I should have read this article when I was at the show. I found it today in the free copy of the Equine Chronicle that was in my competitor’s gift bag at the WSQHA show. The article talks about the importance of mentally preparing for the show ring and one exercise is to sit down and watch a goldfish and only think about the goldfish. If another thought pops into your head you have to start all over again. The exercise begins in a quiet room and eventually progresses to a busy space. The end result is to teach you how to find your show ring “bubble” where you can close everything else out. Sounds like I need a goldfish!
Before I drone on about how horse shows make me think that I might be mentally retarded, I want you to know that I had a great time at the WSQHA Rookie Show this past weekend. I met some great people and even had a lady ask about Grace. She had a mare that was similarly bred and we were amazed by how much a like they are. The clinics on Saturday were set up with a boot camp theme complete with dog tags and camouflage. AQHA professional horsemen were the platoon sergeants who broke down the patterns for Sunday. I learned a ton just by watching the other recruits and I am now a bit more interested in Showmanship then I was a week ago. During the trail clinic I found out that I hadn’t been working the rope gate correctly. I took what I learned on Saturday into my class on Sunday and had the smoothest gate work of all time!
The horsemanship clinic started with the trainer taking a few minutes with each rider to work on position. I jumped right into line and was the second person she worked with. Somewhere in the time that I walked out of line and in front of the trainer I became a retarded monkey. Grace’s head shot up into the air and I ended up hanging back. My beautiful bridle less horse was gone and I felt like I had just lost 6 months of work in an instant. In hindsight I should have taken 2 seconds to take a deep breath to fix myself and then the mare. My pattern wasn’t much better and I finally told the trainer that I get nervous at shows and my body gets stiff. She said it was good that I was aware of the issue and I just needed to keep practicing. I didn’t ride in the trail clinic, I had been in the horsemanship clinic for over 2 hours when Sarah found me and I proceeded to have an emotional breakdown all over her. She ordered me back to the barn so I could take a break; get some food with a promise that we would fix it after dinner. We had a great school that night with Grace’s lope getting better and better and me finally finding my body again. We practiced our horsemanship pattern and by the end of the night Grace had a pivot that I didn’t know she was capable of. I went to bed that night feeling better but still had no expectations for Sunday.
I started Sunday with a walk/jog rail class which was actually pretty good, but still felt stiff and not as fluid as it could. In our first horsemanship pattern I must not have set up correctly for the lope because Grace picked up the wrong lead. My heart just dropped as this was exactly what I didn’t want to do at this show; completely embarrass myself. Our second horsemanship pattern was much better, but I was still on Grace’s face during the lope on the rail. Even though I was beyond frustrated I had a glimmer of hope for the Western Riding classes later that day. For some reason every time I envisioned my Western Riding class in my head the lope looked relaxed. I was actually looking forward to it.
We had 3 Western Riding classes at this show the Rookie Amateur, Rookie Open and Novice Amateur. They used pattern 1 for all 3 classes which have the line changes before the crossing changes. Of the 3 classes my 2nd pattern was by far the best. Grace jumped the pole at the lope in all 3 classes which surprised me because we lope poles at home all the time and I loped on in the warm up between classes. There is some definite room for major improvement in my Western Riding class, but I had fun on pattern. I felt relaxed the entire time and honestly was too busy thinking about setting up for the pattern to be stressed about anything else. I had the best line changes of all time thanks to Sarah who gave me a great tip before going into the ring. Line changes are now my favorite! There was only 1 other rider in my Western Riding classes and I ended up winning all 3 classes including the Novice Amateur. I received a free class entry for Novice Amateur Western Riding for Regional Experience and I automatically qualified for Novice Championships. Yes, I am as shocked as you are!
By the time the trail classes started Grace was good and tired. Like now ready for a pleasure class tired. I was thrilled with my rides in trail. There are a few things we need to clean up but overall they were our best trail patterns to date. We won the Rookie Open trail class, but more than that I was having a great time and was finally smiling while showing my horse. There was a huge shift in my mood during Western Riding that continued into Trail. Clearly I need to continue with the pattern classes and go out and get a goldfish.