So, as a newbie eventer, there was some hope that this year I would actually make it to an event. There were plans. GOOD plans. And what is it they say about the best laid plans? Yeah, throw a horse into that mix and you are guaranteed to wind up working on Plan Z version 2.7.
My maiden voyage was to be the MD starter trials in Oct. Home base (MDHT is across the street) is always a good place to start. A starter trial is ideal because I own no show boots, jacket, britches…..well, anything. And as I’ve mentioned, I don’t know how to braid yet, so an unrecognized starter trial is the perfect venue to not worry about attire + appearance and just focus on the basics, like, you know, SURVIVING. Kerry and I worked out a masterful plan. She was hosting a training day on Saturday as part of MDHT’s “week with the pros” so I would actually get to ride the entire course before the actual starter trial on Sunday. Perfection. Riding the course the day before would guarantee at least a smidgeon of confidence. At the very least I would know exactly what to expect. We added to Kerry and Julie’s Perfect Event Plan by entering Rocky to go novice the week before at the recognized MDHT. Rocky hadn’t been to an event in a while, so Kerry was going to run him novice to knock off any rust, ensuring he’d be all “ho hum honey badger” going beginner novice (with me) the weekend after. Planning Perfection at its finest.
I learn a dressage test. My first dressage test EVER. Some walking, some trotting, some cantering. We got this. Well, all but the cantering, but that’s only two circles so so what if we canter around with our nose in the air? The goal here is to do it, not necessarily do it well :) I have a two hour lesson with Tom to work on our round canter, its non-existent. Emphasis on OUR, as in me + Rocky. Rocky apparently has a very nice round canter, which I have failed to elicit. At this point I’m just concerned with keeping him cantering for a whole 20m circle, round and supple is the least of my worries.
Novice run commences. I am late, and show up in time to see Kerry in dressage warm up. Rocky looks a little nervous, which is to say he looks awake, Kerry looks exhausted having run the Baltimore marathon the day before. All business in the dressage ring though. Rocky is definitely one of those horses who has a game face. After dressage, Rocky is much more relaxed, honey badger just don’t give a f*ck attitude in full force. We’ve got some downtime before show jumping, so Rock star gets some grazing and relaxation on the trailer. Finally we tack up for SJ. Kerry hops on and starts the trot down to warm-up. And Rocky is dead LAME. Huh? How does a horse come up lame after a novice dressage test? Best laid plans. Pack it up, that’s a wrap. We get Rocky home and he toes his left hind all the way from the trailer to his stall.
We hope, we pray, we pack the hoof trying to draw out the suspected abscess and ascertain some realm of soundness before the weekend and my FirstEverAmazingBeginnerNoviceAwesomeEventingSurvivalExperience. We try him on Wednesday. I believe “wonky behind” were the exact words Kerry used. By Friday the “wonkiness” had not subsided, no abscess to be seen and I finally re-route my starter trial event hopes to the November MDHT starter trial. All hope is not lost! I tentatively start my daily, silent dressage prayers….until it takes three weeks, a month (?) for Rocky to finally blow out that abscess. At this point, I have actually forgotten about the November edition starter trial....until the rest of the barn starts prepping for it a few days before the event. Oh yeah, I was supposed to be running BN….two days from now. Sometimes I entertain the notion that I am in fact a bad-ass. A bad-ass wouldn’t care that their horse had only been ridden four days out of the past month, hadn’t seen a cross country jump in even longer or that they didn’t even know which dressage test was scheduled. A bad-ass would throw caution to the wind, jump in head first and ride bareback around their first ever cross country course. And then I wake up from my daydream and realize I am not a bad-ass. I am more in the realm of pansy-ass, definitely smart-ass and on some occasions even dumb-ass, but bad-ass, no. So there is no way I am running BN in two days. I feel utterly unprepared. And feeling unprepared leads to a lack of confidence. And a lack of confidence leads to nerves. And nerves lead to soiling your pretty white britches (I don’t actually have pretty white britches yet). Our event hopes are gone for 2012, so newbie eventer I will remain until next year.
I’ve given a lot of thought to my petrified state at the thought of going Beginner Novice unprepared. For a while I just chalked it up to being a complete pansy-ass, which may be entirely true, I mean, Rocky is pretty much a training level packer, so beginner novice is not going to phase him. But to save my ego, I’ve decided I’m (mostly) not a pansy-ass, it is just in my nature, a personality trait, to want to be prepared. Especially for new scary/exciting things and even some things I’ve done lots of times. Case in point, triathlons. I’ve done a lot of triathlons the past couple of years, but this year (2012) I did not do any. Why? Lack of preparation. I was never able to stay consistent enough in my training to feel comfortable doing a race. I like to be at a certain point, physically, before a race, and I never made it there this year. Mainly due to falling-off-Bernie related injuries, but I also had some problems with my right knee (un-Bernie related) which side-lined me from my normal triathlon-training regiment. When I was finally injury-free, it was towards the end of the triathlon season and I thought about just doing one for the hell of it, I know I can finish the race, but decided not to. It would be stressful and just not as much fun. And really, that’s what races and events are all about. HAVING FUN. Feeling prepared* provides me the best opportunity to have a good time out there while trying not to die (hmmm, a bit over-dramatic).
*Do not confuse this training/physical/ability preparation with remembering-things-you-might-need-in advance-forethought preparation. While I will always strive to be prepared physically and mentally in my ability to accomplish something, I have very little hope of achieving forethought preparation, like remembering my helmet and gloves so I don’t have to drive to the barn in the morning to fetch them (see blog post I Swear I am Smarter than I Seem).
Fast forward a month, and while my hopes for an actual event start are postponed until spring, I do have my first ever jumper show on Jan. 5th. Its actually not just my first jumper show, its my first show, period. And while the weather has not permitted a lot of practice for Rocky and me lately, I have complete confidence in his ability to go there with his game face and get shit done, and I have moderate confidence in myself to go along for the ride. Plus, Kerry said there will be adult beverages. And NOTHING goes better with your first jumper show than adult beverages. Triathlon training for the 2013 season starts in January too. Its going to be a great month. Kerry Blackmer, OPEN WATER HERE WE COME!