Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finding the Holy Grail

Yesterday, I drove out to the Calais Horse Trials, a local schooling event held at Level Green Riding School in order to watch two of my Pony Club members ride in the Introductory Novice division. This is the event I did last year, on Champ. I had the opportunity to ride it again, but due to Life Circumstances, opted not to. Instead, one of the Pony Club girls rode Champ this year. She has been doing a much better job with him than I was, so I was interested to see how he'd do in the same situation.

It was raining. The trailer parking field was a squishy mess, and getting into the farm, I kicked myself for not just parking the car out on the road and hoofing it (ha!) into the event, but I knew there would be tractors available in case I was stuck.

I missed the dressage tests, having spent too much time shopping online for the Horse I Cannot Find, but arrived in time to snap some pictures of them getting ready for stadium and cross-country.

I also spent some time watching the dressage tests done by other competitors, because it's a good exercise for my eye to see the differences between people who practice dressage training principles when riding on the flat, and those who ride hunters most of the time. Because of my love for dressage (and so many day-of scratches that the event no longer ran on the time schedule), I caught the tail end of the kids' stadium rounds, finding that Champ and his rider came through with possibly some time faults and one refusal. The other horse and rider combination was eliminated in their first event in stadium due to refusals. Unfortunately, even though it was a schooling event, they did not get to continue on the cross-country.

Watching Champ and his rider get through the cross country phase was exciting, and they came home with a minimum of faults on course to finish the event without the dreaded 'Big E', unlike myself last year. So very happy for them! I don't know what their end placing was yet, because I had to leave before they tallied the scores -- I was completely soaked through, and concerned the additional two hours of rain would make it even harder to get my car off the site.

But all I could think, while I was there, was just how much I wish I had been riding. Oh, I probably could have done it, on the big Belgian/TB I've been riding, but I really do not enjoy half-assing my way through the practice only to try to pull a good performance out of thin air. Too nerve-wracking. I just did not have enough time in the preceding months to put in the focused practice I feel is necessary. Still. Still.....

The conditions were horrible, and the footing was greasy and crummy even in the (grass) dressage rings, so I can't imagine what the (grass) stadium ring was like, not to mention the footing out on the XC course. I watched people go, and I thought, "I can totally do this", and I sort of kicked myself for getting nervous last year and screwing it all up. No, I didn't beat myself up too much -- I did place in dressage last year -- but this year, I just thought that had I the horse, I could have handled it. Familiarity with the course and site? Probably that's a portion of it -- the XC course for the Intro division was pretty much exactly the same as last year. Improvement in my riding? Nah. I haven't improved much, if at all, in the last year, really. I'm going to be doing something about that this year, though. I'm not sure what it was, except a feeling that getting through the three phases seemed like less of an insurmountable obstacle this time, even from the rain-soaked ground.

I hope against hope that the Year of the Horse will reveal one for me (...still...again....I know, how many times do I have to say it?). I'm saving my pennies, and trying to do everything I know how to get myself in whatever serendipitous position I need to be in to make this happen. I'm not sure how totally on board Travis is with my idea, but he loves me, and I think he knows just how deep this particular fire burns, and for how long it's been banked. The practical side of me says I have to wait til we have our own farm so boarding a horse isn't necessary, but the little-girl part says it's not fair that Wren gets a pony and I don't. And part of me feels like I'm forever racing the clock, running out of time to do the things I want to do before I get too old, too broken, to physically incapable to handle the demands of the sport. Never mind the assumption that I have upwards of 40 years of life left, and that there are plenty of seventy year old people out there still riding and jumping and handling horses, a level of anxiety always says "But what if I don't?"

Hopefully, I do. It's raining again this morning, and while my riding is uncertain, I can take responsibility for some things, and so I will go out and get back on the running routine. It keeps my arthritis at bay, and makes me feel like I am doing something on this journey.

My particular Holy Grail is still waiting.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Maxson)

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