Leaving the Ring

At every horse show, I call my parents after every class to let them know how it went. They’re both fantastic sports about this- they’re not quite sure where they failed as parents, but they’ve learned to roll with the crazy. They’re also contractually obligated to love me and have to put up with me saying “Francis was a very good boy” 2087 different ways over and over and over again.

So after Zones, I called my mom on my way home. I told her how we had a great warmup, then got buzzed out of the ring in our first class because I didn’t help my horse out through the combo. She patiently listened to me describe what happened, then asked:

“How did you feel when you left the ring?”

Which really made me think hard- I’m so focused on the physical fitness aspect of this sport, the mental toughness of lasting a whole long weekend, the planning and strategy of how to best ride the course. I’ve often thought about how I feel when I walk into the ring- am I nervous? Do I remember my course? Crap, what’s my jumpoff?!

enter ring
Sometimes I enter the ring giggling because I love riding my horse so dang much

I don’t often consider how I feel when walking out of the ring.

The short answer: I felt fine. I always feel fine.

Do I feel freakin’ fantastic and leave the ring with a giant smile when things go well? Obviously. I love when the pieces come together and I’m always thrilled when Frankie goes out there and struts his stuff like a total pro.

Leaving the ring, spazzing out with happiness

But my options aren’t happy vs. sad/mad/frustrated. My two options are happy vs. focused. I can’t remember the last time I walked out of the ring without patting Frankie and telling him what a good boy he is and taking a deep breath for myself. And that’s for a couple reasons.

Nine times out of ten, any trouble we run into on course is my fault. On the odd occasion that he pulls a rail and it isn’t due to rider interference, it’s because he’s tired- and his fitness is my responsibility. So scratch that: legit 100% of the time that something goes wrong, it’s my own fault and not his. He’s a very hard worker and wants to do a good job, and will perform as well as I enable him to. So that’s why I never get frustrated with Frankie- I am beyond lucky to have a literal unicorn as my trusty steed.

But I don’t really get frustrated or flustered with myself, either. Do I wish I could do better? Yes. Absolutely 100% yes, it’s why I pour every piece of my soul into this sport. But I can’t go back and change that round by regretting the fact that I tried to add a stride when I should have left it out. All I can do is go back and practice and try again later. All of my energy is focused on making my next round better- I have the energy to understand what I did wrong in my last round so I can fix it, but I don’t have the energy to harp on it.

Sometimes I collapse on my horse when I leave the ring

When I left the ring after getting buzzed out in disgrace, I was already thinking about how I could fix that combo next time. I was already talking to my trainer about what I wanted to try differently, what we could do in our warmup to set us up for success, all that jazz.

How did I feel? I didn’t feel. I wasn’t happy or sad or embarrassed or any of that- I was focused on making the next round better.

Sometimes I look miserable when we leave the ring, but really I’m just sweaty as I pat my pony

So when we left the ring after our next round, with some sticky spots and rails, I smiled and said to my trainer, “we fixed the combo!”  My horse continued to work hard to do his job, and I was able to help him out a bit more than I did before. That met my criteria for being happy about a successful round- I don’t need perfection to be satisfied, but I do need progress.

After all, every time I exit the ring still on my horse’s back means I can check at least one thing off the to-do list. It’s all about having reasonable expectations, right?

How do you feel when leaving the ring after a good round? A bad one? 

13 thoughts on “Leaving the Ring

  1. the_everything_pony 11/07/2017 / 9:47 am

    I can get very disappointed in myself after a class, but most of the time at a show I’m already there with a “it will or it won’t be” attitude, and if it isn’t good I always pat Amber and tell her how good she was and then yes, focus on the next one. It’s when I have a ride that’s my fault at home that really gets me down. I get very upset and disappointed in myself. I’m learning to recognize why I made the wrong decision and to actively correct it. It’ll take some time, but I’ll be working on it.


    • hellomylivia 11/07/2017 / 10:14 am

      I think it’s definitely something that takes cultivation- and like you said, learning about why we make different decisions helps a lot! It’s a constant process, for sure

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Liz 11/07/2017 / 10:00 am

    I love this. I especially love your reaction of being so focused and determined to be better.


    • hellomylivia 11/07/2017 / 10:15 am

      He works so hard for me, I just want to do everything I can to make his job easier ❤


  3. roamingridersite 11/07/2017 / 12:02 pm

    Well, I’ve done one show and you saw how that went 😉 I left the ring each time knowing where I went wrong and what I had to do different to be more successful, but I won’t lie. I actually felt a bit embarrassed by our awful looking rounds. I always, always thank Gem for playing along.


    • hellomylivia 11/07/2017 / 1:48 pm

      We all have those sticky rounds! Sounds like you learned a lot and that pic of you smiling is adorable!


  4. Karen M 11/07/2017 / 12:59 pm

    I love this post and I think I might need to take a cue from you about not having anything but focus after leaving the ring.


    • hellomylivia 11/07/2017 / 1:49 pm

      It definitely didn’t come naturally, but I think it’s helped a lot with nerves at shows!


  5. Stacie Seidman 11/07/2017 / 5:11 pm

    After a great round, I generally feel proud. Mostly of my pony for keeping his head in the game (because I show Jamp…) and partly of myself for not doing anything stupid. After a bad round, it’s really dependent on why it was bad. Jampy can leave me feeling a little disappointed. I’ve gone in and given him a great ride. Like the kind where my trainer says I could not have done anything better or differently, and his anxiety doesn’t let him step up. It’s not his fault. He WANTS to be a good boy, he just can’t help himself sometimes. And that’s tough to choke down some days. If it was bad because I did something stupid, then I am more like you. It’s a lot easier to work on myself and my mistakes than it is Jampy’s emotional turmoil!


    • hellomylivia 11/08/2017 / 8:27 am

      Aw poor Jamps! I can get that, it’s a lot easier to handle ourselves than it can be to understand a nervous horse. We still love him!!


  6. Tracy - The Printable Pony 11/15/2017 / 2:30 pm

    For me, it really depends on what went good or bad during my round. If I rode to my ability level, I’m happy. Sometimes I ride better, sometimes worse… and I usually feel accordingly. I’ve been mad at myself too though, when I make a stupid mistake that I KNOW I shouldn’t be making.

    Shrugging it off and staying focused is something I need to work at.


    • hellomylivia 11/15/2017 / 3:27 pm

      I definitely think there’s a healthy balance- being mad enough to want to go fix it, without getting bogged down. Still working to find that balance, for sure!


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