Riding Timmy at our last horse show

2012, here we come!

As the show season comes to an end, I find myself looking back on what I did and didn’t do this year. I am very much at a crossroads with my riding, and I need to decide which path I want to take for the coming year.

I decided early in 2011, that I wasn’t going to make this a stressful show year. I wanted to focus on working with my trainer, Lainey Ashker, to improve my dressage work.

I found in the prior year, that Timmy and I were getting the same types of comments from judges…”lots of potential, but…” The comments that followed, were usually about Timmy’s need to have better bend in the turns and be a bit more forward. Since these were recurrent themes in our work, I felt the need to improve those before putting Timmy back in a ring, before the same judges. We just needed to work harder.

I previously wrote an article on how my barn owner challenged me in January to learn to jump crossrails, this year. When the weather was decent, I practiced my two point, and learned to get over small jumps without killing myself or my horse. Dressage was pushed to the background, while I tried this new endeavor. I had fun,and that was all that mattered at the time. BIG MISTAKE!!

As winter turned to spring, Lainey was still in Aiken preparing for Rolex. I got lazy about working Timmy on the flat, and it wasn’t until Lainey got back from Rolex and was home for the summer, that I started back with our lessons. Week by week, I realized that physically, I was paying for my laziness. Lessons were tough, and I just wasn’t physically able to do my best. When you are in your 20s and 30s, bouncing back isn’t that tough. When you are in your 50s, it is monumental. Because I wasn’t fit enough, I didn’t want to enter shows. It wasn’t fair to my horse to ask him to do things, I hadn’t prepared us well enough for.

Summer came and with it, came the hot weather…the perfect excuse not to show. I was happy supporting my barn buddies and Lainey, as they went to various shows and horse trials. Each time I went, I secretly scolded myself for slacking off. While they were coming home with ribbon after ribbon, I was resting on my laurels. At that time, there was only one “laurel” to rest on… the blue ribbon from my first CT on Memorial Day. I was thrilled to win that, but it quickly became a symbol of what I COULD have done.

When fall season cranked up, I decided my lessons with Lainey prepared me enough for showing. I entered Timmy in his first dressage-only show of the year. My barn buddies–also Lainey’s students–were also showing. Timmy was fine in the warmup, but upon seeing his barn buddy in the ring, he immediately began screaming for her and being an obnoxious spectator. When it was our time to enter the ring, I just prayed he would listen to me.

Well… at one point in the test, he just stopped and screamed for his buddy. He finished the test, and actually got a decent score. We finished 2nd, but it was a learning experience for me. He hadn’t been off our property all summer. I expected my lovely, well-behaved gelding to be perfect but the reality was, I set him up to fail. Timmy 2nd place; Mom–a big “F” for preparation. I resolved to do better next time.

A few weeks later, I entered Timmy in another show at a lovely farm nearby. My barn buddies Samantha and Bethany were showing, and so was Lainey. We were all doing our thing, so when it was time to warm up and get ready, I found myself with a case of major show nerves… something I have never had in the past. Why? Because I didn’t feel as fit and ready, as I had in past years. Again, Timmy did well and placed 2nd…but only because he has enough talent and skill to take care of ME. Another lesson learned. Show nerves surfaced because I wasn’t PREPARED.

My lessons have since continued, and Lainey has been fantastic. She sets an example for me by being the best she can be at all times. She is dedicated to fitness and training…something I definitely need to embrace. We have been doing good work of late, and I hope to continue improving with her help.

As I look forward to the 2012 season, I have made a promise to myself, my horse and my trainer. I am going to spend this winter getting ME ready. I am going to work on my fitness and skills so that when winter again turns to spring next year, I will be in the best shape to begin getting Timmy back in show form. It won’t take him long, especially if I have the strength and stamina to get him through his training regimen.

My plan for 2012, is to get Timmy off property as much as I can, and to do lots of different things so he won’t get bored. I am fortunate to have a 4 star rider as my trainer. My horse is a fantastic jumper and so is she, so she will jump him from time to time, to give him a needed change of pace. He also loves to go cross country schooling, so we will do that as well…with Lainey’s help of course.

2011 was definitely a year of reflection for me. I have a much clearer idea of what I want to do in 2012 and how I am going to get there. I have the horse and the trainer that can make it happen, so next year, look for my blogs from time to time as we propel ourselves forward. We plan to bring home the ribbons and I have to say, Timmy looks so handsome in BLUE!! So as Lainey always says, “Elbows in, heels down, eyes up, shoulders back and keep your eyes on the prize”. I promise I will make you proud Lainey!