Amateur eventer Kirsten Cowan (beasteventer.blogspot.ca) encourages riders to reflect on their year and says “just because you didn’t compete or your competitions did not go as you planned that you did not accomplish anything”.

Part IV: Reflection

The other day I finally sat down and really thought about what we (The Beast Mare and I) have accomplished this year.

Photo by GRC Photo

Steeplechase? ME?! SAY WHAT?! Remember when 2′ x-rails were legit the scariest thing EVER?! – photo by GRC Photo

It didn’t really hit me just how amazing this season has been until I was joking with my Trainer that I was going to come and crash the local jumper show and enter Ariat in the ground pole class! (Ariat is still just tack walking right now after her leg bump has been re-diagnosed 18 times, we are currently treating it as a hematoma from some unknown injury… *sigh* Oh, Beast Mare) Anyway… my Trainer told me I would be disqualified because we did a Classic 3day. To which I pointed out we didn’t finish! Ground Pole Champion here we come!! However, being “The Dream Crusher” said Trainer pointed out while that was technically true we DID finish the Novice Champs! To which I cracked a massive smile and said, “We did, didn’t we?” *brushes off shoulder like a boss*

Beast Mare looking pretty dang awesome out on XC at Novice Champs

Beast Mare looking pretty dang awesome out on XC at Novice Champs

Not only did Keeping It Classy (Ariat) and I finish Novice Champs, but we finished Groton House, a previously thought impossible task, AND we accomplished just about everything else on The List:

Goals for 2013 Eventing Season:
– Break into the 20’s in Dressage DONE
– Have a successful season at Novice DONE
– Compete in some of the “bigger” events in Area I DONE
– Qualify for Area I Novice Champs DONE
– COMPLETE Area I Novice Champs FREAKING DONE
– Qualify for a Classic Novice 3 Day DONE
– COMPLETE a Classic Novice 3 Day 2/3 DONE
-Earn Silver Medal at Novice DONE
-Earn Gold Medal at Novice
– Finish on our dressage score just once!

We did not finish the 3day, we did not earn our Gold at Novice after receiving a 3rd score at an event we already had a score from, and we never did finish on our dressage score… with 2 events ending with only 1 time fault in stadium added *grrr*

But, all in all, pretty dang good for only our second legit season competing!  Those were the big goals I had and The Beast Mare was amazing enough to let me accomplish almost all of them!  I can’t impress on you enough, fellow readers, how much I learned while on this epic adventure to accomplish all these goals!

First, I learned how the heck to ride that Girafferator in the dressage ring!  It took me dang near 4 years to figure out how to dressage this horse and that long for her to build up the strength to (kinda) carry herself and lighten in the bridle.  We did about a bagillion schooling shows this spring so I could try out different methods of warming her up.  I finally found what worked best for us: 45 minutes of strictly walking work with lots of lateral work BEFORE actually doing any dressage.  Yes, that lead to a LOT of 2hr rides, but as we were in training for the long format it was in our favor and Ariat has never been one to complain about total riding time.

My little dressage pony! Photo Credit: Cindy Arendt Photography

My “little” dressage pony! Photo Credit: Cindy Arendt Photography

The second thing I learned is how much of my position issues were sheer strength problems.  Now I’m sure by now you have noticed I am horribly hard on myself.  I KNOW what a jumping position is supposed to be like, I dream about that perfect lower leg and folded hip angle nightly and I practiced daily to get better.  And while still not perfect… It DID get better-ish!  I really do believe this was possible from all the strength exercises I did both on my horse and on my own.

Starting last spring I began to do the regular trot and canter sets with Ariat and did as much of it in 2-pt as I could.  Back then, if I got 1 lap around the ring, it was a good day (no judging people).  As the summer progressed and I decided how I was going to condition Ariat (more about this in later posts) our trot sets grew from 3-3minutes to 3-5 minutes all the way up to 2-25minutes and once every 8 days (more on this again later) we did 1-45minute set!  Now CLEARLY I was not able to 2-pt completely for both 25minute sets and definitely not for the full 45minute long set, I said I got stronger, not superhero!  And towards the end of the summer after 2-25minute trot sets and 3-5minute canter sets Ariat and I would both be tired, but feeling A-Okay!  I continued to do as much 2-pt as I could, take a break and go to posting for a short while, and then push myself back into the 2-pt position.

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Many MANY nights this summer, I went to bed with multiple ice packs around my bad knee and 2 heat packs on my back.  GO EVENTING!

Off of Ariat I hit the gym and not only focused on the obvious cardio but also worked with a professional on core strength.  Needless to say I had little time for anything else this summer other than getting both of us ready for the 3day.  However, it all paid off when we charged through the finish flags at King Oak (last HT of the season) and both of us felt great and ready to do it all again!  I personally have never finished xc feeling so good and strong and Ariat certainly hasn’t.  The mare was dang near frisky when I pulled her up so we did not crash into the stadium ring.

The last major thing I learned is really connected to the above idea and that is how much you can accomplish if you are willing to put in the time and dedication to WORKING for something.  Ariat was not bred and trained to be the adorable beastly eventing mare she is today.  And I certainly was not born with the natural ability and confidence some seem to have by magic.  It has taken us both a long LONG time to come this far and it has been a wild adventure.

Top Spring 2011 // Bottom Spring 2013

Top Spring 2011 // Bottom Spring 2013

I really encourage everyone to look back on this season and think about what they have accomplished.  And don’t for one minute think that just because you didn’t compete or your competitions did not go as you planned that you did not accomplish anything!  Maybe you have a green horse you started under saddle or maybe you finally went on that trail ride you always wanted to go on and your horse was great about it!  Maybe it is as little as your horse will finally pick up all 4 feet like a gentlemen OR you finally figured out your posting diagonals!  Possibly you rode your first ever dressage test or got to jump your first jump EVER!  I called and treated the Classic 3Day like my Rolex, because it was!  But everyone has their “Rolex” from a good lesson to a local jumper show.

Spring of 2011 - Our first ever show together!!  THIS was a huge deal to me at the time, HUGE!  I even made it up to jumping 2'3" that day, that was MASSIVE back then and I was so so SO proud of that horse

Spring of 2011 – Our first ever show together!! THIS was a huge deal to me at the time, HUGE! I even made it up to jumping 2’3″ that day, that was MASSIVE back then and I was so so SO proud of that horse

Look back, take note, be proud of what you and your equine partners accomplished, and if you find yourself regretting anything, make a plan on what you are going to do to make next season different!!!  While stuck in the indoor all winter you have plenty of time to work on that sitting trot, put yourself through no stirrup work, work on your jumping through gymnastic work, hike up those stirrups and trot around in 2-pt, and take a deep breath and work on all the little things we let fall through the cracks during competition season.

Big Smiles and a thumbs up heading out to XC at Novice Champs

Big Smiles and a thumbs up heading out to XC at Novice Champs

And of course, remember to be safe and have FUN!

Kirsten Cowan