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Fear the Little Bay Horse: The Conclusion

the girls ride on horses

Always Learning New Things: 7 Important Life Lessons

I’ve discovered deep in my heart, that I am not a very good blogger. My entire life I’ve wanted to keep a diary or memoirs, an insightful journal filled with wit. The problem is that I am rather boring and lack the Sedaris kind of wit, so even though I wanted to keep a detailed file of my experiences at Sport Horse Nationals, I found myself walking the dogs, working the horses, enjoying the experience. Every day I stepped out of our barn, looked at the grounds and thought, “Another beautiful day in Crete.” And it was. And I was happy to be there. And I was grateful. So, I guess I had a successful show.

There it is.

Just kidding. I’ve kept a diary my whole life. Each successive diary looked the same: a line or two written on the first page, then, nothing. My good intentions have never been strong enough to overcome the fact that I find myself boring. The segments I wrote daily at the show are real snooze fests. What I don’t find boring are ideas. I learn something new in this life every single day, and the depth of wisdom is sometimes, well, deep. Sometimes funny. Always interesting. Some things I learned in Crete:

Don’t go if you can’t cut the mustard.

Trust your work. Trust your horse. Trust yourself.

Usually you are going to mess up at least a little. Relax. Embrace it.

Friends are awesome. My ladies are the best and I am so lucky.

Don’t go shopping when you are in a psychotic state. Just. Don’t.

Winning is more fun than losing.

Everybody needs to go to the dog park

Don’t go if you can’t cut the mustard

As mentioned, the competition has improved since I last was at Arabian Nationals (2011). Back in the day, one or two horses competed in the FEI levels, and, honestly, they were not very good. In the lower levels, a few talented teams would show up, a bunch more that were average, but pretty good, and half of them that were very bad.

When we arrived at the show and began schooling the horses, I sized up the talent. It looked good. A lot of trainers were doing a really good job, especially above First Level. Don’t get me wrong, I am tickled pink that we have improved. It speaks well of the breed and it predicts a wonderful future for the sport within the Arabian community. This makes me incredibly happy. I compete in Open shows against Warm bloods and their trainers because they set a high bar. They are usually going to score better than I am, but if I can nip at their heels with my Arabs, I will be one of the better Arabian Dressage trainers. Imagine being a serious golfer who cares about your game. Now imagine you get to golf with Tiger Woods regularly. Your game will improve exponentially. I drove into Balmoral Park thinking I would be better than most of the Dressage riders there. I am thrilled to say that I was wrong! I witnessed some good people riding well. I was humbled by some. This knowledge will keep me edgy and trying hard. That said:

Trust your work. Trust your horse. Trust yourself.

I am instructed by one of the best Dressage trainers in the country. I am a fantastic student. I try hard. I work even harder. I have a moderate amount of talent. I am a great competitor. Working with my clinician, my horses have improved by leaps and bounds. They are the real deal. They are correctly trained in classical Dressage. They both try hard and seem to love the work. I get a charge out of showing. Competition just ignites something in me. I love the challenge of rising to the occasion. So, relaxing and having a little faith in having done my homework well, I was able to really enjoy the week and feel peaceful, because:

Usually you are going to mess up at least a little. Relax. Embrace it.

I hate the confessional that follows. On a positive note, Lorix was just barely solid enough to be competing in Second Level this year, but I rode well, and he ended up 3rd out of 18. Petie, on the other hand was well prepared to win. In her first class, the Intermediarre 1, she saw a “cougar”, aka, the show photographer squatting next to the ring and immediately got tense. I immediately quit riding well. I let her anxiety flow instead of managing it as best I could, but I did manage it, so she was able to complete a nice test, a test that would have won her the Reserve National Championship if I hadn’t messed up. During the second pirouette I over aided her and caused a change of lead. I recovered and changed back, but the two scores were seriously affected, one of which was a coefficient. I was so proud of her, she overcame her nerves and did her best, I just messed up. What do you do? Shrug and go on. Nothing you can do about the past. Nothing. She was still 3rd on the cards out of 11 horses, so that was awesome.

I regrouped and did a postmortem on my ride. What could I change? Well the probability that the photographer would be in the same place for my PSG test was high. I needed to ride her differently, to take charge and ride her a little deeper into the bridle. When she got tense in the first test, I tensed up too. I held myself up off her back instead of sitting deeply and asking her to carry me, so I resolved to sit deeply during PSG and give her some support.

I did and she had an outstanding test. My pirouettes shone, I nailed my four tempis, then, as I finished, I got all teary eyed and squishy. I remember being overwhelmed by emotion. She had given me her all, we really worked as a team and I thought, “It could end right here, and I’d be so happy with her.” And it did. End, that is. I quit riding and whiffed my 3 tempis. Despite this screw up on my part, Petie sat in the Reserve Champion position all day until the last rider, who beat my score and put me 3rd out of 16.

So, I have a choice. Remember, Petie doesn’t know who I am disappointed in, me or her. SO, do I choose to be sad after my ride. I know I messed up. Or, do I choose to be happy and proud and pleased with the team I’ve become with my little mare. I choose the second. It’s the truth, and it’s the only way to stay sane in this sport. Maybe in this world.

Friends are awesome. My ladies are the best and I am so lucky.

I spent the week, the entire 7 days, with my husband. Let that sink in. I didn’t have any of my crew to girl talk, or focus on instructing, or anything. My husband and I get along well, but I admit, I had my concerns about both of us would living through this experience of togetherness. When I was a young teen, I had a best friend, and we would switch houses every Friday night to spend the night at the other’s house. On Saturday afternoon, we would start to beg our mothers to let us spend the night one more time. Usually they said “No”, but occasionally they would let us. Sometimes on Sunday morning, during breakfast, after we spent two nights together, I would hear the noises that she made while she ate and had to restrain myself from smacking the spoon out of her hand. My mother would let us eat breakfast and then announce that my bestie had to go home because, “You two girls have had enough of each other.”

I was pretty sure that would happen before we got out of the truck on Saturday. It did not. We were both so relaxed and he was such awesome support that we just really enjoyed each other the whole time. But I still missed my crew.

We stalled across the aisle form a barn of ladies from somewhere out East. Although they were friendly enough with us, these ladies filled their own relationships with drama and pettiness and gossiping behind each other’s back. They argued before classes. They complained about the judging all the time. They complained without ceasing. When they were around, I vacated if possible. I was so grateful for my barn and clients. They are the most encouraging and supportive group. They are legend. NO backstabbing, no drama, no pettiness. Love those gals, and I missed them. I am the luckiest trainer/barn owner on the planet.

Don’t go shopping when you are in a psychotic state. Just. Don’t.

So, we had been at Balmoral Park for four days. I had been Top Ten on Lorix in Second Level Open, but I had yet to show Petie. Everything with her was going eerily smooth. She was working well and had gotten better through the week. She was accepting and comfortable in her surroundings. I was relaxed and riding well. I was surprised I wasn’t battling nerves, that I was indeed quite relaxed. This freaked me the fuck out.

Enter the Perfect Storm. Three days in, and I was feeling homesick. I missed my crew. In one way, I was enjoying the solitary nature of the horse show. I am not chatty by nature, so, while maintaining a friendly countenance and greeting people with small talk as I passed, I basically spent my time alone. I watched classes alone, took the dogs on long walks alone, worked the horses alone. My husband was perfect. He hovered happily in the background to lend a hand but was equally happy to let me be. On the other hand, I missed sharing the experience with my group. So, day four, and I am homesick and alone. My husband has gone off to do man things like vacuum the truck and find a TSC. I was alone.

I am a health nut and Crete was proving to be a food desert. My meals consisted of frozen food I bought from a Walmart, stored in the hotel room and made myself. Lots of rice with veggies and sriracha sauce that week. So, despite my best intentions, when I found myself alone, I walked the dogs the half mile to the show office where they had been providing coffee (which I don’t drink) and doughnuts (which I don’t eat) in order to get coffee and doughnuts. The Perfect Storm continues: The coffee pot was empty. I shrugged and approached the doughnut boxes only to find them empty. A crushing blow. I went to the concession stand to buy a cup of coffee but changed my mind and bought a $3 tea. When my journey to self-medicate failed, I walked to a tack trailer that we passed in the truck every day on our way to the stalls, but I never went to because it was quite a hike back. All of the stores up in the Grandstand held no interest for me: jewelry stores, voodoo horse products offering miraculous results, overpriced clothing stores (not the practical, oh, I can ride in this type of clothing, but the worthless, let’s go out on the town type of clothes), so I was pretty excited when I approached this trailer and saw tack and horse supplies, and a rack of breeches. I needed breeches. Good, on sale, work breeches.

At some point in time, I must have blacked out because I woke up dashing out of the trailer, answering my phone as my husband told me that he was headed back to the grounds from the man store. I dragged the dogs back to the stalls. In my bag I carried 2 pairs of show breeches, and a pair of work gloves and a jacket that looked really cute on me and had been on sale. Help me Baby Jesus. What did I do? I had a panic attack and bought several hundreds of dollars’ worth of clothes that did not even fall into the category of NEED. If you know me, you would know how uncharacteristic this is. I am a tight ass. I literally watch every single penny we spend. I don’t do frivolous. Ever. I haven’t bought a new bra in several years because the ones I have still work. This event or any like it have never occurred before in my entire life. I guess I was stressed about Petie’s test. Even writing this down has stressed me out. I want to go eat something.

Winning is more fun than losing.

Do I even need to say anything? I am a good loser. I contemplate and learn the important lessons. I am a pretty good winner. I am quietly self-satisfied with my performance, but I don’t broadcast. Of course, winning is more fun than losing. The middle ground is harder to navigate. Don’t get me wrong; I am not disrespecting the quality of the competition. The other exhibitors in the upper levels rode well and deserved to be there. But, with Petie, I came to win, not to go Top Ten. To win. Not to be third, to win.

A funny thing happens in your brain. I even sat in the position of Reserve National Champion in both classes until the final rides. I didn’t dare own the win until the cards were all in, but I tasted the victory. When I ended up third on the cards, I was still grateful. In every competition things you can’t control misfire. Every single time you ride in a show, no matter how well you prepared, you need to be ready to lose. Anything can happen. But I am a savvy competitor, and after my tests, before I got the judge’s scores, I knew. After the first test, I knew where I had failed to ride well; I knew where I had let Petie down. I also knew what to do in the second test. I analyzed the rides and planned what to do. I gave my husband a trigger phrase to say to me that would re center my mind. During the second test, I improved my performance and had a better go. But I also knew where I had dropped the ball. Because I was able to recognize both the strengths and the weaknesses of my tests, I could predict with a certain amount of accuracy where I would fall in the line. I placed higher than I thought I would. So, again that funny thing that happened in my brain: I had prepared for months to win the Nationals in my divisions with Petie. She was poised and ready to do that. The atmosphere, the weather, the whole situation was stacked in my favor. When I rode my tests, I rode well, but made the expected errors that happen during competition. I was happy with myself but was realistic enough to understand that because the competition was good, my mistakes might keep me out of the ribbons at all. So, when I saw that I not only made the Top Ten, but was third, my slight disappointment turned back into grateful pleasure. Because, it is more fun to win than it is to lose.

Sometimes, you just need to go to the dog park.

It was Friday. We’d been in Crete since the previous Sunday. The dogs, who are the best show dogs in the world, are never off their leashes, except in the hotel room, or if they are shut up in the tack room. For all the walking we did, even though it seemed like they napped every moment we weren’t walking, they never really got to play, and I knew they were a little depressed. Another exhibitor had mentioned that Balmoral Park had a dog park next to the show office. Although I knew it was there, by the time we’d hiked up from our stalls, it seemed ridiculous to go into the park. One day we weren’t showing, and I was bored, I took the dogs over. We were the only ones there and when I took my poor exhausted dogs off their leashes, they exploded with joy. Just kidding. They stood there and looked at me like they didn’t know what was happening. I probably had made a mistake. Pretty soon, Ruby, the Jack Russell smelled a smell and ditched us. Lucky, my fluffy Aussie mix looking dog, just stood there. I started jogging away from him and calling him. Then he realized he was off leash and he exploded with joy. He went cracker dog and raced and raced around the park as fast as he could. The park had a mini jumping course set up for dogs and Lucky learned in a matter of seconds how to jump the course on his own. We had so much fun, and then we sat in the grass and enjoyed the day.

I had no idea the dogs were tense. I had no idea that I was tense. We just needed to go “off leash” and have a little fun, to enjoy the beauty of the place and go cracker dog for a bit, then the world was centered again. I learned that day that it doesn’t have to be because of a stressful event, or a heavy work week, we all need to stop and refresh in the “Dog Park” to get our minds and hearts in the right place. I mean, all the work, all the money, why only take home a ribbon and a trophy? Why not take away wisdom, peace, presence and fun? Why not just really enjoy the moment? Ultimately, isn’t winning and losing partially a matter of perspective?

When I was about eleven years old, my Grandma Kennedy, who lived in a remote rural area in Missouri, called me into her kitchen to show me something important. I obediently followed. My Grandma was always kind to me and taught me several important life lessons, but I also knew that she was a sharp, critical old woman, and my love for her was tempered with a little bit of respect, or, more truthfully, fear. Grandma Kennedy, whose house never changed: plastic furniture covers and plastic carpet mats. Although it was clean, I was also aware of the likelihood that creepy crawly things could be anywhere in her farmhouse, which was the reason that I was ushered into the kitchen. My Grandma needed to educate me. She took me over to the counter and pulled open one of the drawers. She pulled out a small glass jar with its lid screwed shut. She held it in her hand and explained to me that she had caught a Brown Recluse spider in this jar so she could show it to me, and I would know what the poisonous spider looked like, and thus, avoid them. She held out the jar. I looked inside. The spider had died and was curled up, as spiders do when they die. She told me to look closely so I could identify it. I looked closer. Upon this examination, I realized that I was staring at a brown ball of lint, captured in a glass jar. It’s all just a matter of perspective. So is evaluating your success at a horse show. The reason we all engage in this discipline is the relationship you develop with your horse. A horse show is a minor part of that relationship, and many people pursue Dressage and never show. So, I figure, if the overall experience was positive, if I had a good time, if the horses had a good time, and the dogs had a good time, we had a successful show. The ribbons were a bonus.


We had a clinic this last weekend. I already had a plan formed of where to move on with Petie’s training. If she is capable, and, if I am capable, I want to move her into Grand Prix and earn my Gold Medal on her. She also has a National Champion statue somewhere in her future. This weekend, we began working with my trainer to develop her. On the last day of the clinic, at the end of my lesson, my trainer wanted me to dismount so she could show me how to start developing the Piaffe. Usually it is a time-consuming process. First you might begin teaching the horse to pick up their back feet quickly to a tickle of the whip. I won’t try to explain the entire process, but it is time consuming and involves many steps, while the trainer attempts to keep it light and fun for the horse. When my trainer took Petie and started this process, Petie Piaffed. Immediately. Both directions. I think she’s capable. I hope I can keep up.

79 thoughts on “Fear the Little Bay Horse: The Conclusion

  1. Very interesting 😀

  2. Trusting is always the way to success

  3. Very awesome post!

  4. I knew very little about horses but I must say I’ve learnt a lot since my visits to your website. Keep those interesting posts coming! Keep up the great job!

    Happy 2020!

  5. I really enjoyed that post. I can agree with all of them. I never go shopping when I’m psychotic but sometimes shopping makes me psychotic. LOL

  6. What a whole slews of emotions and mental states explored in this article!

  7. The riders seem so secure on the horse, would never had thought they went thru so many emotions. You just never know

  8. Great article. I hope my husband never finds out what I really pay for my horses needs.

  9. Great post, really interesting read

  10. I loved reading this, trust is important.

  11. Very good thoughts for you. I’ve never had that bad spending experience.

  12. Very useful info, thanks.

  13. Very honest, humorous and informative <3

  14. Totally agree about having a break in the “Dog Park”. Great read, thanks.

  15. covered a lot of emotions

  16. Love the advice about messing up and how usually you are going to mess up at least a little. And just to relax and let it happen because I am always freaking out when I mess up or beating my self up<3

  17. great read

  18. Awesome Products

  19. i’m glad to hear its ok to mess up once in a while! x

  20. Solid values

  21. This is great advice; I enjoyed reading this

  22. Competition sounds very difficult. No thanks.

  23. Lots of challenges along to way, but overall it’s a great journey.

  24. I like what you learned in Crete.

  25. I loved reading this article , it’s very honest . I’ve been saying I’m going to go horseback riding for years now . I’m going this year for sure .

  26. So much important, and humorous advice!

    1. Good read. Enjoyed.

  27. Love those beautiful creatures. Thanks.

  28. I’m such a perfectionist so this is easier said than done but I need to remember to relax and trust myself and my horse too!

  29. Very informative article great insights

  30. Great info thanks

  31. You are a good writer and I thought these were some great values.

  32. There are so many things to know about horses that it’s almost impossible to stay fully informed. Thank you for all the wonderful information!

  33. You definitely do NOT suck at blogging! You are very knowledgable and insightful! I too have kept a diary my whole life, but have always failed at blogging.

  34. When I used to compete I was always a nervous wreck! I was good on the flats but jumping just freaked me out! Even though I knew I could do it my nerves always got the better of me!

  35. Nice

  36. Great advice

  37. Great article!

  38. Awesome!

  39. Loved this! And I laughed out loud at your wonderful comments about the need to go “off leash” every once and awhile. So true! Thank you for a wonderful post. Are you writing books (because you should be!)

  40. Lots of emotions in this artical!

  41. Good ideas, some funny parts.

  42. I love Mustangs!

  43. my crush will like this article! 🙂

  44. Great advice.

  45. Great information and products

  46. Trust your work. Trust your horse. Trust yourself. Perfect.

  47. It was an enjoyable/ informative read. Not every blogger needs to be filled with whit just like every actor doesn’t have to be a comedian. Keep at it!

  48. I enjoyed reading your articles today. From what I’ve read, mammals are the only animals to identify their reflection. With large TVs being much less expensive these days, I’m curious if it’s possible to help train a horse by having it watch a video of its performance. I wonder if it would recognize itself in a video.

  49. Getting into the mind of a wild rogue best is the epitome of discipline, I aspire to ascertain your level and cannot sing the praises of you all, highly enough, your legends in the making 🙂

  50. Incredible details of information. Love to read it .

  51. Great little tidbits in here, not just about horses, but also self confidence.

  52. great just love it

  53. The wisdom of don’t go shopping when you are in a psychotic state is spot on. The high of a sale find, then the bill and the clutter. Been there before!

  54. Loved your thoughts on your lady friends! I don’t know what I would do without my girl friends.

  55. Interesting read.

  56. This was very inciteful.

  57. Your honesty is admirable.

  58. I can’t agree enough how essential trust is! It’s the foundation of your relationship with your horse & that cannot be overstated.

  59. Thanks for the info.

  60. what an awesome job writing

  61. Thanks, this is great advice.

  62. very insightful, learning a lot

  63. nice article informative

  64. Interesting article

  65. love to read it its a lot of great stuff to read up on.

  66. Very interesting read this, trust between you and your horse is essential

  67. Amazing products.. Thanks so much for this..

  68. love going off leash .

  69. It was interesting to read this article

  70. Great read you have lots of great information about horses and I enjoy reading thankyou

  71. I enjoyed reading your article. Awesome!

  72. Great advice! Great information! Thanks for sharing

  73. So many great points in this article. Keep up the great work!

  74. My friends competed when they were younger and shared the same feeling in your above article.

  75. Such truth! Trust, spending habits and fun winning are especially spot on.

  76. These life lessons are very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  77. Good to know.

  78. I definitely shared the same emotions when competing ! This was a great read and hit q lot of points

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