My freshman year of my undergrad, we had the pleasure of having the sports psychologist Daniel Stewart Skype in to speak to our equestrian team. In a few hours, my mind was full of revelations. He’d given us so many tools to redefine our riding from a mental standpoint, and I was hooked. I read his books (highly recommend the ‘Pressure Proof Your Riding’ books if you need a good summer read, btw), and incorporated his teachings into my riding. One of Stewart’s big things is having a pneumonic device or acronym to help remind a rider of several things at once, rather than trying to remember 4 or 5 different things. I came up with my own, B.L.U.E. (Breathe, Loosen Up and Envision). When it comes to competing, I am my own worst enemy; I get tense, I think worst-case scenario, and I can make it through an entire course in 1 breath.
I took it a step further and jumped on Etsy and had my saying engraved onto a necklace. One side of the coin pendant had what B.L.U.E. stood for, while the front simply said, ‘Wanting nothing less than B.L.U.E.’ In other words, combining my intense competitive drive with a reminder that what B.L.U.E. stood for was much more than a color of a ribbon.
Another concept that Stewart stresses is journaling and recording goals. At the suggestion of my trainer, I started a riding journal for The Mare and I a long time ago. Every ride, every exercise, for how long, what problems were encountered, what ‘a-ha’ moments were had, what tack was used, speculations for the future, patterns noticed, things that need improvement, days off (and why), and so on. It’s nice to track what works and what doesn’t and contains a great collection of courses, flatwork and other arena exercises when I’m feeling less than creative.
But somewhere along the way, I stopped writing down our goals.
Writing down goals is something that I’ve used outside of life in the saddle as well, and I find it a tangible way to declare the things I want to pursue; often it doesn’t seem real until it’s in print.
Between moving to a new state, feeling a bit lost in the transition to vet school, and then injury and illness consuming the majority of the last school year, our goal-making has petered off to nothing. The Mare is getting back into work at her own pace, and so I have no expectations for the summer; however long she needs, we will take. But as we have started to get back at it, the goal gears have started turning again.
And I have this crazy idea…but the more I think about it, the less crazy it seems.
Think about the top, most prestigious, ‘end-goal’ show you can imagine showing at. Depending on your background, you might come up with the Kentucky Three-Day Event or Badminton, The GMHA 3-Day 100, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, the National Horse Show, Devon, the USEF Medal Finals, Pony Finals and so on. Each discipline and breed has a pinnacle for their sport that means you’ve ‘made it’.
For the Morgan horse people out there, that would be the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma each October. A whole week showcasing the versatility of America’s original horse breed. From carriage driving to english pleasure, equitation and hunters and jumpers to park pleasure, western, trail, reining, dressage, parade, ranch, roadster, showmanship, in-hand…when they say ‘Morgans do it all’, it is not an exaggeration.
This show is the holy grail of the Morgan world, complete with live-streaming to those left wishing they could be there.
Having been around Morgans for the majority of my riding career, Morgan Grand Nationals is something that I’ve been exposed to, had peers attend, watched intently through the live-stream, dreamed about, but never considered for myself. A few years ago, a good friend and former trainer fulfilled her own dream of getting a horse to OKC, and I made both my roommates at the time (an eventer and a hunter) watch the live-stream of her class.
The same friend mentioned above has long since been nudging me to take The Mare to more Morgan breed shows…and while there are a handful of hunter-over-fences classes at Morgan shows in the Midwest, jumper classes aren’t a common option unless you are on the east coast (i.e. prime Morgan horse country). The Mare had no problem keeping up with the big kids at the open rated shows last summer, so I had no real interest in looking to travel that far. Recently, out of curiosity/boredom/wanting to do anything but be on stall rest, I hopped on the website for MGN.
Most of the divisions for Morgan Grand National, like any National/World level breed show, you have to qualify for during the regular summer show season. However, due to the scarcity of the Morgan jumper division, you don’t have to qualify to compete at Grand Nationals.
The gears started turning faster. The Mare is registered. I’d just have to renew our USEF stuff and my breed membership. We wouldn’t have to travel all over the place to qualify; we could just go to OKC. The height of the classes are within The Mare’s scope. The classes themselves aren’t honestly super expensive; hauling would be the biggest expense.
The gears are whirling at this point. Obviously she’s not in shape at all to go, and there’s no way my bank account could handle getting her hauled to OKC/hotel/entries/etc. by October of this year…but what about next year? Start planning now, setting aside money…it could work, right?
I’m immensely proud of my little home-made rescue and we’ve had a blast being a literal and figurative dark horse in the jumper ring; but it certainly would be an experience to see her match up against other Morgans. I’ve long-since thought I hit the jackpot with The Mare, but is she Grand National material?
I asked the friend who has already been to OKC. Her immediate answer was to most definitely go.
I saw my first trainer (the one who got me started on Morgans and is a huge reason why I have The Mare at all) while I was at home this week, and started with, ‘Okay here’s my idea, tell me if I’m crazy’…our conversation ended with her saying, ‘I think you should go. Let’s go to Grand Nationals!’ Apparently, not such a crazy notion.
So let’s circle back to the idea of writing down goals.
The goal for this summer is to get The Mare back to her previous level of fitness, back to work over fences, take some lessons to work on myself, and enjoy the time we have together while I’m out of class.
But let’s go bigger picture, even though as I type this I am terrified and excited at the same time.
Breathe. Loosen Up. Envision. Wanting nothing less than B.L.U.E.
I want to take The Mare to OKC for Morgan Grand Nationals in 2018.
There. Written down, in print. Time to get to work and make it a reality.