Sunday, January 15, 2012

Not What I was Hoping For

I was so excited that Sarah was able to add reining to the class list for the Horseplay Winter Schooling Series she and her students attends at the Tacoma Unit every winter (same location all of my reining shows were at last winter). With the series I had attended the winter before no longer offering reining, this was my only chance of practicing if the show manager would allow the addition. She did, and Sarah told me to pick the pattern for the class. Melissa decided to fill the class for me as well, and it so happened one other person entered as well. 

Boyfriend, a friend, and I hauled Milo to the showgrounds bright and early Saturday morning. Reining was added after the halter and showmanship classes, and I ended up warming up too soon and throwing him in Sarah's cross ties for what turned into an hour. I felt bad for Milo standing there bored with the saddle still on. I hadnt anticipated the classes taking so long. The announcer said there would be a half hour break and then reining. Only a few classes before this break did they now announce that reining would be before the break. Melissa and I hurried back onto our horses and into the warm up pen. 

Being a typical Washington horse show day, it was raining and windy, and naturally everyone gathered into the small covered warm up arena, leaving the large open, wet one empty. Initially we warmed up in the covered pen, but it got too crowded with longers and riders, and when an entire gang of amped up pleasure type horses entered the arena and spun, snorted, spooked, and came within inches of running smack into my horse, I decided to bring the warm up outside in the rain. 

In my first warm up, Sarah watched Melissa and I, and her main advice for me was to sit further back and I was creeping forward about two degrees, as well as driving with my seat. I repeated this over and over as I rode, trying to stay back, but still keep a light seat to encourage Milo to lift, trying to stay centered on my seat bones, entire core engaged, and not allow Milo to tuck in corners as he has so learned from work at home in the small arena. Things werent going horribly, but they werent going fantastic either. He wasnt happy about working in the rain, and I wasnt happy about the less than stress free warm up situation. I was up second draw for the pattern, and watched as Melissa worked Grace in the pen. She looked good, and I envied her lead changes. I had worked Milo on counter canter circles to regular canter circles in an effort to tire him on his leads. I didnt school lead changes as there was no room, but hoped the counter canter schooling would pay off. Milo had become a bit rushy in the warm up pen but when they allowed us ten minutes to work in the show pen, he had come back to me. I was optimistic. 

I knew the pattern and picked it for a reason. It was pattern number eight from the NRHA, which included not only two rollbacks and four spins each direction, but lead changes. I could have taken the easy route and chose a simpler pattern, but the purpose of today was schooling. I already believed we wouldnt knock any socks off, but I really wanted to get Milo into the showpen again, as we hadnt been out since early September. I wanted those elements in the pattern because they were ones we needed to school on, in a large arena we dont have at home. 

We walked into the center of the pen and I paused to collect ourselves before beginning our left spins. He had schooled so well on spins before the class, and at home too. All I had needed lately was to sit deep on the inside seat bone and hold the shoulder with the outside rein. I sat on my left seat bone, but not before raising my outside rein. We didnt turnaround as nicely as I knew we could, coming off center and not keeping the inside hock planted. I heard clucking and looked up to see Sarah clucking to me, so I started clucking, then realized I didnt know how many turnarounds we had just completed. Did we only do two when I stopped? Thinking I needed two more I recenterd him on pattern to do two more. When I stopped I knew I was over my four spins, but couldnt do anything about it now. Oh well, four more to the right, and I cued out of sequence again. We stopped the spins and I sat for a moment, a little disappointed. I still had a pattern to finish however, and I asked for the lope departure to the right. Watching the videos later, he doesnt look as terrible as I thought he felt. He rushed from my seat, ducked the corners, and twice coming through center wanted to dive out the other direction. When we rounded the third circle I tried to straighten him out and change my legs and seat for a lead change, which didnt happen. No matter, I would bring him to the trot and get a simple change. Suddenly my horse didnt seem to know how to come down from the lope to the trot. Strides went by on the counter canter and he still wasnt coming down to the trot. I needed to get him to slow down so I made him completely stop. There goes the pattern, I thought then made him lope off on the right lead. 

The circles again felt rushed and off center, but he wasnt ducking away from me this time. I thought I could redeem myself with the next lead change. I really tried to set him up for it with a change in my hips and legs, but again he loped off on the counter lead, and again did not come to the trot when I asked. So I halted him again and loped off. At this point I glanced to the judges as I came around the corner to prepare for the rollback, and quietly apologized feeling like I was wasting their time. As we started the rundown, my horse increased speed without me. In an effort to keep him with me and stay round, I loped him a few strides longer then stopped. No slide, but some hip down at least. I turned him for the rollback and he loped out of his tracks, literally, making a U-shaped turn. Not the good scoring rollbacks I watch on YouTube, but I also havent been schooling him on rollbacks so I accepted the effort. 

Around the corner again for the next rollback and once again, he rushed away from me. Again, I was disappointed with our stop, but the lope off was decent. Rushing on the final rundown and running crooked I was just happy this stupid pattern was going to be over with. We stopped, hard, definitely no slide. I jolted in the saddle as his front feet planted and his head came up. I backed and barely got myself to look back at the judges. The gentleman was the same who last judged me in September, I hoped he recognized my horse and remembered that we can turn in a decent run. 

I walked my horse out, shaking my head at some of Sarah's students watching in the stands. That was the worst run I had ever done, I felt like my horse was completely blowing me off. I rode him right out into the outside warm up pen, still raining, and loped him off. I was not going to be one of those people who got pissed at their horse after a run and worked them into the ground in the arena. But I wanted to get a few decent lope circles in, and mostly, lope to trot transitions. I got about a circle and a half at the lope and I heard Sarah call my name out in the rain. I tried to look for her but was on the back of the circle now. At center, I hoped to bring him to a trot, which again he did not do for me. Half a circle later and I finally got him down into an ugly transition, then stopped in front of Sarah. 

She asked if I knew what happened in the pen. "I'm sure I did something wrong," I concluded, knowing anything that goes wrong is probably my fault, acknowledging that made me sink down into the saddle. I couldnt tell her what I thought I did wrong as I felt my horse was simply flipping me off. I was hearing her voice in my head the entire time, I was telling my body to sit back in the saddle, but apparently the message wasnt being received. Sarah said that I wasnt riding my horse, that I was perched forward just as I had been in warm up. Without him feeling my seat, he rushed away not knowing where I was at. And for the lead changes, she noted that there too he had no idea where I went and simply kept loping. "You've got a pleasure horse and you're putting him into the reining pen. Cut him some slack, he cant go fast." Fast?? That was not my concern. I never once asked for speed, I just wanted my horse with me, not rushing away from me. But it got me thinking, why am I doing this? Is it pointless to ask a pleasure horse to rein? Maybe I am running in circles here and kidding myself. Is that really what Sarah thinks? Why am I even showing, I thought later as I untacked him and put his cooler on. This was definitely not fun in any way. The weather, the warm up pen, the pattern and the crowd. 

Boyfriend and my friend found me in Sarah's aisleway. I was still upset, they thought I was mad at Milo. I had sort of let that go. I was just frustrated with the whole situation. Boyfriend reminded me that everyone has bad days. He boiled it down to bad luck from Friday the 13th the day before, now catching up with me. He also suggested that the number I assigned was bad, it being the same number Milo and I had at his first horse show, where he acted terribly (but it was also his first show ever so I cut him some slack). Boyfriend is really superstitious, however.  Bad weeks is what it has been feeling like lately. One good ride in the last two weeks sure isnt making me feel really good about where Milo and I are at lately. I love my Milo, but maybe we arent doing the right thing. I just felt sad for the rest of the day. 


An Image of Grace said...

I am going to take you to task here for a second and only because I love you.

“We stopped the spins and I sat for a moment, a little disappointed” Right there – may have been when it started. I have found that I must forget about the mistake the second that it happens. It is over and there is still a ton of pattern left to go. In order to be fully present in the next moment you must let go of the present one as soon as it is over.

“At this point I glanced to the judges as I came around the corner to prepare for the rollback, and quietly apologized feeling like I was wasting their time.” It is a SCHOOLING show. You are not wasting anybody’s time. SCHOOLING; as in practicing to show your horse, not really showing your horse. The same judge let people school the horsemanship patterns as he was placing the class. If he was worried about time he would not be a horse show judge.

“Not the good scoring rollbacks I watch on YouTube, but I also haven’t been schooling him on rollbacks so I accepted the effort.” Is it really fair to expect Milo to put together the same quality maneuver that you see of the reining horses on You Tube? If he is indeed a pleasure horse that you are asking to do reining and he enjoys it I don’t see why you won’t be able to have success at the level you are currently showing at, but asking him to step it up at that higher level right now is a ton of pressure on both of you.

I recommend going back and watching your pattern from when we did this over a year ago. Your horse’s lope has improved tremendously in the past year. When you were warming him up at the jog he was going along so nice with his head and neck stretching down for the bit that he was getting the attention of more than one Western Pleasure rider. Milo is such a NICE boy!

I feel I can say these things because I’ve had the same experience at more than one show and have wanted to walk away and never come back. In the end, it was always me, my tension, my stiffness, and my agenda on show day. I hate to say it but the only thing that is making it better is hauling down the road to more schooling shows and remembering to SCHOOL at them, and then remembering to celebrate the small successes and forget about the frustrating mistakes so that they do not become setbacks.

Mare said...

IT HAPPENS!!!. Don't be so hard on yourself, as schooling shows are for schooling. You know very well that you and Milo have come a long way. I completely understand how easy it is to let small disappointments get in your head and bother you, but you just have to remember to take the good with the bad. Not every ride will be good, in fact, many rides in a row might be really bad. Sometimes you'll come off your horse and cry because it sucked so badly, but just keep you head up and remember the rides that make you smile. I know for a fact that for every "bad" ride you and Milo have had, there's 100 good ones under you belt. Keep waiting for the goods ones.


in2paints said...

I'm so sorry your ride wasn't what you hoped it would be... I've definitely been there and I know how disappointed you are. All our rides can't be good ones unfortunately, but I thought you and Milo looked pretty good! As was already mentioned, you and Milo have come a long way, and I'm sure the next video you post will come with much happier commentary!

Story said...

I feel your disappointment and reining is so unforgiving.

I have to agree with Melissa and say that I think you were thrown off by the funky start. Recovering from a mistake right at the beginning that you know has already eliminated you is definitely one of the toughest things to deal with.

That said, aside from the obvious bobbles, it didn't look nearly as bad as you describe6, but I know how it is when you can feel every mistake and it feels 10x bigger than it is.

I do give you thumbs up for not looking panicked, though, and huge thumbs up for making the tough corrections that had to be made. Horses can become ring smart and get so they think they can get away with things in the show ring. A friend of mine had to take her reining mare to task at Nationals this year (she could have been an easy top 10). It's admirable to be able to make that decision when it needs to be made.

Reining is one tough sport. It hates mistakes (so easy to zero out) and there is no hiding behind the judge. The maneuvers come fast and the slightest wandering thought can mean going off pattern. But it's a challenge that's somehow fun so we keep coming back to it.

Now you have your ugly ride done for the year. Good ones will follow!

Heather said...

Wouldn't it be great if you went to a show and you didn't feel all those pressures. First off you are never wasting anyone's time. I would rather see someone spend the time to school correctly then someone makes a ton of mistakes and rush their horses out of the arena. You are only looking at the negative. I can see all of the improvments!! You are making progress! I try to walk into every show with a "this is just for fun" attitude. This IS what we do for fun it's not like we show for our job.