Since our last show, life has been a whirlwind. I have traveled by plane, I have traveled by car, I have gone camping, I have been to a wedding, I have moved to a new place (but still in the same city). I have done all this while also keeping up with my full time job and regular chores like, you know, laundry and dishes. And riding as much as possible…which is not always as much as I’d like.
After completing the move, I breathed a sigh of relief and then realized that I have a show this weekend. Whoops. If you have read this blog in the past, you may remember that I’m a big time planner. I make lists, categorized by type and day. Sometimes I prepare for up to two weeks before a show, making sure everything is organized, washed and accounted for.
Not this time. But I’m not too worried about it. I’ve gotten my packing down to a science, and with the addition of two giant wheeled trunks this year, I can basically keep everything I need for a show packed at all times. Seriously, they’re the best.
The wonderful thing is, Drifter feels great. We’ve had really great, positive rides the last few lessons, and over fences he’s come a long way since the last show. After that show he started charging at fences and rushing through courses. It took a lot of work, both on the flat and over fences, to get to where we are now: A lovely, balanced, rhythmic canter that stays steady all the way to the base of a jump.
That canter makes me feel like I have more time during a course. I’m not working so hard to just pilot and try to control the speed. I’m able to actually think, cue for leads sooner, count strides more accurately and find distances from further out than three strides (well, most of the time at least, this is still a work in progress). Which is all great, because the more I do that, the smoother are courses are; and the smoother our courses are, the more Drifter will trust my cues and do them. And the more he trusts me, the smoother we’ll get…positive feedback loops are beautiful things.
I read an article from an equestrian sports psychologist recently about managing nerves. One recommendation was to pick a few easy buzzwords to remind yourself of clear goals. So, my two goals for the show this weekend are: Rhythm and Clarity.
“Rhythm” is my touchstone for finding that great canter. It means keeping my core engaged and half-halting using my abs (yep, this is new and probably deserves its own post), keeping my reins short enough and my lower leg on, and preventing Drifter from getting wiggly or rushy to a fence.
“Clarity” is the word I am using to remind myself of my own mental state. I tend to get very mushy-brained while jumping at a show. Everything seems to happen so fast (which isn’t helped by a charging horse). I thought about choosing the word “focus” but it isn’t quite right. It feels too narrow. “Clarity,” to me, is a mental state that I can get to by being mindful, even during a course. It lowers my adrenaline and helps things slow down a bit. My ability to think feels wider, if that makes sense. Instead of focusing on one thing (like the next fence), I can be very clear in my mind and calm about what I need to do – whether that’s finding my distance, cueing for the lead over the fence or (trying for) a lead change.
So that’s the goal. Rhythm for Drifter. Clarity for me.
Oh, and also that neither of us die from heat stroke.