The move to my new barn sparked a lot of changes for me both personally and within my riding style. While at first I was grasping new concepts and training methods quickly and with (relative) ease, shortly after my first horse show I hit a mental wall.

During my first show, I started off nervous but ready to hit the ground running the first day, which resulted in multiple time faults and last-place rankings. The second day I managed to get it together for a bit, but still struggled with the purpose of moving around the course quickly (awkward, considering jumpers is well, timed). The third day I succumbed to the pressure of changing barns and training methods so quickly and snapped. Fittingly, I snapped by jumping into a triple combination too slowly, drifting to the left, panicking, and finally pulling out before hitting a standard and having to circle. This resulted in tears, beating myself up emotionally, and a week’s worth of lessons in which I could not hold it together for the life of me.

After riding young horses for so long, I have since figured out that I tend to ride defensively when I get nervous or feel panicked on horseback. This involves half-halting right before a fence (literally right before), leaving the tack a few strides out to get my bearings, and going slowly and adding strides when I don’t see a distance early enough. Pair those tendencies with a fear of being thrown if the distance isn’t perfect and you get a whole bundle of nerves on top of a Grand Prix horse.

Not going to lie, I’m going to openly admit that I managed to burn myself out within the first week of school, and have since had to take a step back and put myself back together. Luckily for me, I did just that before going off to a four-day horse show in San Juan Capistrano that ended this past Sunday. Admittedly, I hardly slept the night before, but in a way I find nerves to be comforting, because if I’m not nervous I tend to believe that I don’t care about what I’m doing. Those nerves worked in my favor though, and continued to do so the entirety of the show, helping me “put on my brave pants” and not only get zero time faults, but also place in every single class I competed in, including snagging third place in the 1.10 meter Jumper Classic!

This weekend was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had on horseback. The fact that I was able to push myself and challenge myself to try turns and speeds that previously would have scared me is a true testament to the fortune I have found in changing barns. I am incredibly lucky, and cannot wait for this weekend’s show!

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