Well now that we have been home for some four days and I am finally getting caught up on sleep (in preparation for rolling into another sleepless horse show week next week...) it's also time to get caught up on here and document the remainder of Big Fancy Horse Show.
I left off feeling mildly nauseous about going back in the ring to show in yet another 90cm training jumper class. And boy was I ever nauseated the next morning. The only goal of the day became "don't vomit", although I amended that rather quickly to include "don't fall off" too.
The warmup went well enough, as warmups go, and as usual trotting, cantering and then jumping gave me something to focus on and slow my mind down. Riley felt pretty good - forward, happy and not backing off so much. I changed his bit from our usual show bit to something even softer: basically, the world's fattest loose ring snaffle. Usually this results in him yanking me around like an equine freight train but he was quite well behaved, leading me to muse over the fact that my horse really DOES back off in unfamiliar and "scary" situations and is perhaps mildly more insecure than I give him credit for.
Toddling down to the gate, I was in less than entirely excellent spirits, and proceeded to forget the majority of my course, which led to a small panic at the gate. Trainer was all, "just go and ride it..." and I was like, OH MY GOD I DON'T KNOW THE NUMBERS THERE IS A ONE STRIDE AT THE END OF A NUMBERED LINE OH MY GOD I CAN'T. I CAN'T. OKAY. I CAN'T. At which time he kind of looked at me balefully, went out of the gate, and returned moments later with some hapless rider on some hapless horse and informed them they were going right now. There was a brief, halfhearted attempt to argue on their behalf, but Trainer was having none of it. I was too panicky to see the humor in this at the time but looking back?... welllll.
So we watched this person, then it was my turn. I trotted in, spent a year showing Riley just about every single jump, and then got started. And you know, it went really well. I shook the mothballs out of my brain and just concentrated on the job at hand, forgetting about everything but what I was doing and just riding. What a concept. We were a little tight to a couple of jumps, which I didn't love, but Trainer was happy with the "patience" so whatever. Our attempts at both one strides were extremely successful - I said "GO." and he said "okay!" and that was that.
What I noticed, later, on my video, was both the a) commentary, and b) Riley's show groom hovering at the gate, just in case. Usually she videos and then meets us after with a mint. And the commentary was something like, "urrrrgh" and "URFF" and "awww" and then "PSHEW, THANK GOD." once we cleared the final jump. Har de har. Apparently I give Trainer heart palpitations.
Riley received many pats, mints and I informed him he was back to The World's Very Best Pony status, which he liked very much. Later in the day we toddled out to the cross country course and explored it in between bites of grass. Still cannot believe people actually willingly jump that stuff but I'm sure people think that about Grand Prix showjumps, too....
The next day, Saturday, it was decided that we would do the 1m Jr/Am class, something that actually didn't send me into a tailspin - a fact that apparently shocked Barn Manager/Riley's regular show groom, who was all, "you're not freaked out about the height after what happened earlier? WHO ARE YOU?!"
Of course I have much bravado the day/night before I have to show and then much bravado after, at least assuming it goes well, so I was all, wutever it's a meter. I will be fine. We have done many meters. IT WILL BE FINE. <begins sweating>
Our warmup was somewhat less than ideal. I couldn't find the proper rhythm to save my life and kept seeing the short one over and over and over. This eventually led to me pulling up three times in a row in a fit of frustration.
Finally this conversation happened....
Trainer: What are you doing....?
Me: I CANNOT FIND A DAMN DISTANCE TODAY ARGH.
Trainer: Well just go back to the rhythm, then you can adjust when you see it.
Me: BUT I'M NOT SEEING IT AT ALL. I JUST KEEP SEEING THE SHORT ONE.
Trainer: Well it looked right to ME.
Me: Well it wasn't.
Trainer: Well we will never know who is right unless you jump the jump. <smirks>
Me: <pauses> Point made, sir. Point made.
Laughter all round.
And then I went and jumped it another eight times and sort of stopped sucking and then went down to the ring.
And then I had one of the better rounds I've had in recent memory.
And then we made the jump-off to my eternal sadness, because I had to jump through that one stride AGAIN. AND it was off a very short corner and rollback. Which was really very mean.
Except this resulted in GLORY! GLORY I TELL YOU.
And we were double clear and into 3rd place.
By the end of it, we were kicked out of the ribbons, since there were 56 in the class and I wasn't exactly a speed demon in the jump off, but it was another one of those annoying ~personal victory~ days.
To go from falling off TWICE in the same day to double clear in a bigger class later in the week is not something that I would have considered remotely possible last year and so, there is much success in that. Mentally, I didn't even totally lose it, at least when I was actually in the ring, which is also a personal victory. I feel like I've been able to look at it pretty philosophically - falling off is part of riding. Failure is part of success. And it doesn't have to be a big deal.
I think Trainer helps with this. Previous trainers (and Assistant) treated falling off like a catastrophic incident and a big deal. Trainer just laughs at you and then finds someone who fell off worse, introduces you and then laughs at both of you. This sounds horrifying, but he does it in a funny way and then talks about the amusing falls he, too, has had, including but not limited to entertaining falls in the warmup ring before things like, oh, Nations Cups and such. It definitely adds a more lighthearted feel to something that, realistically, is a part of the sport.
We're at home this week - hooray! - and get to have a lovely week of lessons with Trainer. After pottering around setting jumps all evening yesterday, it really hits home how unbelievably lucky and fortunate I am to ride where I do and get to learn so much. There are days I really feel like the luckiest person in the entire world.