Today’s post is a bit late, I’m sorry, but I didn’t get home until nine o’clock and then I needed to eat dinner and replenish my energy levels with the left overs of a giant yummy homemade cheesecake, in a too-small bowl as the washing up fairy hadn’t been…
Dressage always used to be mine and Otis’s strong point, but this season I’ve had very average scores which has led me to be frustrated for a number of reasons.
- I know I can ride better that this.
- I know Otis can work better than this.
- I’m riding other people’s horses better than my own.
- Other people are riding Otis better than I am.
- What am I missing to get the higher marks?
I get intimidated quite easily in life, and usually compare myself to others and then feel rubbish in comparison. I can usually keep this under control, but combine it with the tension and angst I feel because dressage is letting us down, and it comes back with a vengeance.
I think I’m riding clients horses better because I don’t feel any competition pressure, but that doesn’t solve my problems with Otis.
So I decided to do something about it; either take a break from competing or get some serious help. After a couple of dressage lessons which made me feel like I’d started to go backwards even more I enlisted the help of a friend.
After a couple of sessions which positively focused on my weaknesses and left me with plenty to think about and everything started to slot back into place again.
So I’ve been totally focused on my riding this week; practising at every opportunity and being completely focused on this weekend’s ODE dressage test. Things have been going better with Otis, and I felt a bit more confident.
Then on Thursday I received a compliment. People always tell you to remember any compliments you receive and forget about the bad – easier said than done!
Anyway, I was jumping a friends very green young horse in only his second proper jumping session. We worked through a related distance and although he wobbled between the fences he negotiated them well. I just had to stick close to my line between the fences. A livery at this yard, who happens to have represented her country in the 1994 Olympics was watching, and said “well done, you’re making a good of a very green horse.”
High praise indeed. Without being big headed, this was just what I needed. As I reflected on my ride I realised that I should believe in myself a bit more. That young horse wasn’t the easiest as he’s a bit small for me, wobbles towards the fences, and finds it hard to maintain the rhythm on both the approach and after the fence.
Things were looking up, but I was still really nervous about the weekend. I like competing anonymously, i.e. Not against friends. I think it goes back to my whole insecurity thing. A few girls were going to the same competition and I felt like I could be under scrutiny. However, remembering my compliment from earlier in the week and my new found confidence with Otis on the flat, I became determined.
So today dawned muggy and cloudy, with the threat of rain. I enjoyed my lie in as I wasn’t on until the afternoon. It drizzled whilst I warmed up for the dressage, but I found myself in my own bubble, totally focused on Otis and myself. It was intense, but I was relaxed too. We went in and when the horn went I began.
It felt good. It felt more than good, it felt great. Otis was relaxed, to a consistent contact, very rhythmical, and I found my position improved because I was just riding what I was feeling, not over thinking things. Looking back at the video there is room for improvement – deeper corners, rounder transition into walk, etc. but overall I was thrilled with his test. I hoped the marks would reflect this, and they did. 28.3 penalties, with 8s for my centre lines, and nothing below a seven. Comments were that Otis was a lovely, honest horse who needs to be slightly more supple on each rein. I was over the moon! I felt like I was back on track.
Unfortunately the showjumping was running very late, and the ground was beginning to get churned up. Otis warmed up well and jumped nicely until the final fence, where he took a hold towards home, got on the forehand and got too close. We frequently have a pole down so it doesn’t bother me particularly, but I did feel his technique was cleaner and the only reason this one went wrong was because we had a disagreement about the approach! It wasn’t ideal conditions but he jumped well.
With the cross country running even later, I was first out on course. Otis is always sticky over the first couple, but he felt fantastic. He negotiated the complexes easily, followed my lines to cut the corners and save time, leapt everything, and only came home without a shoe. We had a couple of time penalties, but galloping isn’t his strong point and with last week’s poor weather I hadn’t done much fast work. We’re getting closer to the optimum time though, and when he’s more confident over the 100cm fences he won’t slow on the approach as much, and jump out of his gallop more. This comes with practice though, and the fact he felt so confident around it was enough for me.
We finished fifth, which was great. However, we were a showjumping pole away from winning! Frustrating, but at the same time satisfying that we’re so close after the rubbish way that I’ve been riding and feeling recently! Today has also made me remember how lucky I am to have such an amazing horse who tries to please all the time!
Just remember everyone, that believing in yourself is paramount.