Monday, April 21, 2014

Longleaf Pine H/T

Longleaf Pine H/T

I was lucky enough to ride two horses at Longleaf Pine H/T this past weekend. I was really excited to get Jumbie (Cabin Society) and Simply (Beaulieu's Simply Cool) out. Jumbie has never competed in area 2 and Simply has only done one schooling event down here. This was Jumbie's first event since last fall and Simply's first novice!

The girls have been going very well at home and have been schooling much bigger and harder jumps than they would have to face in competition. Still, you never know! I felt like they were as prepared for their first event as they could be. Thankfully, I turned out to be right!!

I had dressage and cross country on Saturday and it was rainy and windy all day! I got on Simply a tiny bit early, thinking she would be a little high with the weather. She seemed tense and was whinnying to Jumbie, but when I started warming her up, she went right to work and felt great. I was told I was the first rider after the break. Simply warmed up so well, I told them if the judge wants me early I am happy to go! Thankfully she did and I went almost twenty minutes early and didn't have to stand around in the rain.

Simply went in and did such a nice test, she was steady and consistent, a real professional. I was so happy with her, she had every right to be tense and unhappy with the rain and wind and she was loose and relaxed. I had a couple hours until Jumbie's ride and went to get something to eat, a woman asked me if I was on the chestnut in the novice? I told her that I was, and she said she thought I had a lovely test and that I would be very happy with my score. So I pulled out my phone to check live scores and saw that she scored an 18.5!!!!! I have scored in the teens once in my life! I was so excited and I felt she really did deserve it. I then headed back to get Jumbie ready for her test.

In the past Jumbie hasn't been the steadiest horse, it's something I have really been working on with her. When I got on her for dressage warm up, I was as happily surprised with her as I was with Simply! She, just like Simply, was ever the professional. After 10 minutes I felt like I could go in the ring! I told the ring steward, again, if they wanted me early I would happily go. There was (thankfully) a scratch so they let me go before the break and I got out of having to sit in the rain, waiting.

When I came down centerline and turned right Jumbie was spooking at the dressage ring that was covered in mud. There was a moment where I thought, oh jeez. I'm not going to be able to get near the track! She quickly got over it and put in a steady, forward, relaxed test. She was such a good girl, I was very impressed with her. When I later checked scores I was so amazed, she scored a 19.5!! Two scores under 20! They were first and second after dressage, what good girls! So, then the pressure was on for cross country, haha!

I thought the cross country course looked really good, my one worry was that is was very wet and I didn't have stud holes. This proved to not be a problem with either horse and wasn't ever a worry when I was on course. I do feel horses need to learn to deal (a little) with wet/muddy footing with out studs and the girls handled it perfectly. I rode Simply first and she was actually quite green around the course. She hasn't competed much and as I said it was her first novice. She did jump around clean and made the time, but there were a couple times I thought she may stop but when I put my leg on to say JUMP she did :).

After her ride I quickly went to switch my tack onto Jumbie. In the past Jumbie has been a bit spooky on cross country, after Simply was so green out there I thought Jumbie would be worse. I couldn't have been more wrong!! When I came out of the start box I just rode her very positively forward, the last few strides I would sit up and really have my leg on but I would try and be soft with my hands. This gave her tons of confidence and she skipped around the course. She felt like a different horse than last year, she's really turning into an event horse!

Show jumping wasn't until Sunday around 12:30 so the girls went home and were turned out. Times were tight so I had Coti come to the horse park and she held Simply at the ring while I jumped Jumbie and then helped me switch horses. (Thanks Coti!!!) We went in reverse order of standing, but they let me jump Jumbie toward the beginning of the division. She and Simply had become pretty attached in the trailer so they were both screaming back and fourth to each other. I thought this may be a distraction, but when they went to work they were focused on their job.

Jumbie went in and had a good, clean round, making the time. She was just as reliable and on the job as she was for cross country. This took the pressure off a little because, even if Simply had a rail, Jumbie would win. When warming Simply up, she was catching serious air time over the oxers. Denny was laughing at me telling me to hang out. She went in the ring and did the same thing around the course. She didn't feel worried or nervous, she just wanted to jump bigger! She jumped around clean with one time fault, which tied her with Jumbie! Simply was closer to optimum time so she won and Jumbie was second. How funny to have two horses finish on the exact same score!

This was such an amazing way to start the season with these two, I can't wait to see what their futures have in store! I am so grateful to Denny and May for giving me the opportunity to ride such wonderful horses!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Consistency Really IS Key

Consistency is key, we've all heard this and quite frankly it sounds a bit like a cliche. You hear people say, it isn't all about talent, having a good work ethic and sticking to it gets you further. I didn't always believe this, I was not a naturally gifted rider. Part of me always hoped it may be true, but I always thought that the people that were better riders than me would forever far exceed my abilities.

It has recently dawned on me that so many people that were better riders than I was when I was younger have mostly fallen off the map. People move on, choose different careers, become disinterested. For a hard core rider, this is hard to understand, they were so good and could have gone so far! I now realize, this life is not for everyone. Sometimes, I think, the gifted young riders that have so much natural ability don't like when they have to try and work hard to get better. They then have the choice of digging in and committing or changing their life goals and having a "real life."

I have given up a lot, and sacrificed many things in my life so that I can ride. Every decision I have made for my future has been about having the opportunity to ride and become a better rider and trainer. I was not a hotshot young rider, I didn't go prelim until I was 23. I am just now starting to feel like I know what I am doing at 28, and I am becoming more confident in my abilities. I have SO much more to learn but that's exciting. I like learning and challenging myself. There are lots of ups and downs and in the past there have been times I have thought about giving up. I think everyone has moments of self defeat, it's getting up the next day and soldering on that gets you better.

One thing that I think has helped me get better is sticking with a program. I am not one to bounce between different instructors. I like to learn a program inside and out, I think it gives your good foundation and helps you build your own system. I have had three main riding instructors in my life, Julie Blackburn, who I rode with for years in Michigan. I left there when I went to college where I started riding with Tom Davis. I left there when I graduated college and started working for Denny.  I have been with Denny for 6.5 years, as with anything, there have been ups and downs, but when I was frustrated I didn't just give up and go to a different instructor. It takes a long time to learn how to ride and everyone teaches differently, I think you need to stick it out and try to really learn and understand everything your instructor has to offer.

Over the years I have had periods where I have felt like I was in a rut, nothing was getting better and I didn't know why. Then, it seems like, all of a sudden I can do things I couldn't do before, the day in, day out consistent practice pays off. So even if you are having a hard time, or you aren't as good as the people around you, keep going, keep riding, and keep working hard, it might not get better but it never will if you give up.