If I am really honest with myself, I would admit that my confidence took a pretty significant hit last weekend when Brego fell and then hung his knee. I spent the week if full doubt, as any good neurotic horse owner would.
Am I asking too much of Brego? Can he really jump 3' consistently? Should I even be riding first field? Is my riding causing Brego to fall and hang his knee? Is my riding dangerous? Is Brego's jumping dangerous? Is this the reason people don't jump drafts? Am I being unfair to ask him to jump when he is obviously untalented?
Yea, I've been a lot of fun to hang around recently. I am definitely in a horse funk. Whenever Brego or I make a mistake, I read too much into it, taking it as a "sign" that we are in way over our heads. Real horses, you see, never blow a distance, or take a rail, or hang a knee. Real riders never blow a distance, or get ahead, or fall off. It's times like this that the doubters and the naysayers get very loud in my head and I start to believe them.
I had a pretty terrible jumping session on Thursday. My form is improving, and I jumped nothing but low spreads to help Brego with his knees. But I felt like he was terrible. When I watched the video, he was a star, getting me out of some serious mistakes. I don't know why he felt so bad when he was obviously jumping well. My eye is way off these days. Brego's stride varies from 9 feet to 14 feet depending on his own energy level, or the stars, or whatever. And I know I am supposed to package him up into a perfect canter and then not stress the distance. But when you are sneaking up on his maximum spread, you need to be more accurate than that. And the perfect canter? Sometimes I wonder if I would even know it if I felt it.
So of course, more doubting. More questioning.
So when I arrived at the hunt today, I felt dread. The grass was very slick from dew (flashbacks to last week's fall). The crazy rider who cut me off was there (flashbacks to last week's blown oxer). I was actually afraid and doubting Brego's ability to not kill me. Would he fall again? Would I finally learn that he is not supposed to be doing these things? Would he hang his knees and this time fall on me?
The members divided into three fields and I fell in behind my trusted field master in second field. No first field for me. We set off and Brego came alive. He was strong and willing and obviously not traumatized from last week's debacles. He tore off after the hounds like he'd been doing it all his life, ears perked, completely ignoring the quaking rider on his back.
The first fence was a coop. A big coop, almost exactly like the one where he hung his leg. I forced myself not to panic, made sure he saw it, and willed myself not to think about falling. He jumped it perfect, perfect distance, perfect speed, just doing his job. He continued to be perfect the rest of the ride, getting the correct lead I asked for, jumping everything cleanly and easily, stopping in balance, on his butt when needed quickly and without a fuss, crossing rivers, slogging up muddy fields, galloping steady again and again.
Brego does what he does because he loves it, and he loves to please me. He tries his best, but even in all his brilliance, he is a green horse and he WILL make mistakes. And I have to convince myself that it is ok. It is not some cosmic sign that I am screwing him up. He will tell me when he doesn't want to do it anymore. Right now, he wants to do it and it is easy for him.
Brego gave me a gift today: a perfect ride. I CAN ride this horse, and I do it just fine. I have lots of time to perfect my form. Lots of time to improve in every way. But it's also ok for me to go out and ride hard for fun because he loves it, too. So he forgives my mistakes, and I will forgive his and we will keep going on together.
So I hope my funk is on its way out. I want to enjoy the rest of the hunting season without overthinking anything. Brego is performing better than most of the horses out there and he's a favorite among the members. However, it IS good to have a little reality check so I have decided to definitely NOT ride in the New England Hunter Trials. Twenty-five training level fences is not something either of us are ready for. I am going to go and jump judge so I know what I am getting myself into... next year.