Thursday, February 14, 2013

Think You Can....

Life is full of surprises.  In my case, it seems to be filled with some sort of unexpected muscle tweak or abcess that tends to derail any plans I ever have of showing my amazing mare.  But it is a part of the horse game that is to be expected, so sometimes you have to make alternative plans.

So when April tweaked something running around after a torrential downpour, I decided for once NOT to pull out of my plans to go to a show.  Instead, I hit up a fellow boarder whose horse I have been schooling, and she was excited about the chance to get him going again.

Bongo is a Percheron/Paint cross that I have been riding who has a history of "colorful" incidents on occasion - and I am not talking about his stunning tri-color paint coloring.  :-)  He has a very random method of expressing himself with bronco-style bucks and a signature move we call "The Porpoise".  It is non-violent in general, but can be quite unsettling when it does happen, and it has been a fantastic challenge for me to tackle in my quest to continue overcoming fear issues in the saddle.  I never would have guessed it, but he has been the perfect ride for me in the past few weeks.  He has fantastic dressage training, and has really helped me to progress in a lot of ways.  And where he has helping me in the dressage arena, I think that I have helped him in the jumping ring, by giving him a loose and allowing feeling, so long as he continues to maintain the trust I have put in his hands.  To say the least, things have been going fantastically.  So when April's entry had to be scratched, we put Bongo in as the pinch hitter.

The week before the show dawned with a startling realization on my part - it had been TWELVE YEARS since I had entered a dressage arena.  With this tiny notion of panic, I decided to cope as I do best by procrastinating.  So Thursday was my first attempt at memorizing my dressage test.  Thankfully, I slipped into the old routine seamlessly, and pretty much had it down by the end of a mini-lesson with Syd, who has been helping me here and there with my flatwork.  A bunch of us have teamed up lately at the farm to help each other out, and my lessons with Robyn, Syd, and even Susan have helped immensely at a time when I have been more or less floundering due to a lack of lesson funds.

Friday night was planned for a jump school since I had a little extra daylight.  Yet horses often have their own plans, and we had to adapt our plans a bit after Bongo gave us a bit more than we had anticipated.  I will spare the details, except to say that I left the farm chanting the old adage - bad school, good show.  HA!

I didn't know what to expect from a horse I still don't know that well, but he had his game face on from the moment we stepped off the trailer.  Our warm up for dressage was seamless, and a last minute bit of advice from Robyn probably saved our 20-meter circles.  I made the rookie mistake of entering the warm-up area outside the show ring a bit early, so my heart was still pounding even knowing I had the forgiveness of the "schooling show" environment.

The honk of the judge's horn came before I knew it, and we were off.  I made it down centerline, across the diagonal, and to the opposite corner of the ring before it happened - brief moment of panic, where everything flew out of my brain.  I literally had to squint my eyes, take a breath, and search my little pea-brain for the next move - and then, just like magic, it all snapped back into place.  I shut the little voice in my head up and rode my test.  And had so much fun.  We had our mistakes here and there - mainly a lack of forward, which was my own combination of nerves and a little fatigue from probably over-warming up a bit.  But other than an early break in the canter, there were really no other glaring errors.  We finished with a 37.5, which was good enough for me after more than a decade away.

I could see the anticipation mounting up in everyone around me, because the next phase was going to be the real test.  Everyone was putting on their game faces, but I knew we were all asking the same questions.  How would the warmup go?  How would he handle the excitement of multiple horses careening around him schooling fences?  Would our bronco-boy show up, or would we maintain the sweet, gentlemanly demeanor he had given us all morning? 

I got a leg up, took a deep breath, and headed for warmup with an expectation for nothing other than what we wanted - a calm, quiet experience.  That's what we came for, and I have been trying hard to adapt the mentality of the quote I remember so well that was painted on the wall of my high school swim complex - "Think you can, or think you can't; either way you will be right."  Just as it has gotten me through the journey with my fear, I proceeded on knowing it would get Bongo through his next phase.  And I couldn't have been more right.

As I looked through the photos this week, the jumping phase made me laugh hysterically.  I have the most ridiculous expressions on my face in every picture, because I jabbered and laughed all the way through it.  I kept telling him what a good boy he was, and laughing when he spooked at the honking birds in the corner.  I gave him a soft, calm, confident round, and I couldn't have been more pleased.  We did what we came to do!

To top it all off, the farm team cleaned up.  While Bongo and I finished on our dressage score in 2nd place, the other two from our farm cleaned up first place ribbons in their divisions!  Merryn rode Thomas in her very first full horse trial, and Robyn finished on a dressage score of 32 in her very first Novice - so everyone had an amazing day.

It's been a bit of a rough week, so retracing the weekend has been a much needed lift for me.  I have been so inconsistent with my blogging, and I really need to get back to it.  Helps me to keep life in perspective when it tends to get twisted around a bit.  Which it has lately.  A lot, in fact!  Poor Samson.  Every scratch or sniffle tends to send me off the deep end of worry, and his latest deal is a recurring snotty nose.  No other symptoms, and culture wasn't horrendous, but I still stress out like crazy.  Other than that, he really is doing well, and enjoys his old man naps in the field on sunny days.  It's these little moments that bring me the peace to know that he is still perfectly content.



  1. I'm glad Samson is doing well! What a great show, Bongo looks like a super cute jumper.

  2. Awesome blog post, look forward to reading more :)

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  4. you are a brave rider, nice pictures you shared here. thanks
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