Can I level with y’all for a minute?
After we got that big fat E in the showjumping phase at the Spring Event at Woodside, my confidence took a huge nosedive. I was upset, I was questioning myself, I felt like I had let my horse down. Anything over 2’3″ looked big, oxers scared the pants off me, and the thought of raising the jumps gave me shortness of breath and made my heart race. Battling those demons was HARD.
We put the jumps back down and focused on those good basics. Oh, and I didn’t touch an oxer for a good month and a half. I lunged him over them a few times at varying heights and widths to see if I could help a brother out (was it the oxers? was it me? maybe I should switch to dressage full time. no no, that’s crazy talk … don’t get carried away – we got this).
Being the one to have started Firefly from the basics and not “sending him off” for training somewhere else means he is a direct mirror to me. Every thing he does is a direct result of something I’ve done – with a good sprinkling of his own personality and opinions in there. His flaws are my flaws.
Firefly is a lot of things but he’s most definitely not push button. You have to earn it. Every time, every day, no excuses, no exceptions.
I had gotten sloppy. I had let my horse down. And he was calling me out on it. “Put up or shut up, girl. Do your part or I won’t do mine.” I was getting away with nonsense when the jumps were little and he was letting me get in his way because the stakes were low. I had held onto bad habits – some new, some less new. Taking a tug too close to the fence, getting ahead of him, giving up on the fence 3 strides out, chasing him to the base of the jump, or just flat out not supporting him. He was being clear that we were beyond the things we did with “BabyFly” – no more “Jesus take the wheel” moments. Ride. Every. Stride.
Taking it a step back and focusing on those good basics really made a difference in improving our relationship in the jump arena and helped me understand where I was making mistakes. I had done a lot of things to give him every reason NOT to trust me. Dude, I wouldn’t trust me either. I had to take the steps to earn that back. I had to start putting pennies back into the Trust Bank that I had greatly depleted over time.
As I got more comfortable and he started to trust me again, we put the jumps back up little by little. And added the oxers back into our courses. We participated in some home schooling shows which helped boost the confidence back up – many large deposits were made into the Trust Bank over the last few months.
In this week’s jump lesson, I mentioned to my coach that I was ready to put the jumps back up to Novice height (2’11”). Cue the gulp, clammy hands, and general anxiety. I focused on keeping the breathing in check and being a good, supportive partner for him. “We got this, buddy.” We went through our course (about 2/3 of the jumps were at Novice height) and jumped the whole thing cleanly – no hesitations from either of us. He has no problem with the height (scope for days, y’all) but if I don’t do my half of the job, he’s not going to do his. I don’t blame him – I wouldn’t either.
I have to ride him – like actually ride. It’s amazing how much better things go when I actually do what I’m supposed to do! Ride your line, support with the leg, look where you WANT to go (not where you’ve been!), don’t take a tug 2 strides out, don’t chase him to the bigger jumps, sit up and ride every jump, stay with him. Ride more positively.
He has done it at the lower levels because he enjoys it – but once the jumps go up, he’s unwilling to do it if I’m not going to help. He’s forgiving and he’ll save my butt, but he won’t do it every time. Eventually, he gets tired of putting up with my shenanigans!
I’ve entered a local schooling show Combined Test, scheduled for a couple weeks from now, to help get us prepared for the October Event at Woodside. We will do the Beginner Novice division and run the Novice jump round, for the practice. Maybe we can shake some demons out. In October, we will head back out to Woodside and hopefully finish on a score instead of a letter. 🙂
Every day, I am thankful for a horse who is anything but push-button. He makes me a better rider. And probably a better person … but maybe I’m reading too much into it.