Who's Right? Feeling a Bit Frustrated...
I recently went to my first rated show with my trainer and some other people experienced in horse shows. The horse show was okay and Rusty did very well, but there's some things that really bothered me about the show.
At the schooling show held a few weeks before, my horse, Rusty, got into a cement wash rack just fine. However, it was slippery, and it really freaked him out as well as me. He was slipping all over, and I know he was really panicked. I dried him off outside the rack because I thought it was a bit hazardous. When we went back this next week, Rusty would not go into the wash rack. While I knew he had to go in, I found this fear reasonable because if I were him, I'd be scared to go back in when I thought I was going to fall, too. One of the horse show moms with us totally dismissed my thinking and said, "He needs to go in. He's not going to die and has no reason to act like this."
I kind of saw the point, but at the same time, she just totally dismissed his fears as if he had no right to them. Yeah, I knew he needed to get into that wash rack, but I was pointing out that he had a reason not to. And she just acted like it was stupid. Is that right?
The other problem I had was with my normally patient trainer. She's usually really great and encouraging at home, but at the horse show, she was sort of different. Maybe it was the heat *shrug.* She wouldn't let us warm up without her, which kind of makes sense to me, except we were always late to our classes. She would tell us not to get our horses ready, and then she wanted them ready NOW. And the show officials would be calling her because her riders were up next and not at the arena gate waiting. And when we weren't going fast enough, she'd tell us to hurry up in a really annoyed voice. Would it just be easier to get our horses ready earlier?
Most of us really didn't know what to expect at our first show either or exactly what to do. Our trainer was really mad when she found a few pieces of sawdust in the our horses' tails. I knew horses had to be clean but spotless was a whole new thing to me! So the next day, I inspected Rusty's tail in his stall but had trouble due to the fact that there's sawdust everywhere. So I brought him out and was looking through his tail and his feet for sawdust. My trainer came over and was like, "He's fine, let's go!" in a really annoyed voice. I was left thinking, So it's not that important? Huh?, especially since she told us if she found sawdust on our horses we wouldn't show in the next class.
Rusty was also a little lazy at the show, and I am not the most fit person in the world. He jumped over everything, but apparently he cantered too slow. My trainer got very frustrated with me, and I felt unable to do anything. She kept getting upset because I needed more leg, and unfortunately I was out of breath halfway through my courses trying to get Rusty going. My legs were like jelly, and I just couldn't kick/nudge anymore. I tried carrying a crop to inspire Rusty, but he was still "too slow". We did like six classes a day at least in 95 degrees and upwards. I didn't decide how many classes; my trainer did. Anyway, I was to the point of tears and wasn't having fun anymore because she kept getting after me and I just felt like I couldn't give any more leg than I possibly could. I tried, but the more I tried, the more my position got worse (ie, my legs started jiggling all over, I started unconsciously driving with my seat instead of my legs). And then she got mad about that. And then at the gate she'd tell me, "Just have fun with it.", but then she'd be frustrated because we weren't riding well because my body was giving out on me. I KNOW I need to get in better shape now, but in lessons she's always telling me how much my stamina has improved and how I'm in good shape now. Guess not... I guess my point is that I wasn't out there to win, just to have fun. But it stopped being fun when my trainer got frustrated. And then before the derby, I was just exhausted trying to get Rusty to go, and my trainer was mad because I didn't hear her tell me to trot to the fence so I cantered it, and then she told me to trot it, and I had to stop for a brief second to regroup and catch my breath, and she got mad and yelled at me to hurry up. Somehow I survived the derby, by the way, after creating some big story in my head and forcing myself to believe it about someone chasing me.
On Sunday, I scratched three classes because Rusty was just really tired, and I was going to ride like 9 classes otherwise. I figured it wasn't fair to him after he'd had a great rest of the show. Two of my trainer's show horses wouldn't go over fences all weekend. Another horse that was owned by someone was refusing, too. A jumper mare had a few bad days where she wouldn't go over any jumps. And the other two jumpers either tripped or brought the whole fence down and their riders fell off. Rusty and I might not have won anything, but I felt it to be a big accomplishment that we were the only ones from our stable that got through the derby without being eliminated, and that Rusty jumped every fence at the show, even when he was tired. And this is his first big show and his first year of doing serious jumping. So I was really proud. And at the end of the show, my trainer was saying how all of us did really well. But then why was she so frustrated? She told me I was too serious when I was showing and that I needed to smile, but I couldn't smile because I wasn't having any fun. And when I told her that my legs were simply going to give out on me, she told me I needed to regroup then. But how can I regroup halfway through the course when I'm completely out of breath? She told me that I needed to stop being a passenger because Rusty would eventually stop going for me. And I don't try to be a passenger, but on the last two fences of the course, I just couldn't. Is this even normal, or am I just being wimpy?
All of this is really bothering me because I didn't really have fun showing. I was very proud of Rusty and in no way do I blame him for anything because I do believe he was giving me his all. He could have stopped at every fence like all the other horses, but he went over them because I asked. And I should tell you that he was a chronic run-outer less than six months ago. But I'm really down on myself and my riding. I just kept wondering at the show if someone more experienced could ride him better and could have trained him better. He's got a lot of stuff going for him, and while I know that horses don't feel potential or need achievement, I just started to feel like I was too bad of a rider for such a great horse. And the more my trainer got after me, the more I started to doubt myself and my riding. Rusty and I have always been the underdogs. And while I was proud he was the best behaved, I started to wonder if he was really behaved because I trained him that way or because he's just a good, honest horse. I didn't train him myself, but I got him into jumping. But I just wonder if anyone could have gotten him to jump because I'm maybe an advanced beginner, although I pretty much question that.
I guess I'm just really questioning myself as a rider. Am I really cut out to be a show rider? Is it really worth it to dress in hot attire on a super hot day to jump over some fences? Am I lazy for thinking that showing is an awful lot of work, or that bathing a horse every single day for the show is not a good thing and excessive? Is it okay to work a horse and rider to breaking point? Or am I just wimpy? Should I expect my horse to obey to perfection like everyone does?
Oh, just tell me what you think. This show changed a lot of my thoughts towards things and not in a good way necessarily. I don't even know what to think anymore. I just know this show really made me think twice about my abilities as a rider and about my trainer, too.