What Made The Difference
So far, my 2017 show season has been vastly different from 2016 in a very, very good way. In fact, I've already even knocked a couple goals off my list for the year!
Thanks to my trainer's insistence that, yes, we DID need to jump the Vey Scary BN House during our recent XC lesson, I can proudly say that we are schooling max-height BN cross country fences once again. It was terrifying, but we did it, and we're gonna do it some more! And after our successful run at Fair Hill last weekend, I have renewed confidence in Dino's and my combined ability in cross country.
We also achieved a sub-30 dressage score at our second show of the season, checking off yet another goal, and brought that number down even more at Fair Hill with our personal all-time best score of 26.8!
So, what's made the difference and transformed Team PONY'TUDE from zero to hero in 2017? I think the answer has several facets.
Weekly Jumping Lessons were a standard part of my schedule all through the fall, winter, and spring, and I attribute the lion's share of our success to this practice. Not only did I not take the several-months break from jumping that I normally do over the winter, I also took full advantage of my trainer's thoughtful, confidence-building guidance and instruction. During a time when a lot of things about jumping scared and frustrated me, it was so important to have that support on a regular basis. I don't think that Dino and I would be doing as well as we are this year without consistent lessons.
Foxhunting helped give me courage in a way nothing else could have. For a control freak and self-defined mental basketcase, hunting provided an environment where I had no choice but to let go of any hopes I had of controlling anything, and took away the ability to over-think my riding. In the hunt field there is no thinking, there is only GO. Diving headfirst into foxhunting also cemented the trust that Dino and I have in each other, and gave me a new way to enjoy my pony and appreciate his talent.
Committing to Riding Bareback all winter long did a lot of really great things for us as well. Not only did practicing without tack improve my seat and fitness, it also helped me become more confident in my own skills and allowed me to feel and understand what was going on in Dino's body when I changed how I used my own body. Bareback riding improved my level of self-awareness.
Humbling myself and Dropping Down A Level when I recognized that both my pony and I were struggling at Beginner Novice was, however, the pivotal move that helped us work back to a place where we were confident and successful. I didn't realize that eventing would be such a mental game when I started out three years ago, and moved us up before we were ready for that challenge. In hindsight, there were plenty of signs that we were not ready for BN when I moved up, and I paid dearly in a loss of confidence in both myself and Dino. And a lot of falls. But thankfully with my coach's wisdom and my own willingness to "regress" back to smaller jumps, Dino and I are back on track and are a force to be reckoned with at every HT we attend!