Blood when I pricked my finger on an old staple when checking my horse’s show stall for nails, sweat when it warmed up for the two seconds the sun was out all weekend, and tears when I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. Mostly tears.
Showing has always been something that I loved. You spend all winter preparing for the upcoming season—crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s to make sure you’re the one who will take home that 57 cent blue ribbon. So when I was asked if I was excited for the first show of the season, I said yes without even thinking about whether or not I really was excited. Truthfully, I wasn’t.
I’d never experienced what it was like to be following the trailer en route to the show’s grounds only to realize that I would be content with turning around, unloading my horse, and just hacking at home. And when it happened, instead of listening to myself, I laughed it off, thinking I was just tired. I was prepared for this show—I had taken lessons for months, sent in my entry early, and packed my tack trunk to the brim—yet the last thing I wanted to do come Saturday morning was step foot into Ring 2.
I should’ve known the weekend was going to be a mess when I got the email two days before the show was to start that they were moving Sunday’s outdoor classes to Friday due to the monsoon that was predicted to arrive late Saturday night. Nonetheless, we arrived on Friday just as classes were starting and had plenty of time to unload and get Ax settled before heading out for a hack.
The warm up ring was a bit deep after being used all day and Ax was trippy, so I stuck to a short walk, trot, canter before heading to the indoor ring, Ring 1, to pop over a few fences since I would be showing in there on Sunday. Ax was keen and a bit strong, but nothing unruly or out of the ordinary after being in a trailer and then a stall for a few hours. We hopped around all the fences and made the correct strides in the lines (whoop!) only feeling slightly out of control and then went back to the barn for a bath and some time in his Back on Track Mesh Sheet. I opted to skip braiding since we were only doing the modified amateur adults and if it was going to rain and get gross then I wanted some mane to hold on to.
We watched some of the Friday night classes before going out to grab dinner, say goodnight to the ponies, and go to bed.
Saturday morning I was awake half an hour before my 6 AM alarm and figured Ax wouldn’t mind an early breakfast, so I decided to get up and head down to the barns. Right as the morning warm ups were getting going I spotted W, who had arrived for her short stirrup kid she had that morning, and hopped on for a school in the outdoor. Ax felt basically the same as the afternoon before—keen, a little too strong, and on autopilot that was too fast for my liking. We flubbed some of the lines and had some crappy distances due to my pulling and trying to get him to stop being a speedy robot, but at least we got over everything.
I brought Ax back to a grassy patch behind the barns for a lunge in the chambon to get rid of some of his energy since that seemed to do the trick at NH Finals, and it was then that I really felt like I didn’t want to ride. Maybe it was nerves or maybe I was scared—I have no clue—I simply wasn’t in the mindset to show. After putting Ax away and a healthy cry to mom in my family’s tiny camper, I told myself that we hadn’t driven all the way there to do nothing and we were already planning on leaving that night and scratching Sunday’s classes because of the storm, so I had to show in something. I settled on doing at least one over fences class and the under saddle.
The lunge and Back On Track marinating had done their job and Ax warmed up off of robot-mode until I used my crop over a warm-up fence where he felt a bit sticky off the ground. Too-speedy autopilot was back—not that I could blame him.
Our over fences class really wasn’t too terrible if you could look past my lack of release (bless this horse for still jumping when I forget to give him his head) and the massive chip we had right in front of the judge when I started fighting with him. Our first few fences were fine, we had a quiet add stride in all the lines, and I didn’t stare down the single oxer too badly. I was happy with that and, much to the dismay of the ring steward, decided to scratch the rest of my jumping classes. I was determined to end on a high note for both of us.
Per usual, Ax was great in the under saddle. I’m much more confident on the flat and Ax has decently nice movement, so it usually goes pretty well. My one mistake was forgoing my spurs. (Note to self: don’t ever do another flat class sans spurs.) Without them, I just didn’t have enough impulsion to bring out Ax’s pointy toes.
Overall, this show was a weird one and I struggled to find the positives that came from it. As much as I was disappointed in myself for feeling so uncertain and bailing out, it made me realize that I need to have the confidence in myself if I want to love showing again. So for now—for however long that it takes—Ax and I will be hopping over cross-rails and taking a step back until I can get myself in a place where I am riding my horse correctly and not afraid of whatever I am pointing him at.
Aside from the not so great parts, we had our first show in a long time with no refusals and took home two yellow ribbons. After having a refusal in two out of six courses at our last show last season and taking mostly fourths all year, I am super proud of that.