Monday, April 30, 2012

Singin the Blues Baby!!!!!!

But not the kind of blues you might expect.......You see, the show went okay after all

That's right - we rode in two separate 2'3" classes, and we won both classes at our very first show!!!!  I have been over the moon since Saturday, and I STILL haven't come down from the high. 

Not that it wasn't without a little chaos.  We got a pretty late start to the day, so we ended up pulling onto the show grounds a little less than twenty minutes before the ring opened (and I was in class number 2).  Thank god for Caroline, who tacked up April while I threw on tall boots, hairnet, and the other accoutrements needed to get in the ring.  I hopped on April and headed for the warmup to get ready while Julie shot off to the office to get our numbers.

Warmup started seamlessly.  I picked up a trot after a few minutes of stretching out at the walk, and it was so simple.  Before I knew it, I was hopping a little crossrail and letting her canter off quietly.  We schooled several of the fences that I thought would maybe be the "scary" looking ones, and she literally didn't care about a thing. 

Then awareness hit and I realized I needed to memorize the course.  Thank god for a really sweet girl who was also reading the course, who explained to me what "Power and Speed" rounds are.  Apparently I entered in this particular class, and the idea is that you do the whole course, but jumps 5-11 are the speed rounds where the best time wins.  What on earth did I get myself into?  Speed, April can do.  But it's not exactly the kind of thing we've been encouraging over fences.....power, yes.  Forward, yes.  But speed?  Yikes.

I was the 2nd rider to go in the first 2'3" class.  Actually, it was a 2 foot class I had entered, but the show personnel forgot to put the fences down.  Oops.  So much for starting with baby stuff!  It really wasn't a big deal since I had already schooled it, but it left me wishing I had aimed for a little bit bigger classes.  At least we know for next time - we have surpassed the 2' classes.  FINALLY - 2'3" is starting to feel too small!!!!!!!!!!

April ate up the course.  I swear, the mare knew she was at a frickin show.  We did fences 1-4 with no problem, after a minor hiccup at the first fence where I came close to going the wrong direction over the fence.  Once that initial brain fart/show panic went away, it was a piece of cake.  After the fifth fence, I just let her go, and her stride started eating up the course.  We took the tight turn to the rollback, whereas most of the riders took the wide route around another fence.  I could take April around the easiest turns, and a simple check with the outside rein and my seat, and she would balance beneath me before attacking the next fence.  It was to date one of the best rides we have ever had over fences.  We are really starting to make progress as a pair over fences, instead of playing tug of war and catch up on the backside of every fence.  FORWARD IS OUR FRIEND!!!!

The second class had even more entrants, but our course went equally as well and we rode off with a 2nd blue ribbon.  I have never been so proud of my mare.  The day was full of hugs and snuggles, and nothing but praise and adoration.

I walked away knowing that we have much to work on, but also realizing what huge ground we have gained.  I feel like I have made more progress as a rider in the past few months than I ever did in the past few years.  April has taught me such an infinite amount, and I am forever indebted to Ivy for putting us together as a team and helping me learn how to ride her.  Getting back into a regular lesson program with Kelsey the past few weeks has also been helping us to make huge strides.  There is only so much you can do on your own at this stage, especially with a tough mare like April.  There is no shame in admitting that we need help, and even though it has been tight to make it work, we have gotten back into fairly regular lessons again and it has made all the difference.  This little jumper show was the kick in the tail I needed to really get  me excited about our first horse trial next month.

Without further ado, here's a few pics of my blue ribbon baby.....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Debut Countdown...

Three, two, one....okay, maybe we aren't that close.  We're still nearly a day away from our first show debut.  But the preparations have begun already!  I will more than likely be the most overprepared person at the little CHSC show this weekend, seeing as how it seems pretty casual and laid-back.  But that won't stop me from having immaculate turnout!  That is one thing about my pony club roots - they always perk up when it comes to horse and tack presentation and rider turnout.  So I spent the evening pulling April's mane - OH how she HATED me - and clipping whiskers and chin fuzz.  I swear, if that mare could have stomped her way through the dirt barn floor, she would have just to get AWAY from me! 

On a totally high note, we had a jumping lesson Wednesday which was rather spectacular.  Aside from April being in heat and pulling a total mare fit and planting her feet a time or two, it was a really good ride.  I rode like a sack of potatoes half the time, but when we got it right it was pretty awesome.  I think it was the first lesson where Kelsey bumped the fence up to 2'6" and my heart never once skipped a beat.  I hacked home in amazement over the fact that I had taken several fences from icky spots - getting left behind, not being solid in my leg, and basically being tossed around a few times - and never once did the fear creep in.  We have made so much progress I don't even recognize myself anymore.  I keep waiting for the old reservations to start creeping in, and day by day, ride by ride, they seem to fade further into my past. 

I think I'm becoming a convert.  You see, I HATED MARES.  I was the consummate gelding girl.  Give me a steady-eddy never changing reliable boy, and I was as happy as could be.  The whole guessing game of never knowing what you are sitting on was not for me.  Yet I find myself increasingly intrigued by the mare phenomena.  I have ridden a different horse every night this week.  Literally!  One night was racing around like a FREAK, snatching the reins, ducking after fences, and generally driving me to the point of insanity (and exhaustion!)  The next night was our lesson, in which we warmed up with some of the most elegant dressage work that was light and soft and so enjoyable.  The jumping was pretty good as well, aside from the few aforementioned messy fences on my own account.  Then last night we had a semi-decent ride on the flat, and finished with the softest, calmest fences.  Steady in the in-between lines, balanced in the turns, and easy downward transitions - even after cantering!  And of course we had a little humor - April decided to try to eat the leaves off the trees as we worked on our 20 meter circle.  While we were at a trot.  And the leaves were a good foot above us.  Go-go-gadget neck.......

So, don't tell.  But I think I'm falling in love.  With a mare....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Taking a Gamble....

The time has finally arrived to start pressing forward in terms of accomplishing some goals.  At this point, I am planning on little goals - because even if they are baby steps, they are still a step in the right direction.

First goal lined up: get in the ring.  Well, as of ten minutes ago, we are official entered for a baby jumper course at a local hunter show this weekend.  I signed her up for the simplest class, a little 2' jumper course, and if all goes well we may tack on an additional challenge the day of the show.  It's going to be an interesting outing.  I am pretty much going it alone - no trainer, and not even Robyn because it falls on the day of the Queens Cup steeplechase here in Charlotte.  I am actually kind of excited, because I think it will be a super low-pressure way to get the ball rolling.  Little to no expections, no pressure of an audience, just get in the ring and see how things goes.  (AKA - see if I stroke out and fall off my horse when they call my name....)  So yes, it is REALLY happening this time.  It all fell into place perfectly, because our boarders are taking their mare to do a little walk-trot class and get her out for the first time this year, so we can trailer together and cheer each other on at our relaxed little show day. 

Goal number two will probably be a little bit bigger.  I have my sights set on one of two options -either a combined text in May, or running our first full horse trial at the end of May at Foxtrack.  I guess we'll see how this weekend goes, and then pick whichever seems to be more up our alley based on the results of this weekend.  I think either option will set us up for success.  Both are very relaxed, laid-back schooling-type shows, so either would be great for our first venture into eventing together. 

In other news, albeit slightly related, I have landed a gig as a guest blogger for a local website on health and wellness topics!  It is incredibly exciting to see that after a year of musing aimlessly on my non-income generating online journal of sorts, I may actually make a few pennies with my writing!  Of course it is all to fund the pony-bank...because no, I don't have a piggy-bank; it's always a pony-bank....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Live to Fight Another Day...

Or in other words, I am S-I-C-K.  Ugh, I thought I had escaped it, but my dear sweet husband passed his overly abundant retail-business GERMS on to me.  I woke up Saturday with a sneaking suspicion I had caught it, but blamed it on allergies.  I popped some claritin and assorted cold and sinus medicine and managed to slog through the day.  Thankfully the Boyds were doing chores, so I had a day off from the barn to relax. 

Sunday morning, however, there was no denying it.  I managed to get the horses fed, then fell into bed til 12:30 in the afternoon.  Woke up, watched a movie, then slept til 5:30.  I still managed to sleep all night long.  I really don't feel much better this morning, and I am counting my blessings that Robyn has already volunteered to cover the barn this evening so I can fall into bed again tonight and try to recover.

I HATE feeling useless, and I absolutely LOATHE lying around wasting an entire weekend in bed.  But, as the title suggests, sometimes you just have to live to fight another day....

I have been contacted twice this morning about four new boarders looking for a new place to board.  How I wish I had more space and time on my hands, because I would love to keep growing.  The hard part of being a responsible farm owner comes in recognizing your limitations - in my case, the lack of good quality pasture - and having to say no at times.  I know we will get there one day, but I can't help wishing I could fast forward to the day when I have a larger place with amazing pasture and facilities.  I really don't have massive dreams - I don't have the desire to run a 20 stall barn.  I would be happy with a little ten stall barn, where I could still offer the same level of quality, but make it my full-time gig, instead of my part-time pipe dream.  :-)

Ms. April has enjoyed two days off thanks to this icky bug, and I fear she may have another one coming tonight.  Anybody feel like working the fiery chestnut tonight?  Disclaimer - she galloped in with six consecutive bucks this morning to eat her breakfast.....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

At The End of the Day, All You Have is YOU....

You know, it's a funny world we live in.  Some people are handed breaks left and right, while others break their backs just trying to get their own chance.  I had a conversation yesterday afternoon that left me a little defeated, so I am trying to work through it the best I can and keep chugging along.  I was actually criticized for how much time I am pouring into the barn and riding.  They questioned my delving into photography, when it is simply another way to fundraise for my horse habit.  They were asking questions like "when will I get tired of all the work involved?"

I can count on one hand the number of amazing opportunities I have been handed.  One of them is April - I can literally say that she was almost handed to me out of pure generousity and recognition that we would be a good match for each other.  But in general, I have mucked more stalls than I can count, trudged through mud and muck and come home tired, achy, and dirty more nights than I can count; all to support and continue my dream.

I didn't start this until I was seventeen.  I wasn't the six year old kid who was handed their first pony.  I didn't have a lesson til I was almost graduated from high school.  I had to give it all up for years when I moved across the country, got married, and was so broke I could barely keep a roof over my head.  But little by little, I started finding ways to bring it back into my life, one step at a time.

It doesn't come naturally to me.  I don't have a natural "feel", I can't hop on just any horse and put them together, I don't go cross country and have a knack for it right off the bat, and I certainly still struggle to do a simple course of fences in a ring.  Yet for some reason, I keep trudging after in pursuit of the dream, that one day it will all click and I will "get it". 

Some days I feel very alone in my quest, and I don't understand why everyone else seems to be deserving of support in their dreams and I am not.  Why is my passion any less realistic?  Yet if I set my mind to becoming a doctor or a lawyer, or something founded on formal education, I would probably have unwavering support.  Horses have been in my blood since I was born.  I was the kid who asked Santa for a pony every single year with unwavering faith that one day it would show up.  Now, as an adult, I have had to become my own santa.  I have devoted every bit of blood, sweat and tears - oh, the many many tears - to making it happen.

I suppose I don't really have much of a point or resolution in this particular post, other than pouring out the many jumbled thoughts that have been swirling around in my brain since yesterday.  Because you see, at the end of the day, all I have is me - my own support, my own faith that it will happen.  And it is up to me to make it all a reality.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cross Country Diva

Yep, that's right - we have found April's favorite phase.  Apparently she was born to be the cross country diva!  I still can't believe how much fun she is cross country.  Saturday morning we packed up early and hauled a group over to Gibbes Farm in St Matthews, SC.  As soon as we pulled in, the excitement started building to a tangible level.  I have never seen such an awesome place to school!  They had two water complexes (one happened to be drained, but was still open for schooling) banks and ditches galore, and a few short of a hundred other fences to school. 

April and I were called for the first group, and as I tacked up the tension started mounting.  All the little fears started to build up in my head - what if I can't handle her cross country?  What if I fall off?  On and on it went as I tacked her up and zipped up my cross country vest.  It must have translated to my face, because Robyn told me to take a deep breath as I mounted up.  I did, and we started with a quick warmup on the flat.  She chugged around with me at first, but it didn't take long to settle things into a smooth pace.  From there, we headed over to a series of gridwork - six big logs set about a one stride distance apart.  I have never schooled so many little bounces in one grid - it was a blast!  By the time we finished the grid, any tension I was previously feeling had melted away.

From there we moved on to a bending line of black tubes, and Kelsey had us working on using our core to regulate tempo while in the half seat postion.  I was amazed at how sensitive April was to the little changes I made with my body.  The second time over the bending line I tightened my core and brought myself to a more upright position.  Immediately she came up underneath me and stayed in perfect stride to the next fence.  From there we moved on to so many other things - banks, ditches, sunken road, flew by in almost a blur, we were having so much fun.  At one point, Kelsey left us to school over a ditch while she went to tell the next group to start tacking up.  While she was gone, I snuck in a training level trakehner-type fence, and we sailed over it easily! 

The laugh of the day was the funky ditch (it was wide on one side and narrow on the other - none of the horses liked this particular ditch) to a one stride to a rolltop fence.  April thought about stopping at the ditch but ended up leaping over when I insisted, but it left me behind.  I didn't have enough time across the one stride to rearrange myself, so when she launched over the coop I was left with no stirrups, no reins, and was completely off balance to the left.  Just as I was going off, I decided to make a last ditch effort to stay on.  I wrapped my arms around her neck (thanks Karen O'Connor, I learned this one from your video!!!!) and clung to her for a stride before managing to pull myself back in the saddle.  I swear to you - that mare helped fling me back in the saddle.  I'm not even kidding.  Even Sarah, the other participant in our group, swears she saw April shift her balance to help save me.  What a saint!!!!!

So, it would appear we tackled a big accomplishment last weekend, and now we get to start putting all the elements together and plan for an actual competition.  I am hoping to keep honing my photography skills to help fundraise for competition - so cross your fingers that a few projects on the horizon end up working out!!!

The Water Complex at Gibbes
(left to right) Kelsey on Jazz; Ashley on Eros, Sarah on Jonah, and Me on April (& Laura wading around!!)

We survived cross country day!!!  April, Me, Ashley (& Eros!), & Sarah

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Photographer Wannabe....

Well, I have spent a merciless amount of hours painstakingly learning how to watermark my photos, then upload them to a public album.  I realized exactly how much fun I had trying to capture every possible shot.  I have SO much to learn if I really want to try my hand at this...I was surprised at just how difficult it was to capture the focus correctly in such a fast-paced action shot.

Without further ado, a few highlights from the album.  If you want to see the rest, you can check out the public album on my Facebook page.

Monday, April 9, 2012


"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential."    - Winston Churchill

This is a quote I find particularly inspiring in the light of the weekend I had.  On Saturday I went to the Fork to watch the upper levels in the CIC Horse Trials.  I came home more inspired and determined than ever.  I wrote the other day about how I feel I am starting to scratch the surface of building a partnership with April.  The last few rides have only continued to reinforce that thinking.  On Saturday we had a hack down to visit Kelsey, and it was the first hack out alone in a long time.  April decided to spook at a few things and plant her feet a few times and refuse to go forward.  But we worked through it, step by step; made it to Kelsey's, and then finished the ride with some amazing conditioning work out by the power lines.  She is starting to build enough strength that she doesn't try to break into the canter while going up hills, and I am staying in better balance which keeps her from misinterpreting my seat as wanting her to go more forward.  We were in perfect rhythm, up and down the long steady hills.  And of course, I had to hop the ditch before we left.  Sunday afternoon brought a short but sweet dressage school, and then a walk out in the open to keep Susan and Bongo company.  It still takes me awhile to get it together on the flat, but once we get there it is SO much easier to maintain.  I am looking forward to building on this more and more by the day.  Just like the quote - continuous effort.  I don't have to be naturally brilliant when it comes to riding - which, admittedly, I am not.  Years ago, a trainer told me that what I lacked in natural talent, I made up for in stubbornness to figure it out.  I am stubbornly applying myself on a daily basis to becoming a better rider, a better horseperson, and a better person altogether.

The week also included trying out a new farrier.  This was a really tough decision, because I tend to be fiercely loyal, mostly non-confrontational, and slightly resistant to change as well.  But for a conglomeration of reasons, we moved forward with the decision.  I had an amazing time during the appointment.  I learned SO much.  This particular guy is really passionate about teaching, so I learned a lot about medial lateral balance, different perspectives on trimming for difficult cases like Samson, and everything in between.  We were discussing the suspensory issue at one point, and when I told him there had never been any core lesions found on the later ultrasound, he turned to me and told me that he LOVES pony club people, because they are so informed and intent on learning the full spectrum of horse management, rather than treating them like 1200 pound pets.  It is inspiring and encouring to hear someone of his experience and expertise acknowledge insignificant little ME as someone embarking on the journey of becoming a well-rounded horsewoman.  I have infinite amounts of things to learn, but in general, the thought process and the desire is there, and everything else tends to follow suit.  To hear this acknowledged by another person that I already have respect for is so encouraging.

So then of course, something has to follow up that encouragement that would rattle my confidence a hair - Samson spiked a scary fever the same evening.  A call to the vet confirmed our choice to use oral banamine to address the fever, as well as choices on how to manage it through the night.  Of course it would be the one night of the week where the temperature dropped to 39 overnight.  Nevertheless, I was curled in the corner of his stall off and on all night, huddled in a pile of turnout sheets and fleece coolers trying to keep warm.  At 1 am it dropped to 100.9, and FINALLY, by 6 am was down to 99.9.  I nearly cried with relief.  And then promptly realized this was the first time any of my horses had been sick.  The most I have ever dealt with on my own horses was an abcess.  I didn't realize how scary it is to have them sick with something so unknown and unpredictable.  I am still counting my blessings that the bizarre fever of unknown origin has disappeared and not returned...

So on to the Fork...I went up with my good hunter princess friend, which was so much fun - mainly because she has never been exposed to the full realm of the eventing world.  We had a blast, and I had brought my camera to shoot the cross country phase.  We watched the 2* from spectator seating, and I was quickly annoyed to find that it was really difficult to get good shots with my minimal zoom lens and ropes and whatnot in the way.

So before the 3* started, I took a gamble, and walked down to the water complex to ask an official if I needed a press pass to shoot right down there in the midst of the action.  She responded that she really wasn't sure, but I was welcome to stand there and act like I knew what I was doing - at least until someone discovered me and made me move; which thankfully never happened!  After that, I chatted up the USEA photographer, who was sweet as could be, and Whitney snuck down to pose as my assistant and have a good view as well.  Shannon Brinkman, who happens to be one of my equine photography idols, showed up a few minutes later.  I knew she was surveying me quizzically, wondering who the strange girl with the tiny Nikon was, and what the heck I was doing down there....let's put it this lens was about a fifth of the size of anyone else's there.  But by god, I was going to act like I belonged, and before long, we had our little routine down.  Everyone shot the combination of tables, then swung around to the water to catch the drop and corner.  At one point, I literally had lenses to my right and over my head so we could all catch the best angle.  I was joking with Shannon about how she needed to copyright the yoga poses she kept throwing out in order to catch all the different fences and angles.

We had horses galloping by within inches of us - so close you got sprayed with little droplets as they came out of the water complex.  Riders that have been idols of mine since the time I was a KID went right by me, close enough that I could see the looks on their faces, the excitement, the determination, and pure adrenaline that carries them through such a tough phase.  It was inspiring to say the least, and I came home with a whole new respect for the riders as well as the horses, who are such amazing athletes and competitors themselves. 

That is my last few days in a nutshell.  I have over 1200 pictures to weed through, which I will hopefully start on tonight.  In the meantime, I want to share two blogs that I found particularly inspiring this week.  The first is my trainer Kelsey's blog.  She doesn't write often, but when we were discussing a blog that was insulting the sport of eventing, she felt the need to say her piece as well.  The second is Robyn's blog, who I found particularly exciting this morning as well.  She is making huge strides with her horse, and it is inspiring to see their foray into the eventing world. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Heaven on Earth

Sometimes a week comes along where you make leaps and bounds, as opposed to the weeks where you feel like you are constantly hitting a wall in your progress.  Thankfully this has been one of the more successful weeks.  I am beginning to feel as though April and I are starting to forge the bonds of an actual partnership, and I feel like I am getting a better grip on understanding her by the day. 

It's not to say that we have it all figured out, by any stretch.  I really feel like I am just now reaching the precipice of where I want to go together.  I have little threads in my grasp which I hope we can weave into a patchwork of success.

Two nights ago, we had a brilliant school on the flat.  She was soft but forward, so willing to do whatever I asked.  At one point, I literally thought about cantering, and we took off in the smoothest canter depart I have ever experienced.  I walked away from that ride finally understanding what people mean when they say that they only have to think something, and the next moment they are executing it.  That night was also the first time I felt a flying lead change - it was more of a happy accident that it came together so perfectly, but I went to sleep that night dreaming of what tempis changes must feel like....

Last night I hopped on April and needed to blow off a little steam.  She was more than willing to oblige - after all, anything that involves FORWARD she is more than happy to participate in.  We hit the power lines in back of the property, where our little ditch and telephone poles are.  We did a little conditioning work, then went for our first little hand gallop with me working on balancing her between the leg and hand while at the half seat.  We ended up schooling over our little obstacles a few times, and we found the perfect stride together...canter, canter, canter, fence, canter, canter, canter, rhythmic as a song.  Oh how I love it when we are in harmony - it is the most satisfying feeling in the world.  Now it's not to say that we didn't run around with me flopping around like a fish a few times here and there...but I will never forget the rhythm of those two perfect fences.  The picture of it will stay with me from this ride until the next time we hit it in sync. This- this very reason is why I love eventing.  Where else can you dance through your dressage, feel that perfect flying change or canter depart, and then be cantering through the wide open blue towards a fence you have no doubt you will float over.  And not a person around you exists, not a worry or care - it is you and your horse, in perfect harmony, and only the sound of hoofbeats drumming you along from one place to the next.  It's heaven on earth - literally.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Through the Eyes of an Eventer

It was funny reading my friend's blog post about our ride last night.  It never fails to amaze me how the exact same situation can appear so differently through another person's eyes. In her blog, she talks about seeing things through her "hunter princess eyes" - in other words, not seeing a telephone pole or a natural ditch as a possible cross country obstacle.  Well, that is exactly what happened last night.

We were out on one of our hacks, which we have been incorporating into our riding routine every 2nd or 3rd day to keep the eventer pony brains from frying.  It has been working wonders for them mentally, as well as getting them better conditioned.  We typically ride down the wide shoulders on the quieter country roads around the farm.  That still amazes me, because I remember friends leaving the old farm on a trail ride and thinking I would NEVER ride outside the farm.  It never fails to amaze me how much of the old fear I have managed to leave behind.  Anyway, we did some nice long trot sets and then headed back to the power lines to do a little hillwork.  April had a tiny meltdown when Linkin left her in the dust, but this time I know it was isolated to the fact that she is in heat and tends to obsess over "her" boy Linkin - it wasn't me shutting her down on this occasion.  We dealt with a few plant and spin moves, I got my stirrup back after losing one, made her focus back on a few trot circles, and then I let her go forward to join Linkin ahead.  As we started cantering up the power lines, I found the perfect little ditch and we hopped it seamlessly.  Before long, we were schooling back and forth, and cantering up and down the rolling terrain.  We added in a telephone pole element we discovered, so it was a hop across the ditch, up a little bank, then a bending line to the telephone poles.

April is a BLAST cross country!  This was our first little taste of cross country, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  She picks up a beautiful rhythm out in the open and doesn't even try to rush the fences.  It is forward but very calm and rhythmic.  I cannot WAIT to get somewhere where we can school even more!

Speaking of eventing.  I feel I would be remiss if I didn't take a mini defense for the sport of eventing; in response to a blog post I read earlier this week.  Basically, the person was insinuating that eventers put their horses in danger because of their personal need for an adrenaline rush.  I take major issue with that reasoning.  You cannot attack a sport because injuries happen or some riders put their horses in danger.  That happens in every discipline.  It would be like me attacking the hunter world because a few big dog hunter trainers are pounding their horses in the ground by the time they are three, just to make a buck.  Every sport has it's issues, but I can guarantee you, my horse was made for the eventing world.  There is no sport better suited to her.  If I tried to stick her in a hunter ring, I would be fighting a losing battle over the fact that she lifts her head to the fence and doesn't go around in a hunter frame.  If I tried to foxhunt her, she would probably kill both of us.  In other worlds, she would be a crazy horse.  I think a true horseperson knows when to follow the needs of their horse.  If that means you have to leave a discipline and venture out into something different, THAT is when you are riding for the benefit of your horse.  You don't slap a stronger bit in their mouth to try to cram them around a course in a job they were never made to do, and then insult the sport they would most likely excell in simply because you have too much fear to venture outside your comfort zone.  Believe me - I can say that through personal experience.  Sure, I started out in the eventing world through my pony club roots.  But a year ago, if you asked me if I could see myself going cross country, I would have told you not just no, but HELL no.  I could barely go around the lane without breaking into a cold sweat.  But learning to shed my fear and build a partnership with my horse has allowed me to start venturing back into the eventing world, and thank goodness, because it is where my horse belongs.  Not to mention, how can you insult a sport as versatile as eventing, where horse and rider display finesse in dressage, boldness cross country, and then preciseness in show jumping?  Horses born for eventing are true athletes and should be appreciated for their talents.  I do agree that we, as their riders, need to take the utmost precaution in caring for them and not putting them into danger, because as the poster said - we are responsible for their well-being, and we must hold ourselves to a high standard in that regard.