Horses are humbling creatures. Through my time as an equestrian, I’ve experienced both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And just when I thought I’d gotten things figured out, my horse reminded me that he still have so much left to teach.
So far, my show season has not gone how I had hoped. I had dreams of coming out with a bang, picking up right where I left off last year. I had visions of blue ribbons, tricolors and the chance to be at the top when I rode well. Instead, I’ve found challenges at every turn and I’m struggling to make it around the ring. I thought that I’d gotten things sorted out at the end of the last show, but sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.
My second show of the season started off relatively unremarkable — schooling on Friday was fine. I only lunged Miles for about 15-20 minutes because he was so well-behaved. As it turned out, I probably shouldn’t have lunged him at all. He jumped everything quietly… too quietly really. It felt like I was galloping just to get the add-stride and the one time we attempted the numbers, it felt like the Kentucky Derby. So while I was happy that there were no theatrics, I let my disappointment over our lack of pace overshadow everything else.
Saturday was a gorgeous day weather-wise and I spent a majority of the day cheering on my barnmates, all of whom did wonderfully. Emily from The Exquisite Equine came up to meet Miles and graciously hung around for over an hour until my division finally started around 3 pm. (P.S. Emily is absolutely wonderful, took awesome pictures and was so sweet to talk to. I can’t wait to meet her mare and get to chat some more!) Finally we headed to the warm-up ring where I proceeded to immediately let my brain fall out of my skull and roll around in the sand. I completely forgot how to ride and had one of the scariest jumps I’ve ever let happen.
We cantered up to a 2’6″ oxer and I didn’t see a distance. Then I did the worst thing you can do in that situation: absolutely nothing. So Miles left long and literally sliced the jump, nearly hitting the standard my Trainer was standing next to. Then he clipped the back pole with a hoof and almost face planted.
I walked over to the side of the ring and lost it. I started crying, feeling like a complete and total asshat (actually, I used a few much worst words to describe myself, but they’re not suitable to say out loud). I was not only riding poorly, but I was being dangerous; my horse absolutely doesn’t deserve that kind of ride, plus I was letting both him and my Trainer down. Let me tell you, that’s about the worst feeling in the world for me.
Miles works his ass off for me for 5-6 days a week. He conquers his fears for me, lets me lead him into situations he’s unsure of and takes care of me when I make mistakes and put him in difficult situations. In some ways, that’s job — I’m an amateur and I’m going to make mistakes. But I shouldn’t be making Miles’s job nearly impossible, which is what I did at that jump.
After I calmed down, I just went straight into the ring for my two 2’6″ Intermediate Adult Hunter rounds. They weren’t pretty, but I didn’t have any completely disastrous jumps either. I still struggled with basic riding concepts like staying straight, keeping my leg on to ride forward, picking a distance and really doing very much of anything at all. And Miles told me he was displeased. A few times at the ends of the lines he “played”… except it wasn’t a ‘wee, I’m having fun’ it was a ‘I’m getting really sick of making all the decisions and carting you around’. Finally, finally by the time I went in for my two Low Thoroughbred Hunter rounds I remembered to ya know, do something.
The trips still weren’t great, and we definitely weren’t very competitive, but I was happy that I finally let go of my terrible riding and actually thought on course and made some choices. I had some bad jumps and bad lines, but I also had some good ones too. So if nothing else, I was able to end the day on a good note. Afterwards, Miles got the Olympic treatment for putting up with me and not hitting the eject button. He enjoyed cookies by the pound, a liniment bath, poultice, standing wraps and magic cushion. Thank goodness for tolerant ponies.