Fighting My Demons, And Winning
Today I went to a horse show.
Today I went to a horse show, and I did not get nervous. I did not worry. I did not panic. I did not cry.
Today I went to a horse show, and I conquered my fears, and told my anxiety it was not welcome.
Today I went to a horse show. I did not win a single class, and I didn't give a flawless performance, but what I accomplished today was a greater victory than any blue ribbon.
For the past year, horse shows have been a source of dread, frustration, fear, anxiety, and sadness for me. A handful of bad experiences effectively ruined my ability to show, and sent my riding into a backwards spiral that I have spent over a year trying to climb out of. Today's show was a massive step forward in every way.
I set out to prove to myself that Dino and I could compete at a horse show without a confidence-crushing wreck. My only goal was to stay on my pony, jump every jump, and have as much fun as possible. The fun of horse showing had been stolen from me, and I wanted it back.
The show we went to ended up being the best possible venue for our comeback. It was one of the most laid-back events I'd ever been to, with tons of classes geared towards beginner riders and green horses. Everyone there was friendly, supportive, and really wanted to see their competitors succeed. And the division I chose to ride in was one that set us up for success with low 2' fences and simple course design.
To add to the day's relaxed vibe, we got to the show several hours prior to my division with the purpose of allowing Dino and I ample time to chill. We walked around the showgrounds, Dino stuffed his face with grass, I got the lay of the land, and we just hung out. That alone did WONDERS for any stress that may have been thinking about making an appearance. There was, literally, absolutely nothing to worry about, and I never once had to rush.
When it came time to warm up for my classes, Dino was so relaxed that I was having trouble getting him to actually move. Thankfully there was a nice open field next to the warm up ring, and I made a few laps out in the open to get the engine going before heading back into the schooling ring to trot and canter a few fences. We ended our warmup by soaring over a 2'6" oxer, and Dino didn't even THINK about stopping once. It never even crossed his mind, or mine for that matter.
The one drawback to the show ring we competed in was that the in-gate area was very small, and the warm-up area was far away and up a hill, giving me zero room to trot and canter around before our classes. Unable to thoroughly rev my pony's engine, we ended up trotting the first fence in both of our jumping classes, but the important thing is that we JUMPED IT! As well as every other fence in the course, without any issues whatsoever. Our turns were a bit tight for the equitation, but we DID IT and got a 3rd and a 2nd place ribbon for our troubles.
When it came time for the flat class, I was seriously excited. Flat classes were totally my thing in college when I rode in IHSA. I was point rider on the flat, for goodness sake. Flat classes are my jam. And the flat today was going fabulously at first; the judge asked for a sitting trot right off the bat and we totally nailed it because Dino is a dressage pony extraordinaire, and my sitting trot is phenomenal, if I do say so myself. Then Dino decided he needed to poop, and that pooping and moving were mutually exclusive activities, so the rest of the class involved a lot of me flailing around and smacking him trying to get him to go, and a lot of Dino pooping. Even so, we ended up in 3rd, i.e. NOT LAST!
I'm absolutely over the moon at how well today went. I accomplished everything I set out to do and I had FUN. I SMILED. I actually enjoyed myself. And by the end of the day, when I looked over at the 2'9 jumper course set in the other ring, it didn't look that scary. It actually looked pretty fun. But I'm not going to make the mistake of overfacing myself again, and plan on sticking to showing at the 2'-2'3" level until I'm bored to tears with it. I can save the big fences for schooling at home.
I also want to thank everyone who has supported me, cheered me on, encouraged me, and been with me through the past year. Michael, Rachel, Keri, Jess, Elissa, Aimee, Dr. Jenny.... Thank you. Thank you so much. I couldn't have come this far without you all.