So a few weeks ago I had a last minute shot to show again to try and qualify for this regional adult ammy show here…I just needed one more score. I said no. Last year’s version of me would have said yes and been totally stressed and may have blown it. And If I didn’t blow it…I would have probably blown it at the big show.
Instead I stayed home, trained, enjoyed the process and went to cheer my friends for their tests and had the best time! It was a great show, the weather was lovely and very well run (especially compared with last year’s mess). It would have been a great show to go to, but I didn’t regret it. That’s not where Jax and I are now.
So last year I was enthusiastic about showing…about awards…about goals. Probably because we started the year off with an unexpected high point that put a lot of pressure on me (self applied pressure certainly…not from anyone else). I let that get to me. I wanted to show everyone that Jax was the best 2nd level horse around (spoiler alert…he might have been…but I was certainly not the best 2nd level rider around…ha!). As the show year went on, my anxiety spun up to the point of having physical reactions (bad ones) and needing to medicate my year. We exploded spectacularly…though we ended the year with some okay results. If I had continued on that path, I probably would have stopped riding this year.
This year is different. We’ve struggled getting the changes down. Jax tries so hard…and he has the idea…and he thinks he’s doing the right thing…but he’s not. We’ve tried every exercise known to man at this point I think…and slowly we’re getting there. But we’re not there. I mean, we have one score over 60% at third level this year…so we can do a decent test. Should we go show again this year? Probably. Are we going to? I don’t think so at this point. He’s got nothing more to prove to me at a show this year. He can get a 60% at 3rd level. I have nothing more to prove to him at a show this year (the rides were certainly some of the best rides I’ve given him supporting him through his anxiety). I’m happy where we are.
Why? I’m taking the long view. When I first started riding Jax after Spice passed we started at the very bottom. If you don’t recall, he wouldn’t really canter without significant inspiration… My goal then was to finish my Silver medal…and here I am three years later realizing that is still the main goal (that and learning how to train a horse up the levels…which I am doing) and Jax can and will get there in not too long. I told his mom when I first started with him, my goal was to take him from Training Level to PSG and finish my medal…and set her up with a horse she can go get hers on as well if she wants. Despite getting distracted by short term goals last year, this year I’ve focused on the training at home with that as my goal.
I learned a little secret too. It’s almost impossible (at least for me) to focus on improving and training…AND showing at the same time. Both of those things use two different parts of my brain… Having that 6 month break between shows this year made a huge difference in not only our tests…but the way I rode and handled the show. I was not nervous…I was excited and enjoying the moment. I was there as a training exercise for both of us…not there to win anything. It made a big difference.
So that’s where Jax and I right now…focusing on our long term plans. Polishing up what we do well. Improving the gaits (and learning how to support that with my seat and aids). Building strength to do the harder collected work and figuring out the changes together. Do I miss showing? Sure…sometimes. But I also don’t miss the stress and pressure it brings. I’m enjoying being in the moment working on where we are, and looking to the future and the best way to get there.
How do you handle your riding? Are you a goals right now person? Are you a long game person? Are you a no pressure at all doing it for the hell of it person? Do you ride to show…or show to confirm your riding? It’s certainly different mindsets and they’re not always complimentary of each other. And what works for one rider won’t work for another! It’s such a balance. How do you handle it in your riding?