For those of you who know me, you know that I am the ultimate optimist. I have a very positive outlook on life, and especially to horse and rider training. For example, I have a speech that every single one of my students deserves at some point. I tell them that you only get one chance to make an impression upon a stranger. And if you come off cross country swearing, grousing and say things like: “She was so bad! I can’t believe that we had a run out at the bank” or “He was terrible in dressage, wouldn’t listen and it was awful” etc. Any stranger listening to you will walk away with a ‘blech’ in their head that is associated with you. And that sticks to you.
Instead, I coach them to say something like “He was really green at the bank, but I was happy with how we did the water” or “We can improve on our relaxation, but I had some good transitions”. There are a zillion ways to say veiled frustration, without being nasty. And funny enough, the more you say something positive, the more you, as a rider, are able to cope with the ups and downs of our sport. Your brain believes your words, regardless of whether they are positive or negative words. So you might stick with the positive!
That being said, I am struggling with being positive right now. I just made a mammoth effort to do something new with Archie and I literally cannot think of a single positive thing about any of it.
My plan was to go to Kentucky and do the Midsouth CCI* with him. Besides two years of successful preliminary level events, he completed the CCI* at Rebecca Farm this summer, and he nailed an Intermediate combined test in September. He appeared to be on the right track and I thought we were ready for a big adventure.
I was wrong.
I have had a lot of miles to contemplate where it went wrong, 2800 miles to be exact. Amy Tryon always told me that the longer you drive, the better you have to be just because the drive home is torture if you fail! She got that one right for sure, I’ve had to talk myself out of Dobby flagellating myself daily ever since our fail.
The minute my preparation went sideways in September, I should have aborted the mission. But, I got caught up in the adventure of it all, and forgot to think about the fact that my prep was not ideal. I had to withdraw from Aspen Championships because his feet hurt from a close trim. I didn’t know that his feet hurt until I was out on cross country, and suddenly realized that he was answering all my questions, but he was not doing so with any sort of gusto or happiness. He took that pain to heart and when three weeks later I asked him to dig a little deep at the end of the CCI* course, he gave up and his confidence withered to nothing in a split second.
One of the most magical things about my old horse Blueprint, was he could lose both front shoes on his size 0 shelly, thoroughbred feet, patch them back on with chewing gum and he would jog out sound the next day and finish the event. He could shake off an awkward distance to a massive jump and lock on to the next jump like a laser beam. He was a dream of a horse and mentally tough as nails.
Archie is also a dream of a horse for me, but I need to step up my horse-psychology game and take better care of his psyche, the most delicate part of his body. He needs me to nurture his confidence a bit more, and I need to help him be less unstable by me being more prepared.
I am writing this to convince myself that I see a positive point for this demoralizing trip. If I write it down, my brain will believe it, right?