What I am about to write is not a cry for sympathy or for people to tell me I am wrong, it is just a brutally honest show de-brief………
On Saturday, Dominica went to her very first British Dressage show. A huge milestone and I am perfectly aware just how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do this with such an amazing horse. It was also her first attempt at a Novice test and still only her 3rd ever competitive outing. The day was made even more momentous by her breeder and owner happening to be at a wedding 20minutes away from the show venue and so they where also in attendance. As they live almost 400 miles away this was a miraculous stroke of luck and so I really, really wanted for everything to go swimmingly and for them to see their amazing young horse at her absolute best. So of course, I rode like an absolute sack of s**t.
Obviously this is not the blog I was hoping to write and I really still don’t want to do it now. I am unbelievably frustrated at myself and would love to quietly sit here sticking pins in my eyes instead, but here go’s!
Dominica has been going amazingly at home. At the last show at the start of July, she scored a PB of 78% and whilst I was really proud, I knew that for her to progress and improve she needed to be much more in front of my leg and much more forward. So in the month which has passed this has been our focus. She’s been doing lots of fitness and strength work, out hacking around the farm incorporating plenty of hill work and its really helped her to find the next gear. She’s definitely been feeling stronger and in a better balance and I can now really feel like the mediums in both canter and trot are becoming much more powerful and impressive and especially in the trot, the more leg I put on the bigger the trot gets, without ever loosing the balance or rhythm. Its an incredible feeling and a glimmer of what she is going to be capable of in the future.
My husbands had a very busy month and as a result I haven’t had the use of his pickup to go for lessons. I think i’ve missed two or three, which made me feel a bit nervous as I like the security of having eyes on the ground to know I’m on the right path, but as I mentioned before, I actually felt like she had turned a real corner and was beginning to real feel like we where ready to take on the world.
Spurred on by this feeling, I started to look at the schedules for the local BD shows and started to try and hatch a competition plan. I want to try and get her winter regional qualification done and then give her another holiday. As I was looking at the local venues I realised that the Scottish dressage championships is coming up and when I looked up the rules, I saw that to qualify we just needed to come 1st or 2nd in a BD class with a +65% score and then we where eligible to compete. So buoyed was I feeling at how well she felt, I decided with only a couple of weeks of qualifying left and with the thumbs up from her owner and our trainer to go for it. So that’s what we did on Saturday, she won two classes on +65% scores and so mission accomplished. The reality was that despite the success of the show and achieving our goals, I know full well it was a long long way from the quality of the work she has been producing at home and the reason for that was me.
The show was at a new venue for Dominica, I have competed there before when I first moved to Scotland last year and I had a difficult day, so it was somewhere I have avoided until now. I needn’t have worried however, ever professional Dominica took it all in her stride, she arrived really chilled and I took her for a walk around in hand and she was just like ‘oh a show, can I eat the grass now’. I got on full of excitement and enthusiasm, ready to show the world what we can do. At just her third show and another new venue, I was sensitive to the fact that she may be a bit nervous and so the first 10 minutes of my warm up, I let her find her own way a bit with the tempo and power, focussing on relaxation and allowing her the have a good stretch in walk trot and canter, with plenty of patting and transistions. I only planned on a 25 minute warm up as I knew doing two novice tests on a warm day was asking enough of her and I wanted some diesel left in the tank at the end of the day.
10 minutes before the test I picked her up a bit and tried to put a bit more power into the paces, I worked on and back within each pace and did some easy lateral work and transitions to help get her hind leg stepping under and ensuring I had her really on the aid. At this point, as with the other two shows ive been to, I realised we where a bit stuck in first gear, I was actually able to get out of first gear a bit this time though, but It resulted in tension creeping in and the occasional loss of balance and rhythm. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it so close to going into my test so I decided to just go for slightly less power and go for relaxation and maintain a good rhythm. Well actually I couldn’t really do much to change what was happening, so it was more less of a choice and more what was going to happen. I did panic in the test a bit, when I just felt like there was nothing there and so plenty of mistakes crept in, like my circles being too big and rushing her in a canter transition because I was worried it wasn’t going to happen (so f***ing stupid) and as a result she picked up the wrong lead. Every mistake that happened was my fault, she is the most obedient, even tempered horse I’ve ever ridden, I just panicked and rode terribly. As we did our final halt and salute I looked right to see her owner had arrived and had been watching and I felt like my heart fell out through my feet. That was absolutely not the test I wanted her to see. I hadn’t helped Dominica at all and as a result, she had produced far from her best work. It was not a good feeling at all.
It was wonderful to see her breeder and I couldn’t believe she had made the effort to come and watch us. I am so unbelievably in her debt eternally for the opportunity she has given me to ride such a wonderful horse and to trust me to produce her, but in that moment I felt utterly embarrassed at what a terrible job I was doing.
The second test was worse, I got crazy and desperate trying to fix a problem that I had fabricated. I tried too hard and the result was messy and had too many inaccuracies and again I just didn’t do a good job at helping her to fulfil her potential. I came away from the show ready to give up and never ride again. I just felt like it didn’t matter how hard I try its never going to be good enough, I wasn’t good enough to ride her, she should probably go and be trained by someone who was much better than me, I had made a fool of myself at a new show venue, I rode with only my hands and was flapping my legs around, even though I knew my test as the bell rang I went totally blank I couldn’t remember which end was up and had to have the test called……it was just an utter car crash
The drive home was probably the worst I have felt in a long time. I know i’m hard on myself, but it’s just because I want to get better and I don’t care what score I got or if I won or lost, If I didn’t ride my best, I’ve not done my job. I had failed on one of the most momentous days in our journey so far and I had left Dominica and Dedi down badly.
I am fully aware that this all sounds totally over dramatic and those that don’t know me personally probably think I need to be sectioned, those that do know me know I should be sectioned but hey ho! I’ve not written this blog in order for people to feel the need to comment and tell me how I feel is wrong. I’ve done it because I started this blog, to document our journey for my own personal record and because I am mental, thought I would share it with you all. By leaving out this car crash instalment, I would be cheating myself and missing out yet another important lesson that I have learned on this journey. When I got home I curled up on the sofa with a sleeping Angus in his dinosaur onesie and realised the world had not actually ended. This is all nonsense and stupidity!
I am of course fine, more importantly so is Dominica and this was just a mission complete,frustrating day in the office. It is onwards and upwards from here, we are having a lesson on Thursday and she will have a quiet easy time till then. I am so proud of her, dealing with a new venue, a more difficult test and being ridden by a baboon and still scoring 72% what an incredible mare and what a lucky girl I am.