This summer I've been riding and training a horse named Squiggles. She's 5 years old and one that I have raised and other than the first 40 days, have done all the work on. I was going to sell Squiggles when she was young because I didn't think I needed a horse as nice as her. Digging deeper, I wasn't sure I could handle the attention that prancing a horse like her around would bring. One of my “things” (limiting beliefs) is feeling like I'm worthy enough to have nice things. To me, nice things aren't practical and usually end up costing more money than you really need to spend. I was thinking I could use the money I would get for her for other things. I could even buy another horse, one that wasn't as big of a deal as she is. I had a friend insinuate how ridiculous that was so I took another look at where my beliefs were coming from. I've never sold Squiggles, but I likely will someday. In the meantime, the part of the journey we will do together will challenge me and to push me out of my comfort zone. She's helping me heal my own limiting beliefs. The ones I teach about in my mental toughness boot camp training. We all have them, even me, that's what makes me the expert in overcoming them.
This summer I've taken her to a handful of jackpots where she's made many beautiful runs. My goal has been to build her confidence with every run and eventually have her ready to futurity. I did enter the Cloverleaf Classic but did so knowing we weren't ready to win, but I wanted to support the event and test our work. Now it's time to late enter the last futurity of the year up here in Canada. I'm having reservations about entering the CBHI Futurity and I'm not sure if it's because I shouldn't be going or if I'm afraid to try and fail. Squiggles is outstanding, but I haven't made the run to “know” that she'd be competitive there. In order to be in the money at this event I'd have to make the fastest run I've ever made (on any horse) on a standard pattern. I know she's capable and she will be a winner, but I'm not sure if it's time to ask for that yet or if I'm holding her back because I'm not ready to take that chance yet and go for it. What if she misses her turns, runs blind and forgets to turn? What if she doesn't, what if all the work I've done pays off and its all there right now. I do believe in miracles, but I do prefer to be well prepared. So here I sit with my entries filled out, on my desk while continuing to train as if I will enter.
I've hired the help of Andrea Udal to coach me through these times with Squiggles. I am really good at getting them broke and getting them confident, but taking that next step to where we're going really fast is not something I'm really great at. I like to stay in my comfort zone, the trainers role and putting the jockey hat on is something I need to make a conscious effort to do.
In many horse disciplines, riders have trainers. In the English world, you wouldn't go to a show without your coach and/or trainer. Even in the Western world of reining and cutting you work with a coach. In barrel racing, we (maybe) go to a clinic in the spring and we work things out on our own the rest of the time. We're an independent “me do” kind of breed and if you're anything like me, you know it's hard to ask for help. So that was my first step and in hindsight, a little late in the season, but I think the extra support to have someone pushing me to be better will be great.
Last week I took Squiggles to her first indoor jackpot, a bit of a test to see if she would run brave there or not since I'm hoping to late enter the CBHI. She warmed up in the arena with the others horses perfectly and our time onlies were productive. When I went to make my run I curved from the side to pick up my right lead and she took her rib away and picked up the wrong lead. She's really broke and that, in my mind was disrespectful and nonsense so I parked her in the ground and went to circle and leave instead. Then she got anxious and started popping her lead so I just “went for it” and ran to first. I hung on her face and she overturned first putting us out of position for the second which rattled her confidence and we pogosticked around second and bounced our way behind the bit to third. It was a gong show in my opinion. Thankfully we were able to take a second run and I had time to lope some circles out back and come up with a plan for round 2.
My plan for the second round to was to throw caution to the wind and ride her like she knows what she's doing. Genius right? For those of you aggressive riders, you might find it funny that the above run is me “going for it”. It is what it is.
I also loosened my curb strap as I felt I was slowing her down with just a teeny bit of contact. She was getting into the bit but not driving from behind with was causing her to bounce in the hind end as I wasn't getting enough drive. Instead of fretting about what the heck went wrong in the first run and “making” her do it right the second run I was happy to have been able to glean enough clarity to know I needed to do less. I needed to let go.
The do-over run (above) I started straight from the back and planned to set her up for the right lead and if she didn't take it, I was just going to forget about it and ride her into first and know she'd change it. And so I did.
I stayed two hands around first so I could straighten her out and not overturn first. That plan worked, but as coach Andrea says I need to cut that bad habit out and let her take the bit and pull me out otherwise I'm getting my ass slapped and slowing her down because I'm using the reins to balance and not my horn. We're also going to do a bit change so there is more yellow light for Squiggles and less control for me (ahhhh). Andrea says I need to “let that go, this is a speed event, you don't need breaks, they have a gate at the end for that”. (Insert me shuttering here as I feel myself freaking out about letting go…. and all of that, that this brings up, let's go ahead and do some healing around that and delete and destroy and “destory” all that). I know this, and I would also teach this to someone else, but dangit, it's a thing with me I need to work on!
Another question I asked Andrea was about making runs at home. I don't make runs at home, but I will high lope my colts through until they are ready to enter something and test our work. I have only entered Squiggles at 13 jackpots I believe (only 5 different pens and some were double headers). I wasn't sure if I should be making runs at home to get our timing. I liked Andrea's answer and it's a bit of a middle ground for what I have been doing and what I've been wondering if I should be doing. Listen to the audio here and find out how she “challenges” her horses:
Horses are in our lives for healing and teaching. Every horse for a different reason and my Squiggles is here to push me to meet her level of talent, but at the same time, she is very supportive and patient. I'm also healing and letting go of insecurities I seem to have had buried deep and/or picked up in the last few years. This is also my very first futurity horse that has been sort of almost ready to enter something. I've either sold them at 4 or been too behind to get them competitive at 5. I'm borderline here.
This year and last with my horses have been very different. Last year I was sick, and tired because of that. This year, I'm overcoming that but some days are still very hard. I'm very lucky to have a horse that doesn't need to be ridden every day, but I struggle with guilt that I don't ride her every day. For her own fitness and stamina, I need to get more time on her so she's physically capable of running the large pattern in Ponoka. When I've run her on a standard pattern we are pretty winded when we're done. I don't want to be losing time there or compromising her health due to lack of fitness. I have a responsibility as a horse owner to properly prepare her for that. But I'll be honest there are times that I really don't feel like riding. My mind, body, and spirit are not always aligned with what they want to be doing on any given day. My mind may have a goal but my body doesn't always feel like participating. Is that my ego setting itself up for mediocrity (if you don't try to hard you don't have to worry about not winning because you would never expect to) or is my spirit telling me to slow down? These are the struggles of my day that keep me wondering what I should enter and how much effort I should be putting in.
As I write this, I'm reminded to check in with my heart. My heart wouldn't give me an idea without the means to achieve it. My heart feels good when I think about entering the CBHI and I'm reminded by my guides that it doesn't have to be hard work. Success and fun can come with much ease and joy. How can it get any better than that? How much fun can I have preparing Squiggles for the CBHI futurity? These are questions I can put out to the Universe and be shown the answers. I'm going to write those out on paper as well. I'm excited to find out and I'm headed out to ride!
In the next installment of the Building Squiggles series, I'll fill you in on the inner work I'm doing to help prepare myself for this event (and actually entering it ;)). I've recognized that I've been doing very good at coaching others to their success, but I need to do some inner work of my own to align with my own super size goals and dreams.