Sunday, July 24, 2011
Do the Big Girl Pants come with a Big Girl Belt?
I hit the wall with Grace this weekend. I found myself back at a crossroads that we have visited in the past. I again had to ask myself why I was doing this. Why haul to horse shows, putting in time and money, only to once again feel like I have no business being there. I enjoy riding my horse at home, we have beautiful rides and have improved by leaps and bounds, yet it still seems to all fall apart at the horse shows. In the past when we came to this intersection, I went the other way. I chose different disciplines for my horse; Drill Team, Barrel Racing, Cowboy Mounted Shooting. For some reason I keep coming back to the show ring, and then I hit this point where I wonder what in the hell I was thinking. I don’t plan to walk away this time.
The show wasn’t all that bad. Grace and I actually won under both judges in one of our trail classes. The pattern was set very tight especially for an open show. We did well in the walk jog classes, but the lope class was more of a challenge. The pattern started with loping over a set of poles right after coming in the gate. Grace loped the poles, but with her head in the air. There were more poles later in the pattern and the same thing happened. I then used too much hand and not enough leg and could not get Grace back to me after that. At the time it felt that if I had used more leg to ask Grace to pick up her back she would have only run through it. I did not feel tense in the ring, but I clearly was not riding as well as I do at home. We had a walk jog class later in the evening. Grace warmed up well, I had high expectations going into the ring, walk jog classes are a walk in the park for Grace. When we walked into the arena she popped up her head, almost like she was looking for the trail obstacles or barrels. She was looking out of the arena. Again, I knew the answer was leg to get her head down, but she also felt like she would run right through it. She did settle down when we changed direction, but it was too late, we were already at the bottom of the class.
I was very frustrated after the class; I knew Grace and I could do better, much better. I realized that I don’t have her at a place where I can add leg and she will lift her back and drop her head. I MUST get that piece of the puzzle if we are to continue down this path. What frustrates me more than anything is that I know that I have this incredibly talented super smart horse, who is amazing, but lately only seems to be that way in my back yard. Which brings me to another point; I ride alone 9 times out of 10. I only have my last ride to compare to. What I think is wonderful at home isn’t even competitive at the shows I haul to. The horses are much slower and are worked on a draped rein, and while I don’t like the way many of them move, I am starting to appreciate how shut down they are in the ring. I have a tendency to think that taking away Grace’s opinion under saddle is being mean, as though I am taking away her personality. After this weekend I could do a little less with her opinion and personality under saddle!
We had our Western Riding class on Sunday, after Saturday’s rides I didn’t have very high expectations. I used too much hand, but I did not get run away with on pattern this time. The pattern was set surprisingly tight and was not measured when it was set. Our line changes were the best they have ever been at a show. The side rail commentary was repeated back to be by one of my barn mates. The comment was made “what is this, speed Western Riding?” and a few seconds later followed with “but those flying changes are to die for!” Grace wasn’t as fast as she was at the last show, but it isn’t near what it needs to be in the show ring. This tells me that once again I have a fancy button on the mare and lack the foundation to back it up. Sarah reminded me that what I am looking for will require strength in Grace’s hind end. I will have to be consistent with the work and be willing to push Grace past her “I couldn’t possibly” moments. For me the biggest step will be to believe that I can do this, trusting that I am not out of line when I correct my horse. It looks like I am going to need a Big Girl Belt to hold up my Big Girl Pants.