Posted by: shannonc | February 19, 2009

Mercury in retrograde

Four and a half years ago, Blue and I were competing at the Preliminary level in eventing.  So, when I was walking cross country courses, I was thinking about how to navigate over 24-32 jumping efforts, up to 3’7″ in height, 6’11” base spread, and 5’3″ takeoff to landing drop, at an average speed of 520 mpm (about 20 mph) across 2200-3200 m (about 1.5 to 2 miles) of varied terrain. 

Well, that’s a lie.  Actually I was thinking mostly about how to get over the one scratch in the dirt (also known as a ditch) on course.  But that is a topic worthy of its own blog entry.  Or series of book chapters.

When I was walking around Prelim, the levels leading up to it – BN, N, and T – all looked so teeny.  I couldn’t imagine them ever looking challenging again.

They now appear enormous. 

Maybe, I’ve thought, I’m done with eventing.  *Nods off considering a nice, safe career in dressage*  Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, I was reborn a chicken?

Heading out of the start box onto xc, fear is your enemy.  Nerves are to be expected.  But fear is a sure path to spiking your odds of having an accident.  It poisons how you make decisions at a 20 mph gallop.  It makes you ride backwards – mentally suck away from a jump instead of meeting it on the attack stride by stride (unless you are mounted on Pegasus, never try to trot a seven foot spread).  Worst of all, it feeds through to your horse on a psychological IV.  If you’re afraid, scribe for dressage (the worse your handwriting is, the more I will like you writing my tests).  Watch Rolex on TV.  If you must ride, go directly to your new career in flatwork.  Do not leave the start box.  Do not collect $200.

I’ve been keeping very busy refusing to resolve this question for myself.  If you have ever watched me ride a dressage test, you will understand why.  Then I started working with Pip.  Distraction extraordinaire for all things in my life needing distraction.

Right up there in the Riding Commandments next to “if you are wearing fear goggles, do not leave the start box” appears this:  do not, under any circumstances, mix fear and a 3-year-old, Thoroughbred, 1000-lb, ex-racehorse at the end of a narrow cord of nylon. 

I was advised that our hero, recall, recently 5-months-stallbound and lately of the intact testicles, did not longe.   It seemed logical to approach this in the same barely sane manner I used with cross tying…utter denial.  This is how I found myself standing in the ring today holding the nylon cord in one hand and watching the strikingly acrobatic Pip at the other end, leaping about and waving his front feet in the air.  It should have occurred to me, between thoughts of phoning Hollywood to alert them of a new Black Stallion candidate and Blackberrying ebay in search of a pink feather plume to attach to his head, that this was my cue to abide by the Commandments.  Horse outweighs me by 10x.  Horse has hard feet given currently to complex aerial maneuvers only loosely bound by laws of physics.  Horse could, following trail of nylon cord, bolt into my lap at any second.  Replace horse in stall and drive away from barn. 

But a funny thing happened.  I wasn’t afraid. 

And sure enough, although it took awhile, and although he drew a small audience in the process, at the end of our session he was walking calmly around me in what could definitely pass for a circle.  Maybe it would be hasty to cancel my USEA membership after all.

Thank you to Alyssa for the vid!





  1. LOVE it! :)

  2. I personally think it takes TIME to conquer old demons – fear related or bad habits, or whatever. There is NOTHING wrong with taking time and doing things at a snail’s pace. Seriously. The horse has no hidden agenda, and I’ve found that the owner/rider/trainer needs to leave timelines alone. You can’t schedule true brilliance ;)

  3. I love it too; it’s very humorous!

  4. ^^ unbiased reader :P

    thank you!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: