Our local show series added a last-minute schooling show the weekend before last, which I was really excited about. August is kind of a ‘down’ month in Central Ohio as far as shows are concerned, and while we had discussed trying to go out of town for a show this month, circumstances changed and that wasn’t an option anymore. So when the venue 15 minutes down the road added a show, we were all pretty excited!
This show wasn’t rated, and with school starting it was quite a bit smaller. I didn’t mind at all, and our plan was pretty much the same as it always is. I wanted to focus on making the numbers and having a good time, keeping my competitive nature focused on improving my rides and not on the ribbons. We hauled up early Friday afternoon and settled right in. I took Miles for a brief lunge, maybe about 20 minutes, and he was really good. He’s gotten much better at walking on the lunge line and listening to my vocal cues.
After that, we walked around a bit just to take in the sights. Since the venue is still under construction, something changes every time we’re there. It usually doesn’t affect us too much, but I still like Miles to be able to see everything. This time we schooled in a new to us ring, so I made sure he got to walk all around it. Then we tacked up and hoped on! Miles flatted really well, moving forward nicely off my leg. After we flatted in what would be our warm-up ring, we moved into the ring we’d show in, to practice the jumps.
I started off… not great. I picked and pulled to the first few fences. Trainer simply said “If you don’t see a distance, I need you to raise your eye and keep your leg on. Miles will figure it out.” So that’s what I did, and it worked much better. I was determined to carry enough pace to get the correct number of strides in the lines right off the bat, and we did! This was the first horse show where we didn’t begin with the plan to add, and I was really proud of both Miles and I.
On Saturday we had three over fence rounds: a warm-up and two 2’6″ hunter trips. Warm-up was great, and was probably our best round of the day. I really came in with the thought of attacking the jumps (a la Pony’Tude), and that worked well for me. I tried to remember not to pick to an impossibly small chip, and was pretty successful all day. I had a few fences that I still did that a bit, but it was overall much better than the day before.
My biggest win of the day was twofold: we got the numbers in every. single. line. in all three classes! The second big win was a few times we got a short distance coming into the line. Previously when this happened, I would whoa and add a stride to stay safe over the out of the line. But not today. The few times I came into a line off a chip, I landed and GALLOPED out, and made the numbers easily. For me, this is huge. I truly believed we could do it, and I successfully communicated that to Miles each time. I was never nervous when we got a little bit long over the oxer — I wasn’t afraid that he would play.
Talk about a huge win! We finished the day with a 6th and a 3rd over fences, out of 7. Very solid placings for the rounds we put in, and the important part was what I accomplished mentally.
My warm-up round on Sunday was rough. I didn’t have has much horse, and we just sort of petered out in the first two lines which gave us an awkward chip out because I didn’t have enough pace to make the numbers. The best part of this round was as we approached the final line I thought to myself ‘this is the warm-up, so I don’t need to be even. Just because I added in the first two lines, doesn’t mean I have to add in this line. If I wanted to do the numbers in our other rounds, I need to do the numbers NOW and set the tone.’ So I did.
This type of thinking on course is something new for me. And to not only think it, but to put that plan into a successful action is nothing short of amazing for me. I really stepped up and brought the energy to finish our warm-up round on pace. I made that happen, and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. That mental fortitude is what I’ve been lacking all year, and to have finally found it felt tremendous.
Each time we went back in the ring for our trips, my trainer would ask “Are you going to get the numbers?” and I responded “Hell yes!” Confidence people, it helps you accomplish some amazing things. And in both of our judged rounds I got the numbers! I still made some mistakes, but I brought the energy to our rounds, communicated what I wanted and got the job done. Our final round was the best, and it just felt so good. I was beyond thrilled!
The day finished with the under saddle, and it went well. Miles was pretty good, not 110% sparkly, but really good. Well behaved, had a really nice trot and a forward canter that I was able to balance a little bit. We finished 4th, which is about where I thought we would end up and I’m super happy with that. I’ve always said placing on the flat is fucking awesome, so I’m happy to get anything! We ended up with a 5th and 2nd over fences too, which is super good for us and I couldn’t be more happy.
Overall, this horse show was a huge mental win for me. I’m getting better each time out, and I’m able to accomplish more with every round. I’m thinking on course, learning quickly from my mistakes and becoming more and more mentally tough. The best part is we got to do it all again the following weekend!