Monday, June 19, 2017

Help Me, I've Lost My Rider

For those suckered into the "clickbait" that is the title, I will preface by saying that no, I did not make an unscheduled exit off my pon-pon this past weekend.

So, with that out of the way, let me recount Annie's first foray into a "real" event. I have established that we have ridden at the TBC fairgrounds previously, but the atmosphere was pretty bland and dull. With the area's riding club putting on various events throughout the year, I really wanted to take Annie to a few as we progressed over the year and low and behold, I was able to make it to one on Saturday.

As seen on Instagram.
Me: "Uh... Annie, A is over there"
Annie: "Learn how to ride me properly then."
I knew I was going to be late to the event since I had to stop off at a local farm and pick up one of the roundbales they had stored for me over the winter. They are going to haying again this year soon and need all of the barn-stored rounds removed so they can re-stock with this years hay. It was a bit unfortunate the only time they were available to load the round was literally 30min before the Percentage Days was supposed to begin, but it is what it is.

Unfortunately, being "late" to things does not bode well with me. I was the last rider to arrive and although no one was remotely upset I was late, it left me in a bit of a shitty spot. Most of the riders had already warmed up and were standing around the dressage court - I could have opted to warm up in the fenced large arena across from the dressage arena or I could warm up on the grassy flat where everyone was standing (and where everyone had warmed up their horses).

I look calm on the outside, but inside I'm mentally checked out.
Mistake #1 was "warming up" on the grass and when Annie declined to meet my request to get off of my left leg (hold on, there is gonna be a theme here in the next few days), I didn't feel confident enough to push it and have her explode in the open. She felt really distant and I could feel her sucking back to the other horses whenever we turned away from them. Not necessarily her fault, but also made it difficult trying to warm up a greenie who wasn't really listening to begin with and just letting her do whatever the fuck she wanted.

I ended up toodling around quietly before joining the rest of the riders. And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

I wish I was joking.

Mistake #2 was allowing one of the spectators to make me nervous and allow that nervousness to settle into the pit of my stomach and eat away at me while we waited. I know this person and I don't typically let other people's impressions bother me, but it was Annie's first time out and I didn't want to look stupid and I didn't want to have anything bad happen.

The amount of relaxation happening in this free-walk
is a direct correlation as to how I was feeling.
I was pretty happy that Annie stood with the line-up of other horses quietly, casually looking back to watch riders warm up for the second time. I ended up reading other people's dressage tests from her back and she only spooked once when someone handed me a piece of paper. Otherwise she was really good.

And we continued to wait.

It was a bit frustrating and I could feel my nerves just build up and up with each passing minute. Thankfully the horse beneath me stayed quiet, but I could feel we were on very different wave-lengths despite our cool outer demeanor.

I don't know if this event can be better managed, considering quite a few people did all of their tests in a row vs doing one and waiting and letting another rider go in. I realize a few people were not able to stay for the entire day and wait around, and I understand that, but it was a bit annoying to have someone else bring a young horse who would be experiencing that type of event for the first time and have them take over and get all of their tests out of the way because they didn't want the young horse standing around and losing it's marbles.

Uh... me too, bud.

We must've waited over an hour before I was able to warm up again and then quickly enter the dressage arena for our test. By this time, I was so nervous my legs were literally shaking in my stirrups. I haven't experienced that kind of anxiety in the saddle for a while and it was actually really frustrating. We got through our test, but Annie did NOT feel like the horse I had previously ridden. She went into the arena on her own, didn't spook at the judges booth, didn't bat an eye and did all the movements I asked of her. Except that left leg resistance was still there and I wasn't even riding my horse anymore.

^ (The above videos are of our first test. My videographer had to leave after that and it's probably a good thing we have no evidence of our second test lol. As a weird sidenote, I messaged my friend afterwards and said, "K... the videos don't look as bad as it FELT." So there's that.)

Mistake #3 was waiting too long to get after her for things and not just calling it a day after our first test.

As we waited some more for our second test, the people who had gotten all their tests out of the way started to leave. I was in the middle of reading someone's test when the group of horses beside me disappeared and Annie tried to follow them. I was having a difficult time trying to call out a more advanced test and wrangle my horse to stay forwards facing the arena, so I just hopped off and finished calling out the test for the rider.

I ended up waiting for almost another hour and after trying to explain to another competitor that I just wanted to do my second little walk/trot test so I could go home, they let me go back in the arena.

Video still from our first test.
"No thanks, k bai."
Our second test I got after her for the resistance and it went better, but she was AMPED. We lost our steering, we lost our brakes, we lost pretty much everything. She cantered part-way down center-line near the end.

I was pretty embarrassed and frustrated in myself, but the sit in Judge was really nice and said a lot of nice things about Annie. She told me next time to try a Training level test instead to keep Annie's mind a bit busier. I appreciated her commentary and thanked her for her time.

Before leaving I left Annie tied to the trailer with Spud, paid, collected my tests, and started to put my stuff away. And yet, somehow I managed to fucking forget my whip, gloves, and hoodie somewhere at the fairgrounds. Sigh.

A shame the rider can't get her shit together.
Still, she was a lot better than she could've been. She loaded and unloaded well, tacked up quietly, went in and out of the dressage arena, did all the movements in the test (and didn't jump out of the arena), and stood quietly almost all fricken day. What more could I want?

I wasn't necessarily unhappy with her, we just felt like we were not "there" for eachother. And as a rider, I really let Annie down. I let my unpreparedness and nervousness get the better of me and I remember thinking in my second test, "All I want to do is get off and go home." Which is a terrible attitude to have. I just didn't feel it, and clearly Annie didn't feel it either.

The Judge in the end told us our first test was much nicer than the second, and although the second had more resistance to my left leg in it, our first test was not as frantic and choppy. You may notice that we upped our score on our left turns in comparing the tests (test 1 the left turn at trot was a 6, and in the second test it was a 7). However, our transitions and general "relaxed" demeanour had vanished.

Our first test :)
I can't help but feel a wee bit of pride in this, despite
my shit riding.

A bit embarrassing to have a score under 60 in a
walk/trot test but ah well.
I ended up recounting how long of a day it was for Annie - we left the barn at 8:30am and didn't get home until 2:45pm. Granted, I had to drive out and pick up a roundbale at 9:30, but still. A very long day for both of us.

For next time, I already have a better game plan in mind:

#1 Obviously, arriving earlier before the event is going to be a large asset.

#2 Utilize the outdoor arena and if I need to, put on my big girl panties and ask a fucking friend to come hang out with me in the arena while I warm up! I don't need to be a hero riding around in the open, but I do need to give my horse a good experience. Using the buddy system is nothing to be ashamed of.

#3 Give Annie some "Chill" before we go there. She actually probably doesn't even need it, but it might take that extra edge off that makes me even more nervous and it also might provide the placebo effect I need to ride my goddamn horse.

#4 Be fair to myself. I am an amateur and I do this for fun. It isn't fair if I literally make myself sick at a FUN event to the point where I can't even ride properly.


  1. I'm all about #4. It has to be fun or it's not worth it. At least she kept her brain in her head. I'm sure the next one will be better.

    1. For sure! I'll do better next time. I can be a head-case at shows or events and it always takes a few "runs" before I settle.

  2. I would echo Olivia. I would also say 'GOOD FOR YOU'. You brought her to a new experience and everyone coped. Nothing bad happened and she's learning that it will be okay.

    Here's my second piece of advice (unasked for so take it for what it's worth to you)- I made the mistake and believing that if Carmen was nervous or reactive it was all my fault. That made an extra layer of emotion on top of stuff ad made me back off asking her to do stuff she didn't want to do (because I believed that if I was better she wouldn't feel that way so how could I ask her?). I'm reworking that now and it's a long road.

    1. I think that sometimes we forget to just be happy with the mediocre stuff - nothing bad happened at all! She was pretty good for going out for her first time :)

      And thank you for the advice - I think you and I are alike in a lot of ways. It is certainly something to mull over and be aware of. I've caught myself blaming ME for things Annie has done but at the same time, she has to be accountable for her own shit too ;)

  3. Oh my god I am late!!- and now stand and wait for EVER. Isn't that always the way at shows? I love how you two look for her first dressage test! Congrats on getting it done, nerves and all! :)

    1. You pretty much summed it up.
      OMG IM LATE.... now... wait.

      Thank you for the compliment :)

  4. The first horse shows are always taking the temperature in your training and your relationship, so being more relaxed about it and being gentler on yourself is important! It's just a point to help you figure out what to aim for and work on next.

    1. It is a good indicator in the horse's temperment, for sure. I am glad Annie kept her brains in her skull and was sensible although both of us weren't really "into it".

  5. first show is in the books tho! now you can have a better sense of what you'll be working with - both in yourself as a rider, and in your horse too. the first few outings are so hard with a green horse bc there's no shared history on which to build predictions and expectations. but things always start clicking together after a few repetitions. for me, experience is often that thing i get right after i needed it lol.... but that just kinda is what it is, right? seems like you've got a great plan for how to make things better next time! annie looks super cute ;)

    1. "Experience is often the thing I get right after I needed it".

      Uh yes! Can we make t-shirts? LOL

      Thank you so much :)

  6. You guys will find a routine that works for you eventually. Sounds like Annie was a good girl anyway. Onwards and upwards!

    1. She really did exceed a lot of expectations, and it can only get better from here :)

  7. The nerves have got to me before too! It gets better though, and you'll find a routine that works for you (standing around and waiting is not my happy place either :) I would be proud of those tests - great marks and comment!

    1. The ammy nerves are REAL. Ugh. One day I will learn to combat them properly lol

      Thank you - it will get better :)