Tuesday, 24 June 2014

1.10m Day

For some reason, I thought I had typed up a post about our brief but dramatic foray into the land of the 1.10m, but as it turns out, I hadn't.  I suppose it's worth its own post, so this is not all bad.

The beginning is as good a place to start as any.  Thursday morning, despite the aid of extended-release Ambien, came early at around 6:30 AM.  Since the 1.10m quite literally ran at the very end of the day, this was not an ideal wake up time.  I was feeling okay enough to suck down breakfast - this could have been due in part to having eaten nothing other than a small but mighty breakfast in the past 48 hours - and then attempted to distract myself with the following, rather unsuccessfully:
a) work
b) computer games
c) the dogs
d) horse show videos
e) texting anyone who would respond about how much I wanted to puke (this did not lead to very many responses, if anyone is curious.)

I finally just gave up and drove to the horse show around 11, figuring that if I wasn't riding, at least watching other people ride would be Fun and Relaxing. Right? RIGHT?!?!

Upon my arrival I was cheerfully informed that Trainer would be peacing out in about 30 minutes which led to extreme panic about who would coach me for my 1.10m debut. In due course I was assured he would be returning and directed to either enjoy a delicious shot of the alcohol of my choice or take a Xanax. I chose neither. Perhaps that was my first mistake?

This all led to a long, looooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooong day of watching various jumpers jump jumps and picking off my nail polish since I couldn't figure out what to do with myself.  There was also some pacing and some purposeful walking the mile trek between the barn and show rings multiple times.

At some point around the hour of darkness (ha) the 1.10m class finally walked.  I walked it myself, noting the one rather tricky line of a bending seven or six to a dobule that had been somewhat killing people all day, then Assistant appeared thirty seconds before they closed the ring for walking and we slowly meandered about while the first horse in the ring's rider glared impatiently at us.  Trainer also showed up around this time, enthusiastically stuffing poutine down his throat, and directed me to tell him the course.  He was not remotely amused by my pet names for the jumps ("first, this enormous oxer that appears to have teeth...") and our horses appeared in short order.  Since I was sort of moving backward, he decided to do his young horse first then come back to school me.  This turned out to be rather fortuitous.

I flatted fine, did all the right things to prepare for jumping, then we started to warm up.  And here is where it all began to unravel.  I saw the short one, then the pull-to-the-base one, then the OH-MY-GOD-PULL-HARDER-TO-THE-BASE one, followed by the "you cannot fucking pull to the base again OH MY GOD GALLOP GALLOPPPPPP" followed by basically three more fences of crazed galloping.  This eventually culminated in coming through the turn to what might have been a 2'9" (if that) oxer, basically kicking Riley and making him run as fast as he could toward the jump, where he proceeded to save both our lives by chipping in at the last minute.  This resulted in me losing my reins, my crop going flying and me more or less landing on Riley's neck as he threw in a few little crowhops to prove his annoyance.  He had his Scowly Riley face on, which does not come out too often but when I do something disconcertingly stupid it will appear.

I had managed to pull up somewhere at the end of the ring, face burning with shame, and totally lost it.  We're talking hyperventilation, couldn't breathe, involuntary tears, that whole bit.  And of course, Trainer's quiet French-accented voice wafted through the air, "Come see me."

So I did.  And I stood there, not looking at anyone, and he kind of studied me for a minute and said, "it's okay, just take a breath." So I did. And then took another one, and we just stood there for a minute.  And then he ignored the Full On Crazy and said, "so, we need to work on establishing the rhythm, no? We will work on the flat now." He then gave me some of the directions noted below in the post about our lesson, which I don't really feel like re-typing, regarding the use of full and half seats and told me to go canter and work on this. Forward, back, REALLY back, then forward, then back, then normal, now canter the jump. OK, a little too much, back to normal, now forward, now back, now around me, now forward, now normal, now jump.  Very patient, very calm, very low pressure.

By this point, I had missed my call for the round by a factor of about, I don't know, five rides or something, and the in-gate person was asking where I was.

Trainer very quietly adjusted the fences upward when I was coming around the corner and (supposedly, though of course I noticed) paying attention and we finished on a very rampy oxer that might have been 3'3", but that was about as good as it was going to get.

Walking down to the ring, he looked at me very seriously and said, "All you need to do is jump two jumps. That is all. If there is any point when you do not feel comfortable, circle. I do not care. If you land or if you are going to a jump and you don't feel good, make a circle. It does not matter. Today is just about a challenge."

Okay.  Even I could deal with that. Maybe.

We were alone with the Barn Manager the last minute or so before we went in, and it really, REALLY hit me that I had to go next and jump this course.  So I proceeded to REALLY lose it, sobbing and just totally unable to function.  Apparently I totally scared Barn Manager, who quite literally forced me to repeat the course to her, then she sent me off.

I sent Riley in the ring at a walk, a sluggish one at that and he seemed mildly concerned about this and very quiet.  After I started to trot, he puffed back into Show Ring Riley and I felt like I had a horse under me, and then the buzzer went, and... it was time to go.

I set off in a canter toward jump one, a slightly spooky barn-and-cowboy-shadow vertical, which Riley sized up and decided he didn't like that much.  I kicked on and went over it nicely, then moved up slightly for the five strides to an oxer coming out of the line.  On landing it felt HUGE and I'm pretty sure I landed somewhere in the vicinity of Riley's ears.  But we shook it off and went toward jump 3, another tremendous oxer on a rollback off the ingate.  I found a lovely forward distance to this, followed by a dog-leg turn to the left to a nice vertical.  Then I had to set up for the tricky line, the seven or the six to a two-stride combination, oxer on the way in.  All day this had been tripping people up - it was either a get-it-done six or a stay-the-hell-out seven and many people had come in, not made the right decision either way, and done six and a half.  I had walked and, based on Riley's stride and my interest in not getting the deep one to an oxer combination, decided to do the six.  And damn if I wasn't proud of how we landed, looked, and locked on to the perfect six strides.  He jumped through like a champ, then we turned left after a longish gallop again.  Here, I made my first real mistake, and did an "OH MY GOD I SEE THE REALLY FORWARD ONE", told Riley to GO and ended up leaving a stride out where it really should not have been left out and causing one of those really cute 3-legged jumps that everyone loves, but somehow staying clear.  This also led to me sitting like an idiot, not getting him back until four strides before the next jump, another massive oxer, and getting the front rail.  Not a huge deal, though.  From there we turned right to a line down the outside, a big black and white oxer, and Riley (or me? I'm not even sure) stuttered off the ground which led to him overjumping it by about two feet and some very strangled sounds emanating from the video.  From there, five strides to a one-stride, which was absolutely perfect somehow, then another dog leg turn around the outside to finish on a skinny vertical, which we cleared.... to.....


No stops.
No falls.
And we finished.

Shout out to Riley for putting up with his psychotic rider.  He was a superstar, jumped like a total hero, and the thing I noticed (after I'd taken off my Panic Glasses) was that jumping that height felt unbelievably *easy* for him - where it hadn't before.  So there's that....

There is some photographic evidence from this class, but most of it is pretty ugly.

However. It must be said, again, that we finished. This is the first 1.10m we have actually ever completed.  I am so very proud of Riley, and yes, even proud of myself, though I wish I could have ridden like less of a total asshole.  But hey, it is what it is.

1.40s here we come...?

Horse Show Hangover

Usually, the horse show hangover phenomenon occurs on Mondays, but I didn't get that option yesterday, so I rolled it into Tuesday. A day resplendent with sitting in my oh-so-comfy, oh-so-welcoming bed with occasional forays into the kitchen for sustenance, followed by endless catnaps. One day I'll leave the comforts of this goosedown featherbed and these Egpytian cotton sheets and turn into a productive human being again, but that day won't be today.

For a somewhat brief recap, Riley and I returned to the 1.0m division on Saturday, and I proceeded to ride like someone who actually knew how to ride.  Our first class was double clear and in the ribbons, and our second class, the Power & Speed, was excellent until the final fence of the Speed phase where we pulled a rail.  Disappointing but not the end of the world.  Trainer managed to corner me after this and we had a very irritating conversation where he forced me to decide which division I would do Sunday. I decided on starting out in the 1.0m and if that went well we would try 1.10m.  As usual I doubt he was very impressed with my response but welcome to my world.

Sunday, our warmup was quite fantastic.  Our actual class was probably one of our smoother efforts, but I was annoyed by some small mistakes, and Riley was starting to feel fairly tired; additionally, he had been a little body sore after our classes on Saturday.  I had difficulty finding our rhythm in the class and felt like I was shoving him around the course - another symptom of his (and my) tiredness; when he's awake and alive, that rhythm is a lot easier to find and keep. Particularly based on his medical issues in the past, and the fact that he had worked really hard all week, I decided to hang up the spurs and scratch our last effort.  I was actually disappointed, because the 1.10m course was fairly forgiving and would have been a rather excellent course to ride, but it is what it is, and the horse's welfare must come first.  I don't think Trainer was impressed by this decision, but it's one of those things where I genuinely feel that I know this horse extremely well and it's really not worth pushing it for another class, particularly a move-up class.  I finished Sunday feeling rankled that I hadn't been able to pull it together enough to try the 1.10m again and seriously annoyed by the stupid mistakes I'd made.  If nothing else, I'm the Queen of turning what should have been a positive experience into a "wow, I really suck!" one.  However, this was followed by cocktails in the Grand Prix Pavilion while watching Trainer take the farm's young horse into her first Grand Prix and going double clear, finishing second, so of course it could be much worse.

Monday, Trainer had decided on giving lessons in the morning prior to packing up and toddling off to Spruce Meadows, and after some discussion about whether this would kill my horse or not I signed up for one.

I love lessons; they're probably my favorite part of the whole Riding At A Fancy Barn thing.  Every time I take a lesson with Trainer, I walk away with some mind-bogglingly simple new nugget of knowledge that makes total sense, makes me wonder wtf I've been doing to date, and changes my riding for the better.  I've had so many of these "lightbulb" lessons at this point that I'm starting to wonder if I knew how to ride AT ALL before.  On that note, Friday, the Head Boss Farm Owner and I were sitting together watching his horse do the Open Welcome, and he sort of casually mentioned that Trainer had bestowed the Most Improved Rider award on my person over the week, which is not actually a ~thing~ at my barn but was nevertheless an extremely nice thing to hear.

Anyway, our lesson Monday was another one of those stupid-simple ones.  It involved use of the seat and legs to move one's horse forward and bring it back.  Simply, one sits more deeply (use of driving, more dressage-y type seat) to move the horse forward, of course along with the leg, and lightens one's seat to slow one's horse.  When one has achieved the desired rhythm one may decide to sit or go into two-point depending on one's horse's preference.  This position change had been vaguely proposed to me earlier in the week, when I was busy panicking before my 1.10m class, but I hadn't really had the opportunity to practice much.  This was especially useful for me since I tend to sit down about three or four strides from the jump, no matter what I see, which can lead to driving my horse past my distance as he is fairly sensitive to these things - even if I'm not actively driving.  We practiced on a circle at the walk, trot, canter, and reverse and then practiced over a teeny tiny vertical by doing both driving seat and light seat.  This was hard; I had some amusing chips since my horse responded quite a lot better than I anticipated to the light seat, but Trainer was extremely positive about this and so was I.  It's a different riding style than I'm totally used to and I'm fine with making mistakes like that!  After a few practice jumps, he put the jumps to around 3ft and we practiced a line.  I had the option of picking six strides or seven strides and practicing different uses of the seat.  The object was this: get into good rhythm, come around the corner to the jump in full seat so as to keep the established rhythm (as horses tend to slow down naturally through the corners), then see whatever I see out of the corner and either lighten my seat and adjust or keep the full seat and come forward slightly.  I have to say, I totally nailed this part and Trainer was quite effusive about our efforts.  Naturally I was quite happy too; it was the ideal way to wrap up our last lesson before he leaves.

A quick note here just to talk about Riley and what a wonderful horse he is.  I genuinely don't think I could be any luckier than I am to have this horse -- he 100% tries his heart out for me, every single time, is forever cheerful and happy to see me, and loves his job more than any horse I've ever met.  He has personality plus and is sweet, adorable, and so much fun.  I am so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to ride him!

The next few weeks will be quiet ones for us.  I'm giving Riley (and myself!) a few days off to recover from the horse show hangover.  I'm pretty impressed with how sore *I* am - there are muscles on my body that are unrealistically painful and I don't have any idea why.  I'll start hacking him again on Thursday or Friday, then we'll move into lessons next week before Trainer flies back from Spruce to do a few days' worth of lessons in July.  After that, I'm not sure. I'm considering a horse show with the Assistant, since I'd like another under my belt before we leave for a fairly big CSI-W in July.  We have about four weeks before that one and I'm not feeling entirely enthusiastic about hacking around until then.  It would be nice if we could just ship in for a day or two and do some schooling classes, but that seems unlikely!  I guess I'll continue to mull it over and figure it out one of these days.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

All I Dream Is The Same Dream

Today, something interesting happened: I woke up and actually felt hungry.

Usually, my pre-show routine goes something like:
- Wake up.
- Consider vomiting for an extended period of time.
- Very quickly consume Extra Strength Pepcid.
- Lay back in bed, attempt to sleep for another 15 minutes, fail because riding my course 99999 times in head.
- Begin sweating.
- Briefly contemplate throwing up again.
- Decide to wake up and start morning routine, despite painful, because ANYTHING HAS TO BE BETTER THAN THIS MENTAL AND GASTROINTESTINAL ANGUISH.

But today, I woke up, leisurely contemplated my breakfast options, and even fell back asleep for about five minutes.

Today was Schooling Day, which is slightly more srs than it sounds.  Basically it's a regular jumping class except there's no jump-off.  The courses are (usually) slightly easier, and sometimes the course designers are even nice enough to not totally max out the height and width of the jumps.  If one goes clear with no jumping faults or time faults, one receives a red ribbon for a clear round.

Per discussion with Trainer and Assistant, I was signed up to do the 90cm schooling and the 1.0 meter schooling after.  90cm because it's been three weeks since we showed, and Trainer hasn't been around much.  I was really rather pleased with this, since the smaller the class, the less the stress.

I arrived early - the crack of 9 am - to watch my friend show her horse for the first time.  Her horse is a lovely fellow, and has been doing the modified Grand Prixs for some time.  But he's always been hot, more than a bit unpredictable and extremely sensitive, and even Trainer calls him "an immensely complicated horse."  But my friend rode her guts out and even moved up a division - huge success for her!  She is beside herself and also concerned about the fact that she has no show clothes and must outfit herself by Saturday morning.

My 90cm class took forever to start, as per usual, and I finally tacked up and hopped on around noon.  Riley was mildly sluggish, and I re-thought my decision to lower my spurs so they wouldn't be quite so authoratative in the ring.  After fixing this and (quite gently) applying the stick I had a much more forward, willing horse who wasn't constantly falling behind my leg.  It doesn't take much with him, but it does take something!  Trainer hopped on one of the green horses, and we both warmed up together, with him murmuring various tips and directions as we rode side by side and eventually over fences.

Our over fences warmup was kind of amusing - in the past, we've jumped somewhat smaller than the actual size of the fences in the ring, but we were doing a solid 1.0m and finished on about a 3'6" vertical.  Needless to say I felt pretty ready stepping in the ring, and Riley immediately puffed into Show Ring Riley and strutted importantly, ears perked to the max.  I showed him an in-and-out where a lot of horses were stopping and a liverpool, which he never cares very much about.

Jump 1 was a vertical coming off the left lead toward the in gate, and I got a short distance, which I was quite okay with.  Riley landed and did his usual "OH.MY.GOD.WE'RE JUMPING. AT A HORSE SHOW. RIGHT NOW. THIS IS HAPPENING. I AM SO EXCITED. I LITERALLY JUST. I CAN'T. I CAN'T EVEN. OH MY GOD." and flailed around with some crowhopping, then we turned back to jump 2, a natural oxer, and did a nice bending six to a vertical toward the end of the ring.  From there we turned right, jumped the scary in and out (which he did not care about) and I choked him in order to get the seven strides to the liverpool.  He jumped it well, then we cantered along for a bit, turned right and jumped down a seven stride line that I found a really lovely forward distance to.  Then we turned left, jumped an oxer and bending six to another oxer, then did some kind of blind turn to jump 10.

I was pretty happy with our round.  We were clear, inside the time, and Riley jumped like a star.  My distances were pretty decent as well, and he actually kind of listened. Sometimes.

After this I proceeded to sit around for 900 years waiting for the 1.0m class to go.  This wasn't all bad, since Trainer was riding a bunch in the 1.15, then the 1.25, so there was plenty to do.  A few of my friends and I got lunch and enjoyed the view from the pavilion.

The 1.0m finally walked, as a very similar course to the 90cm save for a few different lines.  As I was walking in, Barn Owner skipped up from nearby and walked the course with me.  Trainer doesn't always show up for these course walks - something I'm still getting used to.  So it's nice to have someone else to walk with.

As we went along, she kept stopping by the oxers and going "oh my GOD, these are huge. I mean this is a REAL meter. They're enormous."  Very helpful stuff for the already dubious me!

After that, I went back and watched more of the 1.25, since Trainer had some in that he wanted to get done prior to coaching me.  My horse finally appeared at the ring, along with aforementioned green horse Trainer was riding in the 90cm who also moved up to 1.0m.  We proceeded to warm up quite quickly on the flat, then started to jump.

If I thought the warm-up we had before was amusing, things were infinitely more so during this warm-up.  It's one of those jumping sessions I don't think I'll soon forget.  The jumps went up, and then they went up again.  Then they went up AGAIN.  Trainer kept calling "TALLER, WIDER" and this eventually led to the both of us jumping a 1.15m oxer and finishing out on a 1.15 or 1.20m vertical.  According to Barn Manager: "He just kept saying UP! I was wondering if you were going to faint but you just kept bopping right along and nailing everything."
This session, perhaps needless to say? went extremely well. I found every distance, despite having plenty of variety in getting to them (the forward one, the quiet one, the "let's go a little sideways to make some room here" one) and honestly just felt amazing.  I couldn't stop smiling and patting Riley and genuinely considered calling it a day, then and there, since he had just jumped his face off.

I was feeling some sort of bravado waiting to go in the ring, and when the time came I had my plan set and was ready to go.

Jump 1 was a natural oxer heading toward the in-gate, with a normal bending five stride line to a vertical.  I jumped in a little slow, then had to move a little to make the five.  Of course this led to Riley landing and playing a bit, but I quickly found his attention and turned to jump 3, another natural oxer.  I found the quite forward one to this jump which led to landing on the way to jump 4 and going "well, this six isn't going to happen" and turning it into a nice five stride line.  Riley's stride is so tremendously adjustable that these types of things are rather easily possible.  He landed after jump 4 and really took off bucking - I dragged his head up, informed him he could really stand to stop being an ass, tugged him around the corner to the right and jumped through the "scary" in and out previously mentioned from the 90cm.  Another seven strides to the liverpool - which somehow rode better this time - and then a longish gallop and right turn to a green oxer and seven stride line.  This rode extremely well for me, and Trainer's commentary on the video is something like "ZAT WAS GOOOOOD" and "SUPAIRRRRR" for pretty much every jump.  Guess I can't fault him for positivity!  Anyway, after landing, we turned left, had another lengthy gallop where I took the opportunity to SLOW HIM DOWN and then jumped an oxer out of the corner, did a fairly forward six strides to another in and out, and cantered through the finish markers.

I was actually pretty happy with this round. Despite Riley dragging me around a bit, I was pleased with the decisions I made and the way I rode.  Today, I felt exceptionally sticky in the tack, strong, and like I could actually ride.  I wasn't thrilled with the mistakes, which were mainly my stupid habit of shoving my feet forward coming back to haunt me.  Assistant Coach vows it is improving but I'm not so sure.

After this I went down and watched Trainer win the 1.35m, then watched the rest of the class during which time he popped up, sat down and said "HELLO!!! You are doing ze 1.10m tomorrow."

At this time I gave him what had to be an obscenely terrified look and said, "are... you sure...?"
Him: <observing with mild disgust, let's all just bear in mind he almost won a 1.60m Grand Prix on Sunday> "Yas I am sure. Why not? Zis mater (translation: meter), it is no challenge for you now. We must challenge."
Me: <muttering darkly to self about how the 1m is still *PLENTY* of challenge> "Uh. Well. I might die..."
Him: <gives extremely dirty look> "Non. Even if all you are doing is jumping two jumps in zis class tomorrow, I do not care.  We must challenge."
Him: <proceeds to ignore strangled sounds emanating from my throat>

So I guess I'm entered in the 1.10m tomorrow.
And all I am contractually bound to do is jump two jumps.
Heh heh.

When I made it back to the stabling area, all the girls (the staff, of which there are three working, plus Assistant coach) were all hush-hush and giving me rather furtive, gleeful looks.  (For what it's worth, they all know about my 1.10m ~thing~ and that it's a Big Fucking Deal for me right now.)  Finally, Barn Manager, whom I probably know best, blurts out "SO DID ASSISTANT TELL YOU."
Me: "What?"
BM: "ABOUT THE..." <furtive look> <whisper> "meter ten."
At this rather quiet proclamation all activity has ceased and the other two girls are observing me with bated breath. Unfortunately they were all rather unamused when I told them that Trainer had already dropped that bomb.
This eventually led to much ribbing and encouragement.  We have the best staff, we really do.

So! My goals for tomorrow are small, but mighty:
- Stay on.
- Make it around the course and FINISH.
- No stops.*
* If Riley lands after some fucking massive oxer and takes off bucking I reserve the right to circle.

Deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out.  There are real issues in the world, and me jumping 1.10m is not one of them.

That said, tonight is not going to be a drug-free night.  I'm pretty sure there will definitively be no sleeping whatsoever without the aid of Ambien. Ouf.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Bright Eyes

When you like to horse show, is there anything better than being paired with an equine partner who also likes to horse show?

After our (surprisingly) relaxing walk-with-a-few-brief-moments-of-cantering-up-hills-at-full-speed hack out into the grasslands on Sunday (only two spooks!), I was expecting Riley to have some serious pep in his step after shipping in to the show grounds earlier this morning.  Instead, he melted into his usual Horse Show Self - calm but alert, waves of benevolence wafting from his being as he gazed around, enjoying the generalized chaos unique to the horse show world.  This is a horse that prefers wandering down the shed rows, checking out the action, to going out to the abandoned grass areas and stuffing his face.

This type of relaxation makes for a fairly relaxed me, at least on our days where we aren't expected to do much of anything (aka, actually horse show.)  So after arriving at the showgrounds and enjoying a less than entirely leisurely tacking up in order to try and avoid the next storm rolling through the area, I hopped on and hacked down to the Small Jumper Ring (usually 1.10m and below) warm-up to see what kind of horse I had.

This particular showgrounds is a little unique, in that the shedrows of stabling are really, REALLY far away from any of the rings - the lone exceptions being the lungeing area and the East Ring, which is really only used for flatting and the occasional ticketed warm-up for the hunters.  Everything else involves a 10+ minute walk over hill and dale and abandoned acres of dirt.

There is a portion of this walk which leads you through a very flat, very barren area, and (in)conveniently runs right next to a road within the park which golf carts, tractors, water trucks, cars, motorbikes, scooters, etc. all use to get around.  It is a busy road.  Often this area is devoid of other horses, particularly on Tuesdays during the middle of the Spruce Meadows series.  Riley does not particularly enjoy the following:
a) Being in barren areas.
b) Having nothing to look at.
c) Being alone.
d) Facing oncoming Terrifying Vehicular Devices such as water trucks. Who NEVER SEEM TO TURN OFF THEIR WATER, for Christ's sake we are like five feet away from you, cool it with the 150 gallons per second.

However, once Mr. Snorty Pants got past this and we entered the warm-up ring, it was all business.  He did his usual "MOMWE'REATAHORSESHOWI'mGonnaGoSoFastAtTheTrotYouCan'tKeepUpHaHaHAHAwhatdoyoumeanslowdownNO." for awhile and then settled into a lovely rhythm.   We worked on our usual - coming off my leg well, softening and giving to the bit, a little bending left and right, some haunches/shoulder in and out, rounding and working from behind, going forward and back when asked.  His flatwork has improved fiftyfold over the past couple of months and I think he has grown to rather enjoy the work and its consistency.  He's certainly muscled up a lot from it - my friend commented on Sunday, "you know, he actually looks like a real horse now. Not some weird cross between a pony and a foal like he always used to."

Beyond that I was quite happy with my position today as well.  Usually this is a constant irritation; I can't keep my leg in quiiiite the right place, my lower leg doesn't feel 100% secure, my hands suck and I do piano hands (okay, this still happens more than I'd like), I hunch, whatever - but I was quite happy with my leg.  I really do think my Butet has made a huge difference; I've never felt so secure in a saddle!  The barn manager asked me how I was liking it earlier this afternoon, and I responded by telling her that if it were legal to marry an inanimate object, my Butet would be my top pick.

I gave Riley a looooooong cooling out after I rode, mainly to watch Trainer school my friend's horse, who looked great.  She takes her first steps with her own horse into the showring on him tomorrow morning - something she's waited seven years to do!

After I snuggled Riley into bed, I went back down to the vendor area, picked up some gloves and then sat with the barn owner to watch Trainer teach a lesson.  I really like, and admire, Barn Owner; she's a sweet, funny, generous type with just enough sarcasm and snark to make her quite amusing and interesting.  So we had a nice little chat which somehow ended with discussions about Florida and Grand Prix horses.  I'll say no more on that but it was interesting indeed.  We picked up Trainer after he was done teaching, then scurried back to the barns in order to pack everything away and take off before the monsoon hit.

Which did - about 30 minutes after I reached home.  I'm not entirely sure how badly the horse show was hit, but it's probably safe to say there are some flooded stalls and mildly traumatized equines.  I know I'm certainly traumatized; this is my first tornado warning involving fleeing to the basement, whereupon I sat and contemplated exactly how painful Death By Tornado really is, since I came to this country!

All's well that ends well, though, and the tornado warning was cancelled about an hour after it went into effect.  Now I can safely totter up to my (second story) bedroom and fall asleep at the unreasonably early hour of 9pm; the better you sleep, the better you ride! At least, that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.  Clear Round Wednesday, here we come!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Lesson Recap

After a week of hacking, no stirrup torture, and some really great flat sessions with Mr. Riley, it came time to get back in the jumping swing of things in preparation for the show next week.

I had my first lesson in about a week and a half on Thursday, and arrived at the barn feeling mildly apprehensive.  Riley has a tendency, even when worked every day, to get a little, uh, exuberant - throw in some jumping, and you know why Trainer always tells me "put your feet forward when you land after that first jump..."

The Assistant decided Thursday was Gymnastics Day, since it was raining like crazy and the outdoor arena was a big sand puddle.  I quite enjoy gymnastics, so warmed up gleefully.  We started out by trotting a 2' vertical, which she put up to about 2'6" after we went over it twice.  From there she put it to about 3' and had me canter a bending line, which read in a boxy eight or a normal seven.  We worked on my position a little bit, and tweaked some things to help with my tendency to shove my feet forward on landing and end up sitting back too soon.

After this, she put up a small gymnastic. We started by trotting in to a 2'3" vertical, and cantering three strides to a pile of poles.  After we did this once, she made the poles into a jump at about 2'3", and we trotted in and cantered out in three strides.  She then put up a second jump in between those, so we trotted in, jumped, took a stride, jumped, landed, took a stride, jumped and cantered off.  She put a landing/placing pole down on each side of the gymnastic and worked the jumps up to about 3'3" after a couple rounds... that would be trotting in to 3'3" as well.  Riley handled it with ease, and he felt smooth, easy, and patient, though he gave the landing pole the hairy eyeball the first time through.  When we trotted in to the 3'3" jump for the first time, I could feel him hesitate and suck back slightly, and a soft closing of the leg was all it took to reassure him that all was well without squeezing him forward like toothpaste shooting out of a tube.  I felt really great about that, since my tendency with gymnastics is to rush my horse a little bit.  Not today!  Our communication was spot on.

We closed out the lesson by jumping a small course, including the gymnastic, set around 3'3" (oxers) to 3'6" (verticals).  I rode pretty well and was very pleased with my lesson and the way Riley stepped up.  It was hot, so it actually wasn't a tremendously long lesson, but we got a lot accomplished and I was thrilled with him.

I gave him Friday off, just because I felt he should have a little time off in preparation for the show, where he'll be going six days straight with more jumping than usual.  It also gave me a chance to watch the Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows, and watch my ridiculously talented Trainer put in some fantastic rounds!

I also had a lesson in the late morning today.  I slept horribly the night before, who knows why, so showed up a little cranky and crabby, only to be effusively and warmly greeted by my absolutely adorable horse who evidently missed me greatly!  There's nothing better for the soul than a great equine partner.

We warmed up for our lesson, and he felt sluggish and draggy, yanking on my arms and being very heavy.  I did my best to work him through it, but he was constantly falling behind my leg.  Finally, a well timed swat with the crop woke him up and we were off to the races.  I balanced my warmup with a lot of lengthening and shortening within the gaits, as well as a lot of transitions from canter to halt to canter.  This is one of my favorite exercises for him - he is fit enough to pull it off quite well and it really helps to balance him up and pay attention.

We started our warmup by cantering over a small, maybe 2'6", vertical.  I hit every range of stride from way too slow to too fast, then finally just right.  From there, we moved on to adding in a few other jumps.  I still couldn't find the perfect rhythm, despite the Assistant shouting at me to do just that, but nonetheless managed to find the jumps and Riley jumped like a star.  Every time I spend a few hours watching world class showjumping - like the Nations' Cup last night - I find that I feel like my riding steps up in confidence and precision.  It's a neat tool, and one that I try to use when I'm feeling negative and like I can't ride. Visualization also helps, but that's another blog post!

We rounded out the lesson by jumping a course, with the jumps up to about 3'3".  Nothing too intimidating but enough that the rhythm needed to be there.  Which... it wasn't.  Too slow, too fast, too here, too there.  Riley handled everything marvelously, and once again my distances were good but it was a little bit of a flurry.  The Assistant had me land, figure out my canter while cantering in two point around her, then directed me from jump to jump.  We finished by jumping the course again in great, patient, lovely rhythm.

Usually, this kind of lesson would get me down, because I wasn't able to be totally perfect the whole time, but I actually felt good about it - if only because having the knowledge that I wasn't riding 100% perfectly led to everything still being just fine.  (And realistically, my "crappy" riding is about 50 times better than it was last summer at this time.)  I was really happy that Riley and I were able to sort out the proper rhythm and jump a beautiful course, and I was extremely pleased with him for turning into an adjustable, soft ride after having a less than stellar flat warmup.

Trainer arrives home Sunday evening, and from there we waltz off to the horse show for the coming week.  After this week's set of lessons and great flat sessions, I'm feeling excited and prepared for the show.  Two things you won't hear me say that often!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Counting Down

Sometimes I feel like my life is just a series of countdowns.

Six months until show season starts.
Three months until Trainer is back.
Eight weeks until the end of WEF.
Two weeks until the first horse show.
And so on, and so on.

This time, the countdown is on for Trainer to return.  We're down to a week, so... progress? Or perhaps that's just the sound of time marching on.

As previously mentioned, he's off chasing fame and glory at Spruce Meadows, riding for the Team and rubbing shoulders with the other elite of the equestrian world.  Neither I nor anyone in the barn begrudge him this - it's exciting, he deserves it, and we're all cheering him on, hoping he makes the Team for the World Equestrian Games this September.  But it does mean that we're all at home, twiddling our thumbs a little.  We have the Assistant - sometimes - but, of course, it isn't exactly the same.

It's been two weeks since our last horse show.  Our next horse show is in exactly one week.  I have every intention of doing the 1.10m at the next show, and since the last weekend of our two-week series didn't go entirely swimmingly last time, I have some work in mind for us. This gives us three weeks in between horse shows - a significant break, and not one you usually see in the summer season. All the more time to get to it.

Anyway, my plan for the countdown went thusly:
Week 1, Tues - Sun (barn is closed Mondays): very light flat, normal flat, lesson (small jump school), hack, lesson (slightly more extended jump school), light flat

Week 2, Tues - Sun: give Riley a day off, hack around, give Riley another day off...., flat (no stirrups, pole work), significant flat (practice jump off turns over poles and end up schooling Riley through some rather naughty behavior), normal flat (more poles, not too much though, more of an incorporation, more schooling through naughty behavior; should be noted it was raining today or I might have considered hacking out)

Week 3's plans are thus:
Tuesday: Normal flat, probably work more on schooling through naughty behavior, no stirrups day - last one before show so I don't feel tired going into show
Wednesday: Hack if he'll allow it
Thursday: Lesson (probably jump) with Assistant
Friday: Light flat, work on stuff from lesson, maybe hack
Saturday: Lesson (jump) with Assistant
Sunday: Light flat depending on how he feels, may be a day off or a hack, pack for show

And then we go to the horse show.

Right now, I'm still dying from my self-induced No Stirrup Friday.  If you're doing no stirrups, I highly recommend removing them from your saddle entirely.  I did an entire flat session - shortened, to be sure, probably 30 minutes - without them, including "jumping" over poles and felt pretty tight and sticky.  I didn't think I overdid it at all, but then thought I might fall over when I tried to get out of bed yesterday morning.  Maybe my shiny Butet is giving me a false sense of security.  But gosh if I didn't feel awfully good about sticking in my saddle when Riley attempted to throw me to the ground on multiple occasions Saturday.... so, worth it!

As a side note, he's developed some irritating behavior lately.  The path to the outdoor ring is about a five or six minute walk from the barn, and then you have the option to go straight or turn left into the outdoor ring.  The entrance to the outdoor ring is shaded by trees (in fact the entire ring is surrounded by them) and can be rather scary for some horses.  Anyway, Riley has decided that once he reaches about halfway down the pathway, he's no longer interested in moving forward, and has taken it upon himself to stop, back up, spin around and start rearing.  He's also decided that, once we get past that point, the outdoor ring entrance is going to EAT him, and refuses to go through it until I get off and lead him through.  So that's nice.  It's a work in progress to fix, but I hope we're on the right track.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

On Goals

I have some pretty big goals in this sport.

Without getting too specific - you never know who will read this blog, and I'm not quite ready to be laughed at for this - they are significant goals, but I was always taught to dream big and work hard to achieve.  This strategy has served me well in the past, and I see no reason it shouldn't when it comes to showjumping.

The thing with my goals is that there is no particular time limit on them other than "get there as fast as you reasonably can."  But as with any big dream, there are a thousand smaller and more methodical goals that you have to achieve before you reach The Big One.  I'm definitely still in the small stages... but I have no plans to be there forever.

There are a few things that stand in my way.

The first is mental: I have fear and doubt issues, plain and simple.  Jumping actively makes me nervous.  I have trouble trusting my horse and myself.  Some of this stems from riding a stopper, some (maybe a lot) from less than totally ideal external criticism in my past (and sometimes present), and some from my own internal neuroses.  I've been working really hard on this one, since, right now, it's the worst thing I have going for me, and have been seeing a sports psychologist/therapist who has really been helping me out.  The difference is clear, and I have never felt as confident as I do, but learning to approach things from another angle and be kind to yourself is a serious process.  Just like a recovering addict, there are times I fall off the wagon.  But it's certainly coming along.

The second is financial. I'm incredibly fortunate to be in a good financial position, and have the ability to afford this sport at the higher levels.  Training with an Olympian doesn't come cheap, and I 150% recognize my good fortune.  I can afford to keep one horse, and ride in a great program.  Unfortunately, the people who rise the most quickly get the most saddle time, and generally seem to have 3+ horses who can jump tremendously large obstacles.  I am so, so lucky to have my amazing horse and am fortunate to pick up the extra ride here and there, which just means it's going to take a little more time to get where I want to be.  Unless I take that plunge and totally immerse into horses full time - though there's little guarantee that will lead to much more riding time, at least at this point.

Going with the financial thing, horseflesh is obscenely expensive, with Team or Team-quality horses routinely selling in the millions upon millions.  Once you start riffling around for a horse capable of doing 1.20m+ the dollar amounts become staggering to the average person, unless you're buying a super-green three year old who still regards crossrails with suspicion.  It's a real issue when it comes to moving up.

My therapist is forever telling me to stop worrying about horses, that they will come, and that the universe will provide.  It certainly has so far, but it's still something I probably spend too much time feeling really concerned about.  But I suppose that's putting the cart before the horse, so to speak, considering that I'm not jumping all that high, and won't have to worry about it for a little while.  First things first, right?

Anyway, the next step to achieve my Big Dream is a pretty simple one: move up to the 1.10m (which is about 3'6" or 3'7").  Seems easy, right? But the step into 1.10m represents an awful lot to me.  It represents trusting myself, and trusting my horse.  It represents more accurate riding, and not making those really stupid mistakes that lower level amateurs make.  It represents a confidence that I'm not sure I always have.  It represents pride and power -- though it's just 1.10m, it finally isn't 90cm or 1.0m.  It represents an upward trajectory... and as much as I want to achieve my dreams, and have arranged my life in such a way as to actually GET THERE, it represents that first step toward what I hope will be ultimate greatness.  And that is, in a totally different way, terrifying.

I worry - in case you couldn't already tell - about what people think of my riding ability.  I know the Assistant thinks I can't ride my way out of a paper bag.  This weighs on me at times, since at least a part of achieving big dreams means you need a great support team.  But then the Trainer will chime in with something, every so often, that makes me really think it's possible. Things about jumping Grand Prix, about how it's possible for me, the offhand comment here and there about how "in a few years" this or that.  Things about dedication and a few other choice nuggets that provide motivation and inspiration.  It provides some of the necessary fuel to work harder and longer, through the good and the bad.

I'll get there. I will. You can count on it.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Lesson Week

We had a somewhat rare opportunity to sit back, relax (ha, ha), and enjoy some riding lessons this past week - a nice (and somewhat unexpected) thing to do since the show season started.

My brand new Butet arrived Monday evening (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) so of course I had to go out to the barn on Tuesday and try it out.  I hacked around for all of 15 minutes, since I felt bad for making Riley do anything, and the saddle felt pretty good.  Wednesday I gave him a proper flat and made him work, and proceeded to fall in deep, deep love with my new saddle.

A short moment to fangirl all over this thing: IT IS THE BEST SADDLE IN WHICH I HAVE EVER, EVER RIDDEN. And I have ridden in my fair share. I've personally owned County, Delgrange, Crosby, and Pessoa, and ridden in/borrowed a number of CWD (which I also quite loved), Devoucoux, Antares, and various Butets (including one which won a Nations Cup. HA!), most recently living in a zero-frills (we're talking no knee pads here, people - not such a fan) Butet whilst awaiting on my new one to arrive.  I've had a total of five rides in this new saddle, and I would possibly sell my soul to never let it out of my dirty little hands.

Anyway. Moving on.

Thursday, I had a lesson.  I somehow managed to be the first lesson of the afternoon/evening, and prior to this Trainer decided to take a nap in the viewing room adjacent to the indoor arena.

Barn Manager: Oh just go wake him up whenever you're ready.
Me: Ummmmm
Me: Errrrrr
Me: Well. Okay.

Luckily I didn't end up having to do this, since apparently my mere presence in the indoor roused him from sweet slumber, and he strolled into the arena - obviously still half asleep - and we proceeded to have the stupidest conversation ever.

Trainer: Wair do you want to ride today. Down here or up in ze outdoor?
Me: (Trying to be all accommodating and whatnot) Oh it doesn't matter, I'm good with either. Whatever you want to do.
Trainer: (Gives me slightly dirty look.) Well it is up to you.
Me: (Realizing this may be a test....) Well... uh... do you feel like walking up there?
Trainer: (looking insulted) I will not walk, I will drive of course.
Me: OK, then the outdoor.
Trainer: See you up zair. <proceeds to scamper off>

Once we both finally made it up there, we discussed the horse show, what I thought went well and didn't, and what I wanted to work on.  This was a fairly in depth discussion but I picked one thing that really stood out.

In my videos, I'd noticed that, on landing and particularly after oxers, I was falling on Riley's neck.  This led to a lengthy dissection of what I was actually doing, which was sitting up too soon over the wider fences and shoving my feet forward, which resulted in my sitting back in the saddle and, when Riley landed, my saddle giving me a kick in the ass and throwing me forward on his neck.  Basically being left behind to the max over the apex of the jump and riding very defensively, likely a result of a) previous horse who stopped, and b) the fact that Riley has no neck and unless you keep pretty reasonable balance on landing you will go flying off his front end.

So, to start, Trainer made a very, VERY teeny tiny X and told me to canter it, not even consider the distance and just think about what my feet were doing.  After correcting my position - I guess I have a tendency to sit up and back from my horse two strides or so before takeoff - he moved the jump up to about a 2ft vertical and made me get into two point position and stay there.  My only job was to *not* move my upper body, *not* find a distance and just *stand there*.  A further tweak involved moving my leg back about two strides before the jump, ever so slightly.  And apparently it worked.

Trainer: Yes! Zees iss eeeeeexcellont.
Me: It feels horrible.
Trainer: You are always saying zis when it is right! For you horreeble ees EXCELLONT!
Me: Ha. <jumps jump again, terrible distance, apparently body is in right place.>
Trainer: Heh heh, see, zat distance was tragic but ZAT WAS HORREEBLE WISS YOUR BODY.
Me: So... good?... what happens when it's *actually* horrible?
Trainer: Then it is bad. But right now it is excellont and horreeble! Heh heh heh.
Trainer: I better stop saying zis ting, you are going to be very confuse.

All in all one of the more fun/funnier/more "excellont" lessons I've had, I learned a lot and felt fantastic after.

Friday, a few of my friends and I did Trail Riding and Cocktail Hour, which was quite amusing.  None of our horses are particularly wonderful hack horses - Riley would far rather be somewhere man-made, one of my friend's horses tends to stand on his hind legs for 50% of the ride, and the other literally levitates - but we all managed to survive and enjoyed some delicious martinis after.

Saturday, one of my cocktail hour friends joined me for a lesson.  We spent some time warming up while observing the lesson prior to ours, then received some tips and suggestions about position and rhythm.  Then we started to warm up over a little vertical.  My friend got a serious position discussion while I explained what we'd been working on on Thursday to the assistant coach.  I worked on the new position over our warm-up jump, then we began to jump some small courses.  First, we jumped our warm-up vertical, then turned left over a small oxer and were meant to do a bending six strides to another small vertical.  The jumps might have been 2'9" or 3'; I'm not really sure.

My first attempt didn't exactly go as planned - we'd had a beautiful warm-up, but on making the left turn to the oxer I saw the really, REALLY short one and basically reverted to old, nasty habits and pulled to the base of the jump.  This gave us a short and quiet jump in to the line, and having not walked it and having seen my friend legging hard for the six, I decided to sit quietly and wait for the seven strides to come up.  Well. Apparently it was a parking seven strides for us - which I noticed about three strides in, and really should have just done the six - and had to grapple to fix it.  This led to a lecture about "MAKE A DECEEEEEEEESION!" and to not sit like a useless lump on landing into a line.  Much shame, etc.

The next time through I (sigh.) came in with too much canter, which made our line five strides, but was more okay since at least I, you know, did something and didn't sit there like an idiot.

After this, Trainer added in a right turn and rollback to a slightly taller vertical (probably around 3'3") in the middle of the ring, then a blind turn (around his golf cart.....) to a 3'ish ramped oxer on a serious dog leg turn.  My friend opted to go first, and started his canter about two seconds after Trainer explained the course, resulting in everyone slamming on the brakes and my friend receiving a lecture about planning his course in advance.  Which was apparently well received since my friend rode it beautifully.

I? Also not bad.  My first jump was a little long, which meant my horse decided it was time to play, but I got him back and turned to the line with a good canter, finally rode the stupid six stride line properly, then turned right for the rollback, hit the vertical on a quiet stride - which was my plan - stayed out for the turn and hit the oxer on a slightly forward stride.  Smiles all around.

Upon repeating this exercise, Riley and I went to make the turn for the rollback after the line, and he decided the Scary Arena Corner had Horse-Eating Monsters within, threw his head in the air, grabbed the bit and took off.  Some frantic steering and cajoling got us over the vertical, but he landed, yanked the reins out of my hands and took off flailing around, so we had to circle around and start over.  He thought there still might be Horse Eating Monsters in the corner, but spooked somewhat less and with some strong-arming we made the vertical and the dog-leg turn okay.

All in all... not my finest lesson, and I'm not very amused to have ended on that slightly sour note, since Trainer departed about ten minutes after our lesson for the airport.  Spruce Meadows, the Team, Nations Cups and WEG selection trials await him in Calgary, where he'll be for the following two weeks.

This week will be all about relaxation and good flat work, and I have every plan to KILL MYSELF by doing no stirrups and working out like crazy, since the 1.10m and I are going to become very good friends in two weeks.  (I have decided it will be so.)  It's crazy it's such a mental block, since we've been schooling higher than that for some time now, but more on that later.  Next week we'll have some lessons with the Assistant and see how things go, then it's off to horse show land the following week.

Whadaya know, it's been all of seven days and I feel like I'm in *serious* horse show withdrawal.  And unreasonably depressed I'm not at Spruce Meadows.  WAHHHH.  I guess I better start sorting out this WEF working student thing or I'll be sobbing and in complete, miserable withdrawal all winter.

Horse Showing In Springtime

Long story short, I got a little swept up in the nonstop action (and, you know, ensuing exhaustion) to make updates after that first day of the show.  So a recap!

After my 80cm warm-up class, we moved up to 90cm (which is about three feet) the following day.  This went extremely well, and led to moving up to the 1.0m (3'3") division for the weekend.  This surprised me - I had anticipated being at 90cm at least that weekend, if not for a few weeks, but I felt prepared enough and the 1.0m looked oddly tiny, so after the suggestion was made I decided to go with the flow.

So I did the 1.0m Jr/Am division on the weekend.  Saturday went extremely well - I was thrilled with my videos, and happy with the way I rode and the way my horse went.  We finished with one rail in the first round, an immediate jumpoff class, then led the second class (a speed round) for some time before eventually being bumped down to 8th.  I was fairly happy with this - the division is enormous, usually with 50 or 60 entries, and I hadn't intended to really ride for a ribbon, just have some good rounds.

I did the 1.0m again the next day, this time with a barn mate, and had a mediocre first round with some time faults (grrrrr) which eventually landed us another 8th place.  The horse show organizers decided to run both 1.0m classes at the same time, since they were going at the end of the day and there were two jumper rings available.  Unfortunately, they decided this AFTER we had walked and were warming up for the first class - which meant that we missed the walk for the second class.  This was not exactly ideal.

After we finished up with our first class, we rode over to the second ring and Trainer read off the course to us from the gate, then watched two horses go in order to figure out the striding in the lines.  This all happened in the span of, oh, I don't know, three minutes.

Remember that whole thing about how I don't remember courses well, and take an obscene amount of time, walking, and gesticulating to memorize them? Keep this in mind, dear readers.

The course was a Power and Speed, which means you complete the first section of the course (usually seven or eight jumps) and if you're clear at that point, move immediately - no stopping in between - to the Speed portion, which is another six or seven efforts.  They're really fun, and probably my favorite type of class to ride.  However, I landed after the last jump of the Power portion and realized I had absolutely no idea where I was going.  I looked around frantically, hoping the course would give me a clue, and almost figured it out soon enough - but there just was not enough space to pull my bewildered horse around and direct his nose to the center of the jump.  So, we circled around and proceeded to finish the course in good style.  I was actually really pleased with the second part of the course, minus our foible!  I guess we weren't the only ones who royally messed up, either - somehow we wound up 7th.

The next week, we shipped in on Tuesday and I did a 1.0m schooling on Thursday.  My horse was, to put it mildly, quite fresh and landed after the first jump in the course, put his head down, crowhopped a bit and refused to steer at all (some of the video stills are pretty hilarious) which resulted in missing jump two, an oxer on a bending line to the left of jump one.  So we circled around, jumped, and he proceeded to drag me around the rest of the course.  It somehow looked fantastic on video, but I was probably in control, oh, maybe 25% of the round, if that.

After coming out of the ring for that one, Trainer was (inexplicably....) very happy with the round, despite the fact that I ALMOST DIED, and suggested I move up to 1.10m on the weekend.  At which time I almost barfed all over his Parlantis and looked at him with horror in my eyes, declined that lovely suggestion and decided to stick with the 1.0m - which led to, "well, if it goes well on Saturday, we'll just move you up on Sunday instead."  This also led to much "WHY AREN'T YOU DOING THE 1.10M?!" from my barnmates, and I wavered slightly, but stuck with my decision.

Saturday dawned and I arrived at the show to find chaos.  My friend had moved up that morning to the 1.10m, and unfortunately was a bit overfaced, resulting in a nasty fall and the medic.  Another barnmate was warming up for her hunter division and ended up on her head, which led to her being taken to the hospital.

That stuff? FREAKS ME OUT.  In the worst way.  So I kind of (okay, totally) lost it and started sobbing, and couldn't mentally get my shit together.  It was a rough morning, and I was really happy with my decision to stick with the 1.0m.  It was hard enough pulling myself together to do a class I felt fairly confident doing, and really not the day to move up.

But I warmed up, then went and rode, and it was okay.  I didn't ride my best and got a lot of distances I didn't love.  I guess it didn't look as bad as it felt, but my negative voice was working overtime.

My second course was better - not great, but better.  It was a mentally exhausting day, and when we were done, I hopped off my noble equine and collapsed in the sitting area, and allowed the grooms to take care of my horse, which isn't something I usually do.  After multiple bottles of Gatorade and a short nap I felt much better and spent a little time with friends + Trainer at the exhibitors' party.

Sunday, I went down to our first 1.0m class, and informed Riley that if he was a good boy we wouldn't do the second class.  Our warm-up was okay - a little slow but I was hitting my distances bang on.  My friend, who had crashed the day before, did the 1.0m division with me and decided to go in the ring first.  Unfortunately, his horse slid into an oxer right in front of the gate, then got a little sticky in some of the other areas of the course.  This freaked me out and caused me to start hyperventilating quietly near the gate, but also acted as a wake-up call that I needed to give Riley a wake-up call.  So we trotted in, I gave him a swat with my stick, and off we went.

It was imperfect... but it was a redeeming sort of course.  I thought "FORWARD!" and forward we went. It wasn't my best course.  But we got the job done, and I felt like I was really involved.  We had, uh, a bit of a gap into a triple combination - not my best decision - but made it out alive and finished well, ranking 8th at the end of it.  A crappy ribbon, but I was pleased nonetheless, because we SURVIVED, and even flourished.  Shit happens in this sport, and it really is all about how you deal with it.

Toddling back to the barn, I passed Trainer, sitting on his golf cart, who looked at me and said "GOOD!"

So I guess it ended okay.

We live to fight another day.