I left the clinic on Sunday feeling rather defeated. It wasn’t so much like I felt Gus and I were over faced because I don’t think we were. The clinic, which focused more on course work than grids this time, was hard, especially for the greener horses, but wasn’t unfair. The exercises were very technical and while I left Saturday’s ride thinking that things had gone pretty well (though I had a lot to work on); I got on Sunday morning feeling anything but confident and that showed when we had a refusal over a little 18 inch oxer as our very first attempt.
You can probably imagine the mortification I felt at that point.
Before I get too far into this, I want to mention that I still think Lainey Ashker is amazing and she is still on my list of will-ride-with-any-chance-I-get trainers. In fact, this clinic cemented that even further because she got me out of several sticky situations where I was ready to give up. Lainey is demanding but not in a way that feels overwhelming but rather in a way that makes you feel like you can do this. She’s supportive but won’t let you give up on yourself. I like that.
It never hurts that Lainey likes thoroughbreds, loves Gus, and, when she was shown a video of Dandy, lamented that he wasn’t in her barn. (Me too!)
Saturday of the clinic started off really positive with a grid. I have worked all winter with grids and I’m feeling pretty good about the. So good in fact that I only had to do the grid twice before Lainey told me I was done. I pulled up in the center feeling pretty amazing.
The rest of that day was all focused on mini courses. I didn’t find the first couple of sections (several outside lines) particularly horrible in terms of height or what they were asking. I didn’t ride them particularly well the first time but I probably could have made it around a course had I been forced too. The next section was a diagonal line where we had to actually jump the fences at an angle. I know this was Hillary’s least favorite part of the day but I didn’t mind it at all. Jumping at an angle is one my trainer’s favorite ways to torment me.
Then we added in a small cross rail to a Liverpool bounce out over a skinny combo off a tight and short turn and that’s where things fell apart for Gus and I. The first issue was just getting over the Liverpool as Gus was having none of it. I wasn’t completely surprised by this but was slightly frustrated. Once we got over that, I just couldn’t seem to keep him in front of my leg enough to get over the skinny chevron gate. It was a disaster. At one point, Gus put his foot through it and dragged it off the standards.
That was the first time in a while that I felt numb and completely frozen. I didn’t know how to get him over that because I didn’t know how to get myself over it. It was all I could do to point Gus at that first cross rail again. It didn’t help knowing that it was my fault he had stuck his leg through the dang gate either. If I had just sat back and kept my leg on he would have gone over. Instead I leaned into the fence and halfway through, Gus said “nope, not happening.”
And that’s where Lainey earned every penny of the clinic fee. Most trainers probably would have removed the Liverpool and let me jump the chevron skinny without it a few times or remove the skinny and let me just go through the Liverpool a few times. Lainey knew we could do the bounce as it was and that we just needed a little bit of grit to get up there and do it. And you know what? We did. It was ugly as sin the first few times. I was left behind and Gus was just flat out deer hopping over the dang thing. But by the end, it looked semi elegant.
It was such a relief to be able to work through that issue. It was a hard question but those are the types of things that I need to be working on if we want to make a move up instead of staying safe at beginner novice all year. So I left that clinic feeling challenged and encouraged that Gus and I were on the right track.
Somehow, over the course of that night, that encouragement gave way to a sickly feeling of dread in my stomach Sunday morning. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to find that amazing confidence I had been feeling yesterday and I slowly set myself up for a crash and burn