Monday, 25 September 2017

Slump busting - motivation, where art thou?


Since Mildura Horse Trials in July, I have to admit I've hit a bit of a slump. Tonsilitis, sick kids, increased work commitments and absolutely abysmal weather have meant my riding time has been reduced significantly. One week I didn't ride at all....I panicked that it could be the sign of a midlife crisis (!) however I have since regrouped and got on with things (well, to some extent). 

Eventing Squad 

The last two outings I've taken the boys to have greeted me with sideways rain and gale force winds. Typo did not appreciate his XC lesson at Squad in the howling wind and it was only after an hour and a half of jumping he finally settled in the group (without threatening to tip me off!!) . He jumped really well though, which is some kind of silver lining. I then had an excellent XC lesson on Snip where we jumped every ditch fence I could find! This particular squad day gave us access to the Civinex paddock where competitions are run, so we conquered the ditch brush I fell at at M3DE. :) 

     Not the best photo - but we did it! 

I also participated in a rider safety session. It was really interesting - the two important things being if you are past the point of no return to let go of the reins and adopt a "brace" position. I was always taight to hold the reins if I fell off to stop the horse running away....however, in a serious fall, it can make matters worse.  It makes sense, as it prevents the rider being pulled down into the horse's path and reduces the chance of head and neck injury. I think all riders should do the training - which incorporated balance exercises, as well as fall practice in a safe environment. 


Ballarat Hunter Trials

Most recently, we headed to Ballarat for the training Hunter Trials. Once again we were greeted with terrible weather! Typo was not impressed and was very hot and the SJ this time. He shied at a crow on the fence and nearly deposited me. We did get around all the XC clear though and scraped a 5th place. 

Snip was full of beans and wanted to showjump by Braille, so although he jumped cross country with his usual enthusiasm, we have a few things to tweak before the Spring Horse Trials at Werribee next weekend. 

One of the interesting things to come out of the weekend was hearing from one of Typo's former owners, who contacted me when they saw his name on the draw.  I've been able to piece together more of his past and it would seem he's had at least 6 homes in the past 3 years, probably more. I have a few insights now into some of his behaviours and now he needs lots of calm, patient work. Group work with others is not his thing....

"How do you do it?" 

This is a question I keep getting asked. How do I juggle a part time job, two small kids, teaching casually plus keeping 3 horses in work? The truth is...I don't! Like everyone, I go through phases where work or family has to take precedence. Gone are the days I ride several horses daily (although with better weather and daylight saving, they will return). I usually try to keep 2 horses ticking over whilst one is spelled and rotate them around. Inevitably, one horse will need time off with problems from time to time, so three horses gives me options. I ride and teach under lights a few times a week. I have a cleaner. I do minimal housework, I don't iron (!) and I rarely cook (thankfuly my husband is a good chef!). He also works quite manageable hours so our split of child caring is more equal. It really is a team effort. 

Back to slump busting...

As for the competitive side of my riding, I'm going to take some time out after this season. I love training, I love having lessons and I enjoy teaching. Competing however, is becoming a chore. I'm not sure what it is, but the thrill of competing is currently not outweighing the huge effort involved. It is getting increasingly expensive, which is prohibitive when competing more than 1 horse. Eventing is time consuming too, both in terms of keeping horses in work AND requiring whole weekends away (or even longer). The time away, I'm not as enchanted with as I once was, as it means I'm away from my small kids. I mostly travel alone, which is tiring. Then when I get to a competition, It is me having to look after and muck out 2 horses, walk 2 courses several times, plait, wash, clean gear, put bloody studs in (urghh!) and then actually ride....then drive home, unpack and show up for work the next day. It is a lot of work, often for little reward. I've been doing it for so long it's become "normal" - only now am I starting to question if it is good use of my time. 

The FEI's proposed change from next year to make 1* (which to cut a long story short, becomes 2*) long format/3DEs obsolete has also affected my thinking.  I'm an amateur rider, for me, getting to a 3DE is the pinnacle. Take that away, and what am I aiming for again?? Although I one day would like to ride beyond 1*/Novice/1.10m - it isn't a given and without a major focus, I admit I feel rather lost. 

So, it's time to do some soul searching, hug my horses and get out to lots of lessons and clinics. I may do more dressage/showjumping next year which require less time away from home. I'm also interested in having a go at Working Equitation. Something different! 

My love of horses will never diminish, but my direction may change - and that's ok. 

Two Sides of The Coin

The last couple of months have presented me with several challenges. Obviously I've had to recover physically since my fall, however the mental side has been much, much harder - and not in the ways you might imagine. 

Not being able to remember the fall is a blessing and a curse. It is good to not have any direct negative memories - however in being concussed and not being able to remember, my brain seemed to "invent" various (scary!) scenarios. The days (and even weeks) after were a very confusing time for me. On one hand, everything seemed normal, but a chunk of time had gone missing forever. On the other hand - my cognitive function was not as good as I thought it morning, I went out to feed horses and couldn't remember what to do (and had a few incidents like this - eek!). Am really thanking my lucky stars that my injury was not more serious. It's only when I look back I can see now why people kept telling me to rest (oops!). 

One of the hardest things for me to grapple with at the time was other people's reactions. Some seemed almost angry at me, I guess out of frustration and disappointment. In the aftermath, I had much well-intended advice and many people asking "what on earth happened??!!" In normal circumstances, I'm not one to shirk constructive criticism, but when really not myself and unable to recall the fall or process anything, it was not the right time. 

Other people were consoling, bracing themselves for me being terribly disappointed. The weird thing is that I *wasn't* disappointed - I didn't feel anything emotionally in the days after, the concussion wiped that out of the equation. Ironically, even now, I'd have been more angry and disappointed had I had a silly run-out or a simple fall landing on my feet. Eventer's logic! 

These reactions from everyone are all normal, given the fright I gave so many people close to me. Riding is a dangerous sport, and as riders we accept the risks involved. The impact on my family and friends,  I must admit, is not something I've often thought through in depth. Because I have no recollection of the fall (or the 30 seconds before and some time after) it's like it never happened to me. It's like that day never happened, like it happened to someone else. However, for many others, it was frightening and caused a whole mix of emotions. 

Riding wise, my confidence was not directly affected; I felt the same as always when I got on a horse again. Over time though, I started second guessing myself about ditch fences, so have had to deal with this. It has been weird to run into people and hear various versions of events and what "supposedly" happened. Some thought Snip had fallen. Some told me I'd landed head first. For the record, it would appear from the video analysis we somehow simply misjudged a fence, Snip's legs caught the back of it and I hit Snip's *poll* with my head... was knocked out and then limply fell to the ground. He stayed on his feet and galloped off! 

I am still proud though, that despite everything, we made it to MI3DE. We had such a good season until then, with no placings outside of the top 12 and clear XC rounds every time! Just unfortunate we had a mistake at the big event, but that is horses and sport in general. I am very grateful to not have been more seriously hurt and so glad Snip was ok too. In the weeks following though, he unfortunately had a bout of cellulitis, which meant a slightly longer spell than I had planned for him. 

Return to competition 

The exciting news - we are out competing! I also have another little thoroughbred to compete alongside Snip, named Typo. He came to me to be a school horse, but has made the progression to eventer ;) 

Typo did his first HT at Maldon and was very good, despite being green, with a calm dressage test, clear XC and 1 rail SJ. We then travelled up to sunny Mildura for their wonderful event, Snip in the EvA105 and Typo in the EvA65. I was probably not in my most healthy state, having a bout of tonsilitis! Snip was a star, one of only 2 horses in the 24 strong field to finish on his dressage score, placing 8th. Typo placed midfield with a relaxed dressage, super clear XC and 2 rails SJ.