Sunday, April 4, 2010

If I had entered a dressage show...

But I didn't enter a dressage show. And getting through three phases, just as you dreamed and practiced so hard for, is no easy task.

Yesterday had high highs and low lows. And the day ended abruptly when I retired in show jumping. Katchi never even got to see the XC course. Yesterday, I was stunned and frustrated. Today, I am depressed. I just keep staring. Staring at nothing. I know I need a new plan, but I feel like I'm dealing with so many variables. In goal-setting, they say you have to identify your long-term big goals, as well as all the critical little steps to get you there. I know what yesterday should have been - something went wrong. And lots of little steps are necessary to figure out why. Anyhow, enough depressed ramblings - here's what happened yesterday.

4:04 AM Out of bed (alarms - 3 of them! - set for 4:05. Woke up with one minute to spare.)

5:00 Arrived at barn to find the most wonderful surprise - the barn manager had used the spare set of keys to my truck/trailer to move it out of its parking spot and stage it in the 'ready to load up and head out' spot! Bathed, braided and headed-out just after 6 AM.

7:15 picked up Debi, my groom for the day. Who ended up being an enormous help to me, but not in the ways she expected!

9:15 Arrived at show. L'Apogee saddle rep, Kitty (maybe it's because I love cats, but I love her name!), was to meet us at 9:30 to let me ride my test in one of Silva's saddles. No cell phone coverage at show. Phones manage to work long enough to let us get a voice mail from Kitty - who is at a different land preserve in Culpeper, looking for us! Cannot make phones work to reach her. Give up and tack up.

10:00 Mount-up, turn around and there's Kitty with Silva's saddle! Get off, switch saddles, get up again. Realize saddle pad looks like small child placed in on a fat pony - straight, it was not. Get off again. By this point, Katchi has decided this whole trip is ridiculous. No horse should be woken up at 5AM for a bath and braiding, 3 hour trailer ride, denied grass while his rider puts on and takes off saddles - gets on and gets off... Seriously, lady - are we going to DO something today!?

Head out to warm-up - with Kitty and Debi lugging along my saddle, just in case I get out there and cannot cope with the saddle change. Katchi feels relaxed, soft in the bridle, and far less stuck in his shoulder and neck than he has been the past few weeks - but also tired. Really hard to get him going. Saddle felt funny - after riding in the same dressage saddle for 15 years, even the lay of the stirrup leathers just didn't feel right. But, after about 5 minutes in the warm up - I'm in love!!! And then we cantered! OH YEA! Do I look as good as I feel? Oh crap, we left the video camera way back at the trailer. Too late now.

I'm up - next in the arena. Start my loops around the outside of the arena... do a little canter - ah yea, this is gonna be good! Do a 10 meter trot circle... whoops. what was that? Oh shit. Panic. Head straight to Debi - shit, does Katchi have a shoe on his right front foot? I think he just pulled off his shoe! Yep, I was right, no shoe. I show Debi about where it happened and she begins the search. Special bar shoe with studs - kinda need that if we're going to compete today. Debi can't find the shoe. There is so much mud and grass. It's lost. I head back to the arena, and the judge says something to me - which probably was like "good morning" - to which I proceed to answer with some panicked maniac response about the tragedy of a lost shoe that we're trying to find in the grass. She asks if I want to go on, and I say, yea, sure, whatever. So, off we go for our dressage test, sans front shoe and in new (wonderful!) saddle I've never ridden in before. Not really the set-up I had hoped for, but it is what it is.

I nearly forgot the test 5 times - I just kept thinking about that lost shoe and how my day was ruined. But we persevered. And, the test felt pretty okay. Some things could have been better. But, overall, it felt pretty darn good. Maybe Silva's saddle transferred some of her knowledge and skill from her behind into mine?!

As I turn to leave the arena, there's Debi, with a big smile on her face and Katchi's shoe in her hand! She said it was a miracle she found it - it was in a deep mud hole, covered with grass. She thought, "gee, that looks awfully deep" and as she investigated it, at the bottom, there was a shoe. Horray for Debi!! Walked straight to the farrier. 5 minutes and $10 later, the shoe and studs were re-attached.

Right, no time for a nap - it's time to jump. As I'm getting myself undressed and redressed, Kitty is working with the saddles - more saddles on and off Katchi. And he thought he was at a show! Get on Katchi's battle gear, including his new hind boots. I rode him on the flat in them on Thursday and Friday. He's jumped once in other hind boots at Loch Moy a couple of weeks ago. Kitty, Debi and I struggle with their fit a bit, but are all happy with how I have them on - and we head out.

Warm-up was not fabulous and Katchi felt really tired. And the worse Katchi jumped, the more nervous I got. Then I got the call to go into the arena. I decided it better to just get it over with than to get more riled up. That's worked for us before. Head in, and to my delight, Katchi looks around for a second, then settles right into listening to me. First jump was excellent. Second jump not fabulous - but okay, and we always struggle on those 4 stride lines. Third jump (oxer), 4 strides to 2-stride in-out (vertical to oxer). Jump up for oxer... what the hell? Katchi's hind end never came up, there were poles everywhere, and we halted in a pile of shock and poles. Here's a rule check for everyone - he didn't stop at the fence. He jumped it. So, it was a knockdown. A total knockdown, but just 4 penalty points. There was some confusion on the edge of the arena about whether the jump should be rebuilt as I would need to jump it again - I didn't. I knew that. Luckily, the judge knew that too, as no bell rang. I also knew that if I could manage to carry on and not cross my path, no more penalties (just time). So, I maneuvered myself to have more than enough room to get started again without crossing my path. We had a good 6 or 7 canter strides to the vertical of the in/out, which he jumped so tentatively that he just quit at the 2nd element, an oxer. This just wasn't right. This horse doesn't stop at show jumps. I retired.

What might I have done differently after crashing through that jump? I might have let the competition go, and cantered all the way around the SJ arena to come back to the in/out. I might also have done that after he stopped. But I was convinced something was wrong, and he clearly scared himself, and trying to get over that fear, with the only jump option being an in/out, just didn't seem like the right answer. As I patted Katchi and walked out the arena, the judge complimented my decision and being fair to my horse. I don't know if it was right or wrong, but it was the right answer for me at that moment. He didn't need to be smacked. And he didn't need to be scared again. He needed to have a "do-over" and start back at #1. But show rings don't work that way. I wanted to cry, but I just took a deep breath and patted Katchi on the neck. Was there anything else I could do? Jeeze, I wish it hadn't ended like that.

Leaving the arena, Debi and Kitty said they thought he was having trouble with his new hind boots. They took them off and I trotted him over the warm-up cross rail a few times on a very loose rein. He was clearly very unsettled and terrified of the poles. I was heartbroken over the competition. Still am. But I'm also worried. I love Katchi and he has the potential to be my horse of a lifetime. I want him to be okay. I have a video of the incident, and he didn't jump with his hind feet - he cleared the oxer in front, and drug his hind legs through all the poles and "brick" wall at the base. So, is it as simple as the hind boots made him so uncomfortable that he forgot to jump? Has he had it with my sitting on his back in the air? Is there something more??

Here's a bit of good news - just got a message from GRC photo that photos are up. We look good over the first 2 fences and I'm thrilled to see my butt in the air over the fences - not sitting on his back! It's not exactly Beezie Madden, but it looks better! That's already making me feel less depressed. (# 50)

And now, here's the HIGH OF THE HIGHS - and the worst insult of the day... after it was all over, I took a look at the scoreboard. Out of 19 riders, Katchi was in FIRST PLACE after dressage!!!! THANK YOU SILVA (and Silva's saddle!)!!!!! We've been working so hard all winter to be able to do just what we accomplished in the dressage ring yesterday! Even without a shoe! Of course, why is it that things like our SJ round never happen on the day that you forget your dressage test, or buck and bolt through your canter, or are securely already sitting in last place?! Nope, this stuff always happens when you have the most to lose. Nice.

To top off the day, right after I dropped off Debi, my truck decided to protest against the demands placed on it all day. It kept stalling every time I would stop at a stop light. The last 45 minutes at the end of the fun 3 hour drive home, poor Katchi was thrown all over the trailer as I tried to balance between neutral, revving the engine, throwing it into drive, slowing down as little as possible for turns and stop signs! Poor Katchi. And another thing to add to my list of unexpected stuff to resolve.

Anyhow, pages ago, at the start of this entry, I mentioned the importance of identifying the critical little steps in reaching your big goals. Right now, part of that is figuring out why things went right and wrong yesterday. This next month has a lot of little steps to get through if we are to have a good ride at MCTA:

- If Katchi seems okay today, I want to jump him a little -without hind boots. His confidence and my confidence need to know we can still jump.
- Order new dressage saddle. He's clearly hurting being ridden in my saddle, and that's not fair.
- Vet appointment on Wednesday - need assessment of any physical issues that might be contributing.
- April 13-14 Lucinda Green Clinic. We always need Lucinda!
- Arrange a couple of show jumping lessons. We just have to get better in this phase if we are to achieve our bigger (and current) goals.
- More conditioning work for both of us. I don't want to go into MCTA feeling so skeptical about whether we can physically get around.
- Keep up with the massage and stretching exercises that Courtney gave us last week - will have her come out again after the new saddle arrives. FYI - that's Courtney with Hands on Horses -

I never stay depressed for long. But I need a few more hours of feeling sorry for myself and worrying about Katchi - then I'll go start the work to make this right. It won't resolve itself and I have bigger ambitions than to sit around feeling sorry for myself for the rest of the competition season - although that sure sounds appealing right now.


  1. Oh, Cherie, I am sorry that the day ended like that. How amazing though that you "won" dressage! I hope that you figure out exactly what's up soon.

  2. I KNEW you would have an awesome test with all the flatwork you've been doing! As for the GRC pics, Katchi looks great -- fit, healthy, and jumping about a foot over the fences. Who knows what happened over #3 -- but I think you made the right decision. In a competition it's so hard to know what to do --how can I not cross my tracks, should I go on, why did that just happen -- all while the adrenaline's pumping full-force. I've certainly been there! But you're doing all the right things. You two will figure it out and come back stronger for it. With a new saddle to boot! And... we'll see you at MCTA! :)

  3. Hi guys - thanks so much for the well wishes! Not exactly the way I had hoped to start the season, but I know in my heart, I made the right decision to pull up and sort things out. These horses just try too hard for us sometimes.