You know that sick feeling in your stomach, the adrenaline rush where you feel a little spacey, and your fingers and toes start to tingle? That was me the weekend of the Pine Hill show
- I was strangely plagued by a really bad case of show nerves. I had a jumping lesson on Saturday before the show Sunday, and I was totally second-guessing myself and Paddy. I was SO NERVOUS in the lesson - I rode like crap, he stopped 3 or 4 times, and halfway through our ride I was to the point of withdrawing from the show. This was a new experience for me, and I didn’t quite know what to do.
In the distant past when I was competing Cash, I only showed when I knew we could go out and OWN the division. That sounds cocky, but I was always so confident in Cash, and what we could do, that I was never worried about stops on XC or rails in stadium (in fact our whole jumping career, he only stopped once). By the time we were showing seriously, we’d been a team for four years, and we had such an amazingly solid partnership that I knew exactly how pretty much every fence was going to go down. Don’t get me wrong, Cash was a tough ride – very sensitive, very fast, and you couldn’t touch his face – but we understood each other and we made it work. Sure, I’d get nervous in the start box, but the adrenaline rush is part of the fun, right?
This used to be no big thang. That's a maxed-out Training level fence - 3'3, with a 6 foot spread.
But my show nerves for Pine Hill were totally different – they were based on doubt. Could I ride Paddy well enough to get him over the jumps, or was I going to freeze up, get loose in the tack, and throw him at jumps? Was I fit enough to ride strongly for the entire course? Was he going to stop and stare at every single jump? My list of worst-case scenarios kept getting longer in my head and I got more and more worried.
Today, this is terrifying. It's 2'3.
What's even more strange is that I rode Red in his first event on this exact same course almost a year ago
, and I was totally cool about it. But I've ridden Red for 10 years, and I knew he'd jump it all. Besides, I took him eventing on a total whim - we had nothing to prove to anyone and we were only there for fun.
This looks like fun, right?
Luckily, I have some good friends and a good trainer who put things into perspective for me and Paddy. I was NOT going out to win – I was going out to school my very green horse, who I’ve had for FOUR MONTHS, around his first event. My only goal was to make it a positive experience for him, and to set the stage for the future. I needed to ride the best I could and be positive so that HE would be positive and confident. Somehow, thinking about it that way took the pressure off enough for me to get us around the course without me throwing up. My stadium round was less than stellar (I threw him at the fences and crawled up his neck
) and of course we had the stop XC. But we lived, I didn't ride THAT badly, and there were a lot of really good things about each phase of the event. I came away feeling like I'd done a relatively good job, all things considered.
Alas, we weren't as together as we usually are.
But still. Where do I go from here? I have a green horse, and I'm not gonna lie, the Starter Novice jumps look plenty challenging. Paddy's got so many holes in his training - no fault of his, of course, but he got a late start in life and doesn't have the skills that Cash did at a similar point in his career (for comparison, Cash was started as a 2 yo in reining). I can (hopefully) work myself and Paddy through this and we'll be a stronger team, but to what end? I've done the eventing thing before - I know how much is involved and I'm not sure I want to do it again. I just don't want it bad enough right now.
I'm sure I'm not the only one to have lost my nerve. What's your experience, and what was finally the tipping point where you were able to move forward again? If you're still struggling, what are you doing to work on it?