In Times Of Stress, Make Lists
|Real estate, eventing... this is my life on a day-to-day basis.|
One thing that I've figured out in my near-30 years on the planet is that when I start to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and anxious, one thing that is consistently helpful to me is making lists.
So as I stare into the face of my first BN tomorrow afternoon, I'm list-making like crazy. Because I'm also dog sitting. And taking care of the horses. And driving all over the state for work. And trying to deal with some huge, ugly real estate problems. Plus the several hours of show-prep that goes into any competitive outing. Plus my boss is on vacation this week.
I want to make a few more lists here on the blog, and sort out my goals and plans for the horse trial tomorrow, phase-by-phase. Writing it all out and sharing it with my lovely readers does wonders to soothe the anxiety!
- Finish with a number, not a letter.
- Have fun.
- Remain on the pony. Should be pretty simple!
- I would love, love, LOVE to hit the 35-or-under mark as far as our dressage score goes. I want to be closer to 30 than to 40, dangit!
- Maintain the nice bend we had in our last test - I think that I've really improved my feel for how much bend is enough bend, and I hope that it shows in our scores.
- More leg, less hand. (Isn't this just always it, though!?)
- Prompt, balanced, prepared-for transitions.
- Really nail the free walk. In our last lesson I was able to recapture the 'formula' for a great free walk. If I close my hip angle just a little, and swing my legs with Dino's barrel instead of outright squeezing with my leg, he gives me a great, GREAT free walk without wanting to bounce up into trot.
- Keep the brain slow and stay present. I've been doing really well with this lately and I want to keep it going!
- Go clean. Obviously.
- Ride the track and a good canter instead of riding for a specific distance. If we maintain a strong, bouncy, balanced canter, every fence will come up just fine.
- When in doubt, kick. NO PULLING.
- Enjoy actually getting to jump real fences instead of ones that have been zapped with a shrink ray.
Cross Country Goals
- Again, go clean.
- Use the galloping rhythm to our advantage, and balance Dino before each fence by sinking into the tack and lifting the hands.
- DON'T PULL
- DON'T PANIC
- If a fence looks scary, gallop the shit out of it instead of worrying about getting in close to the base. This is BN, not Training, and EuroPony can save my ass and take a flyer if needed.
- Ride through the water and jump the ditch if there are options. We are legit, we do these things.
- Breathe & Have Fun!
Stadium is the least of my worries here. I know the track of the course will be pretty inviting, and with the fences set at 2'3" - 2'6", the height ain't no thing. Dino has been absolutely incredible every time I've jumped him lately, so as long as I hold up my end of the deal, we'll have a great round!
Cross country is, obviously, the phase that makes me the most nervous about this HT. We had a very confidence-building school on Monday, and I just hope that the fences on course are on par with what we jumped then, and not too much bigger! I worry most about being able to stay present, make decisions, and ride positively instead of going into panic mode and pulling on Dino's face the whole time. I need to think happy, gallopy thoughts.
Dressage is a toss-up, although after last night's ride I'm feeling better about it. Since our last lesson, I've really been breaking down and rebuilding how Dino and I communicate through the contact, and while doing a lot of long-and-low stretchy work and letting him trot around like a llama until he softens has been wonderful for that, it doesn't fly in the show ring. I wanted to play with just how much contact I needed to take to get him on the bit and into work mode, and how soft I needed to be to keep him stretching over his back.
My ride last night ended up being just what we both needed! While I warmed up with a lot more stretching and 'letting go' than normal, I was a little more insistent that Dino give to the bit instead of just hanging around, wiggling my fingers and waiting for him to decide to put his head down and bring his back up. The working frame, stretch down, rinse, repeat warm-up did really, really great things for Dino and helped me stay softer in my hands and arms, while helping EuroPony stay soft and stretching into a working frame.
When Dino did come up above the bit, all it took was a little wiggle of my inside fingers and a squeeze from my leg to get him back on track. I really tried to focus on riding with more leg than hand, and on pushing Dino up into the bridle with my leg before ever touching the reins. I found that riding this way let me do less with my hands (yay!) and encouraged Dino to stretch more over his back and neck. "Giving" him the bit when he was going well also made a big positive change in how Dino carried himself.
I felt like I had my dressage superstar back at all three gaits, and even though the canter took a little work to get really round and rideable, we got there eventually. Dino responded so well to my better riding (haha!) and even gave me some FABULOUS trot lengthenings down the field! The kind where you feel the energy come from the haunches, the back lifts and lengthens and rounds, and the neck fills up the reins. It was awesome. If I can get THAT kind of self-carriage and freedom in the sandbox, we'll be just fine!
*Bonus - check out Karly's Contest!