WARNING: This post is painfully long and here is the reason, I don't like reading things in series posts since chances are I will miss the end of the story because life gets in the way of my blog reading time. So I figure I will leave it up to you, you can read it all in one dreadfully long sitting or read half and come back some other time to finish, or read the first paragraph get completely fed up with my terrible grammar and lack of proof reading that you never come back to read my blog again. The choice is yours!
First off I will start by saying I am not a believer in fate or "it was meant to be" or destiny. I am a strong believer in, if you want something then you put your money where your mouth is, feet to pavement and get dirt under your nails, work your ass off and get there.
Also have the same beliefs when it comes to failures. I strongly believe that your outcome has more to do with how hard you worked, how well you prepared, decisons or series of decisions that got you there and then the variable of circumstances come into play. But that no matter your circumstances that if you work hard and make the right desicions you will be closer to your goals then when you started. That you work your ass off, with blood sweat and tears and hope that the chips fall your way. That is pretty much my thoughts on this weekend. You get what you put in and sometimes things go right and other times they don't but each time we learn and grow. So though I do believe you should work for what you get I also feel that everything does happen for a reason and the story that follows is not a perfect one but it is my life and I am grateful for it!
As a friend quoted to me this weekend, "Sometimes you are the windsheild and sometimes you are the bug". Well unfortunately this weekend, my friends, I was the bug. But I do kinda feel like I am a dumb ass bug that jumped in front of the windsheild and kinda derserved to be slatted. Splatted? Remember that word, I think I made it up but it is an appropriate summation of this weekend's events.
I am so very very grateful to my friend Lucinda who graciously, sweetly and generously offered me her spot in Penny Oaks HT. The only cost to me being the change fee and USEA non member fee. I know it could not be easy to let someone go in your place when you have invested so much as far as time and money to be there and all you want is to be out there yourself. Lucinda, I can never thank you enough. And though the weekend may or may not have turned out 'perfect' I can assure you that I learned such a great deal and will be the better for it. And that the experience for me and Steady was needed and appreciated. So thank you.
I really did not think I could make it happen on such short notice. I am simply proud that I took care of all nessecary obligations, pulled everything together, had the balls to 'just do it' and actually made it with nearly every thing I needed. On Friday afternoon I finally made the decision that I was going to make it happen one way or another. I got everything done that needed to be done and not only did I have a friend take my two youngest but she also traded me her 13 year old daughter to take along as my groom. We were on the road at 8pm to arrive just before 10 pm. Preparation for riding was not really an option. My most recently written post that I never published was telling of my discouragement and lack of motivation when it came to riding. I have not been riding much at all and have definitely not been training or taking lessons in preparation for a horse trial. I have had maybe 5 lessons in the last year and that is including the clinic I went to. We were out of practice and I have not working at it, it has been so dang hot. I figured what better way to jump start my motivation then to do a horse trial as a last minute decision?
I pull up at 10 pm it is dark but there a few people still braiding and hanging out at the barn and even some yet to arrive. I walk up to my stall only to find it is padlocked shut? Hmmmm WTH? First thought, "maybe I shouldn't be here". Then I snap out of it and realize I don't believe that crap. If I want something bad enough then do I just sit around and wait for everyone and everything to fall perfectly into place so that my life is as easy as possible? Hell no! It is just another obstacle in my path. Called up the organizer and within a few moments the problem was solved. After settling Steady in, getting the kids set up to sleep in the trailer, I exhaustedly flopped in my place for the night, which at all shows is the bench seat of my truck. (What a day it will be when I can actually afford a hotel room at a horse show! It will happen.). I awake at 7am ready to get a start to my day. I had alot to do but thankfully plenty of time to do it. I did't ride dressage until 1:17 and XC at 3:05. I knew as soon as I pulled Steady out for his bath that my biggest obstacle of all was going to be my horses stress, nerves and tension. He was trembling and that was not the horse I was hoping to have that day but it was a horse that I have seen and had to deal with before.
My plan of action at that point was give him enough time to get out there and calm down. It was a great plan (I thought) one that might possibly work as opposed to plans that have failed in the past. So a good 2 hours before my ride time I make my way out to the warm up. Surely after two hours he will be bored with the atmosphere and calm down.
The Failure, The Progress, The Success
The plan failed. I didn't know how poorly it had failed until seconds before I entered the ring for my test. But more on that in a minute. He started out unable to walk or trot he insisted only on cantering. I was not interested in a fight so I said, ok if you want to canter then be my guest. He was tense and nervous but his canter was actually lovely. So we cantered for just as long as he wanted to which was for quite a while. When he was done with that we still did not have a walk so we troted and trotted and trotted. After an hour of this others started to enter the arena and warm up. I was watching as they were practicing their test and noticed they were not practicing the test that I knew. So I scrambled to find out what test we were to be riding. Only to find out it was not one I had ever read let alone ridden. Fail. I found the test printed in the program and read over it. I practiced it a couple times, read one more time then practiced again. So I had the test down. I memorized a entirely new dressage test to me in under an hour and proceeded to ride it without any mistakes.(HUGE progress!) The problem was I could NOT get Steady to canter politely anymore AT ALL. I didn't know why and I was getting frustrated and he was getting pissed at me. It was winding down to our time. My body was physically done. My hands were shaking my legs and arms trembling from exhaustion. Plan wear Steady out? FAIL It only proved to wear me out competely and he had plenty of adreniline pumped energy to act like a total jerk. Actually a few minutes before my test I hopped off to adjust his nose band and barely had enough physical strength to get back on. We were told to enter and I gave the judge my number and went to circle a few times before entering. The whistle blew, I did one circle, two circles and a third circle to enter. As I was turning away from the barn toward the arena for the last half of a circle, Steady without warning EXPLODED!!! Stood straight up on his hind legs and reared I was up in their air and he was so straight up and down I knew there was a good chance he was going to flip over. My only thoughts were to throw my weight forward and stay off of his mouth to hopefully get him back down on all fours instead of his back. It was huge, he stayed up for a few seconds lashing his legs out into the air, it was ugly. I came down and what went though my head was, now what? Though it all happens in a few short seconds it is amazing how quickly and clearly the thoughts that went through my head and I can remember it clear as day. My thoughts from the two seconds after all four hooves were back on the ground, "WTF!?! was that? now what? that can't count toward my score, I wonder if they will kick me out?, I am going to ride this test until they stop me, no one is yelling at me to get out? Ok here goes, Amy just keep it together and perform the test." I made a small cirlce and entered the arena to complete my test. The test obviously was tense and we scored poorly but hey not as bad as April, almost, but not quite. And from anyone I spoke to the judge I had was one of the hardest judges out there. It was not a great test by any means but considering what just went on and the fact that I had the composure to go on and ride the test I considered that a success. I won't go step by step through the test I will post the video and you can judge yourself (unfortunately the gal taping didn't start until just after the rear). It was tense, the left canter was crap, the freewalk was non-exsistent but hey I was happy that he actually walked, our best score was on the halt it was straight and square but the video cut out right before it. I would have loved to let out the reins in our freewalk but I could feel the explosion inside of him and knew it just wasn't happening. Our dressage score of 53 had us in 16th place out of 16. Well it is a good thing I don't do this to win or I would have been depressed. I personally feel the way I rode that rear I should have been in first!
So it was, a learning expereince to say the least. Do I wish I didn't always have to learn by the process of elimination? UH YES! But that seems to be the way it works for me so I just roll with it I guess. Cause next was XC and that WAS going to go better I was sure of it. I went to my stall and my amazing grooms untacked him rinsed him and put everything away as I melted into a heap in a chair. My 9 year old daughter and the 13 year old girl were the most amazing grooms. They were right there every minute being my hands and legs and they did the most phenomenal job! I didn't clean a stall once, fill a bucket once, feed hay or grain once, get and put away tack once. And not because I asked, I never had to tell them to do one thing they were right there just doing everything when it needed to be done and how it needed to be done. I am not kidding they tacked up Steady, they bathed, they water put in my hand everytime I stepped out of an arena I was thoroughly impressed and grateful. Next I will be teaching them how to braid so I never have to braid a horse again. I felt truely spoiled to death.
Now it is on to the fun stuff. I put that arena mess out of my head and was ready to hit the XC course. I took him out to warm up and he felt Ahhhh mazing! of course. If he looked like that in our dressage test we would have knocked 20 points off our score, no joke and it was only an hour and a half after the whole fiasco that was our dressage test. ?I don't get it? The dude HATES the arena! That is the only thing I can think it could be. We jumped a couple jumps, got yelled at for jumping them the wrong way. Ooops my bad but hey that was a learning experience I never noticed that they put flags on the warm up jumps and that they were there for a reason. Seems obvious but hey I said I have balls not brains! I headed to that box of white poles, known as the start box and the countdown began and we were off and I actually remembered to start my watch this time, though the helmet cam was a fail since I forgot an sd card, but what can you expect on the last minute efforts I was happy I made it with all the equipment that I needed. Jump one, he got strong on landing I pulled back, he threw is head in the air I assured him I would be happy to give him the reins back if he could be polite enough to start listening. Then released and we were off to #2 clear and another small battle of the speed, he broke to a trot to the next two jumps but I was perfectly fine with that as long as he was trying to figure out how to communicate properly out there. Jump #5 was the first "real jump" and that was clear and there was a wonky turn into a narrow wooded path but we got it and then I remembered how happy Steady is when I talk to him, doh! Failure on my part, I bet 1-5 would have gone smoother had I remembered that very important detail. #6 decent sized jump clear, we crossed over gravel paths winding through the woods, people in golf carts and chairs and Steady when he is out on XC it is the most amazing thing to ride. He is so in his element, he doesn't give anything a glance. He is so intune to me and it is what a true partnership is all about. I love every second of it. 7 pretty big ass jump, clear, out of the woods over a hill to Mary's sunrise, the jump he gave a second look at IEA, I remembered NOT to stare at the sun and he didn't even think about it. Then it was in for a canter through the water. I initially thought the way the course ran that you didn't see the water until right when you were about to enter that it could possibly be an issue. HA NO, he saw the water and kinda pulled me into it. At that moment I thought, oh yeah I should check my time I looked down and thought our time was good so it was over 10 and a gallop to the bank up at 11, 12 and 13 roll tops onto 14 and as I heard my friends cheering I look at my watch and realize I may have been enjoying all of it a bit too much and wanted it to last longer and that we were pushing Optimum time! Yikes! I kicked Steady on and he happily obliged by picking up the pace over 15 and through the finish flags!!! This is why we do it! It was awesome!! I will eventually get this time thing down better but that, for me, is just not my goals right now. My goals are to get a cooperative, listening partner out on the cross country course that has speed control and adjustability and I got just that! He went the pace that I set and only changed it when he was asked to do so and hey THAT, my friends is enough progress to make this woman very, very happy. Success! Now I need to set the pace a bit faster ;). A side note the only failure in XC was that it was only the second time I had ever ridden Steady in a pelham and though he responded great to it, I had a suffient amount of brakes that I did not have to over use my reins! Success! I do not recomend switching bits in that manner but thankfully it worked out beautifully for us!! Yay for the pelham!!
I make my way back to the barn as I jump off my horse thrilled and blabbing to my neighbor my two amazing grooms grab my horse from me, take my gloves, strip my vest off of me and tell me to sit down and rest as they proceeded to untack, bathe, feed the big guy treats, fill water and hand me water. Have I mentioned I was completely spoiled? After XC we moved up to 10th!!! Moving 6 placings made me happy. Then I came to find out that they place through 10th and that 10th place ribbon was a beautiful terqious, I was totally stoked. All we had to do is make it through stadium double clear and we were a shoe in for that cool ribbon and hey that would be easy, or so I thought.
I was off to kick back, relax, walk my stadium course and enjoy the rest of the day!
Day one though I had the most scarey moment ever on my horse it did all end on an amazing note and it was time to focus on the good and go eat a damn steak, those grooms deserved it!!!
Long as this post may be the good news is that Day 2 is very short. I didn't ride until 11:44am. So the morning was lazy and relaxed I didn't want to warm up long so I only left about 25 minutes to do so. At the approximate time that I had requested my horse was tacked up and handed to me by my grooms just after they handed me my helmet, gloves and carried my crop to the arena. Seriously they were that amazing!!! He was feeling great! This was the third time in the pelham and it provided just enough brakes without making him suck back, I love it! I got scolded by a fellow rider for not staying 20 ft away from his horse at all times. He was a jerk about it but I killed him with kindness and was overly polite to him about it. This is not the first time that I have had an experience with a rider from this particular trainers barn. A trainer that is VERY well known around us and probably a fantastic trainer from what I have seen but I don't know what it is about his students but I am NOT impressed with their manners. This is eventing people you must not have gotten the memo but eventers are AWESOME!! You are kind of sucking at being awesome! I went over, entered for my course, picked up a canter and Steady felt wonderful! He again was light in my hands and adjustable in speed, huge improvement from IEA in stadium, HUGE!! Jump one, he over jumped slightly but it was good he was trying to keep his feet clear I can live with that. Jump two, great turn, great aproach lovely jump. Three was a 2 stride combination, I felt him bobble a bit once he saw the line. He was seriously questioning that I wanted him to jump that mess of polls. I tried to assure him that yes, that is indeed what I wanted. Clear 3a and when he hit the ground I immediatly felt him pull to the right, I attempted to straighten him out, incorrectly I might add, by grabbing the left rein and pulling him to the jump. Better plan of action would have to half halt right rein and lots of right leg but I was not on my game, my head was in the clouds, enjoying my lovely ride. I took for granted that my horse 'ALWAYS' jumps every jump. I pulled with my left rein and kicked! He slammed on the brakes and fell through his right shoulder and I came tumbling down head first and SPLATTED (see told you that word would come into play) onto the oxer. Again I had one of those moments of clarity that in reality lasted for a tenth of a second but feels like 5 minutes of the most clear thoughts. My thought process: 'SHIT am I really falling? Awww that sucks. My horse 'doesn't' refuse, I 'don't' fall off, well I guess we do now! Am I really about to land on that jump? GASP this means I am eliminated! Awwww man I really wanted that pretty turquios ribbon. Steady I am sorry I completely failed you on this one.' Before I knew it I was up on my feet I didn't have one peice of dirt on my person and I was walking out of the arena. I was told to go talk to the EMT I asssured them my only wound was to my pride and that I won't even have a bruise. I had to mentally replay how I fell off my horse onto a jump yet had no pain in my body and not a speck of dirt on me. I realized that in those moments of clarity I also had the frame of mind that I saw the jump, I put my right hand down grabbing the front part of the oxer to break my fall, my shoulder bumped the back part of the oxer off, then my leg landed on the same rail as I was holding onto I hit very gently because my hand that was holding onto the jump held a majority of my weight, I flung my left leg back to get it under me and then I was on my feet before any part of me was ever on the ground. I am kind of impressed with my falling abilities! Unfortunately they do not hand out any ribbons for the most graceful faller, but maybe we should! I vote for turquios ribbons! Steady after the fall stood with his head in the corner of his stall very quietly. I could tell he felt terrible for what had happened. I fed him an apple and assured him I was not mad and that it was mostly my fault and then he was quickly back to his normal PTA self!
I did trim the video because my videographer was having trouble at the beginning but youtube says it may not show up for a while so I appolgize in advance if you get to watch the sky and trees for the first 14 or so seconds.
There it is the whole kit-n-kaboodle, good, bad, ugly and otherwise all wrapped in a nutshell. For some reason after all that went wrong I am actually in a really good place mentally about it. Now that to me is the biggest progress of all!!! I have in the passed been so discouraged to the point of wanting to give up after mess ups less embarassing than this but I for some reason am able to look at it as a massive learning experience, enjoy the good and laugh at the bad and most of all am SO grateful that I get to live to ride another day! Like I said at the beginning I think I pretty much got what was coming to me. And now I just need to pick back up and work some more to make my next dream come true.