..in the future. That is what I have decided I need to do.
I discovered this weekend that I need to slow down. I need to give myself more time to learn this discipline. My expectations of myself and of my horse have been too high. Yes - I am discouraged a bit and here is why..
I spent most of the day on Friday setting up my stalls for the TASHA (Texas American Saddle Horse Assoc.) show. I will start posting pictures tonight and throughout the week so you can see everything. It took over 4 hours since I was by myself, but I was quite pleased with the results. I grabbed a bite to eat and asked some friends if they were planning on being around so I could do a practice ride... as you know, I need that extra person to tighten the girth after I mount.
I was physically sore, but game. The practice ride went well even though I knew I had little stamina left. Oliver was up headed, but not nervous. There were a few other horses in the ring, either being ridden or being led around. We started to trot. I immediately started to post and down the straight away we went. I made it one round only and I was exhausted. I asked him to walk. He was a bit jiggy, but he did flat walk after about 6 strides. We cantered. He was pulling back at me when I asked him to slow, but nothing disobedient. We changed directions and I asked him to trot. Honestly ..I could not muster the energy to post. I pulled him down into the walk. We cantered 2 rounds and I dismounted. One of the trainers even commented to me that my posting was getting so much better! I was very pleased. Oliver had not even begun to break a sweat.
I untacked him, put on his blanket, fed him and secured my tack stall. I had a 2 hour drive back to the farm and I assure you - I was asleep about 5 seconds after I hit the bed!
The next day as more barns and exhibitors showed up, I realized that there were more than the usual number of people. It was hard to tell if there were more exhibitors and horses, but there were definitely more people! I was going to show 2 times this day, once in an Open class and once against only Amateurs...thinking I needed as much ring time as I could get. My expectations were pretty high...not blue ribbon high, but I had convinced myself that I would not be last amongst the amateurs.
That should have been my sign right then and there! I was wearing my new suit. A linen type (all the beauty minus the wrinkles) fabric that was cream colored with brown threads running through which gave it a bit of a textured look. This suit is belted. I had previously ridden in the skirt, but not the jacket. The jacket needed a bit more altering, so I did not take possession of it until just a few days prior. The belt I purchased for the suit, was also modified, since it was 10 inches too long. I literally punched holes in the belt the morning of the show.
(you can see the disaster coming... can't you...!)
Oliver has been lunged for about 15 minutes and I can tell he was excited. Like the gentleman he is though, he stood perfectly still as I climbed onto my new tack trunk (another story for another day..) and then I had to climb up onto a chair that was atop my tack trunk. I cannot even begin to describe just how UN-LADY-LIKE this was! Now standing so high, my behind was higher than the saddle, I gently sat atop of it. Immediately felt all the fabric from the jacket was probably too much for a sitting position. Now belt it. I knew it was pooching out and was likely not the elegant picture I was hoping for.. Oh well - too late now to do anything about it. I positioned my legs and the skirt so that I felt like I had good connection with the saddle heads. Kelli, my trainer tightened the girth and we walked to the practice arena. The music was playing and people were everywhere. Immediately Oliver would not flat walk. He jigged and zigged and bounced all over, bouncing me about as if I was on a trampoline. My heart was pounding in my chest...and the faster it pounded the tighter and more rigid I became.
Previously, my good posting experiences have come from me being ready, asking him for the trot from a quiet walk and then away we go...until I get exhausted.. Well on this day, I was trying to get and keep my position minus any quietness. Even the few times I was able to get into cadence with Oliver and start posting, one little zig or twist popped me off balance so that I was on the receiving end of the dreaded double bounce. The practice ride blurred into the show ring...one being as horrid as the other with one exception. In the show ring, the leaping head turned forward to the point where my left leg kept popping out. My heart was beating at the speed of infinity. The only thing I could do to save myself from leaving the saddle when my left leg was out of place was to stop Oliver. I did this twice in the class and managed to reposition again every single time the walk was called for....even though in the first class Oliver never did flat walk.
I felt humiliated. I graciously accepted my last place ribbon..which if I was the judge, I would not have allowed me to take it! Kelli and I retreated back to the stalls. She is the one who noticed after I dismounted that the head was turned forward. We grabbed the vet wrap and started to wrap it around the heads so I could again show that afternoon.
I was hoping to redeem myself..I was wrong. What I learned from the second class was that although I have begun to learn how to post, I am not yet to the ability of handling a very forward, high headed, high stepping Saddlebred... at least not when he is completely amped up at a show!
That night, as I tucked Oliver in, he was angry with me... and rightfully so. I had bounced and beat his back for my lack of balance. I had tried to regain my balance off of his poor mouth and he was as frustrated as I was. For the first time since I have owned Oliver, he pinned his ears at me. That alone broke my heart.
I told Kelli and she was deeply sympathetic. She told me something that made complete sense.
"Julie, just as you need to trust your horse," she said pointing to Oliver, "He also needs to be able to trust you. I hate to say it, but he may be losing trust in you."
I pondered that for a long time....
Sunday morning I arrived, not dressed in sidesaddle attire, but in a Saddle Suit. I rode my Oliver to a well deserved third place ribbon. Not too bad since I have not ridden astride in months...and not competed astride in years!
Do not think for one moment that I have given up on my dream, because I have not. This is just not something that can be attained and mastered in a short amount of time. I want to do this...but I want to do it well and I want to do it right!
SASHA (San Antonio Saddle Horse Assoc.) show is next month and they have 1 sidesaddle class for all breeds - any tack. I will again show Oliver aside in that class...but have a feeling that you may see me riding him astride in the Park Pleasure classes.
I don't just want to attend a sidesaddle clinic. I need to. I need to experience different horses and different sidesaddles ...as well as possibly get Oliver evaluated.