Preparation: It’s a Good Thing
I took Ro to a schooling show last weekend, figuring it would be our last show of the year and, hopefully, would confirm I’ve gotten through the show nerves thing.
Unfortunately, I ended up running late that morning and arrived at the show with about enough time to grab our number, tack her up, and warmup for about ten minutes.
For some horses and riders, I know this could be adequate. But not for us. I’ve never been the kind of rider that just gets on and immediately goes to work. Thanks to owning a slightly arthritic horse up in the Frozen North as a teen, I am used to a long slow warmup with lots of walking at the beginning, just letting horse and rider relax, get the kinks out, and get in a mindframe for working. I’ve kept that long warmup/slow transition into a working frame of mind all these years. So that it what Ro is used to, as well.
A few minutes walking, a few minutes trotting, and into the ring we went, wholly unprepared. That’s what I get for running late.
The test was ok, but our scores ranged from a 4 to a 7, if that gives you an idea of the inconsistency. I was just happy we went into the ring and dealt with it.
Ro and I are both unfit, and she was a bit, um, exuberant in the canters, so she came out of the ring huffing a bit. We were both still pretty tense, and there were about twenty minutes until the next class. So we were caught in that awful dilemma: we needed to work our tails off every one of those twenty minutes to get the relaxation and thoroughness that I know we are capable of, but if we did that, there was no way either of us would have gas left to go in the ring.
For better or worse, I spent most of it walking on the buckle and letting Ro look around and settle a bit. Another quick warmup at the trot to get muscles moving, and back in the ring we went. We were more consistent, but not in a positive way, and ended up with a significantly lower score.
And honestly, I’m ok with that. The point of this was to get back in the ring, and while it was a difficult ride since we were unprepared, we dealt with it.
For being thrown unfairly into the situation, Ro was as good as I could have asked her to be.
The good news about all three shows is that they do paint a pretty consistent picture about our strengths and weaknesses. So we have this winter to get fit—both of us—and in addition to working generally to improve, there are some specific things we need to address.
I’ve taken a pretty laid-backed, low-expectations approach to the shows this year, and we also need to leave that behind. Assuming we are fit next spring, we have no more excuses: Ro is clearly capable of going into the ring and doing her job, so no “green show horse” mumbo-jumbo allowed. I’m clearly capable of going into the ring and riding, without freezing up, so no rider nerves excuses.
So: we prepare this winter, and plan better for warmups next year, and then we go in the ring and show what we are capable of doing. It’s not a question of whether we can do it—we definitely can—it’s just a question of commitment.
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