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Horse Shows Are Fun, DAMN IT.

We went to the horse show at the Rose Palace this weekend. It was my first show in six years, and it was also my first outing with Bob. Heading into the horse show, I had some really great lessons, and I was feeling confident in my new approach to my riding. I wasn’t over-worrying about distances. I wasn’t being a weeny about fence height. I was trying to ride confidently, and I was trying to ride nicely to give my horse a chance at success. So far, it was absolutely working. Then came the dreaded warm-up day.

Friday, we had a great school to start out with. I was riding great, hitting my strides in the lines, and I wasn’t nervous at all, despite the growing zoo that the ring was becoming. Then my trainer told me to come down a smaller two stride. Heading into the two stride, I was trying not to be concerned, but I felt that old fear creeping into my gut. We got in short and I went to move up, then before I knew it, I looked down, pulled back, and we crashed through the end oxer. Poor Bob’s nose went to the ground, and I law darted right off the side of him. Now, I am only twenty-four years old in muggle years, but I am pretty old in horse-lady years, and I have my fair share of body problems that comes from 21 years of riding, law darting, and god knows what else. So, falling is not as easy as it once was anymore. However, I jumped right back up, stood for a moment, and then I took a leg up to try again. We went back down the outside line just fine, and then my trainer had me try the two stride again.. Same thing, only this time I stayed on somehow (which is magical as it happened multiple times this weekend). Eventually, we made it down the line without me trying to attempt both of our suicides.

Saturday, my trainer told me she added me into a 2’3″ warm up to get the jitters out of the way. It was a pretty ugly course. There weren’t many moments of brilliance. The first jump we added a step instead of going forward and we got a rail. Then we went around at a molasses pace towards the dreaded two stride, set as I crashed through it yesterday, on the outside rail of the area. We jumped in pretty sort and instead of moving up, I did two and a chip and my horse had to climb out. However, we made it out alive. The rest of the round was pretty ugly, including chocolate chipping into a one stride and only a few decent jumps out of the rest. We finished with four faults and a time penalty. Our second course was 2’6″. I went in thinking “this two stride will not eat me, and I will gallop”. Honestly, I thought mostly about just getting it over with, because I knew I had one more course to go.

I had a pretty decent break before that class, and I spent it just sitting in a chair with my eyes closed. Amazingly, we warmed up well, and I went in with a good attitude and some pace. My second round was much more fluid. We added a stride here and there, but they were decisions made early not at the last minute. When I landed off jump 8, I never expected to be in the jump off. However, we were blown to continue to the JO and off we went. I never expected to make it that far, and my whole jump off plan went out the window, so I forgot to make the tighter turns, but we made it through clear and got a second. I was pretty much Beezie Madden. After another short break, I went into my second 2’6″ round after a course walk and course change. I went in with a plan, but I was hurting from Friday and both my horse and I were pretty spent.. So this happened:

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Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the same pace and I took my leg off at the first fence, therefore we had an ugly pop-chip and rail. I lost both stirrups and thought about continuing down the bending line, but then I thought “If I don’t have stirrups, no horse, and do that again at the second fence.. I’m going to fall off.” So I regathered my stirrups, circled, and went back towards jump 2, an oxer. It was a nice jump and we had a bending line to the third. I put in a last minute add instead of taking the long one, and instead of committing to the forward five to the dreaded two stride, I sucked back, raised my hands, took off the leg, and we added an ugly chip into the two.

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That oxer came crashing down into the two stride, and I put my hand up to excuse ourselves out of the class before they buzzed me. Of course, they ugly buzzed me anyway, but I was just done for the day. So, I gave him a long walk outside, a bath, and then I let him graze while apologizing profusely to him for my awful riding. Horse shows are fun right? I needed a cold beer and pain meds after the epic first day of ups and downs.

Sunday, I slept a little better and woke up with a different attitude going in. I put on my favorite breeches for good luck, and I told myself that today was going to be the best day. After all, I had one class to prove myself in today. I wanted to end on a good note! I got to the barn, gave Bob some cookies, and once again apologized for my lack of riding yesterday. We entered into another 2’3″ class for warm up before my division class, and I went to go look at the course. Of course, it was a 2C. I hate 2C’s. I don’t have a good memory, and I have not having a few seconds to physically point out my jump off (if I make it that far).

Warm up was great, and I had a lot of confidence going into the 2’3. We were rushed with time, so I didn’t get to course walk, but despite not totally remembering my course until I was on my way to the fences, the 2’3″ didn’t go awfully. There was a lot of things I wish I would have smoothed out, but we actually got to continue and do the whole course. No ugly buzzer here! We wound up taking a 6th in that class, and I was totally okay. After all, I’m not here for ribbons or the money back (though both are nice). I was here to have fun… BECAUSE HORSE SHOWS ARE FUN.

I actually had time to course walk while they set for the 2’6″. I wanted to go into 2’6″ with a plan, with strides, and with a better idea of what in the hell I was going to do. We decided the path I was taking, and I was feeling really great about it all. So great, I decided to go ahead and go in first! Heading to the first jump, I felt like we had a good pace, but I knew that both Bob and I were pretty tired. He began to suck back a bit at the first jump, and I let him rather than moving him forward. So we added a step and then landed short. I heard my trainer yell “GALLOP”, so I moved him forward with so many great intentions of having a gorgeous line and getting in at just the right pace to jump #2, an oxer that was a bending five to a four stride line. However, I felt my horse start to suck back again, and I didn’t keep the leg on. Instead, I went into a sort of hail mary – fetal position, and we pop chipped and pogo sticked over the oxer. I flew out of the saddle and as I landed halfway hanging off my horse, all I could think about is that I am not going out like this, damn it.

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Somehow I climbed back into the saddle and didn’t eat dirt. So I took a circle, regained my composure, and then I was a determined cookie. I knew I wasn’t going to be in any JO, ribbons, or time; but I wanted to finish, and I wasn’t finishing like that. So, I went down to the 4A-4B line, and I decided to add the stride to get five down the line instead of going for the forward four. I didn’t want to crash anymore, honestly, and I didn’t trust myself at this point. I then turned to the one stride, and I wrapped my leg around him and dropped my hands, so we had a beautiful jump in and out (it’s amazing what happens when you do what your trainer tells you). The rest of the course wasn’t our best because I put in adds, but we finished on those 8 faults, and I came out with a smile. I hated that I ended my last course with a jump like that, but I was proud that we finished the rest and that it went okay… because horse shows are fun, D A M N I T!

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Over all, I know that every mistake that was made was absolutely and 100% my fault. The keywords of the show were pace, leg, and drop your freaking hands! However, I am glad we did it, and we came out with two ribbons and $26 added back into our entry fees. My trainer was a saint through out it all, and I couldn’t have asked for a better barn team to tell me it was all okay, and that finishing the weekend was a success. I also couldn’t have asked for a better lease mom. Bob’s real mom was such a rock through the whole thing, and she kept sending me motivational messages even after I told her I was practically ruining her horse. She is such a wonderful person, and I wish everyone had as wonderful of a support team as me. It wasn’t the week that I had imagined or planned on having, but it was a weekend of experiences and minor successes. Hopefully, we won’t disappoint next time, and I will come much better prepared with frosty beverages and a horse show back pack flask (that I forgot to pack last minute).

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Photo Credits: Mara Martinez, Jordan Lunney, and Amy Metz.

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It’s Almost Horse Show Time!

I can’t believe I am even speaking those words again. I thought I was done showing after Monty. Once I started at Rachel’s with CW, I started to have those goals again. We would go to a show. We would jump around. We wouldn’t suck too bad. After all, those had been my goals with Monty, and we reached them at our last show together. Of course, we didn’t win. I think we were last in at least one class, but I came out with a smile on my face because we did it.

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My last jumper show – Circa 2010.

After selling Monty and retiring CW, I thought it was the universe telling me that showing just wasn’t in my cards anymore. After all, I work multiple jobs and scrimp by just to ride weekly, let alone go to a show. It just wasn’t meant to be, and I was totally fine with being the grounds crew and show help. The only goal I had was to better myself and fix my confidence. Then, I began leasing the fabulous Bob. I sort of laughed and nodded my head the first time my trainer mentioned showing. I mean, I could barely get through a tiny course without Bob having to totally save my ass, let alone a show worthy course with 12+ jumps that I had to remember and think about. However, as we have learned each other and worked together, I’ve actually started to progress a bit in my riding. Suddenly, showing was starting to become a goal again, even if it meant working three jobs to make that happen.

 

So, we are gearing up for our first show! It is only a local show at the Rose Palace, but I am going in with a pretty hefty goal. What is that goal you ask? Don’t forget my course! That is really my only goal. My goal isn’t to win. It’s to come out smiling and to not forget my course, because I know if I give Bob a chance, he will not let me down. It’s been six years since I’ve stepped foot in a show ring, and I have to admit I’m getting pretty freaking nervous. However, I am really excited to be going in on a horse that instills so much confidence, with a kick ass coach, and especially an awesome team of barn mates to support me along the way (and be waiting with a frosty beverage after it’s all over).

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How A Typical Lesson Goes For Me

I generally arrive at least an hour early, if not more, to prepare for my lessons. I am in a good mood at this point. I’m feeling confident and ready to take the world by storm.

Gonna Have a Good Time

I usually get on about thirty minutes before time to start, so I can stretch and walk around the arena. I like to size up what the jumps look like (trainer likes to change things up on us), and I like to get an idea of what we might be doing. We’re obviously going to have a great lesson.

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I’m feeling good, my trainer either has us warm up or starts flatting us. I love flatting my lease, because I have finally figured out his buttons. We can usually get in a groove during our flatting, and I have figured out what to do to make him softer and supple.

we look good

Then she asks us to warm up over a small cross-rail or box. We are so going to do good in this lesson. This is easy stuff! We can do this all day.

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At this point, I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fierce. We’re pretty much ready for the Olympics. Japan 2020, anyone? Then my trainer starts to add some harder elements. I’m still feeling pretty good after our cross-rails, but she suddenly raises the fences.

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It is our turn to go. We head to the first fence, and I am feeling confident… My trainer gives me this look with her eyes.

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Until I am not. You see, I can’t make a decision to save my life. My poor trainer tells me this all the time, but I still can’t seem to make the said decision. Bob really is a saintly horse.

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Usually, I take a couple decent jumps and royally screw up the rest. My trainer usually sounds like this.

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Or she looks like this

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And I am generally like

flaill

And a lot of this

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And some of this

i did it

Then my trainer asks me to review the course or exercised and explain what we liked and didn’t like. What did I like?

survived

What did I not like?

everything

What happened?

cause i was just like all over

The process generally repeats itself for a few rounds until we mostly sort ourselves out. When I say we, I mean until I sort myself out. My horse is a saint. I am an indecisive potato that makes him do bad things. After my lessons, sweet Bob gets a lot of this:

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And I am like this

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Overall, I am very blessed to have such a wonderful, patient, and kind trainer like Rachel. I’m also so blessed to lease an amazing horse like Bob, that is always teaching me, helping to rebuild my confidence, and constantly puts up with my crap. We don’t win every lesson, but we get better (most of the time), and I call that a success.

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Conquering The Mental Game

Here’s the thing. I find myself t0 be a competent rider. I’m no Beezie, Kent, Will, or any of those other fabulous riders that are always cool under pressure, because I want to get one thing out of the way right now. I’m 100000% not cool under pressure. Even if that pressure is making a decision of whether I want to wear side zips or front zips. So throw in a few fences, even a cross rail, and I have immediately lost all my ability to human.

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There was a time in my life where nothing fazed me. My best friend and I would gallop across undeveloped land, jump horses that shouldn’t jump over things we shouldn’t have jumped. I was a kid, and I was young and reckless. So reckless, that we often broke bones, fell off, and got into trouble. However, we got back on (cast and all) and we were off again. I didn’t care at what distance I got into a jump. I didn’t care if the horse had a bucking problem. I didn’t care how high the jump was. I got over it, and I was riding.

However, something clicked. I got older. I kept riding the harder rides, the young horses, and the difficult horses. I loved it, but I didn’t realize I was stepping right into a sinkhole of riding disaster. I began losing confidence, and it pretty much happened overnight. I lost my ability to think clearly, and I became one of the panicked.

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You see, I am not a natural rider. I don’t have natural grace or poise. I really had to work hard and hone in on the skills I have. I’m also an analytical rider. I think about every little thing I am told, even if I don’t do it. I want everything to be perfect, and I want to look absolutely perfect, even if that isn’t effective. It’s very hard for me to get out of my head, and it’s very hard for me to stop over thinking everything I do while riding.

I think as riders, getting out of our own head is one of the absolute hardest things to do. I know what to do. I know how to do it, but I can’t do it because I’m too busy thinking about how I am doing it wrong. Therefore, I chip, I add, or I take a hell of a flyer to a jump that I shouldn’t be thinking that hard about. It’s one of the most frustrating things, ever. I get so caught up in how good I could be or should be, rather than taking time to really mentally strategize and hype myself up a little bit.

Recently, I’ve been researching a lot about sports psychology and rider psychology. I’ve been reading about the mental game of riding, and I have also been reading stories about other riders struggle with the same thing. By suggestion of a friend, I found Tonya Johnston’s website. Tonya Johnston is a great equestrian mental skills coach, and she is highly regarded and used by many professionals. Even better, Tonya is a rider herself, so she really understands our struggles in the ring. She also has a great book out (that is currently shipping to my house) called Inside Your Ride.

I know that my mental game is going to be a constant struggle, but I hope that my willingness to help myself and, of course, with the help of Tonya’s book, I can overcome some of my mental obstacles. I’m on a journey to overcoming my mental obstacles, and I hope that I can help someone that might be going through the same thing. Maybe one day I will go from hot mess to “well thought out”. Until then, my journey continues.

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1

2016 Resolutions

Yes, this is a blog about me making my New Years Resolutions 13 days into the New Year. Honestly, I think it’s silly to make them right away. Generally, I’m still half drunk and have yet to recover from the Holidays. It takes me at least a week to let the boozy brain clear. So, I have always waited on making my “resolutions” until I really had time to think them through. I want my resolutions to be obtainable, and I don’t like generic resolutions either. So here they are, a reminder to me that I do have resolutions, and that I have a year to make them all happen.

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  1. In 2016, I am going to ride more and worry less. I’m going to worry less about the extra time it takes to get to the barn. I’m going to worry less about hurting peoples feelings when I choose the barn over them. I’m going to enjoy the horse I have, and I am going to make things happen. I want to try and get to the barn two to three times per week.
  2. In 2016, I am going to ride more horses. You are only as good of a rider as you let yourself be, and if you only ride what your comfortable on.. What does that make you? I want to ride different horses. I want to sit on as many as I can, and I want to make myself a better rider. Notice, this resolution is different than my previous resolution, because I do not plan  on riding just CW.
  3. In 2016, I am going to try different disciplines. I believe you can become a more rounded rider by trying different disciplines. I think every discipline has something to give, whether you are a Dressage rider, Jumper, Reiner, etc. I want to try cutting, reining, and Dressage this year. I also want to start roping the dummy, again. Practice makes perfect, right?
  4. In 2016, I will get myself in better riding shape. I’m tired of getting tired after two circles around the arena at a canter. No stirrup work? HA. You are funny. We don’t even try that most of the time. I need to improve my core, and I need to improve my stamina. Unfortunately for me, that means I have to do cardio and attempt to work out some. It’s only fair to CW that if he has to work more then so do I.

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5. In 2016, I am going to cowgirl up. I’m not going to whine when Rachel makes me jump a jump I’m not comfortable with. I’m going to put on my big girl panties and just do it. I have a great horse that isn’t going to stop, so I need to put that out of my mind. 2016 is a new year, and that means I get to restart and push the bad behind. We’ve all wrecked. It’s scary, and I don’t think anyone wants to fall off, but I seriously have to get over it.
6. In 2016, I am going to stop riding backwards. It feels like my horse is going 900mph, but I know he is not. Heck, the videos make him seem like a pleasure! I need to embrace our forward march, and I think it will make both of us happier.
7. In 2016, I am going to make it around a course of 10 jumps. You hear that Rachel? That means we aren’t going to run away, circle, or stop in-between lines or fences. We have our work cut out for ourselves.
8. In 2016, I am going to push myself past my comfort zone. I am going to make myself reach these goals, and I am going to be a happier person and better rider for it.
9. Lastly, In 2016, I am going to update my blog much more often. I promise more interviews, #ROOTD, and fun bargain finds. I vow to be a better blogger.

With that said, bring on 2016!

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Here’s to 2016.

In 17 hours the book will close on 2015, and a new chapter will begin to write itself. So many people begin to write big goals and resolutions for the next year, but I want to reflect on the small successes we had in 2015.

1. CW and I may not have shown at WEF and won our division, but we did manage to put a course of jumps together at home a few times.

  

2. We only went lame twice this year, the longest time off being one month. We also got x-rays that were pretty clean and promising. 

  

3. We moved barns and began training with a great trainer. We even started riding a bit better.

  
4. I sort of got over my rediculous fear of jumping anything bigger than a cross-rail.

  
5. We also don’t runaway quite as often as we used to, and we are starting to kind of use ourself and sort of round.

 

6. I bought a new saddle, and I made new barn friends.

 
7. Lastly, I managed to not fall off.

  

So, here’s to 2016. Here is to more small goals and successes, and here’s to another year that we don’t show at WEF or possibly at all! I’m just glad that we have friends and wonderful people to help us on our crazy journey.

  
  

1

The Balancing Act

jugglegifThis is one of the most accurate descriptions of my life that I could find. I am attempting to be a full time employee, full time student, a horse mom, and run a steadily growing side business all at the same time. At this moment, I have not been to the barn in over a week. The last ride I had on my sweet CW was dismal and disappointing to say the least, but it is really hard for me to blame it all on him. I have to blame a lot of it on myself. I just have not had the time to get out there more than once a week to ride (if I get out there at all during the week). It looks like it may be almost TWO weeks before I get to go see my happy, fat little pony thanks to mid-terms.

stuffyinggifAh. Don’t you just love the smell of fresh mid-terms? No. Actually, I don’t know a lot of people that just LOVE mid-terms. Especially, because mid-terms always seem to sneak up on you. So, instead of spending a gorgeous Sunday at the barn, I spent it in bed reading about Political Parties and the media for Government. Sacrifices must be made? While I plug away at studying, I just keep reminding myself that this is all for the greater good. The more I study, the better grades I get, and the more successful I should be. After all, success = better life for fat pony.

youcandoitChances are, I am not alone. I’m sure many of you readers are also working amateurs. Though we aren’t all juggling the same things, we do all seem to juggle multiple things at one time. This is just a reminder that it can be done! I have started keeping a day planner with specific due dates, ideas, etc. If I think I want to do something that afternoon, I pencil it in the old fashioned way. I stopped using my phones calendar. Physically writing it down puts this thought/date/idea in the back of my mind, and it will help me remember I have something coming up. I also have compromised my social life and taken advantage of “nap” times. A 10 minute power nap can completely change my busy day and really helps me between work and school. If I can just shut down for 10 minutes, I can generally have a much better day at school. It don’t feel as tired or physically worn down (no matter how boring the lecture is!). Any down time I have at work is spent doing homework and reading for class assignments. I also try not to fall behind or procrastinate, because I generally dig myself into a much larger hole.

teamLastly, I have a great support team. I have a wonderful riding instructor that works me into her busy schedule, and she takes amazing care of CW. I never worry for one second about his well being, and she understands my time constraints. I have a great boyfriend that helps keep me motivated, entertained, and he even helps me study. I have amazing family that supports me and gives me words of encouragement, they are also quick to offer me a drink when the day has been rough. I also have amazing friends that are there to give me advice and encouragement, and they are also there to listen to me rant about all the things wrong in my life. I could not do any of this without them.