Victory

Victory smells like sweat. It tastes like dust in your mouth, dust caked in layers on your face. It feels like blisters, purple bruises, muscles so sore you cringe to move them. Victory sounds like the alarm going off at 5 a.m., your car starting to head to the barn for just one extra ride before the show.  It sounds like your feet hitting pavement, because you hate to run but you love to ride; and you know that running will help your riding. Victory is working harder than your competitors, never stopping at “good enough” or “that’ll do.” Victory is working yourself harder than your horse, because it’s your dream, not his.  Victory is trot circles, walking hills, tiny shifts in leg position, riding every horse, any horse. Victory is accepting criticism, embarassing yourself in front of better riders and big name teachers just for the chance to participate. Victory is exchanging how it feels now for how it’s going to feel then. 

Someday, when someone hands you a pretty ribbon and says, “Good job today,” you’ll smile and think of all the days that led up to this day. When you hang the ribbon on your wall, you’ll think of early mornings up before dawn, landing in the dirt, moments of self-doubt, icing sprains and strains, and wondering whether all the time and money you’re spending is worth it. But when you hang the ribbon on the wall, and some random houseguest says with mild interest, “Oh, you ride?”, you’ll smile more to yourself than to her and reply, “Why yes, I do.”

Work Horses and Show Ponies

I’ve heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world- work horses and show ponies. I happen to agree with this statement because, in my experience, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. But the statement is misleading. Show ponies work very hard, thank you very much!

Speaking of hard work, my lessons have been going tremendously well.  Baron is moving well, doesn’t seem to be gimpy anymore since he got back shoes on, and the work we’re doing seems to be clicking in his brain. My riding has improved with regular lessons and I feel like we’ve taken a big leap forward in our training. With my position correct, I’m learning what it means to ride him from the front to the back. His head is naturally coming down, and he’s learning how to be “on the bit.”

We’ve been doing flatwork, just ground poles and lots of circles and bending. It’s nothing terribly exciting, but I love it and I’m so proud of Baron. When he comes round and bends around my leg, it’s magical!

trotting ground poles
 

Back in Business

Dixie and Ella- the barn goats

Baron got adjusted again last week and the chiro said he absolutely can’t go without back shoes. Having him shod only in the front is causing him to be off balance and throwing his sacrum and hips out. I need to have him shod all the way around or not at all. So I coughed up extra cash and had shoes put on his back feet as well. I am really hoping that with the adjustment and the shoes, he will be back to feeling well and working hard.

I had a lesson Sunday morning and my trainer and I agreed to move slowly with Baron and not jump at all right now, even crossrails. She’s excited about his potential as a hunter, and neither one of us want another setback due to injury. So for the next 30 days we’re going to fine tune our flat work and focus on teaching him to move like a hunter- long and low. In the lesson yesterday we did upward transitions, some 20 meter circles and trotting in two point. Through all of this I worked on maintaining consistent contact and keeping my hands still.

It’s easy to get caught up in his head position, but I keep reminding myself that when I ride well, he will perform well as a result. If I’m riding him from the back to the front, his head will come down as he relaxes. Mary is teaching me how to soften the reins as a reward when he lowers his head. Correct riding, even if it’s slow, will pay off. I keep reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race.

At one point in the lesson, we were just walking around the arena. My leg was in the right place, Baron was relaxed, his head was in that perfect hunter “on the bit” position, and my trainer said, “That’s it! Perfect! We’ve finally got a walk!” It cracks me up that I’ve had this horse for three years and the only thing show quality is our walk! But I’ll take it. We have a walk!