photo by
Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wake-Up Call

This weekend was the annual Middle Tennessee Pony Club Horse Trials.  The short version of our weekend is that we won the dressage and then I fell off in stadium.  I am unhurt except for my pride.

The longer version:  I had an amazing weekend at the World Equestrian Games eventing competition a week ago, got totally behind on sleep and grading, put in a long week of teaching, writing, and meetings while I tried to get caught up on the sleep and grading, squeezed in some rides, and peeled myself out of bed yesterday morning to go braid.

Despite my preoccupations, Taco went quite well last week.  Amy had ridden him while I was at the WEG, and I came back to a newly tuned-up Taco.  When I had a lesson on Thursday, she showed me how to do the suppling work that she had done and then we had a productive jump school.  So I felt well-prepared coming into the show.

I should have known I was in trouble when I woke up and was not excited about the day.  This is very unusual for me on the morning of a competition.  I am usually nervous on show mornings, but I have a spring in my step and a sense of purpose.  Not so yesterday.  I kept catching myself thinking negative thoughts.

I got to Brownland Farm, which is where the dressage and stadium are held, in plenty of time and made my way over to the warmup area.  Taco felt a little "stuck."  I felt overheated and ineffectual.  But Amy talked me through it and by the end of my warmup we were looking credible.  I made a few mistakes in the test (breaking in a lengthening, walking at C instead of H, doing my signature flub of a canter transition), but we scored a respectable 31.8, which put us in first place.

Taco looking handsome during the canter lengthening (Palmer Photo)

I walked the showjumping course one more time and then tacked up, all the while lacking concentration and focus.  Longtime Team Taco member Elizabeth expressed concern over my mental state, and started pushing the Powerade and encouraging me to think more positively.  I drank the Powerade and tried to get my head in the game.  In warmup, I was on my own because Amy's dressage time was at the same time as my showjumping, but she had given me instructions.  I tried to work on Taco's adjustability, get him in front of my leg, and ride in a powerful rhythm to the jumps.  However, I did not get the job done.  I let myself get distracted by a dispute between two trainers and never established that forward ride that I would need for the showjumping course.

The result was an underpowered ride all the way around until the third to last, which was the final element of the triple combination.  As I jumped in I thought that I would be OK-- I knew that it was a one-stride to a two-stride, and I started to count my way through.  Unfortunately, because Taco was underpowered coming in, he landed close to the second element, took two strides, and was still too far away from the final element to jump safely.  Rather than take off from that distance, he wisely chose to stop.  The thing about Taco is that he (almost) never stops, and the very few times that he has stopped have been when he has felt that he absolutely cannot jump safely.  Anyway, I fell off the side of his neck and landed on my feet, holding the reins.  I left the arena in a cloud of embarrassment.  What is that saying that Jimmy Wofford likes?  Experience is what you get a moment after you need it.  I immediately realized that I had not given Taco the ride that he needed that day.

After some soul-searching, I decided not to ask the Ground Jury for permission to ride XC the next day.  I was obviously not 100 percent, and I did not want to risk my horse's and my safety over solid obstacles.  So I loaded Taco on the trailer and took him back to the farm, where he gratefully ate his dinner and went out to his field. I went home and got into bed until nine this morning.

I just hate that I let my horse down in this way, and we have now missed our final gallop, but there are some positive lessons to take from this:
1.  I can't do everything that I want to all at once.  I need to have appropriate amounts of sleep and rest in order to be at my best in competition.
2.  It is imperative that I ride forward in showjumping (and in all phases).  If this requires recruiting a ground person for my warmup who is willing to yell at me until I move my @$$, so be it.
3.  We missed a gallop, but Taco is incredibly fit already and the ground was hard this weekend.  Not running XC reduces wear and tear on him in advance of the T3D.
4.  If I'm going to screw up, I might as well do so at a local horse trials than the T3D.  Now I have gotten *that* out of the way.  I will be on my toes more at the T3D.
5.  Taco is an extremely safe horse.  Not only is he a lovely jumper, and extremely honest, but he will also decline to jump should I get us into a problem spot.  I am so lucky.

I went out to the barn and clipped him today, then hacked him around the fields.  Carol came with me and did some bike riding with the dogs.  It was a lovely, restful afternoon.  I was happy to be with my wonderful horse and my wonderful family.

Losing some fur

Showing off the new haircut

After adding some dust


Kate said...

I think it says a lot about you as a person that you were able to call it a day and potentially escape a huge spill on XC. You are a great rider and Taco is an awesome'll have another chance to go in full throttle and of clear mind and perform at your peak from start to finish.

Sarah said...

I think that missing one last gallop is a very, very good thing considering the footing at the KHP. I feel for y'all at Team Challenge!! Smart girl to call it a day and save your lovely pony for later. Sorry I missed you at the WEG. Hope to see you in a couple of weeks!!

Becky said...

You and I must be in some kind of Karmic Union, Stacy. I had a a pretty similar story this weekend. After a respectable dressage (forgetting to do the stretchy trot), and was in 4th...but woulda been in 1st if not for the 2 point error.

I threw up violently before SJ (stomach flu?) and right afterwards, but I DID have a coach encouraging me to get him in front of my leg, so we had a good round. He took care of me because I had him forward and sat still (except over the last fence, where I was just about to hurl) and we went double clean, and we were in 2nd.

I felt woozy, but better the next morning, so I decided (unwisely) to do XC. I started pulling him back at the first jump, which he did awkwardly...then he had to CLIMB over a table because he was underpowered, and I was so underpowered at the tiger trap jump he jumped into it, then popped out as I was getting off, so I popped into the jump as well.

No one was hurt, but BOY did I learn an important lesson. If I allow Paddy to jump out of a forward rhythm, he's incredible. If I try to control because it makes me feel...safer? We're not so good.

I'm going to be cheering you on at the T3D!