Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's all about Perspective

Perspective is an interesting thing as a horse person. We measure our days in success and failure sometimes those measurements are taken in millimeters sometimes in miles. Many times those measurements fall somewhere in the middle. We measure off of feel, emotions and variations of strength. But all the time we are measuring ourselves and our horses. To this end we try to aim for a goal that is the standard against we are comparing ourselves. Not all goals are the same for all riders. It could be as simple as, “Will today be they day I can walk the horse and not have it lose it’s mind when we pass the chickens?” or for many of my fellow Chester County-ians I see folks asking if they’re ready for the Rolex Kentucky event, the Maryland Hunt Cup, and many other upper echelon type things.

I am looking towards a goal that while a bit of a stretch is not out of the range of possibility. Was it a lifelong dream, no. Was it the craziest idea I have ever thought to try, not quite but it may be close.  I have a Thoroughbred that I purchased in January of 2012 straight off of Penn National race track after a dismal race career of 4 last place finishes out of 4 races. His breeders owned him for the first of these and sold him quickly thereafter. I saw a lot of promise in him that day, but I am realizing that he has brought about 2000% more to the table than I thought I saw in him. He’s a true talent and on some level I don’t feel like I deserve such a nice and compliant animal. (See again with the measuring)

As I have been his sole owner post track life, I have taught him all he knows about showing, jumping, paper chases, eventing, xc hacking, and so on. In return he’s taught me to be a better rider with many skills that had somewhat fallen by the wayside being polished up again. So this crazy goal has me aiming to do a course at a BIG show that can be up to 4’1” high. Not a big deal. In theory I have done it before, a million years ago. But time has passed since then. My fear of mortality is somewhat more present than it was when I was 20. My appreciation that a big fence is a BIG FENCE is solid. So I found myself having to realize that the horse’s capabilities and my own were truly fine. Some polish needed but we both are capable of jumping big fences.

The interesting part has been the “discussion” I have undertaken in convincing my brain that the above statement is true. See, years ago I qualified to ride in the “Local Jumpers” at the Washington International Horse Show. I had a week between qualifying and riding. I had to school in the ring at the arena at 3am because that’s when we were allowed to school. No jumping just flat work. So I went into this show off a streak of a bunch of successful outings. Hell the horse had earned back his entry fees at every show that fall. We were solid. And then when it came time to ride in the ring, in front of maybe 20 people as the LAST class of WIHS, I choked. Stopped at the first fence, 2 rails and time faults. There were only 8 people in the class. Don’t ask me where it went wrong, I have measured that day 10 years ago numerous times. Bottom line I let my head overrule the talents of my body and my horse. That is the beast I am trying to train now. Amazingly the rest of my peers must not have had a great day either as I still finished 3rd!

So this brings me up to yesterday. I took Petey to our first show of the season and with it, his first classes at the height we will see at our goal. 1.20 meters. 3’11”. Not a huge fence compared to a Puissance wall, but not a small fence compared to the tiny X Petey jumped his 3rd day off the track. A lot of time has passed since I had a horse that was doing a 4’ course. I was very grateful to be at a show that allowed me to kind of dictate how much of my course was full bore 1.20. As it’s April and our first show of the season we chose to have the course true for about 80% of it. The oxers were left a notch smaller and not hugely wide.

As I walked into the ring to jump this height for the first time I felt very calm. Petey felt very amenable to listening and away we went. It felt like it was over just as quickly as it began. All the fences were easy and the only reaction to jumping bigger fences on Petey’s part was a light rub here and there and him ‘looking’ for the next fence a bit further out. It was great. The mental demon seemed not to come out. But it was a small show. And there were no crowds. 4’ felt like 3’ felt like 2’ it was easy because I was asking the right horse to do the job. The day was a huge victory on the mental level and the measurements taken on the rest have pointed to areas needing work. I have to stop picking with my hands when I don’t see the distance 10 strides out. Logically I know I can’t find the spot that way, but old habits die hard.

So the journey continues and 3 rounds of experience later the somewhat crazy goal seems far more tenable and far less crazy. Time will tell if I am correct though.


Link to Video of the 2, 1.20 meter rounds:


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