You may remember that I recently went to a lecture by Andrea Waldo (see my last two posts here:, where she talked about how to deal with your Lizard Brain – the self-doubt side of the brain. Coming away from that experience, I jokingly gave my Lizard Brain a name — Louie. But it stuck, and Louie rather took on a life of his own. I would talk to him around the barn, and people probably thought I was crazy because they couldn’t hear the other half of the conversation.

But Louie isn’t turning out to have quite the life I think he intended. I’m pretty sure he meant to run the show, freaking me out at every opportunity and leaving me in a heap of quivering tears, like he did after the unfortunate incident where I fell and knocked myself out. It’s been two and a half years, and in some respects, I was still trying to be the boss, and demote Louie to his proper station. I was trying, but I wasn’t really getting that to happen.

But after my evening with Andrea, I decided to get kinda demanding with Louie. Let’s be real. I got downright bitchy with him. I started telling him where to sit, and to be quiet. Unexpectedly, he complied. It was annoying, but I found that I couldn’t just ask Louie for something. I had to stomp my foot and shake my first in the air and scream a little bit. And then he listened.

Last weekend, I went to a schooling horse trial. It was a low key event, and I was looking forward to just having some fun at the first outing of the season. But achieving that meant Louie would have to behave himself. My friend and instructor, Casey, went with me. We were a little flummoxed by the extreme cold that day. I mean, who figured it would only be 32° for an April show? But it was. So I figured let’s roll with it, and chose to wear blue, because I figured I would be frozen solid, and it would all match. In the end, it was so cold that I put on every piece of clothing I had in my truck.

We set out at 5:30 a.m. to make the hour drive, and have enough prep time before an 8:10 a.m. dressage test. We got tacked up, warmed up and up to our assigned ring with time to spare. Then the rider before us scratched. The steward told us we had the option of going early, or at our assigned time.  I didn’t even think about it, and told her we would go early. We took one more loop around, and entered at A. X, halt, salute and we were underway. And I had forgotten to bring Louie with me. I think I left him in the truck, sitting next to the cooler, pining for a sandwich.

The test wasn’t perfect, but I knew where the flaws were. More importantly, I was happy with the effort Charlie gave, and my ability to remember the test. Mostly, I was happy with how we rode one move at a time, and didn’t get ahead of ourselves. We rode back to the trailer, and untacked, smiling through our chattering teeth.

An hour later, we tacked up again, and headed to the show jump area. The warm up area had a cross-rail, a vertical and an oxer, all located in the middle of a slight but noticeable hill. It also came complete with a diva who grumped at everybody for being in her way. And if Louie reminded me to get upset about it, I couldn’t hear him. We just rode with the pony kids who were getting a group coaching session.

Charlie and I started with some trot, going both up and down the hill. Then came canter. Uphill was automatic. Then came the downhill. But I didn’t even think about it. Louie, where are you? Not only could I not hear him, I had totally forgotten about him. 

We went into the arena and did our jump course. Again, I remembered the whole thing. There was more trot in it than I intended, and a couple of our lines were less than perfect, but we finished clear.  For us that was success.

We headed over to cross-country. There was only one rider ahead of us, so we didn’t wait long. The starter gave us a countdown from 10, and we were off. I think we left Louie sitting next to the starter. I believe he was eating the sandwich he made for himself earlier, so he didn’t bother to say anything.  I’m not sure, but he may have waved as we headed out of the start box to fence one, a white coop.

Fence two was an option — either a log on the far left, or a bench on the far right. We chose the log because having walked the course the day before, I knew there was a big downhill, then up to a Helsinki. The strategy was to trot down and canter up. It wasn’t a panic to slow down. It was just what we needed to do for a better line, and a better paced canter approach, up the long and inviting slope, which would set us up for success. The plan worked, and we cleared it easily. 

We continued around: log, log, bank, log, log, water, and around to 10, the final coop. There was undulating ground, none of it a problem. Charlie’s four feet were sure and balanced. There was the odd spectator in the way, and we just kept going. There was even a somewhat surprise appearance by a photographer. And while I forgot to smile for him, we didn’t mind him at all.

We got back to the trailer, untacked, and cooled Charlie out. Then we made ourselves a sandwich. We got Charlie fed too. Louie was taking a post-lunch nap in the dressing room. When we packed up the trailer, we tucked Louie in the back of the truck on top of a pile of saddle pads. And he slept the whole way home…

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