up in a panic attack. The stresses of expectations and pressure of performing were creeping up on me. My past experiences with showing were focused on winning. Yes, I wanted to enjoy the process and ride dressage to benefit my horse… But when I turned down centerline my game face was on and I was there to show.

That was me with the old mentality. I didn’t play, I practiced. I was 100% dedicated to being the best that I could be, however my tunnel vision on what I saw as ‘success’ wasn’t the best for my horse.

My time in Florida with the fancy horses, fancy stables, double bridles and big necked horses opened my eyes and caused me to step back and re-evaluate my path. I didn’t know who I wanted to be after that, or why I was even on that path to begin with. I didn’t know how to move forward and I was terrified to try.

My trainer in Florida did an AMAZING job educating me about the hows and whys of dressage and I appreciate her approach in thinking about the horse bio-mechanically. Despite having that knowledge of how to get where I wanted to be physically, I couldn’t shake the guilt.

The guilt of not getting into the Olympic Dream Program. The guilt of allowing horses and competing to drive a wedge in between my family time. The guilt of riding Third and Fourth level on a hollow horse. The guilt of getting so frustrated with Fable when he wasn’t ’round’ or ‘through’ enough. The guilt that built up throughout my entire life finally broke loose. I had no idea how to cope with it.

I let all of this guilt put my riding career on hold for five years.

Thankfully, I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in accepting where I was, and forgiving myself for the things I’ve done. But ever since I declared going for those goals again, those emotions floated right back up to the surface. It was easier to take the pressure off and say, ‘Those aren’t my goals anymore, that was a different lifetime. I am content.’ But what I was really saying to myself: “I’m not good enough for those goals and I’m not going to allow myself to feel the pain of giving up. So, I will go numb.”

Un-numbing is a process and sometimes in order to feel 100% of the good emotions you equally have to feel 100% of the undesired emotions. As I was resisting the urge to numb myself this week as the fear crept in: I felt anxious, I felt excited, I felt passionate, I felt angry, I felt my doubt, I felt my courage. I felt everything.

So here we are, the reason I started this blog entry today:

Six years after I was rejected for the Olympic Dream Program and for the first time in a long time it makes sense why that wasn’t my path. I had to learn a different version of success. A version where the horse was the judge, not the person sitting outside of the arena. I learned how to really feel. I learned how to let go. I learned how to trust. I learned how to play. I learned how to laugh in the saddle again. I learned the true friendship a horse can offer when you drop your expectations and appreciate what they offer. I learned to think outside of the box and I am continuously challenged to thinking outside of the box.

The time Fable and I spent developing a new language and mending our partnership has been an experience I wouldn’t change for the world. Because of everything we’ve learned together, Fable is now in the best shape of his life. His muscles are balanced, his coat is dappled, mane and tail are full and shiny, his lungs are in great shape, his feet are allowing him to move the best he can.

The moment that ignited the idea of showing again happened last weekend when a student of mine came out for a lesson with him… Fable knew he had a new set of eyes and his fancy ‘dressage’ tack on with his bit and everything. As she sent him out on the circle he showed her his piaffe… Through the entire lesson he continued to be a ham with his expressive and engaged trot with incredible cadence and softness. He was dancing. I couldn’t help but think he was telling me now is the time.

THESE are the reasons I have set the goals of achieving my USDF Silver and Gold Medals. My horse. He’s telling me he is ready. This time, it is for Fable. 

Fable is the horse of a lifetime and he has offered to dance, it would be a shame not to accept. He is putting his his whole heart into what he does and it’s time for me to let go of my fears and do the same.

Two Year Vacation, and We’re Back

November 2014, my last post had a picture of an empty room with all of my belongings shoved into a bin. A lot has happened since then! I moved into an apartment with my best friend, had to rely on a ‘job’ for the first time in my life, bills were due, horses need to eat… I had to figure out how to rock the whole ‘adulting’ thing while supporting two of my own horses.

I worked at Starbucks for a while, became a Certified Equi-Tape Practitioner, found a job at Beaumont as a Rehab Technician, became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, worked at Sola Life and Fitness as a Personal Trainer… Also during all of that I had been massaging horses, giving riding lessons, feeding most evenings and some mornings to help work off my horses’ board, make time to exercise my own horses and I also attempted to take college courses only to figure out half way through the semester I had too much on my plate.

Now, I’m happily married to that best friend, I’m working as a Recruiter for an IT company, we live on a farm with our 4 horses, 2 dogs and 2 cats, I still spread myself too thin with massages, horse training and other shenanigans (such as starting school again in a week) but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Where am I headed? What are my goals and ambitions? Two years ago, I would have had an allusive answer like, “Follow my dreams and live under the stars and just live life!” I’m still that crazy girl wanting to follow her dreams and truly live, but my image of what that consists of has a tiny bit of clarity now.

Life Goals:

I want to be a Vet. I am going to be a Vet. I am pursuing my undergrad degree in Bioengineering (the Biomedical/Biophysical Engineering track) and I will strive toward applying to Vet School at MSU. This scares the hell out of me.

I also want to achieve my USDF Gold Medal. I am going to achieve my USDF Gold Medal. This year, I am aiming for my Silver Medal with noble steed, Fable. It’s been about 5 years since my last show with Fable. This also scares the hell out of me.

This is me, the same Heather that started this blog back in October of 2012. This is a continuum of my story as I amp up the commitment and discipline with my sails pointed toward becoming Heather DuFour DVM, USDF Gold Medalist, and more.

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Let’s do this thang!

Why Wait?

Some might think I’m moving from the farm because I’m getting out of horses… In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

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I wanted to live a quiet life with horses as my hobby and part time job while I figured out what type of career I wanted… I’m still not absolute on where my path is headed, but that is part of the reason I decided to move and bring my horses with me. Having horses in my back yard got me to where I am right now, but to move forward I feel it is necessary to have my own freedom. There has to be a balance… I used to be the craziest horse crazy girl anybody knew, but burnout is a factor when things are out of balance.

I got my first horse when I was 13, after that I surrendered my life to horses, working, and more horses. I had so much focus on working toward my horse goals I created tunnel vision and lost sight of what it meant to ‘play’. The past several months I have been building myself up from the rock bottom I hit a few years back. Since I have found my confidence and passion for life again, I feel a strong pull toward adventure. I don’t want to feel stagnant, trapped, or simply content settling with the same routine day after day. I want to experience all that life has to offer… INCLUDING witnessing the full potential of my own horses.

I knew there was going to be time I would part my ways with the farm and go on my next adventure. Our plan was to keep the farm so I could focus on school and have a place to keep my horses while my dad got property to hunt on and my mom had a yard to do agility and play frisbee with Autumn. We were fortunate to find such a wonderful place with wonderful people that came into it. Although I am not done with school and we’ve only been here for a short time… It was enough time for me to realize I’m not ready for the time and consistency required for running a farm at this point in my life. I’m very thankful for my wonderful parents who have supported 110% of the way and allowed me the experience of living on a farm for a short while and all of their efforts they put into the property.

Although it may seem I am ‘giving up’ a lot, I know my gypsy heart is thirsty and excited for the adventure and growth that is to come. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s already gratifying knowing I’m not going to settle for a life without passion; I’m going to follow my heart, strive for growth and appreciate all of the little things in between.

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A Leap of Faith

“My life is like a story,
Each day is a new chapter.
Every second holds its glory,
Makes me believe I’ll be a happy ever after.
So every time I take a breath,
It starts a new beginning…
I want to be free.”  -J.A.

Symbols. I love to attach symbols. The artist in me seeks the deep rooted meaning in every word, every event, every gesture. It’s easy to get lost in thought with these mental attachments. Looking back, I realize have spent many hours sitting in this chair, pondering such things.

I seek balance between thought and action; introvert and extrovert; confidence and humility.

My journey to the center of this target is shaped by each experience I encounter… The deciding factor is in my attitude. My attitude is my responsibility. A choice I make. The only person with control of my attitude is me. I choose to smile. I choose to be grateful. I choose to continue on this adventure with optimism, faith, and passion.

Marching forward with everything I have to give with open arms and an open heart. Less material, more connection. Less possession, more appreciation. Less worry, more acceptance. Less settlement, more adventure.

So, where does this journey lead? Is there a destination? Should we stay put? Should we attach ourself to a location, a lifestyle, a mindset? Or, should we live freely, follow our hearts, and accept our lives might lead us to incredible places forming connections with people all over the globe?

The possibilities are truly endless… The deciding factor? Attitude.

If the attitude is right, the facts don’t matter. -Jane Savoie

Do you allow yourself to be trapped in fear? Or, do you take a leap of faith?

I am taking a leap of faith.

I do believe the events these past two months have had a divine meaning and purpose. There has been a lot of change and a lot of growth. A wise thing my brother told me a few months ago,

“Accept losing everything. Accept losing your horses, your home, your family, friends… This leads you to a discovery of what you WANT in your life. Instead of fearing loss, you will embrace.”

After pondering this thought… I found peace. I WANT family. I WANT community. I WANT friendships. I will embrace these things. Sometimes, we have to compromise. While owning a farm has been an incredible growing experience for me, and the generosity of my parents to join me on this journey and allow me the opportunity to experience such a thing is a gift I will ALWAYS be grateful for… I have decided to embark on another journey…

This Friday, I will be moving into an apartment with my sister from another mister… Allison. She came here all the way from Colorado to live in Michigan for better horse opportunities. Despite a rocky start and plans changing left and right… We’ve accomplished a lot in the past two months and I can only imagine what crazy things are to come.

Cheers… To a leap of faith, good friends to enjoy the journey with, and the horses that teach us what life’s really about.

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