I had just about two hours between dressage and when I had to be on for XC. Two hours to cool down, switch up my gear and get back on.
Two hours to work myself into a panic.
As I tacked up Gus, I could feel my stomach tying into knots. My hands were clammy and slipped on the zipper when I pulled on my vest. By the time I made my way to warm up I was shaking and pale and the only reason I wasn’t throwing up was because there was nothing in my stomach.
I think LT was actually a little worried when she finally saw me. I rode up to her, sucking in deep breaths to try to calm my panic and told her I didn’t think I could do this, that I was having a panic attack.
We talked for a few minutes but I honestly couldn’t remember what was said and then I started warming up. It was not a good warm up. Gus was fine. I was not. I couldn’t make myself ride boldly and the fences weren’t even that high. Before I knew it, they were calling me on deck and I hadn’t even gone over the oxer. Great.
I rode back to LT and she said, “Just go out of the start box. Just go over the first fence.” I nodded, my heart in my throat and trotted off.
The starter counted us down and we came out of the box boldly towards the first fence. And over we went.
Then we went over fence two.
Then fence three.
And all of a sudden, I realized I wasn’t afraid anymore. I was having fun and Gus was having fun. Somehow LT had known.
Gus flew over the big brush jump without blinking and we soared over the weird horse fence.
And then before I knew it we were through the water and up the hill to the ditch. Gus looked at the ditch so hard he almost didn’t realize we had another fence. But he pulled himself together and gave me a huge leap over it to continue on.
Gus was flying over these fences like they were little logs on the ground. His ears were pricked and he was having a blast. I was even doing well enough on time that I could open him up and let him gallop through the end of the course.
When we crossed the finish I let out a little whoop of delight and threw my arms around Gus’ neck. And then I let the tears come. That had, without a doubt, been a test of courage and my emotions were shot.
Gus didn’t have a care in the world and he strutted back to the barn like he had just won the Kentucky Derby. He didn’t know how hard getting out of the start box had been for me.
This go around XC taught me more about me and my horse than I had thought possible. It taught me how to find my courage and taught me to trust in Gus.
And really, I was thrilled I hadn’t packed up my ball and gone home the night before.