Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two Steps Back, One Giant Leap Forward

So I'm writing this kind of late now.  Mostly it's due to the craziness that accompanies the ending of the horse show season and the slew of tests and projects that come with the end of a college semester, but also because I've been trying to give myself some time to put the end of this season in perspective.
Brit and I with my amazing trainer, Lauren before the First Horse Inspection at Galway
When I started this blog over the Summer, Brit had been mine for about six weeks.  Since then I have taken her from a one training horse, to schooling prelim successfully with the thought that we would maybe try and move up at the last show of the season.  Unfortunately during our run at Galway, Brit and I had one of those "one step forward, two steps back" shows.  Dressage was fantastic, she was a bit strong, but her stellar mediums and our best trot work ever earned us a new personal best at 31.3.  That put us in second out of twenty-five in a very competitive division.
Got Extension?
Looking Good in the Big Sandbox
The next day was endurance day.  Phase A she was super easy going so in phase B she needed a bit of a wake up call to let her know it was time to go.  And boy did she.  I had to slow down quite a bit at the end to not come in too ridiculously fast because she was having too much fun flying around at warp speed. Well... we both were.  Phase C she was still pretty pumped, but settled enough to be able to walk and cool down some.  The ten minute box went off without a hitch, aside from Brit wondering what the heck people were doing attacking her with sponges and scrapers.  I got on for phase D, and before I knew it I was out of the box.  She jumped the snot out of the first two fences, and was going awesome until we hit a greenie snag. This course was one of the toughest I have seen at the Training 3-day level, and it was a true test of whether or not we were ready for the prelim.  Unfortunately Brit told me that she wasn't quite there.  It was a real bummer, especially after being so highly placed after dressage, but these things happen in this sport.  You just have to learn to roll with the punches, and one day it will all come together, and you'll come out on top.

So after Galway I made the decision to run Brit again at Fresno County Horse Park just to get around and try to end on a positive note.  Dressage again was fantastic, a slightly different bit helped me be able to soften more in our test.  We had a few errors, but everything else was so good that we still got a 30.5, beating out our personal best once again.  Without those mistakes we would have been in the 20's for sure.  Next time! Cross country had some baubles again, but by the end she was running strong and it just kept getting better and better.  She had her confidence shaken a little bit, and I just wanted to make sure that she was feeling good and ready to go.  Stadium ended up a bit funky too, so after the show Lauren and I went back to the drawing board, determined to get to the bottom of it all.

As it turns out, I need to trust Brit more and offer her more freedom in her head and neck or she feels too "packaged" and it makes her nervous when jumping.  Let go of her and viola!  Beautiful, confident jumping horse that jumps the snot out of everything.  So right now I feel like a bit of a mess, approaching jumps with one hand on the jump strap and half halting with just the other, but it makes such a huge difference.  Brit is jumping better than she has EVER.  I mean, FANTASTIC.  Why did it take us having problems for me to figure out that hey, don't touch her and she makes good decision and she picks up her dang feet?  My last post I wrote about how rails could kill, and guess what?  WE ONLY DIED ONCE IN OUR LAST LESSON.  One rail, that's it, and it was because we were: crooked, got the way deep one, dodging another horse in the small jumping arena, and lost a little impulsion.  Any one of those can mean a rail, and we only had the one.  Hallelujah, we have found the answer.
From earlier this year, love my girl :)
At Galway we took one step forward to do the training 3-day and went two steps back when we ran into problems, but as a result of what happened, we ended up taking one giant leap forward.  Without running into those problems, how long would it have taken me to figure out the secret to stop Brit from dropping rails is to trust her more and stop the micromanaging?  How long would it have taken me to understand the key to riding my horse properly?  How much more time would it have taken us to form the understanding and the trust that we have now after going through this?  I don't know, and I'm glad I'll never have to find out and that we are taking the time to iron these things out the right way.  There will always be a tomorrow, there will always be another event, but I will never have another Brit, and sometimes I think that's something that we all have to remember when the competitive edge takes over.  You can never let what you want get in the way of what is best for your horse.  My girl is back better than ever and next year, I think we are going to take the 2014 shows by storm.

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