This past weekend, I competed and completed my very first Intermediate horse trial. It was at a small venue, but a notch on my belt I have always wanted to make. But, the score didn’t reflect the accomplishment, not this time.
Going into the horse trial, with previous confident runs, the green-light from the professionals I work with to send in my entry, and a contemplated choice of the best move-up course, I felt I’d put in the home-work But, at the same time, I knew where I was weaker. The ride-ability was there, but my walk-canter transitions were being worked out. My horse cut her leg the week before, so I didn’t get the last cross-country school and fitness work in. But, the entry is in, so I told myself, “I know my horse.” And off we went.
My weekend wasn’t perfect. I have a good horse, but I didn’t really prepare for all the movements on the flat. I got jumped out of the tack in show-jumping and sat back early causing a few rails. On cross-country-Geez, my lovely, brave mare-I just didn’t have her lined up for the C element so she glanced by one combination. My little dragon with the perfect cross-country record was given a poor set-up and just didn’t know. She finished the course beautifully and bold after we came around again on the correct line.
So you’re gutted. This perfect little mare, whose cross-country record was spotless, now has a “20” from my mistake. And that happens, but it doesn’t happen to me. I know better than to come into a combination, jump into the A element and not keep the line to the next. And in show-jumping, I have the training and the horse to jump around. All I needed to do was keep my upper-body over my leg, give my horse a good approach to the fence, and she will leave the poles up. Rather, the jump crew was given a 5k running around leaving the mess I lay. The last words I received were, “ride well.” That was the plan, “ride well”, because this horse is ready and on and has a 100% return rate. I just didn’t execute my plan.
But then, when it was all done, tears came. My little mare who is the most unsuspecting little bay in the back paddock just ran her first intermediate. She ran her first intermediate at seven years-old when I wasn’t at my peak. And somehow, during the past months of fighting ninety minutes of traffic every-day and a non-horsey day job we jumped around my very first intermediate course.
It’s such a limbo place I’ve set for myself, and I reflect on it a lot. I’ve allowed riding to be my passion, but it’s not my career. I love not only working with my horse but bringing them along for other people. And with that, comes responsibility. It’s responsibility for horses that aren’t mine and for my small, but existent reputation.
I think for me, my saying is that, “I go compete to win.” And that’s true. I am not going to take my young ones or a sale horses out competing if I can’t lay down a competitive dressage score on our best day and finish on it. But, if I dig deeper it’s not just about that. It’s about making the right competitive choices for the sake of the horse. And I do that, Frye won’t run for time every event. But I keep reflecting, was moving up to Intermediate this weekend in the best interest for my horse?
And I don’t know. I know what I need to go work on now. I know I have a very capable upper-level horse that I’m overwhelmingly proud of. I’m proud of myself for getting it done. I knew that we had the foundation to go out and jump safely. But, I wish I could go back and adjust my position and mind-frame for those costly minutes. And maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but I don’t want to be told “Congrats for completing.” So, all I can do now is go home, practice correctly, and come back out to not make the same mistakes twice.