Kilvington was one of my horses, and we were always challenged in the dressage portion of our competitions. On the morning of this particular competition, I knew it wasn’t going to be any different. Sure enough, during our dressage round cantering suddenly became very exciting. I knew I had a problem but she was having fun, and since there was no chance this mare was going to be channeling her inner dressage diva that day, I thought it was best to just get down to business and get on with it, so we did. Our extensions were amazing, and although the brakes were lacking our lateral movements were expressive, and our airs above ground were outstanding. We both that knew she wasn’t supposed to be doing those at this level, but she unfortunately mis-read my mind and channeled her inner Lipizzaner by mistake. So, I smiled my way around and had a blast! My long suffering mentor/coach/friend said on my exit (which Kilvington and I made together, so in my book it was a successful ride) said ”Well, you kept rhythm and regularity, I could hear her over blowing.” I thought since that’s worth some big points it couldn’t have been all that bad! The poor judge squeezed every mark possible out for me including an excellent rider mark ( I think due to the smile I maintained ) and her comments were “I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy cross country!”, so we understandably were not in the money at this point. But, after the cross country and the show jumping we ended coming 5th. The jumping phases asked stiff questions of our partnership and were very technical which suited us down to the ground.
This mare had always struggled with tension and anxiety around competing, and when I took her on she had not completed a clear round in any cross country course. I had to find away to tap into her fun side again, which I finally found…shame it popped out in the dressage test, timing is everything! I had hoped that side of her would just surface in the jumping classes, but I did invite her to have fun so all I could do was enjoy her enthusiasm and get on with it. Luckily, our dressage did improve. Kilvington was a very talented horse but sometimes it was a challenge to tap into that while still keeping life fun for her (and me).
I would ask myself with all my horses, “What do they need from me to be the best they can be?”. It always starts with a smile, so remember to keep it fun no matter what you are working on. For Kilvington and that dressage round, what she needed was to have some fun with it. If I had allowed myself to become grumpy with her during our dressage round, I am sure she would have not been able to produce the amazing performance over the fences that she did. The moral here is never say die, always strive to be and do the best you can, and always look for the positives in every ride or experience.