In the water...jump. The first day of the Karen clinic was great and I will give it its own write up. The second day on the other hand was a cluster. The ride started out well, I walk trot cantered Slider all over the field and he felt great, I felt happy and not nervous. Then we all stood in a group at the top of a small hill so that Karen could chat with everyone. Slider usually stands still great, but not that day. He had ants in his pants and that seemed to piss K off. She would come over and stand by him and increase his boundaries until he stood still. That was great, except for the lightly veiled insults at my horsemanship, but that is just how she rolls so I did my best to learn and move on.
Then she had me go trot and canter on a big loop and continue to work on Slider listening. We also worked on my position and getting my leg more out in front of me. That was a big theme throughout the weekend for most of the riders, get your leg forward. Then I had to work on him standing still again while the other riders did the canter loop/position warm up. Alyssa was there taking pictures and Aimee was videoing and thankfully came to stand beside Slider to help him chill. That is something that is big for OTTBs, they are used to a person on the ground at the track when they are doing anything except galloping, it is like a security blanket. Then we moved on to jumping, I had said that Slider had never done XC or even really jumped on grass in the open, but I should have requested to start over the tiny log just to get his head (and my head) in the game. Instead she started us over roll top or coup that was a solid 2'3." We stopped the first time and then made it over, then stopped and ran out a few more times, made it over once more and then started sliding into it. There were about 1000 factors leading to this that I will discuss in another post.
Then after we were totally fried and I was on the verge of tears (which she yelled at me about) she finally told us to go do the tiny log. We were so fried at that point that Slider wouldn't even get near it. Luckily my trainer who is an amazingly confident rider was there with her helmet on and she also grew up riding with K, K had her get on which I was totally fine with. I knew that she could give Slider the confident and very strong ride he was needing that day. It was actually a bit of a struggle even for my trainer until Slider finally bought into the game and then they jumped all sorts of jumps. I was mostly happy at this point, with a hefty dose of sad, frustrated, and humiliated. K was off on another part of the course teaching the rest of the group and hadn't really told us to come back. My trainer and I chatted and looking back now I think we should have decided he could be done or I should get back on and pop over some of the jumps, but instead we decided to go in the water with him. I worked him in hand once in the flooded end of an arena, but other than that he hadn't seen water. She tried to get him in for quite a while and he would get right up next to it and then plant his feet, he didn't care if another horse was in the water, he didn't care if she used the whip. Again looking back I should have gone and grabbed his halter and worked in hand. Instead another trainer (who I have ridden with some and is very bold) asked if he could get on. More hindsight says we should have said no, but we said ok. He was much more aggressive and Slider still didn't want to go in. Things were escalating. The trainer guy wasn't angry or trying to be mean to Slider, but he is very black and white and Slider could have really used some grey area. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, but at this point my brain was on shut down. I'd started the day excited and looking forward to what we would accomplish and now was feeling like a miserable failure who didn't have enough skill to brush a horse let along ride them. Then K came back and started yelling at me, asking why someone else was on the horse, and this was her clinic, and how could I do that, blah blah blah. I was literally stumbling backwards away from her explaining that I wasn't trying to insult her and he offered and I had said yes and that I understood I shouldn't have. She finally stopped and took a step back and apologized and said she wasn't mad at me and was just frustrated with the situation. I wanted to snap back that if I knew we were going to overface my horse and have such a terrible time I wouldn't have come, but I kept my mouth shut. It was quite a while longer until Slider finally got in the water and by the time it happened there were tears flowing down my face that refused to be held back any longer. I got yelled at about that too. Luckily I at least had friends standing near me offering strength. Once he was in the water and chill K had me get back on and I walked and trotted through it and he didn't even hesitate.
Then I got off and K recapped the lesson for the group. Making sure to tell everyone that that wasn't the correct or good way to get in the water jump. I've never in my life been so filled with regret as I was at the end of that lesson. I led Slider back to the trailer and got his halter on and thank goodness Aimee and Alyssa walked up at that point. I could barely breathe. I was promptly wrapped up in a hug and bawled my eyes out. I felt so broken and shattered. Thank God for friends.
Fast forward to exactly one week later and I was doing this:
Yep, that's us in a water jump in a rope halter. Remember me talking about this horse not holding a grudge? Well, it is still true. I learned a lot about myself and Slider at the clinic, good and bad. My trainer and I have made a plan with steps and support and my amazing friends are rooting me on. It may have been a terrible day, but it was also a catalyst for positive changes and that is what I am focusing on.