The Ups and Downs of Learning

Win the War and I jumping the hanging log into the water complex at Plantation this past weekend.  Photo by Rebekkah Redden Win the War and I jumping the hanging log into the water complex at Plantation this past weekend. Photo by Rebekkah Redden

It’s been awhile since I have written anything for EN. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind, and I feel like I’m running in circles most of the time. It seems to be typical for those trying to get a professional equine business going. However, after the ups and downs of this year with my main man, Win the War (lovingly known as “Bug” to those who haven’t read about him in my past posts), I felt I needed to step out of my cave and shed some light on what we have been going through.  Who knows, it might help someone else!

Bug is a freak.

  • When he is relaxed, he is a very good mover. A DQ told me this summer that he is the best moving TB she has ever seen or ridden. (At the time, she was riding him and medium trotting all over the arena doing all of his movements.)
  • When he jumps, he uses so much force, it is sometimes necessary to have a seat belt.
  • He is cocky. He has a hard time understanding that he doesn’t need to add width or height to the jumps.
  • He is brave yet careful. If he locks onto a jump, he is probably going to jump it, whether you want to or not.

All of these things can make it difficult to ride him. I don’t know how many times someone has said to me, “Bug just seems so easy. He is point and shoot. He could easily be an amateur’s mount.” I try my best to smile through gritted teeth. Am I the best rider in the world? No. However, I think I have stepped up my game quite a bit in the last few years, but he is still not easy. He does everything with exuberance, and with that much talent, it can be tough to ride.

In the past, it was easy for me to just allow this awesome horse of mine to take the reins and save my butt. He did so on a regular basis, and he still does sometimes. However, both Bonnie Mosser and Kim Severson made it clear to me that as I moved up the levels, that couldn’t keep happening regularly. I have been working for years to get lighter, fitter, stronger. I ride many horses a day, and I am ALWAYS striving to learn and improve.

Sometimes, the more you learn, the more issues you have until it all comes together. Bonnie has really been changing my ride this year. We have upped the game, as I have big dreams for this horse. However, it seems that every show, a blip or two comes out of the woodwork. The more rideable I make him, the more he looks to me to back it up. If you watch video of me from years past compared to now, there is a definite difference in how I am riding.

For instance, this past weekend, Bug and I ran the CIC2* at Plantation. We have been having blips at Advanced here and there this season, and I just didn’t ride well at Five Points. The goal was to have a good outing. The problem is my gallops and fitness work haven’t changed, so Bug came out breathing fire. His dressage, show jumping and cross country all had evidence of how strong and well he is feeling. Unfortunately, the cross country really showed it. I knew he was going to be strong, but I didn’t realize just how much. I came out of the box slow to try to get his attention, and he was amazing. However, the more I let the throttle out, the more I had trouble controlling his jump.

The nature of his jump is very powerful off the ground. His style, even on cross country, is very classic with a lot of bascule. However, add some strength into the bridle, and his balance tends to be a bit ahead of him when he lands. Due to this problem, we ran into trouble at the last combination on course, a table to a corner to a skinny. He jumped over the table with too much and landed running.  It just wasn’t meant to be. This showed me that we have some work to do before Morven, and we are definitely only doing the two-star at Fair Hill.

Funny enough, now that I am a lot lighter (I have lost about 40 pounds this year), I am having a harder time controlling him. I can’t use my weight against his strength, and it has been a huge learning curve trying to get my muscle memory to catch up with my weight loss. My body is constantly changing. Am I any weaker? No, I think I’m the fittest I have ever been. Now, I have to learn how to use my new body to ride this horse of mine.

What is the point of all of this?  Riding will always be an ongoing process, even with education and change. The better I get, the more there is to learn. We are both going better than we have ever gone, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still issues to work through. It’s easy to get down on ourselves and to even judge others when there are issues. However, in this game we play, things can be getting better, and the scoreboard may not show it. Just keep striving to be better and more educated, and eventually, things will fall into place.

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