I’m in high school. I have a talented horse I’ve been putting together with the help of my trainer for a few years. And finally, I get the green light to step up from the schooling shows to the rated ones.
The A Circuit! This is a big deal. Or at least it was to the 14-year-old version of me those many years ago.
My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a made hunter or show jumper capable of winning ribbons at that level. Instead I got a really green paint-cross that cost $5,000. And lucky for me, this guy jumped and moved a 10-plus.
Also lucky for me, my parents were willing to splurge on the cost of a rated show, after all the hard work I’d put in to bringing this horse along. I was riding on cloud nine in those weeks leading up to the horse show.
This is where I’ll really shine, I remember telling myself in my mental pep talks around school, where all I could think about was horse showing. This is where I’ll reap the benefits of logging all those green miles and mishaps.
Welp, I won’t make you read to the end to learn that none of this went according to plan.
Since my horse was still green, and so was I at this level, my trainer entered us in just a few low-level jumper classes. This was smart, as you’ll soon realize.
I’m not a nervous person. I never was. I’m good at focusing on the job at hand, and letting all of the “feelings” take a back seat when I’m in the saddle. Or at least, I am most of the time. But the jitters of finally being at an A show got to me.
Thank God my horse was a saint. We tacked up, we got on, we looked good. We warmed up with no issues. Then it was time to go in the ring.
I started to clam up. I got stiff. I forgot to ride. But my horse took it all in stride and picked up the slack. That is, until my saddle began to slip, and slip some more, until it was on the side of his barrel.
I fell into the mud with a thwap. All before fence three, mind you.
I’d forgotten to tighten my girth before I got on. How stupid!
My trainer let me cry and feel sorry for myself for a minute. Then I had to climb back into the saddle – this time with the girth tightened – and ride with clay smeared down the right side of my body, from my helmet and hair, to my boots. I had to show for the rest of the day – at my first ever A show – like that.
It was good lesson in humility. I got my horse around the next three classes and even brought home a pretty green ribbon. But I was mortified at the time. I look at photos from that day and laugh now. But it took a good number of years and some logged life experience to look at them and not cringe.
It sucks to suck, but we all do it. And we learn from it. You betcha I’ve never forgotten to tighten a girth since.