EN Today: Dealing with disappointment

With horses, it’s a constant teeter-totter between highs and lows. Jessica Bortner-Harris reflects on competing at the five-day emotional roller coaster that was Bromont last weekend.

From Jessica:

All photos and video taken by Jordan Lambert and used with permission.

Top photo: Bug showing off his big boy trot

I know many of us have dealt with disappointment in life.  With horses, one had better get used to it.  We make plans in pencil, and by the time the season is over, the paper on the calendar is worn through from being erased so many times, right?

Driving to Bromont was a long haul.  (of course, not as long as The Team Wallace/Holling Eventing/Law Eventing escapade)  When we finally made it to Bromont, I was amazed at the beauty of the place.  What a gorgeous venue!  Bug settled in quickly and really enjoyed the Canadian water.  He drank more buckets of water than he ever drinks at home!  I guess I will have to start having it shipped in for The Superstar.

Passing the jog

Bug jogged up great for the first horse inspection, and we were ready to rumble.  He was a bit stiff in his work when we first got there, but after following Bonnie’s plan closely, he was feeling great in the warmup before our test on Thursday.  He didn’t seem fazed by the atmosphere of the bigger venue.  He went in and performed the best test of our career thus far!  It was clear that all of our hard work is paying off!!!  Yes, we have a lot of work to do to create more collection and softness, but we are definitely on the right track!  The process of watching it all come together has been quite fun.  I know, I know….I just admitted that dressage is fun.  Shhhh!  Don’t tell anyone.

Our test scored a 59!  In my book, that’s not too shabby for our first big 3 star.  We were sitting in 9th place.  I was THRILLED!

Bonnie and I walked Derek di Grazia’s course a few times.  The course was big and bold with a lot of tough questions.  I knew I was going to have to be on my game to get it done.  The optimum was just under 10 minutes, and the course included a lot of terrain.  I was really hoping that all of the fitness work I had done with him had paid off.  This was going to be a true test.

Saturday brought a lot of nerves, but I felt that we could tackle the course.  Bug felt great out of the box over the first part of the course.  He went through the first few questions like they were easy peasy.  We came up to Fence 10, which was a big max table.  As he took off, he jumped huge and really drifted to the right in the air and landed off the track.  I wanted to be sure he was straight and listening to me for Fence 11, as it was an ABC combination in the water.  He added in at the A element, a big rail into the water.  I really kicked him on landing to move him up to the brush log in the middle of the water, which he jumped great.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite stay out enough on the bending line to the big brush corner and went more straight toward it.  The next part happened so fast, that I don’t really remember much.  Bug was a bit too far right on take off and jumped up over the high brush of the right side of the right flag.  (the brush was about 6′ tall, so this was no small feat!) Honestly, I had my eyes up when we took off, and I was sure that we were between the front flags and had drifted right in the air.  However, after seeing the picture on the COTH, I realized that we weren’t even close.  …back to the story….  Anyway, we landed and I kept going.  In my  head, I was thinking, “Was I inside the flags?  Well, if I wasn’t, they’ll pull me up.”  If I had more experience and had been thinking faster, I would have landed and gone and jumped the option.  It would have been a 20, but at least it wouldn’t have been elimination!  On I went!

The corner debacle from another angle

Bug and I jumped all of the way to Fence 23ABC before they pulled me up.  He jumped all of the rest of the course like a champ and wasn’t far off of our minute markers.  I am SO THRILLED with him.  Am I beyond disappointed?!?!?  Yes.  Have I and am I still kicking myself in the butt?!?!  Yes.  I am so upset with  myself for missing my line and causing such a debacle.  However, a lot of people have talked to me about this whole thing, and I have realized that this was a great learning experience for me.  Bug and I are so new to this level, that we are bound to have things like this happen.  I am very thankful that we are both fine and ready to fight another day.  I learned that my horse definitely has what it takes to be a 3 star horse (and take up Grand Prix show jumping if he feels the inclination!).  I learned what to do in this sort of situation if it ever happens in the future.  There are many things that I have taken away from this experience.  It also helped to hear that Peter Barry and his wonder horse did the same thing later in the CIC***.

We are home and happy.  Bug is getting a mini vacation, as he definitely earned it!  Where to  next?  I am not quite sure yet.  I have applied for the grant to go to Rebecca Farm.  If that happens, it looks like another huge road trip will be in order.  (Must make sure the iPod is updated with new fun things this time!)  Without that grant, I will probably just wait and start the fall off with Millbrook.  After Bug’s down time, we will be back at our training with a new fervor.

The log in the water before the corner

I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to have such an amazing horse, amazing opportunties, and an amazing group of people supporting me.  SOOOOO many people in the eventing community stepped up to support us, and I appreciate that so much.  I also am so thankful to Bonnie Mosser for all of her insight and training, and to Jordan Lambert for being my official groom and press secretary at the show.  Also, a big thanks to Snider’s Elevator, Ariat, Stubben, and ADM Nutrition for believing in me.  I greatly appreciate everything everyone has done for me.  It has been a fun journey, and I can’t wait for the next one!

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