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How to Bounce Back When Something Goes Wrong at a Horse Show

Last week Team LGD had a great time at the Mission Pacific Dressage show. Everyone had solid rides, and most importantly, we had fun together with our horses. That being said, the weekend didn't go off completely without a hitch...


All smiles and blue ribbons now but, boy, I was sweating earlier!

In my Mission Pacific Show Recap, I mentioned there were a few hiccups before my First Level ride on my mare, Stella. Well, not just a hiccup... I made a mistake. Yup, I'm the trainer and I still goofed.


For those new to showing, the first thing you do when you arrive at show is you check into the office and pick up your number. This number is your horse's mandatory ID badge for the duration of the show. Anytime they are out and about... competing, training rides, hand walking, grazing... they HAVE to be wearing that number. Why? So the show management knows that horse has paid to be there and paperwork is on file. If you go down centerline without it, you will be eliminated. It may seem like overkill but it's truly for everyone's benefit.


When I check in, I normally put that number either directly on the halter (for a show I'm stabled at) or on the bridle (a show I'm working out of the trailer) so I don't lose it. After check in at this show, I was wishy-washy on where I wanted to put the number. We were working out of the trailer, so normally I'd just put it directly on the bridle... but Stella was a little looky, so maybe a handwalk? In that case, number on the halter... I couldn't decide... so I set the number down while I did other things and contemplated how to handle the situation.


I decided not to handwalk before my ride and that Stella was settled enough I could just get on and do my normal 20-25 minute warm up for my test. As I got on in the warm up arena our team groom, Sareen asks, "Laura, where is your number?"


GAAAAHHHH.... Oh man... I've never not had my number! What do you mean, where is my number? If it's not on my bridle, where else would it be? I totally panicked. I rode back to the trailer, hopped off, handed the horse to Sareen and frantically tore the my car, show trunk, and the trailer apart. The number was no where to be found.


I've wasted a fair amount of time in all of this. My original 25 minute warm up is now looking to be a maybe 15 minute warm up at best... except I still don't have a solution. In a last ditched effort, Sareen took Stella back to the warm up and I ran to the office to beg the show management to have mercy and work with me to find a solution.


I go into the office, explain my desperate situation and beg for forgiveness. Thankfully, the show manager was so kind. She quickly replaced the number and straightened my stock tie that had become a twisted mess in my sprint up there. No big deal.


Except now I had to make it back to the warm up arena, get on my horse and warm up said horse in all of about ten minutes. Oh, and said horse, while she's a good girl, is still an athletic, green five year old at a new location for the first time... and I didn't lunge her because I thought I had plenty of time.


This is where I had to dig down deep and find that calm, quiet rider I know I can be. Stella didn't know about my number drama. She also wasn't aware that our warm up was compromised. All she knew was that we were going to go work like we usually do, except she was in a new place and she was nervous. She needed my help to be her best. She needed me to be her calm, cool center of the universe.


As I sat down in the saddle, I took a deep breath... Not one of those tight breaths that lifts your shoulders, but a big, horn player breath (I'm a musician, can't turn it off)... a breath that fills up your entire core, where you expand from your belly button back to your spine. Your ribs expanding are just a bonus. Through that breath, I let all of the drama from the morning go, and I rode my horse according the routine we've worked out in our training. (We'll discuss warm up routines and how to develop your best warm up later!)


Trying to pull it together in spite of a stressful (for me) morning. 69%--I think we did it! Although this still shot from the video is about as fuzzy as I was feeling!


Mistakes and mishaps will happen. No matter how well you plan out your day, sometimes things go awry. And while, yes, I messed up this time, the funky situation is not always your fault--sometimes circumstances are completely out of your control! Even the best professionals (in any sport) make mistakes and face adverse circumstances. The difference is the best competitors recover quickly... so fast that most would never know anything ever happened. I'm telling you about our mishap now, but unless you saw me crawling through every corner of my car and digging through every part my show set up at the trailer in a frenzy, you probably wouldn't know from watching my warm up or my test that things didn't go exactly how I planned it.


As riders and as horsemen (and women), we have to be flexible and we have to remember that our drama is not our horses' drama. They do not see the world through the same lens. And when we climb into the saddle, we have to let go of our human expectations, emotions, and yes, baggage. We have to stay quiet, remain in the moment and ride the horse we have under us.

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@2023 by Laura Goodenkauf Dressage

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