Let's take a look at last year's goals:
1. Complete a Training CT. Nope. Never came close. Never came close to feeling like we were close.
2. Get a medal of any color for Novice. Nope. We only did one recognized show this year, and I retired after the third fence on cross country.
3. Show First Level. Nope. Never made it to any dressage shows.
Personal/ Schooling Goals:
1. "I want to be a more confident, serene sort of rider in general. I'm so easily flustered when something goes wrong that I just throw up my hands and quit riding. I want to be able to go around a stadium course positively, thinking ahead to the next jump, riding forward, knowing my lines, being an active rider." Nope. Stadium was absolutely our worst phase this year, and I couldn't once get my shit together while showing.
2. "I want to be confident and thoughtful on xcountry, thinking more about how to ride each jump and what's coming up ahead instead of worrying about the ways things could go wrong." Mixed success. I did feel more confident on cross country this year. I didn't leave the start box feeling like I was going to die. I didn't look at the jumps and think, "This is way too big for us." Once I let Bobby cruise, we were both on auto pilot. However, letting myself let him cruise was difficult at times.
We started off the year with a cross country schooling at Burgundy Hollow. I felt like I conquered my fear of down banks, but Bobby was severely opposed to the stop-start schooling process and managed to pull a front shoe right off the bat so he wasn't particularly cooperative about any other jumps.
However, our first show of the year was back at Burgundy and I always feel really confident when showing there, so despite not jumping all winter and a "meh" schooling a couple of weeks before, I went ahead an entered us at Novice. Bobby was distracted during dressage, as always, and I went off course right off the bat, but we redeemed ourselves in the canter work and tied for second. We survived the stadium with minimal bumbling and cruised right through cross country with no jumping faults. We ended up with third place overall, and I was feeling like we were ready to kick this season's ass.
|warming up for stadium.|
A week later, we headed over to BCHP for our second Novice. We started off with a boring if correct dressage test, but in such a close field, even our decent score could only put us in sixth place. It didn't matter as it all fell apart from there. We killed the stadium course--and not in a good way--to get eliminated. We still got to go cross country only to have Bobby's complete lack of "team work" shine through and pick up a stop two from home. I left feeling completely disgusted with my horse and myself. I had no confidence in our jumping ability, and no confidence in the show we were already entered in.
|dressaging at bchp|
Our first and only recognized show of the year was at GVRDC, a venue we'd never been to before. Bobby lost his shit when he was nearly run into by the rider exiting the dressage ring in front of us, and he was a complete mess during our test. Our 37.4 was the second worst dressage score we've ever gotten, and every comment was about how tense he was. I was a nervous wreck heading into stadium, but thanks to some coaching from my BM, I managed to keep myself from crying or puking, and despite a couple of time penalties and two rails, we made it around. Bobby got distracted on the long walk over to cross country and never really tuned back in. I opted to retire him after the third fence on course to keep us from getting an E on our record.
|there's no doubt he can jump.|
We took a month off from showing, doing a lot of trail riding and brain resting. I decided to venture back into the world of showing with a CT at BCHP, dropping down a level to BN. It was ungodly hot and I had a really hard time coping with the heat. Bobby's dressage was "meh", our score was "meh", and my attitude about the whole thing was "meh". I learned my stadium course in about two minutes flat by watching the rider in front of me go, and we went into the ring with zero jumping warm up to keep all the rails in their cups. We trotted some, we cantered some, but most importantly, we survived. We picked up a 7th in our only other finish of the year.
|still with dressage length stirrups, about to pass out, but my horse is cute.|
After catching my breath, we schooled cross country afterwards. Bobby jumped everything I asked him to, and despite the heat cutting the schooling short and keeping us from doing anything too exciting, it was a good finish to the day.
|room to spare.|
A little over a week later, we headed over to the Benton Rodeo with our barn to do the fun show there. Bobby was a complete and total super star, hanging out among a giant crowd of milling horses, ponying his nutty black friend around, and entering the chute and arena in the dark at 10:30pm without ever putting a foot wrong. His giant body made for awkward turns and slow times, but you could tell how much he enjoyed it, and I had a blast.
|plus who wouldn't revel in the chance to wear this much orange?|
After BCHP, I tentatively aimed for another CT closer to home, but soundness issues with Bobby's feet--something that had been plaguing us throughout the summer--cut that plan short. In the meantime, I picked a new hobby to introduce Bobby to: driving! A week after introducing Bobby to a harness for the first time in his life, I climbed into the cart by myself and drove off on our maiden voyage. Is there anything this horse can't do?
|one step closer to an amish cart horse. |
don't think i won't continue to hold that threat over your head, bobby.
Well, there was--staying sound. A trail ride resulted in yet another pulled shoe for Bobby and I came limping back with a broken foot. I decided that since I was going to be out of commission for at least a month, and our show season was officially over, there was no better time to see if Bobby could go barefoot. I chronicled that process here and here.
|vacation plumped him right up.|
We finally got back into steady work around October, only to be knocked out again by a mysterious lameness that turned out to be an abscess. I started riding Bobby exclusively in a hackamore and found a warm up routine that he approved of. In response, Bobby has really been settling into his dressage work. He's going more correctly, and he's more willing to try to answer the question without throwing major tantrums.
I think breaking my foot and intentionally crippling my horse (pulling his shoes was so mean, but so needed, and so worth it) was the best thing to happen to us this year. The extended time off hit the "reset" button in my brain, and armed with a whole lot more knowledge than when I first started riding this horse, I got back on him with no expectations of how he was before.
The reward was that I've figured out a warm up that makes him go correctly in his flat work, and that flat work is accelerating rapidly. I've figured out how I need to ride him to get him around a stadium course. We're able to jump in the indoor, a mere three winters after Bobby arrived at this barn. And although we haven't been out on cross country in a long time, between the dressage work and the stadium work, it shouldn't be a problem.
|dressaging at gvrdc.|
Hopefully we can continue on into next year in the same state of mind. It's a lot fucking nicer working with your 1,200 pound partner-in-crime instead of wanting to run him into a tree and hope an angry grizzly bear devours him while he tries to untangle himself from the branches.
I mean, noooo. I've never thought about that before....