Monday, February 8, 2010

Taking One Step Back in Order to Take Two Forward.. 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 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 well as possibly get Oliver evaluated.


ACountryCowgirl said...

I know the feeling of always holding yourself to a high standard and you are usually the hardest on yourself for sure, but I have to say I am VERY VERY VERY PROUD OF YOU!!! Most people get mad at their horse or wonder why the horse is upset or grumpy. You realized that you just need to slow down and make this a good thing not only for you, but for Oliver!!! That is a huge thing!!!! I love to watch a show where the horse and rider are insync and enjoying themselves and you will get there it will just take time. Just do what you can and keep your relationship with Oliver good:) Can't wait to see how it all progresses:)

Michelle said...

I'm sorry to hear you're feeling so down. Sometimes shows just don't go well and it really didn't help that he was a bit "up" in the first place from the sounds of it. I think you're doing VERY well even so! Saddlebreds have HUGE bouncy movement. I feel for you, my mare has a big bouncy trot that can really make you feel unbalanced if she decides to get all wiggly or spooks.
I'm thinking of trying a class sidesaddle this spring and I bet it'll go no better than yours did today!
I still bet you looked GREAT and I can't wait to see your pictures! Oliver will forgive you too! Feed him some cookies, take him on a couple of nice astride trail rides and just have some fun!

Sydney said...

So sorry you are feeling down. It's a hard thing to have a bad show or two. I remember my first years of showing and they were horrible. I remember feeling like a failure but my horse was making me into a better rider. Now we are unbeatable.

Maybe you both just need some fun time. Less emphasis on show.

phaedra96 said...

Gotta crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. Keep working and showing and it will all fall into place and "WORK"! Do not lower your standards, just take a little longer to achieve them. Sometimes you need to go back and start again, literally.

Paigeley said...

i have that problem too, i get very impatient. I however ride dressage and didn't even know you COULD post sidesaddle so your already ahead of me. My personal opinion about showing is that if you stay on the horse, stay in the arena, and don't lose your temper you did just as good as everyone else just less flashy.
Wait it out and it will come just don't make riding too complicated thats were everyone gets in trouble, and you WILL reach your goal

Aylisha said...

:( Bummer of a day...but we all have bad days and sometimes it's just not in the cards to do as well as we made up for it on Sunday, and horses are quick to forgive :) And since you now know you are pushing too hard, things will smooth out eventually...there is time enough to do all you want, so relax, take it easy and slow, and it will come along fine. Better luck next time, and why not mix it up a law that says yu have to show only ONE way or ONE class...more versatile to do astride and aside anyway, and you both will have more fun that way too! :)

fernvalley01 said...

A mighty humbling weekend,but a great one really , you stayed on , you learned and you persevered .All good ,next time will be better.
As I said in my post on my blog"You can try, and fail.Just don't fail to try!"

Firefly said...

You should come to the sidesaddle clinic in GA the end of March I am planning on driving down from KY and it would be great to meet you.

sidesaddlegirl said...

I know how you feel as my goal is to compete in dressage riding side saddle and so far have done three walk/trot dressage shows aside but at this point, because Hattie has "issues" with her left lead canter, I can't progress any further with competing side saddle until I get this sorted out astride which is going to take a while.

Because I'm a novice as side saddling as well, I'm having to battle my own position AND retrain a horse who previous owner only cantered her on the right rein!! So like you, it's going to be astride riding most of the time for a while and I'm going to also have to see if I can scrape together some money so I can afford one side saddle lesson a month as well.

sidesaddlegirl said...

Also battling the saddle is no fun either. You may need a new leather washer on the screw of the leaping head to keep it in place if it's gotten loose. It's an easy fix.

Another reason why I can't jump side saddle as my saddle isn't a 100% fit to Hattie's weird conformation so it's flat work and dressage only for us!

Laura Maynard said...

It's never fun to have a discouraging show. For me, the "wake up and do it right" moment came last spring when both my horse and I went down on course because I wasn't paying attention to what she was trying to tell me. Sounds like you have a good plan though to do half your classes aside and the other half astride. Good on you for having fun with Oliver and doing your last class astride... and with a great ribbon!

jennybean79 said...

I'm sorry that you had such a disheartened experience with Oliver. I know I've had plenty of shows like that - I ride astride - but regardless, it stinks when set backs like that occur.

Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

When I read this, the first thing I thought of is that your saddle just does not fit you and/or your horse correctly. If it did, you would feel incredibly secure even with him being "up."


Christina said...

This was very different for me to read, I don't have any experience with this kind of thing. But I'm so sorry to hear of your troubles. I suppose that when we do go to do something new, and have high expectations of ourselves or those around us, and things don't go the way we thought they would it is hard to adjust our frame of mind. It seems like you have a good hold on the whole situation, though, and people around you who can help as well.
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