Monday, 17 July 2017

At War with Myself

The mental game with horses and this sport of eventing really kicked my ass this weekend. We completed our first formal three-phase event. My past two derbies consisted of dressage (with the ring made on the site of the xc field on grass), pace and xc. For this weekend the event was partnered with a pony club rally so we had access to the barns, large grass jumping ring for stadium and formal sand dressage ring. There would even be a jog up for the vet on the first morning.

Passing the jog test and my unicorn looking majestic as fuck.

My schooling work at home the few weeks prior to this weekend had some lovely breakthroughs. I had finally created a true half-halt with Savvy and the lightbulb turned on in her lovely little brain wherein she now understood what I was actually doing with my body and what it meant for her in the big world of horse responsibilities.

With this new understanding of half-halt comes more control of her trot and canter and suddenly we have new quality. It is a completely different trot that I can ask for immediately and refine in real time rather than the previous need to 'work her out' of her pony trot to the more relaxed trot. Canter is also improved, but not quite so dramatically. There is still rushing at canter but I can elevate her shoulders much more than before and feel some semblance of control now, so progress!

Doing our homework and yes, I even jumped the red barn twice :)
This would be our first event without pre-event xc schooling. Considering how challenging our last xc was, this was certainly not ideal. Logistically, the organisers had to place events backwards to what you would expect: First was xc Saturday morning, then stadium Saturday afternoon followed by Dressage Sunday morning. This again so not ideal considering how I was feeling about xc. Jumping at home was going really well, but our last event left me with no warm and fuzzies what so ever.

I planned for the longest warmup possible with trot and canter sets, a couple of cross rails then break, rinse, repeat. Savvy had plenty of nervous energy to let off and my nerves were not helping but by the time it was my turn I thought we were in a pretty good place. Most of my course would be inviting logs with the odd difficult test sprinkled into a very short course of nine jumps.

As hubby was working, my kids got to spend the whole weekend with me at the event. I was so lucky to have my own cheering crew/grooms! lol.
Savvy immediately refused the first simple log but on second try she went over. The next fence was also a log but maybe a full 2'6" made bigger by the wear on the ground in the take-off and landing spot. She refused this too, twice. At some point coming up for my second try at this fence my brain just checked out and anxiety took over. I was shaking so bad I simply took that second refusal as a definite nope for me. I could not stomach the idea of doing this seven more times on this course and decided to call it quits. I pulled up and exited stage left. About 20 seconds after that decision, I truly regretted it.
What to do with a 7 and 9-year-old when you need to head out on xc? Give them a cooler full of snacks, a blanket and tablet to play on and they hardly notice you left...
I was just gutted. Every worst negative thought one can have about themselves as a rider was making rounds in my head. All I could do was try to not look how I felt as to not ruin the morning for my friend who was warming up for her turn. Perhaps that was a blessing. Otherwise I might have headed down the bush path to have a good cry.

For the next few hours all I wanted to do was pack up and forget this whole crazy idea of eventing. It was really difficult, but I forced myself to look at it for what it was--a learning experience. My horse and I are doing our best and anxiety will happen. I will have refusals and will remember how stupid it was to quit. I will move forward with plan B's, C's and D's if necessary at next events and know that this is a great group of riders who won't mind me schooling on course, skipping fences or changing levels. It does not have to be all or nothing and perhaps most importantly: I do not have to be good at this as long as I keep it fun.

Still, I was mostly feeling like why bother...but stadium would change all of that.

10 comments:

  1. i'm sorry to read this :( this sport is so freakishly mental, it never ceases to amaze me. and that whole confidence game can be such a snowball too - tho it works both ways. positive experiences can breed positive feelings which make for more positive experiences too. at least that's what i tell myself. and i love your point about it not having to be 'all or nothing.' definitely agreed! looking forward to reading about stadium!

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    1. I do appreciate the snowball effect when it is rolling in our favour. Being an over-thinking person on an over-thinking pony is ridiculously tough, but we'll get there :)

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  2. Riding is a total mental game. And sometimes it kicks our ass. I cannot wait to hear about the stadium.

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    1. Between me melting down or Savvy doing the melting, I am surprised we've accomplished as much as we have, lol!

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  3. Damn, I am so sorry about the XC. That is such an odd format too - would've been nice to get the "easy" stuff out of the way beforehand and up your confidence! Fingers crossed Stadium went better for you both!

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    1. I certainly saw a lot more riders having trouble with xc. The same riders who had gone penalty free at other derbies were now having actual refusals and a few falls this event. I was definitely not alone in my struggles.

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  4. Sorry about the XC. Fun is my motto. I have had fun at events I was eliminated at. But if it's not fun, there's no fault in not doing it. You just have to find what makes you happy. I hope you keep trying.

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    1. I am working on not being so hard on myself when the whole anxiety thing shows up. Having a better plan of what to do when it does happen should really help 'fun' still be possible when things go awry. :)

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  5. :( sorry you went through this, try not to beat yourself up over it and instead come back fresher another day

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    1. I know Savvy and I just need more time out in the big field jumping fences :) Savvy is a great little horse and luckily is very forgiving thank goodness when I fail majorly.

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