Don’t Abandon Your Skills
By April D. Ray
Recently, I competed at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC with my mare, Fire. It’s by far the biggest show we have done to date and leading up to it I was as excited as I was nervous. After showing in the Baby Green Hunters for the past year we planned to move up in height and likely go into the Jumper ring. I set goals for the week that were simple and attainable, having less to do with competing and more about just having a successful outing all around for my young and relatively still inexperienced horse.
After warm-up day, we decided to only do the jumpers and entered the .9s for the first day of the show. She was great, jumped all the jumps despite being a little spooky and impressed in the ring, but we did well enough that our coach decided to move us up another division for the next day. This would allow us to go in a different ring with better footing and really put our skills to the test. I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. And our classes were scheduled towards the end of the day, so I had a lot of time to think about it and make up all sorts of stories in my head.
Fire warmed up well, and when it was our turn to go in the ring a cool thing happened. She was a little backed up and behind the leg, which really forced me to ride – and ride hard. My instincts kicked in and it was a great reminder that my instincts are, in fact, good. I just have to trust them and not listen to the negative voices inside my head. I did trust them though, and we jumped all the jumps and had the rest of the week to put more miles on and gain more confidence.
Photo: Totem Photography
By the last day I was feeling pretty good, albeit a little tired. Fire warmed up well and when we stepped into the ring I thought we were good. But again, she was backed off and I struggled just to get her headed in the right direction to fence #1. The first two jumps were oxers, which I must admit aren’t yet in my comfort zone. We found a long distance to the first one and despite my best efforts I just couldn’t build the canter we needed to get to the second oxer. Old habits die hard, and when I recognized that we were in trouble I kicked and pushed to a long distance. Fire tried but couldn’t quite pull off what I was asking of her, which resulted in us taking out the oxer and me taking a tumble. It was 100% my fault and I am still kicking myself in the butt for it.
Notes from a previous session with performance specialist Dave Freeze. Photo: April D. Ray
The thing was... It didn’t have to happen that way. Instead of working to fix what was going on in the moment, I abandoned the skills I have been working so hard to develop this season and resorted to old habits. After getting over the disappointment of it all, I can see that we have a lot of homework to do and was able to find the positive in what happened. That day was really a wake-up call to let me know what we need to work on over the fall and winter to make 2019 a successful show season – mostly that when I put my leg on my horse needs to GO!
So, here’s to hard lessons, hard falls, and a winter of hard work.
“Dreams don’t work unless you do.” ~ John C. Maxwell
Main photo: Totem Photography