Category Archives: cross country riding

And… We’re Done

While the title reflects my current mood, it may not accurately describe the future. Maybe. Hopefully.

In the beginning of this month I was raving about how much I was enjoying Macy and how amazing our jumper show and xc schooling went.

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This. This was so much fun

But if you have a horse you know that for every high there is a low.

When we got back from the show, Macy seemed off. She wasn’t eating or drinking well, and when the veterinarian was called to check her out, she confirmed that Macy had an impaction colic.

So many reasons why this could have happened, but what was most concerning was that this was Macy’s 2nd colic in 6 weeks. And this mare, who is 17, had only colicked once before in her entire life.

The thought was the colic was spurred on by her ulcers, which used to rear their ugly head quite often. Macy is on an NSAID which could have been inflaming her ulcers and causing her to colic. To add to it, I was an idiot and forgot to bring her ulcerguard when we traveled. So, when she was flemming and not eating well at the show, I passed it off as her being in heat and being too concerned about where Max was and not to her  feeling off. That still could have been the case, but considering she felt like crap when we got home, I think she was already beginning to colic.

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How do you know you’re in Idaho? There is an enormous Mormon temple behind you while xc schooling

So, we take her off the NSAIDS and give her some rest. She starts to feel great after about 3-4 days (we also took her off her grain and Quiessence, which I only knew had happened when I got on her and she was her old flightly self. She went right back on the Quiessence…)

And, as expected, she felt a bit uneven and unsound. Old mare needs her drugs to feel 100%. So we started her back on them and she started to feel looser and more even. And then, the following day, I took her for a walk down the driveway and she felt completely off on her front left. At the walk. When we went back into the barn and I began to untack her she was resistant to put weight on it. I checked the foot and everything looked ok. I asked Sarah to check her out the next day.

When Sarah went to go check her, leg was swollen and hot.

Now, Macy is old and a bit of a delicate TB flower. But she had just gotten a week off for a colic/ulcer issue, and now she was lame on a front leg- usually the stifle is what is the issue. And while I wanted to be like “give her a week off and we’ll see how she is” I have a recognized event in about 2 weeks. And closing day was the following day.

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I don’t think a good horsewoman would look at this horse, who is basically breaking down around us and say “eh, she’ll be fine to run her first Training event in 3 years.” I don’t think a good horsewoman would think “I REALLY want to go to this event so how can we patch her together to make it happen??”

And while I like to think I am a good horsewoman, I thought all of the above thoughts. And others. But then realized I am NOT a good horsewoman and I emailed the show secretary and scratched our entry.

I’m not sure Macy can withstand the level of work I am asking of her. I think she would happily jump anything I point her at, that’s the kind of horse she is, but it’s tough on her body and she’s starting to show her age, as well as why she was initially retired.

The biggest bummer for me, selfishly, is that I felt like I finally got her. I felt like she had made me such a better rider and we were now a team. I really liked Macy, if not loved her. I haven’t met a horse with such an amazing work ethic before.

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Now, we’re not sure what’s wrong with her front leg, but hopefully the vet will tell us that she still has some riding left in her. Sarah and I have both prematurely come to the conclusion that we need to take it a bit easier on her. If she hasn’t blown a suspensory (always imagine the worst, right?) we’ve discussed doing some dressage work on her for the future. Maybe no more jumping.

Since I scratched the event and was feeling down in the dumps, Sarah offered to give me a June lesson, maybe I could back her. I pulled June out, threw her in the round pen and went through our routine. Brought her into the indoor and began to brush her. That’s when I noticed a cut on her left front. Plus lots of swelling and heat. So…. I went and cold hosed her, gave her bute and wrapped her. So much for my consolation lesson.

Horses. It’s never a dull moment is it?

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Riding the Broke Horse

This past weekend was a bit of a test. How would Macy do at a schooling show? How would she do schooling xc at a new venue? My hope was, it would all go well, as I had just entered us in our first recognized event! If all went well this weekend, Macy and I would be trying our hand at Training come October.

At the show we entered in a 3’3 jumper round as well as a 3’3 jumper derby round. This jumper derby would be out on grass and along with stadium jumps there was a bank and a ditch. Any opportunity to get some more xc schooling! Plus, the derby had a cash prize for the winner!

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Getting show ready

Macy immediately went into heat when we unloaded from the trailer. She was IN LOVE with the gelding that traveled next to her. And while Max is quite handsome, her full on slut came out. It was kind of x-rated. But great news, while she is obnoxious on the ground when she is in heat, it doesn’t impact her game face.

Warm up was, you guessed it, tense and not fun. I ended up walking a LOT and jumped two jumps before heading over to the jump arena. We were working on being forward and getting a good rhythm. I felt like we accomplished that. But Macy still had 3 rails down which is SO uncharacteristic of her. Mare can jump. Rails were a sign I was doing something wrong. Quick chat with trainer Sarah, who agreed we could do another round, I just needed to keep her off of her forehand, ride more with my core.

Second round was amazeballs. No rails and it felt great. We got our distances, and had just an all around good round. Phew. I know how to ride this mare.

On to the derby round! Macy was awesome. We had a clear round and it felt great.

 

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Wheeeeee

She didn’t look at the ditch and she was a rockstar off the bank.

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Macy and I ended up winning the derby round. To be fair, we didn’t have much, (or any) competition, but still! We made it around without faults and it felt great.

The following day we went off to cross country. Macy was a champ. At first I rode tentatively. This is my MO. We loped around, without much purpose and got to a bank drop into water. And she stopped.

Macy doesn’t stop.

Until now.

Sarah called me over, and told me to ride way more forward and with way more purpose. So I did. And she flew into the water the next time. Good pony. Way to be the teacher Macy. I appreciate it.

The lesson went well from there on. I have a lot to work on. Macy does not. That’s the thing about a broke horse. This mare can teach me so much. There is nothing we will be jumping that she hasn’t seen a million times. There is nothing we will be jumping that will be a challenge for her. But, that doesn’t mean I  get to leave my 50% at home. If I don’t bring it, she won’t either. Or not for an entire course at least.

Macy is an older girl with an injury. We’re not sure how many jumps she has left in her so we try to get in, get it done, and call it a day. We decided to ride a prelim coffin line and while it went ok the first time, it only went ok because Macy is honest and will jump what I point her at. We tried it again, with me bringing my half, and it rode so well, and was so fun.

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Over the ditch, preparing for the SKINNY chevron

Here’s the video, with my enthusiastic yell at the end:

Ya’ll I am so lucky to be able to ride this horse. I know she’s quirky and a pain in the ass sometimes, but man she is so honest and can teach me so much. I’ll never have another broke horse like Macy. My hope is we can continue to move forward and I can continue to learn from her every time I am on her back.

Oh, and June is back in work post trailer incident as well! More on that, next!

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History

There has been much talk of history in the news lately. And while this is in no way a political blog, it’s tough for me to turn a blind eye to the atrocious acts that have been occurring in our country of late. I am embarrassed by our country’s leader and horrified that hate groups feel emboldened to come out of hiding. Our country has parts of its history that we shouldn’t be proud of, but instead of moving forward, we’re bringing the past into the present.

History is a tricky thing. You can’t erase it. But by living the present in the way you want the future to be, you can change the course of the past.  That made sense on my morning run, I hope it still does now, as well.

Macy has a storied past. You really can’t say her name around someone who knows her without getting some sort of story about her past. And while her event record on paper is quite flawless and speaks to the athlete she is, the entire picture of this horse is more than what you see by looking up her record on useventing.com

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Macy has a history of being a difficult horse. She’s quirky. She’s a pro ride. She doesn’t make it easy.  She’d spook and bolt and bite and kick and really wasn’t very pleasant to be around.

I got to hear all about this when I decided to start riding her this spring. And, as you can imagine, hearing the history of this horse made me feel a bit less than confident around her. And, as you can imagine, Macy took full advantage of this.

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Even Sarah couldn’t get Macy to listen to her

And we had our mishaps and frustrations and my confidence plummeted. To where I dreaded riding her. And dreaded having a lesson where Sarah would yell at me because I over reacted when Macy over reacted and the entire thing was a disaster.

So, I stepped back and essentially started over. I stopped riding Macy as if she were my next event horse. I had lessons that were completely at the walk. My attitude about riding her began to change. I slowly started to trust her more and more. I could sense when she was going to spook, or toss her head, and reacted appropriately and with minimal fuss. We moved on, instead of letting it overtake the lesson. I rolled my eyes when she wanted to bolt and made her get right back to work. I was over the behavior. But more in a motherly way than that of a scared child.

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And since then, Macy has begun to change the path of her history. She’s become a rideable, calm, enjoyable, dare I say it, fun, horse to be around. We have been having a fantastic time together. We went and schooled cross country and Sarah was essentially silent the entire time I was riding. She had a few pointers for me, and there were some laughable moments, but all in all, it was a great outing. Macy was calm and relaxed and so was I.  We haven’t had a bad ride in over a month, maybe two.

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I have my theories about why Macy is a changed mare, but they are theories. Sarah thinks it’s because I am riding her better, and am more confident, and that may be a (large) part of it. I think the other part is that a) it’s bloody hot and who wants to put in the effort to be bad? and more likely, b) Macy realizes she isn’t a 2* mare anymore and is ok with just plodding along. I honestly believe that so much of her past behavior came from a place of “I MUST BE AMPED UP WE ARE JUMPING BIG JUMPS AND GALLOPING FAST.” We haven’t done any of that together and I think she’s realized it’s a thing of the past. Her future is going to be all about galloping at a moderate pace over pretty insignificant jumps. And I think she’s ok with it. More than ok with it.

So, here’s to not letting history dictate our future. Enjoying the present and letting it be the guide of what our future holds.

 

 

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Cross Country Schooling

It’s been a year since I’ve galloped around xc. Ok, so not counting the Irish adventure. But still, a full year since Georgie and I went to Rebecca and did the T3D. And that was our last time on a xc course. So, the way things were going with Macy I figured I’d just skip xc this year, which saddened me and made me a bit panicky (would I remember how to ride xc??) but I realized it was reality.

But then one day, when Sarah asked, “Do you want to go school the local xc course on the 4th?” I blurted out “YES!” before thinking the entire thing through. I’d be riding Macy.

Eh, I can always bail or just watch others jump.

So, we went. And I was nervous, which made Macy spooky and me tense and stiff and it wasn’t a great warm up. When Sarah sent us out to do three logs we got them done and I was SO proud of myself. SO proud, in fact, that I said “I’m happy to do Beginner Novice stuff today, but maybe nothing bigger. ”

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She was so happy. And confused why I was messing with her so much

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Sarah wasn’t going to make this mare jump small logs all day.

I want to say that Macy was amazing. She was SUCH a good girl despite my inadequacies as a rider. She was so happy to be out there. Happy for the both of us, because I was still a stiff, leg off, backwards riding passenger. And while I hadn’t ridden xc in a year, she hadn’t been out in at least two years, so she had every right to be a hot mess. But she wasn’t. She stood quietly and waited our turn, and was as easygoing as I could have ever hoped for.

The beginning wasn’t pretty. But the fun group of women I was with cheered me on like I was running Rolex. I forced Macy into stopping a Novice jump. I gave her no leg, became completely unyielding in the rein and she was like “I gots nowhere to go!!” It was a kind stop that unravelled well before we got to the jump. After that I got better. But there was lots of room for improvement.

By the end though, we were actually having fun. We jumped what I would consider a Training line. Corner to corner four stride, then a little gallop to a down bank into water, through the water and 3 strides to a chevron.

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Whee!

Macy was awesome. I was ok. And together we got it done.

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Chevrons are no big deal…

I spent three years riding the same horse cross country, and it was so fun. But I didn’t learn nearly as much as I did in this one lesson with Macy. And maybe that’s not completely true. Maybe I learned a ton on Georgie which enabled me to ride a horse like Macy. She’s not easy, but she’s honest. And I love honest. It’s easy to ride honest. I just needed to learn to trust her and let her do her thing, while supporting her along the way.

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Loving her here

It was SO great to get back out there. Well, the last 30 minutes were great. The first 90 were a bit scary. For no reason. Macy is “hot” and “sensitive” but if I ignore the head tossing (which weirdly minimizes when I ride forward instead of backwards) it’s actually a ton of fun.

I’m actually adding a video. Again, remember, work in progress, it’s not like this is what I think is ideal…

It was a great way to spend the holiday and I can’t thank Sarah enough for continuing to let me ride her mare and pushing my comfort zone.

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Learning From Each

So much to report on and I don’t know where to start. I had wanted to do a full recap on Aspen Farms HT but I think it will have to wait.

Instead, I’ll give a recap on some recent rides.

It’s been Macy and Rapid and Smokey lately and all have been exactly what I needed at that moment.

Macy continues to make me a better a rider. I can’t say I always love riding her, but damn, I learn a lot. We have had two jump lessons recently and they’ve been great. I mean, sometimes  I am nervous and worried about her spooking, but overall, I learn a lot and she is actually a really fun horse to jump. She 100% calls me out on my mistakes, but she is honest to the jump and I can worry about me, which is nice.

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She’s 100% bored with me, but I’m what she’s got right now…

I got to do trot sets on Miss Rapid this weekend while Sarah was away. She is teaching me ALL about young horses. I brought her in and let her run around for a bit (she hasn’t really been worked all week since she came back from Aspen on Monday) and she wasn’t very interested in doing much. So, got her tacked up, and as we headed out I realized I forgot to put stirrups on the saddle. She was all antsy, so I decided to run her around. Thank God I did ’cause she was bucking and head tossing and full of it! I caught her after about 10 minutes and decided to hop on. She was still super antsy, prancing instead of walking, but I felt oddly safe. We got to trotting and mare was great. I really had to work on not tipping forward (there is really nothing between pommel and her head) and using my core to keep shoulders back and out of what I call the danger zone. She had some “green” moments, but was sensible and and I had a good time for the most part. Plus, not falling off is almost a goal with these youngsters, so I felt like I at least accomplished that.

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Such a poser…

And then Smokey. This was the ride I needed. Meg may have gotten a serious sunburn yesterday and can barely walk, let alone ride (#irishburneasy), so she asked if I would get Smokey out.

Ah, to ride an uncomplicated horse. My brain needed to relax and just enjoy the ride. Smokey is as honest as they come to a fence and I just love jumping her. It was fun. I haven’t had fun in a while. I really like that mare and am thankful Meg let me take her out for a spin.

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I mean.. the cutest

I learn something from every single horse I ride, and I am so thankful to have them to ride! I am headed back east this week and then bringing baby Junebug home!! Ahh, I am so excited! I have been in touch with a foundation trainer and she is going to help me with ground work for the next few months, since I have never had a baby. I have some things I really want to work on with her, and am excited for the guidance.

So, lots of fun, lots going on, and I can’t wait for it all to continue!

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The Lesson That Never Ended

Alternate titles: The First Time I Fell Off Macy, Lessons within the Lesson, or, my favorite: The Sh*t Show

Tuesdays lesson was set up for disaster from the beginning. I had asked for a jump lesson and we decided days ago to go out into the new jump field and hop over some of the xc jumps that had recently been placed out there. I told Sarah I wanted to see what Macy was like jumping out in the open.

It was so windy. I mean so so so windy. I couldn’t keep the end of my reins from flying all around. But, because we are eventers, and because I am stubborn, I thought, “It’ll be fine, I need to practice jumping in a new place with less than ideal conditions. What will I do if it is windy at a show? I’m way too cheap (and proud) to scratch.”

That was MISTAKE #1.

Macy was on fire from the get go. I couldn’t hear a thing Sarah was screaming at me, so it looked like I was just ignoring her. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to know you are not doing what your instructor wants but you cannot hear her and change anything. On top of that, the beast you are riding is trying to gallop back to the barn and/or feels like she is about to EXPLODE internally.

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A moment that looked nice

Then, when I could actually hear Sarah, she was telling me to kick Macy forward, but it is petrifying to kick a horse forward (or do anything other than grip uncontrollably with every body part) a horse that you think is going to EXPLODE.  Or it is for me at least.

This was when I realized riding Macy, a hot unpredictable TB, was MISTAKE #2.

What I would have given to have the safety and comfort of Georgie. Instead, I felt like I was going to fall off, be reared off (she never reared, just felt like it) or shook off by her enormously strong neck. I DID sit up and ride and TRY to make things better, but in order to hear Sarah I had to lean in, or cock my head ever so perfectly, and that would throw everything out the window. We did this for about 30 minutes but it felt like eternity. I was miserable and wanted to just throw in the towel with the mare.

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I’m not smiling

But I didn’t. And my intelligent instructor decided that yes, we would jump, but we would work on relaxing the horse (and rider) by trotting jumps AWAY from the barn.  Before we get into that, I would like to share two classic quotes from Sarah that I was actually able to hear  during the lesson:

“Well now she’s just being sour. KICK HER!” (When Macy was running through her shoulder and essentially trying to tear back to the barn)

“No, that’s just what she does. She’s a bitch.” (When Macy was not listening to a thing I was asking and was dragging me around the field and I asked if I was doing something wrong.)

So, we started by jumping a small barrel thing. It went fine. I actually think we did  begin to relax. I was able to work on my position. On the backside of the jump I need to stay up out of the saddle, continue to let my elbows move and ignore her head tossing, bolting, crap.

We moved on to the next jump. It was a narrow coop with two standards that had wooden cutout  watermelons on them. At the beginning of the lesson, all the standards had blown over so Sarah put each upright as we went to the jump. Same routine for this one, trot to it, land and halt.

Great! We trotted to it and about 3 strides out, the standard blew over, towards us, and Macy came unglued.

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Do you see where my foot is??

And I landed on the ground. Totally fine. But on the ground.

Macy took off and after making sure I was ok Sarah said “She’ll probably gallop back to her pasture. We can go get her there.”

MISTAKE #3: Don’t ride a horse whose owner knows where they run to when they have dumped their rider.  😉

Got her, got on her and came back to the STUPID watermelon standard. I made Sarah stand there and hold it upright. We got over it. Not pretty, but together.

I then jumped this stupid jump like 6-7 more times. It went ok, but Macy was getting agitated on the back side and making it tough on me. It just wasn’t fun. At all.

I felt like we had been out there for hours, but the lesson was literally 50 minutes long start to finish. I’ve never been so miserable in a lesson to the point that it felt way longer than it was.

When we got back to the barn and out of the God forsaken wind I was able to process all that had happened. I really don’t care that I fell off. I’ve basically been waiting for that to happen and know it will again. But I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with the bullshit of the lesson. I hate spooky horses. I have a tough time with hot horses. Put them together and I’m clearly totally miserable.

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Looking sweet and innocent after the lesson

But then I realized that I’m completely starting over with Macy. Not only am I starting with a new horse, I am starting with a completely different kind of horse. And that isn’t going to come easily or without a serious learning curve. Do I want to take that on? Yesterday I wasn’t so sure.

Today the answer is yes. (Is this MISTAKE #4???)

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I do love this shot from the end of the lesson

I’ve already learned how to be a better rider in just the few weeks I have been riding Macy. I REALLY want to be able to ride a hot horse for the mere fact that it’s a great tool to have in my toolbelt in case of needing to problem solve for the future. But I want to do it on my terms. If its windy AF I don’t want to ride Macy in the wind in an open field when I KNOW she is going to be batsh*t crazy. I don’t have anything to prove with this mare (and she certainly has nothing to prove with me) and I’m not riding her so I can teach her a lesson or get her to be safe in situations like that. I’m riding her so I can learn from her. Safely. And see what might be fun to do with her. She’s not my forever horse, she is who she is, and hopefully with that arrangement I can still have a good time with her. Does that make sense? I guess in the end I feel like I need to change the way I look at my partnership with Macy and it may not fit into my normal plan. And I think that’s ok.

I’m still signed up for the recognized show in June, but honestly, if I get there and she is crazy, I’m not going to force myself to ride just because we are there and I paid for it. If I get to a lesson and she’s crazy, I may ask Sarah to hop on her and work her a bit for me. I just want to be safe and have fun. And I think it’s possible, and as I get to know Macy better, I think it will become easier.

So, that’s where I am today. And we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings!

 

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2017 Goals

Hoping everyone had a very happy holiday season! If nothing else, the holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends and it marks the end of one year and sets in the hope and excitement of what’s to come.

So, here we go. Looking forward to a new year, new season and new habit of setting goals. Lets see how well I am able to stick to them and get them accomplished!

I’ve separated my goals into three categories. Personal, Riding and Competing. Day to day riding is very different to me than competing is, and I don’t want to lose focus of that by just setting goals that are competition based.

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I want to enjoy these views more

Personal Goals:

  1. I decided on this one while on my run this morning… Do a 10k. At first I was like “sign up and finish a 10k race” but to be honest, I’m not sure I want to enter a race and spend the money. So, my goal has been revised to just getting a 10k done. By July.
  2. Remain fit and continue to make fitness and health a priority. I’m 10 pounds into a 20 pound weight loss, but I want to make sure I don’t lose sight of staying fit. Being active makes me happy.
  3. Balance your personal life with your equestrian life. I want to hike more. I want to say yes to more things that aren’t horse related. While still being a dedicated equestrian. Let me know if this is unrealistic… 😉

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Riding Goals:

  1. Be able to do trot sets for 15 minutes in jumping position by the end of the winter. I think I can do this one. It’s just a matter of getting out there and getting it done. I can be pretty lazy about trot sets.
  2. When I ride, remember to ask more of Georgie in each ride. I need to stop being complacent as to where we are at in our training. She’s at the point where I can ask and expect more of her. And I should.
  3. Sometimes, just enjoy the ride. Go for a hack. Explore a new trail. Don’t make it all about training all the time.
  4. Get the most out of each ride. If I’m going to work on jumping, how about I work on multiple things, rather than just one thing. If I am going to ride for 30 minutes, how about I spend those entire 30 minutes working….
  5. Enjoy stadium jumping. Figuring out a way to keep my brain from spinning out of control would be awesome.

 

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Competition Goals:

  1. Go Prelim at a recognized event. I have to make this a goal since it’s on the table now.
  2. Let Georgie jump the tables. I need to just let her jump out of stride at a gallop. Even if at first it feels uncomfortable and makes me wince a little.
  3. In each element of the competition, give Georgie a thoughtful ride. In dressage, think about your next movement, on xc, think about the next fence and how to approach it, and in stadium jumping, just think. I think that if I can do this, we are going to be a really successful pair.
  4. Have fun at the competitions. This hasn’t ever been a problem, but if it becomes one, I think it is time for me to hang up my hat.
  5. Do not care about where you placed. Look back at the competition and think about how your rides made you feel as a rider. You are only competing with yourself. Sometimes a high or low score can dictate how I feel about a ride. And it really shouldn’t. I have no idea where those other riders are in their training, or what their expectations are for themselves. I can and should only concentrate on my ride with my horse.

So there we go. While I’ll admit my goals aren’t as specific as they might be for some people, I think they give me something to work on and something to achieve.

So, HAPPY NEW YEAR and let’s go have fun with our ponies!

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