My first horse show of the season is 11 days away… which elicits numerous emotions, chief among them excitement and nervous unease. I’m ecstatic to return to the show ring, and am thrilled finally, finally summer is upon us. However, after all that has transpired over the last six months, I’m also nervous about how events will unfold, and nervous about how unprepared I feel. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of negative self-doubt, I am consciously making an effort to battle away my fears with one principal tactic: embrace Hunterland.
For all that there is a lot about Hunters to complain about (politics, drugging, cheating), there is also a lot to be said in favor of the sport… particularly for timid adult amateurs like myself. Those who compete in Eventing and Dressage undoubtedly shake their heads at all the assistance us hunter princesses are permitted, but I find confidence and assurance in these practices. My plan for the first horse show includes two to three sessions of lunging, one or two training schools and a few training rounds over the course of the weekend. In fact, I have a pretty concrete idea of how things will unfold:
Thursday evening or Friday morning
Miles arrives at the show grounds, he settles into his stall and then I take him out for a hand walk. After that, we lunge for probably 20-30 minutes. After a water break, the working student will hop on and school Miles over all the jumps in both rings we may potentially show in. Depending on how things go, I will get on and do the same.
Another lunge session Saturday morning, hopefully shorter, followed by the working student showing Miles in the Special Hunter division (2’3″-2’6″). If that goes well, I will plan to show Miles in the afternoon in the 2’6″ Thoroughbred Hunters. If things don’t go well, working student will probably continue to show Miles. If things continue to go well, and we both have enough energy, I’ll also show in the 2’6″ Intermediate Adult Hunters.
We may or may not lunge Sunday morning, depending on how much Miles did yesterday, and how much energy he finished with. We’ll plan to show again in the 2’6″ Thoroughbred Hunter and possibly the 2’6″ Intermediate Adult Hunters. If working student showed Miles all day Saturday, she’ll show him again on Sunday. I won’t show if Miles isn’t calm, cool and collected. And I’m okay with that.
Do I feel bad about lunging my horse, when I know it’s not good for his joints? Yes, I do. Do I feel guilty for having him jump around and show in so many divisions? A little bit, but I’ve worked hard to keep his fitness up so that he his physically prepared to do so. Do I secretly wish that I could confidently ride my own horse, all the time? Yeah, yeah I do. But above all else, I have two responsibilities: 1) to my horse’s physical and mental well-being and 2) to my own physical and mental well-being. Those are the two people I have to answer to at the end of every day: my horse and myself… and no one else.
So I’m going to happily take advantage of the ample schooling opportunities that Hunterland provides. I’m going to embrace the practice of having someone more qualified than myself school and show my horse. And I’ll enthusiastically listen to my trainer as she gives me small bits of advice from rail as I approach a jump in the show ring. Because for all that it might mean I’m not quite as capable on my own, I do know that it will give both me and my horse a better experience and we will return home on Sunday with smiles on our faces.