Thursday, July 16, 2009

Preparing for the Next Competition

I wrote previously about my decision to ride in the UNH Horse Trials. Well, that competition is coming up this Sunday and I’ve been a bit of a nervous wreck worrying about it. Besides the general performance anxiety, Ruby & I being new to each other, Ruby being green, me being green, Ruby’s warm-up meltdown at the last event, etc. etc. etc. There is also the fact that we have not been cross-country schooling at all. It’s something that is pretty hard to schedule when I work all week, so what can you do? The reality of only facing cross-country in competition is pretty daunting, especially being new (again) to all of this, but it seemed to work out for the last two competitions and Ruby is pretty eager (and it is the BN Division – not a hugely technical and scary level, even though it's a step up for me), so hopefully all will be well.

Surprisingly, with all that in mind, I'm on a little bit of a high now after last nights lesson. Even though it's a flat / dressage week (which usually means no jumping), Alison wanted me to do some jumping at the end of my lesson to make sure that I'm ready for this weekend. So after all the flat work and a little x-rail warm-up, she then had me do a couple of short courses, the last of which she kept adding on jumps as I went along. So whenever I thought I was finished, she would say (while I was cantering away from what I thought was the last fence), “and now come around and jump the barrels, and now turn that way and jump that oxer” etc. Then she allowed me to stop to catch my breath and she started to put a final course together.

She said, "Okay, here's what I want you to do. Jump the yellow towards the road, make the turn to the left, jump the green-oxer-flower-box and then to the (BIG) coop to jump OUT of the ring into the field, over the new log, up & down the bank, over the ditch, back over the log going the other way and jump back INTO the ring."

Me (to myself, not outloud): ‘You want me to ... WHAT?! HA!’ You see, I had never jumped the coop out of the ring before. On any horse! So it was a little bit of a boogeyman for me and I was pretty nervous about it. Well, I didn’t complain or comment and just moved ahead and did it anyway, regardless of my misgivings and nerves. Let me just say that Ruby was perfect! She was a little squirrelly a couple of strides out from the coop because I'm sure she was thinking, 'uh, I'm not supposed to jump out of the ring!' but with a little encouragement from me (I was thinking. 'uh, yes you do need to jump out of the ring!'), she went forward and jumped it beautifully. I was also proud of myself because A) I feel like I really rode her to everything (evaluated where more balance was needed, where more leg, when to hold, when to let go, supporting her, but also staying out of her way, etc.), and B) 6 months ago I would have been so ahead on a bunch of those jumps, but I've gotten much, much better about it. I pretty much kept the correct position and in the right rhythm over everything and let her jump up to me, rather than making a big movement with my body to try and jump for her. I was shaking with adrenalin when we were done, but so happy and so proud of Ruby. She is so, so great to jump! Pretty much every time I have a jumping session with her I come away feeling so encouraged about our future together. I can’t explain how much having such an honest, willing, enthusiastic jumper fills my heart with joy (as corny as that sounds).

So, I think I feel just a little tiny bit better about Sunday. It may not have been a big cross-country schooling session, but at least it was something and it’s given me a small shot of confidence that we may just get through this. And that is my goal really, just get through the experience without scaring myself (or the horse, or any spectators), don’t get eliminated, finish filled with confidence for our eventing future and, lastly, to have fun. Hopefully the day will deliver on all of the above.

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