Monday, June 28, 2010

Every dog has its day dog, but today dog just ain't yours

That would have been my theme song for yesterday's horse show.

Frankly, it was a bit of a disaster, and I had a nervous breakdown on horse back.  It wasn't pretty.  The day started off just like any other horse show.  He lunged quietly, Alicia warmed him up and he had a bit of a temper tantrum about a lead change in the schooling ring but he was good after that.  She did one round and he was good.  Then I got on, and it was brutally hot but he schooled fine in the schooling ring.  I had plenty of time to stand in the shade, learn my course, watch a few trips.  I actually didn't feel that nervous.

Then we went up to the ring and the jumps started looking big, which isn't unusual for me (they usually grow about a foot in the few minutes before I am about to jump them), but I thought I was going to settle down once I got in the ring.  And when I trotted in and looked around I actually felt pretty confident.  They didn't look as big once I was in there, the ring really is elevated and the jumps do look bigger from outside the ring (so they weren't just lying to me to try and make me feel better).

They were dragging the jumper ring behind our ring, and Tucker felt like he wanted to spook at the huge tractor driving around, but I tried to just bend him in and ignore it.  The first jump was a single diagonal going toward home (away from the tractor) and I told myself that once we got to that half of the ring he'd be fine.  Well, I must have been stiff and tense on the way to that fence because he landed and did his leaping/broncing/crow hopping routine which scares the bejeezus out of me.  I made a big circle and tried to get myself to calm down but I just couldn't get it together.  By the time I jumped the next fence I had myself so worked up that I couldn't breathe and I was trembling like a leaf.  So I gave up.  I just make a right turn out of the middle of the diagonal line (and got a beautiful lead change, go figure) and came out of the ring.  I think I saw a mixture of shock and confusion on the faces at the in gate.  So, I explained, "I'm just having a panic attack."

Alicia had to go walk the jumper course with Dana so I had a little while to regroup.  When she came back, we went to the schooling ring and I jumped a vertical a few times and it was okay, not great, I couldn't really get a canter that I liked because I was afraid to send him forward and afraid to hold so I was doing virtually nothing on the way to the fence, and probably needed to be doing something (something, that is, other than sitting there like a zombie).  I actually felt like calling it a day right then and there but I hate when I wimp out like that, and I thought I'd feel so much better about myself if I could just go in the ring and get past this, so I forced myself to give it another go.  I walked in the ring and begged Tucker to take care of me.

It should come as no surprise that the second round was also a disaster, with that kind of pep talk.  The first fence was ugly.  It was a single diagonal vertical off the left lead coming toward home.  I had a crawling, going nowhere canter on the way to it and realized about two strides out that we were going to eat it, which we did.  Not exactly graceful, but thankfully he didn't land and lose it like he had the round before, so I thought maybe this will be okay.  The next fence was a single oxer up the other diagonal, off the right lead.  As I was coming to it, he was bulging so hard through his left shoulder that I could barely turn and couldn't get him straight to it, so I had to make a circle.  I came back around and got the same left bulge but was able to control it a little bit better, but he was still hanging on my left rein the whole way there.  He landed and I got him straight and asked for the lead change, which he did.  It wasn't soft and relaxed and he pulled me through it, but at least he did it.  Then the next line was an outside five coming toward home, off the left lead.  We jumped in quietly so I closed my leg and moved him up for five.  He drifted really far to the right though, which made the line even longer, and he jumped out over the oxer huge.  The next line was the diagonal six, going away from the in gate (the line I turned out of in the last class).  His head came up on the way in and his stride got a little shorter, so we ended up adding one more in than I had planned coming out of the corner, but I softened and moved up to get the six and although he was looking out of the end of the ring the whole way there, it was okay. 

Then at the end of the ring, someone was going by in a golf cart and Tucker lost his mind, again.  Leaping/hopping/spinning away from the bay-horse-eating-monster.  All I could think was that we only had two more jumps and I could get out of there.  I was trying so hard to be relaxed but there's just no way I'm going to stay calm when he does things like that.  I realize that on the scale of scary things horses do, this is pretty minor, but it terrifies me, nonetheless.  I made a circle, and headed to the last line, which was a two-stride on the outside.  I'm not really sure what happened because I was so nervous and scared that I wasn't riding, really just blanking.  We jumped from practically underneath the first fence, which meant my options were either to gun it out of there (likely causing an explosion on the other side), or try to cram three strides in there (which would make him jump straight up over the second fence, equal probability for explosion).  So I chose Option C, and pulled him out of the line (the humiliating option).  Trotted straight for the in gate, told Alicia I was done for the day, and walked back to the trailer. 

It's going to take me a few days to process what happened, figure out how to make it better next time, figure out why things went so very, very wrong after several good horse shows in a row.  Maybe it's outside stress that has nothing to do with Tucker, maybe it was sort of a spooky ring, maybe the only thing I did was get stiff through my arms on the way to the first fence and if I hadn't, the day would have gone completely differently.  Maybe my confidence was shattered from the start because he was fresh on Friday night, and did his leaping/hopping/broncing thing in my lesson on Saturday.  Maybe I shouldn't over-analyze it and just chalk it up as a fluke, a bad day.

On my walk back to the trailer I was feeling so defeated and had the following conversation with myself:
"Well do you want him to be a trail horse?  Do you want to just ride him around the backyard?" 
(frowning) "No." (sniffle).
"Well, then, you are going to have days like this." 
Big sigh.


  1. I suspect it is most likely the final thing you said...a bad day. I would really try to not let it get under your skin, or spend much time picking it all apart. Sometimes when the rides leading up to a show arent the best it can really rattle anyone and fuel our icky insecurities (which of course our oh so perceptive horses pick up instantly!). I say, relax and try to shake it'll be back in the ribbons and in the swing of things in no time flat!

  2. Bad days happen - we all have them. Just push the reset button and forget about it. The bulging/not going straight/crow-hopping - could he be somewhat sore either in his back or hind end? - just a thought.

  3. I can remember a very similar day at the show grounds for me... That is the pits. :(

    Bad days do happen and sometimes for no real reason too! Don't beat yourself up about it or or over analyze.

    I think my last horrible day is the reason I gave up hunters. I never really thought about it but now that I do I know I was never able to shake that feeling from my last show. I look back now and realize it was just one bad day, and happens to all of us. I wish I could go back and just forgive myself and move on.

    So try not to let it get to you! You guys are the most amazing team ever! :)

  4. Sh-- happens. If everything was perfect and predicable, it would be pretty boring. As much as this incident made you feel deflated and defeated (and I suspect that Tucker felt bad, too), you have had a whole bunch of rides that have been amazing. Try not to drive yourself crazy with over-analyzing it (I tend to do this myself!) and just chalk it up to an experience. Tomorrow is a clean slate!

  5. Oh, I'm sorry. Those days where things just aren't working out...SUCK. Just suck. It will pass and you will be back. Somedays we have more anxiety than other days and it comes out in all things in our life. I know that feeling of being scared and going blank and the fear elevates to that feeling of panic. Don't hang on to the bad moments, and remember the good parts of that show...there were many although they may have felt small in comparison. :)

  6. OH SWEETIE I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!!!!!! I hate those rides and I hate it when you feel scared and nothing makes you feel better. Have a few lessons with Alicia, take a step back and concentrate on yourself and your confidence and then start asking Tucker for things.

    I agree with others - don't try to pull the day to pieces because you drive yourself crazy!

    Go and have a quiet trail ride and remember why you ride and love Tucker. Just give him big smoochy kisses and you will feel better! :)


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