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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lessons Learned and Peace Made

I've come away from Old Chatham with a refreshed outlook on the way things currently are, and with some take-home lessons I will integrate into our daily work. First off, to those who asked if I was mad or disappointed in Gogo, how could I be? She's still the Ultra-Supermare, and I couldn't even be upset with her immediately after the fact at the showgrounds (not that that is effective at all, there was no way she would have understood why mommy was so freaked out!). Secondly, I have video of dressage and the fall but I'm not about the post video of the fall until my embarrassment has receded a little bit! I am only human, after all! I will get the dressage video up here shortly.

As for what exactly happened, it isn't clear on video, but I think I understand what may have occurred. The approach to fence four was very, very looky - you had just come out into the spooky water complex field, with a ton of people up on the hill (which worried her in the warmup) and the rest of the complex spreading out below you. However, you couldn't see the complex until the base of fence four. I was trying to do the whole sit chilly to every fence thing, but in doing so I think I just didn't instill enough confidence in her, or I didn't have my leg on (well I mean that is obvious... my velco butt NEVER falls off when stuff like this happens, so obviously my leg wasn't on!). What I needed to do was ride her strongly to the base of the fence and say yes, THIS is what we are going over and we ARE going over! Unfortunately, I did not, and I think she took that as a hesitation on my part instead of me trying to be quiet, and bailed herself. Which I don't think I can blame her for, but unfortuntely at this point I was feeling pretty good about her bravery and her ability to negotiate fences without strong direction from me (i.e. setting her up 96 miles away and riding her firmly to every fence). She's been jumping around so quietly when you just sit chilly and go, but I think with the combination of spooky surroundings and not being able to see the water jump til the base of fence four, she just needed her hand held more and I wasn't there for her.

This brings up a couple of points. One, early in the course I think I do still need to hold her hand. She might get rolling later on, but I still need to REALLY be there for her until she gets confident halfway around. She is very brave, certainly, but sometimes it's very easy to forget that she still is very green XC, and some of these things she's never really seen before. She relies on me for confidence more than I thought she still needed to. Secondly, due to her greenness, I think our goal of running one Training after the AECs might not happen. I certainly am not jumping that big step up without feeling like she is bored going at Novice, and I think it's still a huge learning process for her, and she just needs more time. This year is about building her XC confidence, and this weekend at Riga is a good opportunity to take her over an easy, confidence building course that I think will really be good for the both of us. I just need to be there for her still, that's all.

And speaking of which, I learned another lesson about that today: there is a fine line being being supportive without smothering, not being there enough, and being there too much. Today we hacked out to Dunkin Donuts again (which was awesome, and we had TONS of people flocking over to say hi!), and she spooked at a storm drain. I put my leg on her and turned to face it. She stopped dead and snorted. I put my leg on again, and she went backwards. I put my leg on harder, and popped her with my whip. She reared, kicked out with both hind legs several times, twisted her body in midair, and took off in the opposite direction. Hmmmmm. She was having nothing to do with the storm drain. Now, when I got back to the drain and we stopped in front of it, I found that both our hearts were pounding. Why? It's just a dumb storm drain. We got past it again, but had similar troubles at the next storm drain, where I also found my heart pounding in anticipation of holding on for another rodeo session, and what do you know, she stood there wildeyed and snorting, refusing to get near it. Gee, I wonder if she feeds off of me at all? I finally just let it all go and laughed for a minute, and we passed the storm drain. Next storm drain came around, and she eyeballed it horribly, but I didn't do a thing except laze about in the saddle on the buckle, refusing to acknowledge the fact that there was any drain there at all. And what do you know, we passed by without incident. Same thing at the next one. Before you knew it, it was like the stormdrains didn't exist at all.

What's the lesson here? My sensitive mare with a strong sense of self-preservation feeds off of me like no horse I've ever met before. We know each other very well, and she's quick to react if anything is up with me. Last week was completely horrible, and I know she could feel my tension all week long. My heart was all over the place instead of ready to jump XC, and she could tell. I am certain I went into that XC course feeling nervous and jumpy, and she translated that into "wow, she's worried so I really should be too!" Coupled with my lack of a confident, we-are-going-over-no-matter-what-you-see-over-there ride, voila! Refusal. She felt my tension and became tense herself, and when I didn't give her a reason NOT to be tense, she did what any mare with a serious sense of self-preservation would do. She decided there was a reason for all the worry and she wanted no part in finding out why.

I really am excited for Riga. There is no pressure here except to give her a confident-but-cool ride around XC... that's all I want to do here. I want us both to come off of that course feeling like a million bucks.

Life comes down on you hard sometimes, but you learn from it and you move on. I've had my chance to dwell on it, mope about it, and figure out what to do about it, and now we're moving upward and onward. Everything might suck right now, but you know what? I'll be damned if I give my horse another bad ride this weekend. She deserves my all and by god I am going to give it to her. And when she feels me throwing my heart over every XC fence, then she will go over too, and feel proud.

Lots to do this week, lots to do. With a little Dunkin on board (specifically, a strawberry Coolata for me and a plain donut for her, because they stuffed one into her mouth and she decided she LOVED it!), we're refreshed and we're ready. Facts noted, lessons learned, peace made with the past and excitement building for the future.

Don't you worry mare, I won't let you down again.


STB Eventer said...

GOOD FOR YOU Andrea! That is a great attitude! And a plain donut and coolatta can make all the difference! LOL! :D

Beckz said...

line between siting quietly but still supportive and sitting too quiet is so thin. Still lesson learned and now you can look forward. At least you wont make that mistake again. :)

allira said...

It's good that you have the strength to be able to look at what happened and not just accept that it happened but be able to learn from it the way you did. I hope your next event goes better for you both then your last.

Anonymous said...

Riga should be good for you both - you've got it figured out and have a plan. Can't wait to hear how it goes!

Patricia said...

Good luck at Riga, and I'm sorry to hear about your finger.

sidetracked said...

First I love hearing about your accounts, your really thorough and it's clear to see what you are talking about. With that said I think your asessment of what happened at jump 4 is probably right, and it's great that you can have that much insight into it. My guy never looks at a thing unless I'm nervous about something. He totally gets his confidence from me, I am after all herd boss haha.

I know what your saying about your heart being into the show. I have a had a lot of rough things happen right before horse shows and jumping was one of the last things on my mind until I enter the ring. For me to expect my horse to be on all the time when I'm not is just too much. Sometimes when I get down about our performance or I feel like we're not progressing enough I make myself think back to the days when he was an unbroke 8yo who attacked people and couldn't even trot a circle to save his life. When I look at it like that we have made leaps and bounds. He went from a throw away meat horse to actually competing and holding his own with horses of much better breeding and waaaaaay more expensive.

I think you and Go Go are doing great. Keep your eyes on the prize, but don't be in such a rush that you don't enjoy the road along the way. This is something that I am applying not only to my equestrian life but my life in general.

Veronica Lodge said...

I guess that's why they say, ride every fence. Never expect your horse to go, even if that always have.

The best thing is you have learned from your disapointment, so really it wasn't that bad of a thing at all. At least it happened now when you are at this level, and not some day down the road when you have bigger Championships to enter.

Good luck at Riga!~

Joanne (Jo) L. Belasco, Esq. said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile, and just had to comment that I LOVE that you ride to DD! I love DD, but I'm afraid the only one near me is way too far to ride to (about 45 miles right now, soon to be about 20), plus, it's on a busy street in Santa Fe, so not a good idea to do it on horseback. Did you go through the drive-through? :-)

One of the things I teach in my nonprofit's riding program is that horses pick up on so much of how we feel, and we don't even realize it. When I train our Mustangs, I actually tend to never make a big deal out of things, but just do things, assuming they will be OK because I'm not making a big deal out of it. It sounds like your lovely mare took your lead concerning the storm drains.

Good luck at your next event!