As my previous post stated, Tillie and I took a fall at our event on Saturday. Since then I keep replaying that fence over and over in my brain trying to calculate what I could have done, what went wrong and mostly feel determined to conquer it more than any other emotion.
I am extremely fortunate to have the support system I have. The number of text messages, comments on my facebook page, emails etc wishing us well has warmed my heart and makes me feel way more feelings about that rather than the fall itself. I know I have support...but just how much and how many people have been following us through this year has really amazed me. Its nice to know I have people in our corner, even ones I do not know so well.
What really touched me was the support from my trainers...P texted me later that evening on her own after seeing the results that we had a fall and wanted to see if we were ok. I am tearing up writing about it because I know my trainers see and teach sooo many students. Being an instructor myself, we do get invested, but I never thought or realized how invested my own trainers are in Tillie and myself. I reached out to Dom and he immediately said he would call me this afternoon once he flew home from a clinic to chat.
My conversation with my instructor P was really encouraging and she reassured me in so many ways. She promised me Ill replay that fence thousands of times and suggested we try to get back there to school that fence after the next horse trails which unfortunately I think they will be moving it. She also was really supportive about whats next and said not to stress too much and wait and see how Tillie feels coming out of this. She said with how well shes been jumping, if shes confident like her old self, stick with the plan and do Training level at Olney with it being a inviting softer event, but if either of us feel backed off then we will bump back down and stay at Novice.
I trust P immensely so will do what she says and play the next few weeks by ear. I am eager to speak with Dom as well today and see what he says.
I am quite looking forward to the next few weeks of not showing and just digging into lessons...I am feeling really exhausted! I was shocked yesterday when sitting down and going over my schedule and I realized I havent taken a single day off in months. Between my full time job, lessons, training Tillie, schoolings I have been out the door by 6 and home usually after 8.
I certainly felt the wear last week on fourth of July...I was so sick monday and talking with a few friends about it sounded like pure heat exhaustion or just exhaustion. I really didnt dwell on it and kept pushing on but my heart wasnt super in it the rest of the week. I was kind of relieved when Dom couldnt make our lesson Thursday so we could just school around ourselves - I almost didnt at all. I am really glad I did though because it was rejuvenating and a trust building ride (read about it here).
Despite the lovely rides I have been having on Tillie, my inner neurosis started creeping back in again starting Monday and I found myself stressing about Tillie. Almost as if I was looking for things to be wrong...she has been so incredibly quiet in so many ways and a bit quirky about some other things I just always revert to, is she ok? My lesson Monday P confirmed she was in heat so that assuaged some of my worries...but after Thursdays ride in a snaffle no less I actually took her temperature when we got home to make sure something wasnt wrong. (God forbid its the obvious answer of having a horse that is more trained).
I even contemplated trying to sell my entry for the weekend telling a good friend of mine I just didnt think another show was needed for us and I was worried it was too much. Both her and my trainers said nah, shes fit, in shape just do it!!
So we prepped and the night before when I tried to braid her on my own I about had a panic attack because I couldnt for the life of my braid...I felt silly but had some friends come to the rescue. So there was no turning back and I sorta thought to myself, ok one more show before a few weeks "off" from shows so we can just chill and work on lessons and such.
In a lot of ways this show was one of our best shows. We pulled in, Tillie couldnt have been any calmer and acting like a seasoned pro...and I right there with her. Absolutely NO nerves even for our dressage. Granted it was freaking HOT. Like suppressing, humid weighing you down HOT. But Tillie gave me what I asked for and was quite willing to move off my leg, be forward, be slow be whatever I wanted her to be.
I clearly wasnt in the right head space because not only did I forget part of my test once, but TWICE and started riding parts of test A instead of test B. Despite this, Tillie felt amazing. She was on point and even with our errors we scored a 32.3.
I felt like our schooling rides and even warming up she felt sooo different. My initial reaction is always OMG something is wrong, but warming her up at Loch Moy she felt willing, easy to bend and ready to work so I talked myself down thinking maybe we just have had a nice shift in balance.
Walking the XC course, nothing scared me. I was super confident and the fence we fell at I did mentally note to come in forward and it was a bit tricky, but was confident Tillie would clear it and be fine...my motto has always been Tillie will clear it which now I am not so sure I can say anymore. I ran into trainer D walking his course and he chatted with me a while and prodded at when we finally were moving up to training and where. He thought we should look into full moon and try to sooner with how well we thought we were going (little did he know we would fail later this day).
Warming up for stadium, one again she was quiet but fell into a nice rhythm. We had a few initial fences that werent the greatest but once we got on the same page she was great AND was giving me all her leads. We marched down and I was determined to make the rollback ride nicer than I had seen all day. Despite a flier to fence #8 which you can hear my apologize to Tillie for, the course was great, forward but controlled:
Tillie woke up in the stadium round and our final circle she was flying and wasnt sure she wanted to stop. It made me feel better for XC since I was worried she would be too quiet (which seems ridiculous to even say about her).
I dont always warm up for XC but I opted to pop over a few for this event just to let her know the fences were solid but also wider. She glided over it two times no problem and got herself excited and I remember thinking there's my girl.
Tillie calmly waiting in the start box and off we went:
Watching her jump this one, I was pleased to see she did it well. Like I said, I keep going over all the details of the day worried I missed something or if she was too tired...
She woke up and cruised around the next few...even a brush fence after a down hill approach. We galloped it out a bit and the video below is either fence 4 or 5 right before our fall.
I remember landing from fence 5 and Tillie was galloping nicely...I did give her a bit of a half halt to ask her to pay attention knowing the tree line was coming.
She saw it, I felt her swap her lead in front about 5-4 strides out which shell do a alot when reading a fence. I clucked to her telling her to move up to it and she did...she took off nicely and I was already thinking about what was next... but I remember looking into the woods on take off and myself thinking it was dark and I couldnt tell where the path was.
Next thing I know, I hear a sickening thud of Tillie hitting the jump and me landing flat on my back. Is it odd to admit when I did my first thought was hey that was comfortable landing...? Next thought was, I still have my reins in my hand because Tillie came down with me, but luckily caught herself and was standing by the time I got clear focus on the situation. Then I felt surprise and disappointment...not really sure how we ended up here and then disappointed we didnt or wouldnt get to finish the course.
As I walked off the course, I felt strangely ok. Both mentally and physically. Mostly the shock of it all and not sure it fully sunk in. As I walked off I noticed Tillie had quite the cuts on her right hind hock and a nick on her left stifle...but she was definitely short on the right hind so the vet was called over. I was asked how I was and organizers were questioning my physical state of being, What I think happened so they could note it down and then my Horse's well being.
My instant response to what went wrong is Tillie just misread the fence and hung herself on it...I didnt think much more about it with being worried about her until later...but Tillie was content as a clam trying to eat grass and perking up as horses galloped by...the vet palpated her leg and was confident there wasnt a fracture especially with her bearing weight and wiling to walk up the hill and load more weight on it.
He promised to come find me with some banimine to stay ahead of the swelling, but to go cool her off in the misting tent. Tillie loved this tent, she drank to her hearts content and was a bit ticked at being cold hosed on the leg but the more we walked and got back to the trailer, the more comfortable she became on the leg.
I just felt a whole lot of something but was oddly calm. I had moments of stinging back tears when people started texting...but again I think it was mostly the wave of feeling appreciative but also disappointed and kicking myself for pushing us to do one more event before our move up. Why Couldnt I have just left us where we were?!
A nice trailer neighbor stopped over and gave me some kind words too. We had been chatting all day telling each other good luck...little did i know who he was and turned out hes a local trainer also riding the upper levels. He told me he watched our dressage and stadium rounds and thought we looked really great and kindly talked me through our fall on XC. He said not to worry too much that it was tough and closer to a training level question and if she was only 7 it was likely a green horse, wrong answer moment and that they happen. That alone made me want to cry. This sport never ceases to amaze me on how nice and supportive people are even if they dont know you!
I thanked my smart brain that I always have first aid in my trailer...even if its meager, but it did the job to clean her cuts and do a medicated wrap. I also had my ice boots so was able to fashion it to wrap her hock for a bit while waiting on the vet to arrive with banimine.
I felt a bit somber on the drive home and continued to respond to the flood of messages as I removed Tillies wrap and spoke to my own vet to make him aware. I kept waiting for the shock to wear off and the fear to take over...after all I just fell as well as my horse. Its the kind of fall that given another day could have been much worse or even a rotational. The more I though about the jump, the events leading to it I still felt like I rode it how I should have. I felt sad for Tillie knowing she tries so hard and she gave me a try even if it resulted in this...and I worried about how it will affect her.
The mare has been so on this season so far, it is really hard to even fathom this happened. Shes never so much as tapped a jump hard before this fall and we both have been going around jumping bigger things confident and cool as a cucumber. I felt terrible at knowing Tillie really couldnt read the fence and it has me worried for future events with similar situations. Tillie has always been sensitive to lighting changes...shell even flinch when riding in the indoor when passing by a ray of light. I question how to approach that to prevent it from happening...and how can I help her in these type of situations. What could I have done to help?
That jump has been on my mind constantly since...my only reprieve has been when I am teaching or keeping my mind busy, but the instant I have a moment, it sneaks in. I am being super self aware...am I nervous to jump again? Will Tillie be? What I find the most strange is I dont feel nervous at all. If anything Im dying to get back on and go jump. I want to jump all the things and help Tillie learn the right answer...haha clearly we arent going to be doing that. I am letting her rest but luckily the mare is sound. I plan to hop on her for a light hack today to see how shes feeling and will determine what we do from there.
I am eager to get back in the saddle because I know the longer you wait the more that self doubt and self confidence starts to seep out. I have been feeling pretty darn confident this year and I want to keep it that way. My hope is to be back jumping later this week and slowly reintroducing Tillie with it to see how she feels about it. My gut and how well I know her is predicting shell be just fine, until we get to another shaded question again...I know shell be more backed off with that.
With that said, I am listening to her. Ill only proceed with what she tells me shes ready for and what my trainers suggest. I am so lucky to have had such a positive season up to this point and happy so far with how things are feeling after this event...I still feel good, I still feel positive and counting my blessings on having had such growth with my horse even in this moment. It was definitely a learning moment and one that made me realize just how much eventing is all about the partnership with the horse youre riding.
I know her so well and I knew in that moment she was just as surprised as I was and since has been galloping in her field clearly not worse for wear.
So we can now say with the ups we have the downs...and we will overcome :)