This is not the post I wanted to write. When I left before dawn yesterday morning I envisioned writing all about my triumphant return to the show ring. The day's rundown would include me facing my fears, Gus behaving beautifully, us killing our tests and bringing home pretty ribbons and respectable scores. He's been going really well; I've been feeling safe and confident and I figured we were ready to do this.
The horse gods laugh at our plans, don't they!
It started when Gus came off the trailer 20 hands high, yelling at all the other horses and nearly running me over in his excitement. Our working student kindly helped me manhandle him to the barn where he settled down quickly, but my confidence was already shaken. Gusty winds, flapping banners and sudden storms were the order of the day, which didn't help my nerves any.
Debbie got on to warm him up and he looked fine...sort of...while he was going well I could tell how hard she was working to keep him focused, which is not normal for him at home. He threw a small tempter tantrum when others horses left and he realized he was alone in the warm up ring. On a normal day, no big deal but this didn't feel like a normal day. I felt less confident the more I watched and really wanted to say "forget it," but didn't want to seem like a wimp.
Debbie called me over and I felt my stomach drop, knowing it was time for me to put my big girl panties on and get down centre line. Instead she said "I don't think this is the right day for you to do this. I think it's not going to go well and I don't want you to have a bad experience or get hurt." She felt Gus never really settled under her and was concerned that he would get in the show ring, realize he was alone, take one look at the flapping banners behind C and decide to get the hell out of Dodge.
I was relieved, but strangely disappointed at the same time. I decided to get on and see for myself. He felt fine one minute - fantastic actually - and the next would be a ball of sticky, balkiness that I knew signalled an imminent explosion if I tried to push him. And then he'd feel fine again, until he caught a glimpse of the wheelbarrows he had already spooked at 10 times.
If he hadn't misbhaved at the last two shows, or if I hadn't fallen off at one of them, Debbie and I both would have voted for suck it up and deal with whatever comes. But in this case she was right to put my confidence first. I couldn't cope with another fall right now. And I didn't want him to think that kind of behaviour was ok off property. She put my needs first and I'm glad I listened to her advice. We had a good school in the warm up ring and he went back to bed happy.Not the result I wanted but a good schooling experience nonetheless.
Debbie has already booked some off property schooling time before the next show and, since I cant ride him in it due to work obligations that week, she or her daughter will be the one going in the ring with him at the July show. So, I'll put my dreams of red ribbons aside, check my ego and focus on learning and improving. That's what this dressage thing is supposed to be all about, right?
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.