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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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!

Once Upon Another Time

I sit and close my eyes here in this RV. I hear the Florida crickets chirping a lullaby just for me. Things I didn’t notice the past four months are more apparent than ever. These past couple of weeks have by far been the hardest. There have been a couple of days along this journey where I really just wanted to come home, but I knew I had more to learn here. And boy, I’m sure glad I stayed. Getting down to the final stretch I was thinking, I learned all I needed to, now let me GO! The despearte feeling of needing to leave crept up on me again, slowly but surely. Feeling groggy from a cold didn’t help, either. One minor detail I forgot: Learning never stops.

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose Wisely”. – KC

My spirits came back to life from the thought of seeing my parents soon. I picked them up from the airport yesterday morning. It was so nice to see them. It’s funny how things change even over a short period of a couple months, the little things that used to get under my skin I am now eternally grateful for. I’m so honored to have them as parents. As the day went on I was explaining how excited I was to get out of Florida and back to Michigan.  Image

It wasn’t until this morning after stalls that I realized something very important… Being my last day to clean stalls I was feeling the rapid approach of my near departure. After a couple of stalls I stumbled upon the thought of why I was so anxious to leave. I jotted this train of thought into my notes:

There’s nothing in Florida that made your life any more or less difficult, it was all your mindset. You just didn’t like what those elements turned you into. You chose that, and now you choose to let it go and see the beauty in not only your experience, but yourself.

Every beautiful memory from this trip ran through my mind like a slide show. My vision was sharper than ever with every vibrant color and texture exposing it’s true perfection. Every noise turned into it’s own song. The breeze across my cheek and the steady grip I had surrounding the rake handle. The corners of my lips gradually shifting closer toward my ears into a smile. I was making one of those beautiful memories right in that very moment. The feeling of life. The feeling of connectedness. The feeling of acceptance. The feeling of faith. The feeling of God. The feeling of the Universe. The feeling of Heather.

Eat Pray Love

A few years ago I watched the movie Eat Pray Love for the first time. I was incredibly depressed afterwards. I felt more disconnected than ever before, like I had a huge part of me missing. I was numb. Cold and lost inside. I didn’t know what my ‘word’ was… At one point of the movie, they ask her what her word was… She said everything she wasn’t, and then she said “Well, I guess it’d have to say it’s ‘writer’. I’m a writer.” My word would have been horse trainer. But that’s what I do, not who I am.

My journey to Florida has been much like the movie Eat Pray Love. Just having watched the movie for the second time, I cannot stop smiling. My mouth, my heart, my liver, are all smiling. I no longer feel like I am holding myself back from seeking the beauty in life. I feel like I have opened my mind to let the beauty of the universe in. I feel now. I can laugh, and I can cry. I had such a strong urge to leave everything I knew so I could find myself. Now, I know it’s not the location you must leave behind, it is the old mindset you must part with. I have released all of my inhibitions and I have set myself free. Free from doubt, free from fear. Loving, and living every moment to it’s fullest.

Acceptance

Today I fully accepted the fact that I am destined to work with horses and riders for the rest of my life.  I had an amazing day filled with lessons and riding horses.  I wasn’t worried about school, money, or time.  My mind was open, I was sharing my knowledge and listening to others to see what I could learn from them.  Because I am on break from school, and remembering the decision I made to take my college courses at a slower pace, I feel as if I’m no longer in a hurry and I can focus on the quality of my life vs. focusing on my to-do list and the clock. 

I accept the fact that the horse world is hard.  I accept the fact that it is very competitive.  I accept the fact that horses and people will come and go.  I accept the fact that my existence will be dedicated to improving the communication between horse and rider through as many aspects as possible.  I accept the fact I might not have the biggest paycheck and ton of ‘toys’.  Taking a risk and putting a step forward toward something you really care about and would like to change for the better is a risk worth taking.

There are so many beautiful things in life to witness, and I am certain that you do not need money to witness them.  I will work for passion and purpose, not the paycheck. 

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Sometimes you have to march forward even if you can’t see where the road ends.

 

Importance of the Mind

Your mind is your unique treasure.  A treasure you must take care of and treat more precious than gold, diamonds, or any other valuable item.  If not protected, you will become a mere reflection of your environment.  If you unconsciously surround yourself with negativity, worry, disappointment, you will probably inherit all of those traits.  If one day you open your eyes only to find yourself in such a situation, you need to be the one to change something.  Whether it’s changing the environment or looking at your surrounds in a new light, something needs to change.

This became apparent to me after my two final exams this semester.  I had a whole semester to learn the material, but I overwhelmed myself with a busy schedule and my studies were not at all a priority.  Needless to say, my grades were not up to par for this semester.  However, I was able to learn something very valuable about myself.

I have always been a passionate learner towards things I wanted to learn, (ie. horses!). My school work was another story though.  Opening my math book was like pulling teeth.  Starting my 4 page papers the night before it was due, stuff like that.  My care level was at a bare minimum.  I had a slight realization of this after I graduated high school and I told myself college was going to be different!  And, it was!  I got a 3.46 GPA for my first semester! Then, I let work and the other joys of life take precedence over studies.  I could feel my self slipping my second semester of college, and then two classes this semester just really went down hill.  Coaching the Equestrian Team, giving 16 lessons each week, trying to ride my horse, trying to finally have a social life… It can be a lot to balance.

Long story short: I am making a change and starting fresh.  A new leaf, blank page, whatever you would like to call it.  I am starting next semester enrolled in one class. I am going to MASTER that class.  I am going to teach myself how to study, and get really good at focusing on one class and really breaking things down so I am able to form a good studying habit for the future.  In addition to that, I am going to teach myself to read.  I absolutely love to write; however, reading is a different story.  The irony of this, I just came across a quote by Stephen King, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”  That pretty much sums it up.  Anyway, it’s hard for me to focus.  But here’s where this blog’s title comes in: Importance of the Mind… You have to keep your mind SHARP! By avoiding studying, and failing to read and keep those parts of my brain in tact, I am only hurting myself.  Let your strengths improve your weaknesses: I’m good at writing, creating analogies, and visualizing.  I will incorporate those three things into my studies to ‘strengthen my weaknesses’.

I am getting ready for my Florida trip, and I will be writing every day.  I took last month off of blogging as a little experiment.  If I didn’t reflect on my day, how would my moods differ?  I can tell you for sure I was not nearly as happy during that time of ‘rest’ as I was when I wrote about each day’s lessons.  This challenges me to pick something inspirational and educational to analyze everyday.  Throughout the day I think of things I want to write about.  If nothing else, it gives me a purpose to recognize how wonderful life is.  Brace yourself, Blog World.  This new leaf starts NOW.

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My Boy, with the sparkle back in his eye.