Every year, I try to create a realistic yet challenging show season for myself and my horse. I try to set goals that are attainable, fairly specific, and FUN! I could show every weekend, but that is obviously not realistic (and truthfully, it's a lot of work , strain on my horse, and not as much fun to show after a while).
With Dreamy, I had a weird urge to prove she could "do it all". We did dressage, eventing, and fox hunting, as well as dabbled in the pleasure/hunter rings and attempted team penning a few times. We even tried sidesaddle and won an NEHC pleasure class. She won a lot of awards in a lot of different divisions and disciplines and gave me some of the most incredible horse experiences of my life. We did things others probably never thought we would (maybe included) and I hope I helped show someone out there that a Standardbred really is a good choice in a horse if you put in the time. And WOW, did I ever put in my share of blood, sweat, and tears with her.
With Snappy, I don't know what to do this year. I love dressage shows, but she is not ready to move up to Training level just yet and there is no use riding the same walk-trot tests as last year. I don't need to accumulate blue ribbons and high scores by staying at the same level. That is boring and silly! I also kind of want to take her out into the pleasure ring just to prove she can do it, but they are not my favorite types of shows and cost more than I feel like spending (because chasing points includes overnight shows). It is soooo tempting to do the MHA circuit and try to win all the STB awards with her like I did with Dreamy (and Reva), but part of me just doesn't care about it anymore. And oh my god, why make myself do in-hand classes again??? LOL
I really just want to event and do dressage shows, but I want to event at BN level and dressage at Training/First. Snappy isn't quite yet ready for that yet and that is OK. Instead, we will spend the year bopping around at the local, unrecognized stuff which is totally fine (and cheaper!), because the more I can expose her to in the world, the better. But I can't help but feel stuck at tadpole level and I cannot deny the feeling of wanting to just have a horse that can easily canter. But nothing worth doing ever comes easily, and I know it is simply going to take her time to develop a canter so we can move up. I have patience, I just have to remind myself that I do. This really has nothing to do with my horse and more about me as a rider. ;-) I feel I should be riding at a higher level, but my horse cannot. It is as though we are too good for the low level but not good enough to move up yet. It is an uncomfortable feeling. I have always just stuck by my horse and done what they are capable of, because I cannot bring myself to get rid of a horse just to move up as a rider. I know riders do it all the time, but I feel obligated to do the best I can to develop my horse along instead of giving up. But let's face it, I have had moments this year where I have just wanted to buy or lease something that can easily take me BN/Novice.
I want to find a way to carve out time for regular lessons. As much as I love having my horses at home, I have found myself recently longing for a barn family and an instructor close by. I have a great dressage instructor I can start up with again who is about 30 minutes away, and of course dressage lessons are important, but what I wouldn't give to have access to an eventing barn/instructor close by.
So of course, my biggest goal is for Snappy to gain confidence in her canter, because that is the only thing standing in our way of moving up. She CAN canter and it really isn't bad, she just gets so much anxiety about the entire thing. Her anxiousness makes her canter get rushy and unbalanced and then her trot work afterwards is JUNK. This makes sense, since she spent so many years on the track where it was NEVER ok to canter, so really I just need to figure out how to unlock that mental key. With Snappy, it has always been about careful repetition to learn a new skill, and I am hopeful that by the fall, her canter will be solid enough to show Training level dressage/BN eventing.
And of course, if you are going to foxhunt someday, you've got to know how to gallop! ;-)