I was literally shaking in my boots as I loaded my horse, Hale, onto the trailer. We were on our way to ride with Heather Blitz! Heather has been my long-time dressage idol, and I never dreamed that I would someday have the chance to meet her, let alone participate in a clinic with her. But this last weekend I got the opportunity of a lifetime!
Heather and her gelding Paragon just finished a very successful year in 2012 having made the move up to Grand Prix. At 18 hands and with an out-of-this-world trot, Paragon is hard to miss, and I admire Heather because she has trained and ridden him since day one. She is a true inspiration for me as a determined rider who wants to learn how to bring my own horse up the training scale.
By the time we arrived at the beautiful Cutler Farm where the clinic was being held, I will admit I was having trouble breathing. I had fellow SmartPaker Whitney along as my groom, and I don’t think I would have been able to even get out of the truck without her reminder that “this is supposed to be fun.” When I did finally manage to pull myself together and get Hale unloaded, I was feeling more myself and was ready to have the best ride possible.
I ran through my mental checklist of things to remember before any show or clinic when my nerves threaten to get the best of me:
1.) Ride the horse I have today! Hale can be a little “excitable” in new places, and as much as I want to show everyone what we can do, I invariably have better rides when I stop thinking about what he did yesterday and focus on what he is doing today.
2.) Don’t forget to breath! This is important for more than just the fact that it’s ride to ride when I’ve passed out from lack of oxygen! As a rider when I stay calm it helps my horse stay calm.
3.) Remember it is supposed to be fun! Getting the chance to show my horse or to learn new things is what it’s all about!
When my boot finally hit the stirrup and Hale walked off from the mounting block full of his usual enthusiasm and willingness, all of my fears fell away. Heather was amazing, and with just a few changes to my thigh blocks on the saddle and a great analogy for keeping myself moving forward with Hale’s movement, I had one of those moments every rider dreams of. Everything fell into place and Hale felt more round and through than I had ever imagined he could!
Just having the chance to ride with Heather Blitz was a dream come true. It was an incredible experience, and she made a real impact on my riding. More than anything else, riders like Heather show us that it is possible! Hale and I may not be going to the Olympics any time soon, but after my ride I felt like my goals for him were within reach, and I couldn’t be more proud!