So … the rookie mistake. Even I know not to do this. Endurance riders NEVER EVER try something new at a race, not even new underwear. If it hasn’t been tested, don’t use it. Why did I think I could try something new at this show? I will give myself at least a little credit as I did bring a back up. So what’s the mistake? You know those new dressage boots I bought last year? The ones I’ve been saving for SHOWS ONLY? The ones I have put on three times. Yep, that pair.
So there I am dressing in my finest breeches and recently hemmed coat and smiling oh-so-smugly to myself as I slide my feet into those beautiful, black boots. As I tugged on the slightly stiff zipper to get it over my calf, I grimaced a little, and then did a peg-leg wobble over to Speedy. Boy, these boots sure are stiff! I laughed as I tried to get on Speedy G with what felt like boards strapped to my calves and feet. I finally mounted, but it wasn't pretty.
I walked over to the warm up arena all the while admiring how beautiful my feet were looking. I asked for some spiral-out at the walk and was slightly dismayed at how it felt like I was pressing against a wall with my inner leg. Hmmm … not quite what I was expecting. As everyone else was working on canter departures, extended trots, and other highly sophisticated maneuvers, I decided I should at least pick up some kind of trot.
Uh-oh … What the hell? Where did my seat go? Speedy’s trot was literally launching me out of the saddle and slamming me back down. I took a deep breath, opened my legs a little so that I wasn’t so grippy, sat back a bit so that I wasn’t leaning forward, and sank my heels. Except my heels didn’t sink. In fact, I couldn’t even feel my feet. It truly felt as though someone had encased my entire leg with cement. I knew it was the boots. No biggie, I knew what to do. Rather ungracefully, I hopped off, which is how you do it when you have cement wrapped around your lower leg. I dropped my stirrups a hole and climbed back on. When I picked up the trot again, I wasn’t being launched upward, but I was having a heck of a time keeping my feet in the stirrups.
Rats! I had worked too hard for this day to be sidelined by a pair of pretty boots. And here’s where my endurance experience kicked in. When things are falling apart, pull off the trail, take a breather, re-evaluate what you’ve got going on, and FIX it. So that’s what I did. I rode back to the trailer. While holding Speedy’s reins in one hand, I climbed into the trailer, and with my other hand I unzipped my boots and slid into my old field boots. Ah … instant relief!
You know what happened. I put in a nice ride earning 71.88%. I’d say I made a good call!
So here’s what I learned: when I first started riding dressage, I rode in my endurance trail boots and saved my used, but still nice, Ariat field boots for shows. I showed in them five times and was uncomfortable all five times. I bought a pair of SHOW only boots and turned my field boots into schooling boots. I used them regularly for five months until they felt really good. Guess what I need to start schooling in? What use is a nice pair of boots if you can’t use them to ride successfully?
Ah … the perils of being a rookie!