Lessons Learned: Happy Tears, or Getting Back in the Game

Adult amateur event blogger Ainsley Jacobs has been chronicling how she finds the takeaway lesson from the good, the bad and the ugly in her equestrian experience. Her horse JJ has been rehabbing from a ligament injury for a few months, so during his layoff time Ainsley is revisiting earlier lessons in her experience. Today’s story is from August of 2015.

A close distance during warm up, but no stops and a big “oh thank god!!” smile. Photo by Erik Jacobs / P.TEN Marketing

Stadium has always been so easy for us, but after the unexpected (and painful) fall at Poplar last weekend, it’s now my biggest source of anxiety.

Fortunately, our next event was back at Chatt, where I felt comfortable and safe. It’s funny how I’ve gone from being the most freaked out about cross country and not worrying at all about stadium to the exact opposite. Now, cross country is fun and stadium is scary!

We schooled our cross country course as usual on Friday night, then I took care of JJ and headed home to spend a sleepless night worrying about stadium. I didn’t think he’d stop again since Chatt’s jumps are pretty straightforward, but you never know.

We’ve been focusing more on dressage lately, and doing a lot of flat lessons. It’s slowly paying off. We rode Beginner Novice A and once again were in the 30s with our score – this time it was a 38.94. We’re slowly chipping away at those numbers. I’d love to get into the low- or mid-30s soon!

As I left the barn to head down to stadium, I was trying to be positive. Positive we would have a great ride, positive JJ would jump everything, and positive I wasn’t going to fall off (again). Our warm up went great – we had a few close, conservative distances due to me riding defensively, but I’ll take that any day over what happened last time.

Much to my relief, our course was perfect. It was one of our best jumper rounds yet, and JJ was an absolute angel.

I knew I couldn’t let my guard down on cross country, but JJ was in beast mode and pulled me to every jump. He was a machine, and all I could do was sit there, hold on, and direct him where I wanted him to go. He took care of the rest! We finished on our dressage score and were double clear in stadium and cross country.

I’ve started a thing where I don’t even check my dressage score (or any score) until after I’ve completed all three phases. I don’t want to psych myself out going into a phase thinking “I’m doing well, yay!” and then screw it up, or think “I’m last, there’s no hope” and give up mentally. So, after we had survived all three of the day’s challenges, I walked on down to where the scores were posted to take a look.

At first, I couldn’t find my name. I am so used to being mid-pack or at the bottom of the class that my brain didn’t even bother to check the “top” scores. When I did locate my name, seeing it in second was a huge shock.

I’ll admit it, I happy cried. After falling last weekend, this redemption was priceless. From the low to the high, I’d experienced a range of emotions in just a week. I’m so proud of JJ for trying his best!

Photo by Erik Jacobs / P.TEN Marketing


The color of the ribbon, or even if you got one at all, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you tried your best, rode your best, and learned something along the way. But man, the physical, tangible validation that you’re doing it right sure is nice sometimes.

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing