If eventing was based on dressage and stadium jumping, Colby would have brought home the blue…with a comfortable 11 point spread from the 2nd placed horse. For those of us who are eventers – and for those of us who spend any time whatsoever on HJU – we all know that eventing is anything but a dressage competition.
Let’s just say that I ended up in the ditch, hanging on to her reins for dear life so she wouldn’t hightail it back to the trailers… or the road or to Timbucktoo. Yes I said ditch. Yes we were showing at Entry level. Yes, if you find this odd, you are not the only one.
This horse of mine is not one to back off. She has never refused – ever – and is extremely brave. I was excited – not nervous at all – to ride the xc and give Colby her first real trip around a cross country course. Then I walked it with my coach and knew it would be challenging for several different reasons:
1 – the jumps were all very tightly packed together. And they were big. Really big.
2 – half of the entry jumps were the same as the pre-training jumps.
3 – the ditch and the water were not optional – for those not in the know – you normally don’t see either of these obstacles at entry level. While yes, I understood that this was a schooling event – I was still very surprised to see these on course and not as an option.
She was brilliant over the stadium part of the course and I was pumped as we made our way out onto the grass to tackle the xc. Imagine my surprise, when I felt her backing off immediately. To the point where she stopped dead in front of the first xc fence – a very large roll-top. Imagine my surprise when she stopped again!! for a second time. I remember debating calling it right then and there because I felt as though something was wrong – she wasn’t ready, she wasn’t as confident as I thought she was – a whole whack of scenarios went through my head. However, it was a schooling event, so I decided to make the best of it and continue on. Once over the first – finally!!! – she was a little hesitant to the second, but picked up confidence from there.
Enter the ditch. 90% of the riders had issues there. I am not exaggerating. My thought on approach was: we had schooled ditches numerous times before, she could have cared less about them and I honestly didn’t think this one would cause her any problems as it was teeny. WRONG!! She saw it at the last second, hesitated, went forward then deaked out to the right and I popped off her left shoulder. In retrospect, given what had happened at the first fence, I should have come back to a trot and kept her moving forward strongly. I should probably of also cracked her one when I felt her backing off at the first fence. If only…how many times do we find ourselves replaying what went wrong after the fact and thinking about what you ‘should have done’? I hate that…
After the last horse in the division had gone through the course, we were all allowed back on to school. Upon representation to the ditch – she had a really good long look at it, then deer hopped over. I rode the whole thing from start to finish – including the huge roll-top, ditch and water – and while not as forward, bold and brave as I am used to her being, she did it.
Where did this all leave me? As you can imagine, I was upset. What did I do wrong? Did I push her too much? Was she not ready? Did I not ride her as well as I should have? Maybe she just isn’t cut out to be an event horse? Has she just lost all the confidence that I have worked so hard to give her?
Classic over-thinking-Carrie at work here. When it all comes down to it, plain and simple, she needs more exposure. While she could care less about ditches, roll-tops and water at my xc coach’s farm, those are also the only ditches, roll-tops and water she has ever seen. She has also been there a bunch of times, knows the lay of the land and feels comfortable and confident there. Taking her out of her comfort zone caused her to go ‘Whoa whoa what???’ This isn’t the xc stuff I am used to seeing!!! WTF??!!’ Keeping in mind that she is only in the beginning of her 4th year – that is to be expected. (As was patiently explained to me by BOTH my coaches…
I seriously hate it when they’re both right.)
So, what do we do now? We school xc at as many different places as we possibly can before July 8 – which will be our next outing. While at home and at xc coach’s farm, we school the harder, bigger stuff, because she is comfortable and confident at those places. Meaning (hopefully), that by the time we get out on course the next time – with proper teeny logs that you should expect on an Entry level xc course – she’ll laugh at them and soar over everything with the confidence I know she has!
At the end of the day, she was spectacular in the dressage ring, foot perfect in stadium and we got it done the second time on course. She is a baby and I am learning how to help her become confident in her abilities with the guidance of two coaches whom I trust completely to steer us in the right direction. I know the little filly (I guess technically, I can’t really call her a filly anymore, but, whatever), trusts me, she tried her guts out for me the second time around AND, I couldn’t be more proud of her for what she DID accomplish!
Both my coaches have a great belief in our ultimate success, I have an incredible support system that is my barn (which is the best barn, probably ever) and a bunch of people who give me the confidence to go out there and try again…and that is exactly what we are going to do.
Oh mom – if you are reading this; yes, I would like to take you up on your offer of helping me purchase an air vest….