My Support Network

Denny Emerson devoted an entire chapter of his new book How Good Riders Get Good to a rider’s support network. He pointed out that the support network needs to include not only family and friends, but trainers, farriers, vets, fellow riders, etc. Well, let me tell you about my support network and how so many of them came into play today.

This morning as I walked out to the barn to start morning chores and then get Jack ready for today’s horse trials (Beginner Novice at Waredaca), the first thing I noticed was how dirty Jack had gotten over night. The second thing I noticed was that he pulled a shoe, a big chunk of hoof wall with it. Now, with three hours before I have to pull out to the barn, I started making phone calls.

1 – Gretchen Butts, a long time mentor. The event was at her farm and I knew she’d be able to tell me who the farrier was on the show grounds. Sadly, it was not one of the Alpha Omega crew but she said she thought she just saw Tom driving down the driveway, so she actually ran out of her house trying to catch him. She missed him but said to try his cell and if I needed to bring a different horse instead, that was fine.

2 – Tom Parris, farrier, owner of Alpha Omega. Praying I would catch him but only got the machine. Left a message instead.

3 – Hannah Rosenburg, student. Called this college kid up way too early on a weekend asking if I could ride her pony instead. She laughed and said I didn’t even have to ask, and then pointed out that I better win since I would be riding him in OBN and he’s been going Training for two years.

4 – Mary Macklin, best friend and fellow event rider. She had her own horse to get ready but helped keep me calm and took the time to talk through the options I had. I could take Jack to the show and have the farrier there put a new shoe on, but Jack has odd feet and special shoes and I worried what would happen if he got shod wrong. She agreed that chances were nothing would go wrong but it wasn’t worth the risk. Then she pointed out that I could walk around the field and see if I could find the shoe and if I did, then all the show farrier would have to do it tack it back on.

5 – Susan, aunt and student. Susan was going to meet me at the show anyway to help but now I was calling her to ask her to get there early enough to help me get Taylor ready instead. All Hannah’s tack would need to be cleaned, and he (white pony) would need several baths and we were running out of time. She told me she was on her way with my uncle in tow too!

So I did walk around the pasture for 20 min. Found three missing bell boots but no shoe. I finished barn chores and then unloaded all of my gear from the trailer and loaded it into my car.

6 – As I’m turning the car on to drive to Waredaca (where Taylor is boarded), Henry calls me. He got the message I left on Tom’s machine and said he was 10min away if I still wanted to try and take Jack. I looked at my watch and told him it was tight and he said he was coming to put the shoe on anyway and if I had to leave without Jack than he would just finish it up without me.

Now I rushed back out to the barn, pulled Jack out of his stall and started giving him the fastest bath I could. As Henry pulled up, I was finishing and he told me to keep going as he got his gear unloaded. He was practically sprinting. No joke, he worked fast and accuratly and when he was done and I looked at my watch, I had 10 min left before I was schedule to leave in the first place. He helped me reload everything into my truck and then got out of the way as I loaded Jack and headed to the show.

Mary called again just to check on me and I told her I was driving my rig to the show with Jack on the trailer with all four shoes on. She just laughed and pointed out everything happens for a reason and the most stressful part of my day was now over.

Once there, my aunt and uncle met me and helped us get ready for dressage. We actually had plenty of warm up time and it was nice not to have to hurry. Jack put in a very good test and we scored a 33.3.

7 – Peggy Parriso, dressage judge and mentor. She was our judge and at the end of the day came up to me to tell me why it was such a good test. We then had a long talk about Jack and about Romey (who she didn’t know I had to have put down). It was amazing how crushed she was for me. She just kept telling me what an amazing horse he was and how sorry she was for me, but then smiled and said “but hey, you have Jack!” Which is just so true.

8 – all my long time friends who board at Waredaca. Who were all cheering for us throughout the day. And who were all smiling as we put in a calm quiet clean show jump round.

9 – My parents. Who showed up unannounced right as I was getting on for show jumping. Totally a wonderful surprise!

I have to say, I am sooooo proud of the fact that I didn’t vomit before show jumping and actually was able to ride my horse, in the arena where we crashed so many years ago. He was so game and the jumps that he looked at tiny bit at, he just over jumped and tucked his legs up so high I could see them by his chin. As soon as we were over jump #3 (the “scary” ravens coops) I couldn’t help but smile and just had a grin on the whole rest of the ride.

10 – Robert Butts, longtime mentor. On my way to cross-country, he pulled up to me in his truck to remind me to have fun and keep breathing. I laughed and told him I didn’t have any long spots in show jumping (something we have been working on) and he just grinned.

Jack spooked a bit in xc warm up at the two xc jumps they had set up. Which was odd but whatever. Out of the box he was good and felt good but I could feel him taking hard looks at the jumps. I spent the first four jumps trying to keep him in front of my leg, and then the rest of the course trying to make sure we didn’t get speed faults.

11 – Stephen Bradley, coach/trainer. And just like Stephen said, once we got over the first few and he stopped worrying and I stopped worrying, it all just click in. And the course felt easy. Not saying it was an easy course. It was actually kind of hard for BN (odd turns, steep hills, some skinny jumps).

We did come in well under optimum time but not fast enough to get speed faults. In the end, we finished on our dressage score and placed second in a super competitive division!

12 – Jack, world’s most awesome horse. Cause he’s what this is all about really.

And that is just a list of today’s network! There are many more people in my life that have made me the rider I am. Totally thankful for all of you! And by the way, back at me barn to do evening chores (with my aunt, uncle and parents all chipping in), I found the shoe as I was dropping grain in a bucket. Seriously.

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