My first Beginner Novice show has been successfully completed. I can’t even begin to describe the mix of emotions going into the day: Fear. Excitement. Worry. Elation. And I came out of the day with pretty much the same mix of emotions, but with slightly less fear. I’ll call that a win.
On Friday, we arrived at Chatt Hills, settled in and and got ready for a XC school. Ollie was looking around the place like, “Hmm…I don’t know this one. Where are we, and what flavor of games can I make up here?” When we started walking out as a group to the XC field, he was looking side to side and felt slightly tense, like he was hearing that familiar tappity tap tap jig electric slide music in his head. For half a second, I thought about worrying and freaking out. BUT. I stopped it and tried to imitate a melted sack of potatoes. As soon as we started to warm up, Ollie’s slight tension totally floated away, and he Hunter Loped around the field. Awesome. He went over every BN jump on the course like a goddamn champ, and had fun to boot. The only jump that gave us(me) worry was a raised log that we had to jump going down hill. Even though we trotted into it, in my moment of concentration, I got WAY TOO FAR AHEAD and tried to fall off Ollie’s right side upon landing. But like a gymnast landing and slowing straightening out, I righted myself and vowed to smack myself into being more upright the next day.
Ollie did give us all one moment of comic relief: while attempting to jump some stacked hay bales, Ollie assessed the lack of solid surface….and completely went THROUGH them. “Why should I pick up my legs? You guys are amateurs.” This was also DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE COURSE DESIGNER. Hi, Chatt Hills! I’m sure you will love to have Ollie back!
So I was feeling super optimistic about our competition. I actually slept OK, and felt like I owned it. That is, until we got into the dressage warm-up area the next morning, where I completely lost my shit.
It was a really, really crowded warm-up arena. People everywhere, going every which way in a complete madhouse. I felt like I was in some kind of asylum. And instead of holding my ground when I was trotting and cantering circles, I way too quickly gave in and got out of people’s way. I got a good and needed verbal smacking by Nicky to HOLD MY GROUND, MOTHER FRICKER (OK, she didn’t say that but I added it on to her dialog as a smack to myself). I am like that in all areas of life- quick to contort myself to make things easier on others, no matter how much more difficult it makes things for me. Gotta stop doing that.
So I was a bit frazzled, and I was getting Ollie frazzled in the process. They called my name to OH MY GOD GET YOUR BUTT IN THE DRESSAGE RING FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, so I hurried over there. I should have taken more of a moment of zen to reset my brain, but I didn’t. So we went in and got fairly straight, but right of the center line. Ollie is having a NO, I WILL NOT BEND LEFT phase, so we messed that up.
Then we got a nice canter in our circle,
And then it came time to transition back to a trot. Only the transition was missing. Paging, paging canter-to-trot transition! And crap, clean-up on aisle five! Yeah, he wouldn’t come down. (“Needs more prep.”) I had to tug and yank with all my might, and we were way past the point we should have been. So I purposefully made an error and went off course to do a tiny circle to collect us back, so we could actually trot and then get a walk transition where we needed it.
I salvaged out the rest of the test, but the relaxation, roundness and bending just wasn’t there, as I was too frazzled, which of course got Ollie frazzled.
Lessons learned: Hold your ground and CALM THE EFF DOWN. Then maybe we will look as lovely as we’ve been looking at home. But the bright side? We did not get ANY marks about geometry on the test! Holla! I bet I even made that little off-course circle my bitch too.
So I was in a foul mood after that, knowing full well I had HAD it in my power to do a good test, but I flubbed it. I shook it off, and when stadium warm-up time came, I was feeling better. Ollie was also back to Hunter Ollie and was calmly loping around the warm-up arena. I was feeling good. We did some warm-up jumps, and a couple times, Ollie tried to pull me OUT of the gate. Ruh-roh: the very first jump of the course aimed RIGHT AT THE OPEN GATE AREA. I had been going back and forth in my head about whether or not I wanted to trot around that corner, and that clenched it for me- I was trotting.
As I was waiting to go in, my heart started pounding like crazy. I almost felt outside myself, but I walked in telling myself, “Ollie can do this. Ollie can do this. Get him straight and he will take care of you.” And he really did- he tried his little HEART out for me and was a perfect gentleman. We took one rail, and that’s because I started to fetal way in front of the jump. Sarah got an awesome photo of my face at the very moment we knocked the rail:
Besides some miscommunication regarding half-halting versus trot transitioning, we managed to pull out a decent course for our first time out. And I remembered the course! I was going to call even just doing that a win. Thinking through panic is haaaard.
I even managed to not look like a complete noob most of the time:
You can see the whole round here, although I somehow cut off the last jump after I loaded to YouTube. I’ll try to fix that.
I did, however, manage to drop my crop somewhere on course. It is actually still somewhere at Chatt Hills, singing them the song of his people (which, if I’m his people, is probably this song). So long, dear crop. You fared me well.
I was feeling OMG RELIEVED after stadium. Stadium was running so behind that I pretty much had to immediately get myself ready for XC and head up there. We didn’t even warm up. I was feeling surprisingly zen about it beforehand! Got in the start box, and trotted into the first jump, adrenaline pumping. Came back to a trot to go over the bridge, but then I let him canter around the next three jumps that were in a circle, then trotted back over the bridge. We mostly trotted into jumps, and cantered some between. Not only was the footing sloppy bad in spots, but I still had the ounce of XC fear in me. But, the half cantering we did was half more than I had ever done at my last and only other XC course I’ve ever done, so hey….progress, right?
As we came out of the last jump, I felt SO INCREDIBLY GOOD. I was prepared to keep cantering past the flags, but sweet Olls broke himself into a trot. It appears that fitness work is in store for him. Fitness for him, balls and relaxation training for me. Got the plan down. But he had OH MY GOD SO MUCH FUN out there. You can tell that he is a giant fan of XC, and his eyes got really big in a happy way to go through the water….next time we’ll canter through, but seeing as he kept tripping at the entrance due to sloppy footing there the day before, trotting was the better option this time.
So we ended the day with a 44.21 in dressage (wahhh-waaaaah), 1 rail, and FORTY CROSS COUNTRY TIME FAULTS, and in 7th place. But that’s better than my 51.2 time faults from last time, amirite? Heh. I vow to do better next time, but overall, I am so pleased with how Ollie did….and how I mostly held it together. I was completely terrified going into the competition. SO much so that in the few days preceding, I thought about how I might be able to disappear somehow and never be heard from again. Just getting myself to actually DO IT was a major accomplishment in itself for me. I can’t wait to do this again and let go more. Let go of my fear. Let go of my feelings of inadequacy. Let go of my old hunter attire and get some real dressage gear! And Jesus H. Christ on a cracker, let go of Ollie’s face and charge on. Next show? We will own the bitch for real.