The anticipated cross-country schooling day was here. It was time to head to the Little Downham where I will eventually ride my test for the Wobbleberry Challenge.
It's been awhile since my last outing with my trainer and I wanted to show her how hard I've been to working to develop my legs and my seat. After 5 months of riding 5-6x a week, I finally felt like something was happening down there. I can tell you my legs have been sore for MONTHS.
Out of the phases in eventing, cross-country is the most thrilling and the one that gives me the most mental grief, but not for the obvious reasons.
It's not the galloping nor the jumping nor the combo of the two. I've hunted on a strange horse with limited brakes in a 50+plus field with people I don't know and have jumped everything. "Point horse, keep eyes up, legs on either side of the horse" and go. I've been on cross country hacks where we jump everything in front of us. So I know I can do it but the question is...
Can I do it alone?
This is the first time I will direct a galloping horse over a course of 20+jumps for at least 5 minutes. Let's ponder that from the perspective of a first time eventer.
Not only is it getting around safely or frankly, just getting around, it is being the leader. It is about the partnership with your horse, it is about some serious leg on and driving them forward. One a personal note, it's also trying not to vomit from nerves; I have been greatly heartened to hear many top event riders also suffer from this affliction.
It is learning not to let the fear and anticipation over-ride the brave pants that you put on. It is about finding those brave pants and pulling them up to your eyeballs while also wearing the bra of courage so all areas are covered. It's also knowing the types of fear so you can best prepare yourself. There are 2 types of fear.
Instinctual + fear of the unknown.
Instinctual protects us from harm. This originates from our caveman days when we had to protect our youngins and survive from serious threats, you know, like dinosaurs. We honed our spider senses to ensure we kept alive, which is still within us today, for the most part. Instinctual fear is what kept my daughters and me alive when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit us. On the approach, I sensed he was going too fast, I knew something wasn't right and because of that, I was able to slam on the brakes and save lives.
Fear of the unknown is exactly that, we fear the unknown. We have no idea what is going to happen. We visualize, we analyze, we purpose, we discuss, we have an inkling but we can never predict what will happen. We just don't know. This is the mystery of life and since we can't predict when we are going to die, we have an obligation to ourselves and our families to live each day fully.
I have seen fear show up when I teach handstands in a yoga class. In order to support someone's journey towards a handstand, we look at fear and work on the components to lessen those fears. It's not always quick, the progression to the goal can take some time, but knowing how to diminish some elements of what is causing the fear is the key to success.
Riding cross country has elements of both fears for me. As a Mother, self-preservation is high on my list of priorities. I have a family that I want to be around for. In order to lessen the instinctual fear we take preventative measures such as body protectors, proper helmets, we train and put preparations in place. We ride a good horse, we work with a trainer and we stay on top of our tack and equipment etc. These all help to lessen the instinctual fear so we are both protected and confident. Then we can deal with Fear of the Unknown.
I have no frigging idea what is going to happen on the day but here are my two biggies.
1. I will pull up because I fear we are going slightly out of control and won't approach the jump correctly. This will lead to me being unseated and doing a tumble hurting all the bones in my body which do not bounce anymore. To clarify further, it is not the falling off rather it is the moment of complete uncertainty when you know something bad is happening and you have no idea how to stop it. Like those horrible dreams when you experience yourself falling and can't do anything about it? It's THAT moment and you just pray you are alive on the other side.
2. The other is that I will pull up because I've over-worried myself into thinking I can't do it, that I don't have the balls to get around a course, that I will let everyone down. That I will then start a cycle of talk in my head of 'I'm not good enough' which will spiral into horrible icky feelings and into a bottle of whiskey. This is old childhood stuff that has taken me years to look at and address. It is my roller bag of 'stuff' that follows me everywhere and yes, you have one too that is unique to you. These roller bags, while often feel like a burden, are also a blessing when we learn they don't have to control our lives, rather we learn how to deal with it, flick the switch and engage qualities like perseverance, dedication, and our will to keep moving forward to our dreams. Trust me, the roller bag does decrease in size each time we TRY.
Eventing is not for the faint of heart. It is a brutal sport and for some damn reason, I love it.
This is why the Wobbleberry Challenge is good for me. I am doing something that I have loved for years and actually doing something about it. The best part is that I'm also raising money for seriously ill kids. Have you donated to my cause yet? Please support, we'd really appreciate any donation!
It is pushing me into the heaviest mental game of my life. Every time I ride, sorry let me re-phrase, every time I ride or take a lesson with my trainer she pushes my mental game. My self-doubt game is strong but my love for eventing is stronger. It is what makes me show up, day after day with my shit, my insecurities, my frozen shoulder, the constant aches and pains and my limited budget( horses are expensive). My love for the sport, the desire to see what I'm capable of and the memory of Hannah forces me to face the jitters because I know the value of this journey far outweighs my meager complaints.
We went off to our first session of Cross country schooling.
Thank goodness Frog was so polite as my damn legs that I was so proud of basically went to shit. It was rather embarrassing however my trainer put us through a lovely warm up with Frog jumping everything with ease and eagerness. Honestly, he was so good.
After about 20mins my legs felt like they started to work again. My trainer continued with some through lovely combinations, included the dreaded ditch. We went through the water and we jumped stuff I've never faced. She linked jumps for us to build the effect of a course and Frog didn't put a foot wrong. I think he knows I'm still a little unsure and is still holding my hand over the jumps.
It was a great first experience, Little Downham is a welcoming course and aside from riding the course like a show-jumper( must work on that) I loved it. Frog was so damn good and a testament to the owner's hard work and training with him. I would not be where I am as a rider without them both. Frog does have an engine that can go up a couple of gears but he stayed very steady giving me loads of confidence which is all this Wobbleberry can ask for. We are getting there slowly but surely but not without the ups and downs. Some of my groom skills need developing and my horse handling may not always be the strongest but I don't give up. The one thing I've learned from teaching handstands for so many years, this is key to putting fear back in the corner and not letting it lead the way.
Thanks for reading!
part 2: When you part ways, coming soon.