Sunrise on the way to the barn, 7:15am, March 23, 2013
I want to focus on what went right about my first horse trials in seventeen years, but even at 4am, the morning after the event, I am having a hard time. I had hoped to post about how amazing I felt all day, how incredibly powerful it was to ride Champ and complete each phase of the event feeling strong. Instead, I am embarrassed by how I rode, and how stiff and nervous I look in all (well, most) the photos of me actually riding. How much I am hanging on that horse's face for dear life, how I am not letting him to his job because I am scared to let him go fast enough to do it.
I guess I'd also forgotten just how short and round I really am, and I can blame it on the white(!!) breeches and the bulky safety vest, but somehow the image I had of myself had a much leaner, longer, more elegant person in it, who, when sitting in the saddle, didn't take up ALL the area. Ugh, middle-aged rider who thinks she's still physically twenty-something.
Not the frame of mind I want to go forward with.
Instead, I am enjoying that I was good enough for fifth place in dressage, out of the ten or so people in my division, some of whom were riding instructors. I am enjoying the fact that I had a spectacular day with my daughter and husband and barn friends and family, and that Wren was an excellent and willing groom, full of love and care for the horses we had at the competition.(she informed me that she didn't like the title 'groom', and preferred to be known as the helper). She filled water buckets and helped hang haynets, carried equipment, and kept horses and people company.
It makes me happy that Champ's dressage test, while not fabulous, was under a 40, and I got some nice and helpful comments from the judge. Dressage is my 'thing', it's like dancing. And better dressage equals better riding position, better security over fences, and a happier, more confident rider.
Final halt at X. Not completely square or balanced from this angle, but we scored a 6 on this final halt. Got a 7 on the initial halt which was not square, but straighter.
I am thrilled that I didn't fall off, and that I even managed to survive one really huge spook on the way to dressage, and two hard XC refusals that really unbalanced me. I am happy that my trainer was happy that in three stadium refusals, I never let Champ turn away from the fence, and got him over it, even from a near-standstill. Not great form, perhaps, but at least I didn't wuss out and give up on it all.
In hindsight, I wish, I wish, I wish I'd let him gallop like he wanted to. We probably would have had more fun and fewer XC refusals, but I stayed on. That was my goal. A small goal, but a valid one for someone with so little competitive experience.
I am happy I made it all the way around this cross-country course. Especially those barrels, and that 2' high, 2' spread oxer.
I am amazed and happy that Heart of Gold/Champ/Mr. Princess puts up with me and lets me ride him and have a few moments of calm confidence occasionally.
Earlier, I was questioning my desire to do this kind of riding, but now I think I have gotten to the point where I just need to remember that with practice, and experience, will come the kind of relaxed confidence I want and need. I know I don't have the guts for much more than what I am doing, because even that 2/2 oxer was a scary proposition -- or maybe it's that I haven't gotten to the point where I can give some control over to Champ and let him do his thing while I balance and stay centered and quiet. Maybe I just don't trust that he will jump.
But I know what I need to and want to work on now. More flatwork for impulsion and balance. Better transitions. More speed. Rhythm. A decent rein release instead of the flappy business I've been doing.
And he looks so gorgeous in green, I want to get him a nice new halter. This is the first time since I started riding him in the fall, that I wish he were really mine. Maybe someday, or maybe some other wonderful horse one day. But he's my Champ for now. We'll see what we can do together.
(and thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my wonderful husband, who puts up with me and supports me, and makes everything possible. I love you.)