I have always been competitively natured. All through school I played team sports, and the drive to win was something I felt in full force. I am also a very emotional person by nature, so combined with the will to win, I could get pretty upset when things didn’t go my way. It usually took me a day or two to come out of my wallowing and assess what actually happened. If I made a mistake and cost the team the win, I would beat myself up about it for weeks.
Now that I am older and have been through a lot of ups and downs, I have found that I am starting to learn to cope with disappointment a lot better than I used to. I still have a very high drive to win and do well, and I am definitely hard on myself when I do not perform as I had hoped, but I am now able to use these things to analyze the situation rather than wallow.
This past weekend was my first time at Millbrook. Bug and I haven’t run Advanced since February, and before that, Bromont was our last run at the big time. This was going to be a big weekend, as it was a good test to see if Bug and I had our “A” game on. I have been working hard on all three phases, as I no longer want to just go and complete at Advanced, I want to be competitive.
Unfortunately, this weekend was not ours. In hindsight, I think the long trip took more out of Bug than I had thought it would. Being only his second run back, his fitness level was not where I needed it. He was just not the horse I am used to this weekend. Of course, it is my job as the rider to take the reins and help him through. I take full credit for our less than stellar performance this weekend. I needed to step in and help him when he needed it, and at times, I dropped the ball.
We started the weekend with mediocre dressage. Now, I am definitely one to admit that dressage is difficult for us as a team, but I have been working hard to improve our scores steadily. Unfortunately, Bug was a bit more tense than normal, and I am still figuring out how to push for what I want without making him worse.
I was excited to get on to the jumping, as that is what comes more naturally to us both. The XC course was causing a lot of issues, and I am definitely happy to have gotten around. Honestly, it was probably one of my most positive rides on him. I tend to freeze up at times and not keep kicking. Besides one moment of freezing, I think the rest of the course went quite well for us. My moment came on the back hill at the two angled cabins. We jumped in great and the distance was right there, but I never really kicked Bug off the ground with my right leg. Normally, when Bug sees the flags, he is going. However, this moment, he had an uncharacteristic run out. I was so mad at myself for allowing it to happen, but he came around and jumped great to finish. Honestly, I think it was a bit of a blessing, as it made me buckle down and ride positively the rest of the way around.
The worst part of the weekend came on Sunday. Bug is normally an amazing show jumper. He usually likes to add quite a bit of air above the fences. However, when we came out Sunday morning, he just didn’t feel like he usually does. He was tired and not pinging off the ground. Mentally, I panicked a bit. Where was my superstar? After jumping the first two fences, I totally blanked on where I needed to go, as I was so discombobulated about Bug not feeling like he always does. This loss of direction cost us a circle and things just kept going downhill. We ended up with three rails after that. He is not a horse that normally has one rail, much less three.
There is definitely a huge growing up process that comes with this sport. If you want to play with the big guns and do well, you have to know how to not only prepare your horse physically, but you have to learn to prepare yourself physically and mentally. Learning to think fast and have the body strength and balance to act on it is one of the most important skills needed in this sport. Not only have I taken away what I need to work on when riding Bug, but I have a lot of things to work on off the horse as well.
It is hard for me not to come home and wallow. However, I know that I have only a few weeks until our next run, and I need to take advantage of every second. We may not have had the outcome we wanted this time around, but we will be working hard and coming out swinging at the next event!