A letter to my younger (athlete) self

Eliza Harvey is an FEI Australian International Eventing YR and Student Athlete currently based at Hartpury University in the UK. In this blog series, Eliza shares the ins and outs of the horse world as she navigates her way through the International levels.

The premise for this blog seems slightly odd- in that I am only a mere (almost) 21 year old and am pretty sure that still classifies me as ‘young’. But, just like many other junior athletes who have grown up fully immersed in a sport that requires you to manage every aspect of another animal, I feel double my age most days!

So today I chat to my younger self, but hopefully to you as well, and share the advice I wish I knew growing up (and learnt the hard way, of course).

Tell your friends that you don’t want to know what people say about you

It took until I was 18 for my sport psychologist to tell me this. It was a big light bulb moment for me. I am a naturally anxious person, so hearing what people say about me, good or bad, is a sure way to get my nerves up and my mind making up 1 million scenarios.

Tell your friends that if they hear something about you, you don’t want to hear it. Don’t ask somebody 'I don’t know if they like me…’ or ‘I wonder if they think I am a good rider..’. Nope, you’re going to stay in your own lane and only listen to the advice of your trusted circle, which brings me too..

Pick your inner circle and mentors well

Here’s the thing. I have been around the world, worked and ridden for top riders and Olympians, and had a plethora of amazing coaches. But my closest mentor, whom is probably one of the only people who I allow to tell me the ‘hard truths’, is my coach from when I was 13 years old. She is an amazing athlete and person in her own right, but the point is, I found someone whom I trust completely and know doesn’t have an ‘ulterior motive.’

The sad truth is, not everyone in the industry wants to ‘just’ help you. Often they have a personal gain, which is completely fine and justified (this sport is tough!), but finding someone who completely 100% has your back through thick and thin is so important.

P.S. Your mentor doesn’t have to have ridden on the world stage, or have a massive following, they also don’t have to be your full time coach, but they do have to want to see you succeed.


Let the tears flow, then get back to work

*Queue my best friend laughing as she still has to tell me this often*

We have a little saying that we tell each other when life seems so ridiculously, ridiculous.

‘Trust the process’

I’ve been stranded on the other side of the world with a broken horse and no contacts, I’ve been staring at the sky unable to move from a fractured neck and have cried standing next to vets and coaches far too many times. Horses aren’t all fun, the sport isn’t all fun, honestly sometimes I wonder why we proceed.

But young one, you must trust in the process and know that every time you cry, the world has made you a little stronger for your next big adventure… and what an exciting one it is sure to be.

Pick the risk wisely, then fully commit

You know that saying about how life begins outside of your comfort zone etc etc? I have a revision of this, because, well, horses.

I don’t like taking risks on the horses. I don’t want to show up to an event and ‘wing it’. Been there, done that, fallen off. So plan wisely, prepare fully, and never show up ‘hoping for the best.’ I want to live in a world where I scroll on social media and see young riders saying ‘ I prepared and we executed’, not ‘ it was a big ask…’. Have some confidence in your process, commit, and then if something goes wrong, reflect and know you prepared as well as you could but there is more work to be done.

Please note, I am the biggest culprit of  ignoring this as a junior and chasing qualifiers to the end of the earth. It didn’t work, and I have the hospital admissions to prove it- so I truly do I speak from a place of love!

Now, insert my split personality.

Risks off the horses, well, I like these. You want to sell everything you own and move overseas to study and ride with no coach, no job locked in and no clue on how you can afford to live? Epic, wing it, figure it out, sounds fun. The sports psychologist is on speed dial anyway.  

You want to start a youtube channel or tik tok but are worried about what people think? Go for it, remember we don’t care what people think and no one is allowed to tell us.

You want to be an elite athlete, but you don’t think you can give up your other interests or job avenues? Sure, let’s do both.  It’s double the work, but double the reward. How fun!

Eliminate the boxes, labels, societal expectations. It’s all an adventure anyway, I am your biggest fan and believe in you!

Rejoice in the in-between

You may wonder why I have gone through this whole blog post, and not talked about competitions or results or accolades. Well, that is because I learnt to find my happiness in the ‘in-between’.

What is the in-between you ask? Well, it’s a peaceful place. It is between competitions and lessons and clinics. It’s the quiet time you spend at the stables, it’s the hacking in the English country side, it’s laughing with your friends as you explain how that one horse managed to dump you (again) and it is the arguing with your sister about who gets to use the pink saddle blanket.

Competitions are fun, interviews are fun, social media is fun, but they aren’t a sustainable source of happiness. What happens when your horse is injured, or you are? Don’t set yourself up for a bad time.

The true fulfilment is in the magic moments, and the best part? They never run out, I promise. Just open your eyes and take a deep breath, it is all worth it in the end…

Now young one, where shall we adventure next?

- E x


1 comment

Beautifully and thoughtfully written. So proud to know you Eliza. 💕 It’s often those in between times that on reflection are a step in the process. 💕🐴

Cherie Baines September 24, 2020

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