Should vs Could

As we approach our first outing of the year I have started to lose my nerve a bit. My confidence was a bit shaken after stadium at Feather Creek. Annie’s tendency to turn into a dragon when she doesn’t get her way over fences lately hasn’t really helped and after last nights jump school I decided to drop down to BN for the schooling show coming up – fingers crossed the show secretary can drop me down a division.This is where a bit of Should vs Could comes in. I know that Annie can handle the height and questions of novice. I know that I can also handle it. We “could” do it. But should we as our first event out in 2017? Annie has her entire career ahead of her. In the grand scheme of things me doing BN instead of N at a schooling show in February makes literally no difference in what we will accomplish this year. I feel relatively certain that even if she is schooling training I won’t be piloting her around a training course come the end of the year. What it will mean is that instead of having a pit in my stomach about the show I now know that regardless of how much of a dragon Annie wants to be I could legitimately make her trot every single fence if I have to.  How often do we face these should vs could intersections? Last night I certainly hit one and I have been over analyzing the decisions I made that got me to the point where I really just wanted to get off and wave a white flag. She dragon deer jumped one too many times and then we ended up popping over a teeny cross rail and doing some lateral work until the gerbils got back on the wheels of her brain. She was so belligerent about moving off my left leg that I had to stop and question could she think its time to come in season? Maybe she’s being a wretch because of the weather changes? Then I debated just getting off because honestly it was one of those rides where I wondered why I even got on in the first place. I try to focus on the positives of riding a green horse but the fact is that it is hard. I wouldn’t give Annie up for anything but I do sometimes wonder where I would be at with my riding if I had a made horse. Wouldn’t it be nice to get on a horse that had actually done more than I had before? I haven’t had that feeling in a long time – never on my own horse – and certainly never while eventing. What must it feel like to move up a level and think “horse has got this – he/she knows the job”. Annie takes care of me don’t get me wrong but its a big case of the blind leading the blind and I always beat myself up when things don’t go as well as they could have. In the end I know that while we could do it we shouldn’t. Have any of you guys been having the should vs could internal debate lately? If so what about?

You may also like


  1. I think you’re being super smart about this. And yes, while it would be lovely to have a “made” horse, it’s also so important to build that trust and partnership, and theres nothing better than doing a first together. After lots and lots of hard work. I’m at the point where Georgie has surpassed me. She’s ready for Prelim in all three phases and I am getting there. So, I know that if I ride my best we’ll be fine, but I also know she is more than capable of what I am asking her, which is a nice feeling, considering we both haven’t done a full Prelim. You and Annie will get there and it will be totally worth it. And I 100% think you made the right decision to drop down a level. What’s to be gained by going Novice and having a bad experience?

  2. Been there! There’s times where I’ve dropped down a division on a greenie and times where I’ve stayed the course and conquered the dragon. On the greenies it’s about confidence and if tackling BN will allow you to be a stronger pilot for her, then that’s right! If you can’t drop down then consider doing just parts of the show like dressage,XC and show jump warm up and ride for experience vs completion. Good luck! It will get better, you’re both awesome!

  3. I’ve been there. (A lot.) This is why schooling shows are fantastic–get you back to where you want to be without the pressure.

  4. I’m the queen of conservative. When it comes to fence height or a bigger division, I am ALWAYS on team cautious. It’s not the attitude to have when you’re pursuing notions of grandeur in the equestrian world, but it has served me and my horses well.

  5. Everyone has pretty much said what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it anyway by way of support. You are absolutely 100% doing the right thing by dropping down a level if you’re not feeling confident. Confidence for both you and Annie should be the highest priority because when it suffers your relationship will suffer as you described. Having a BN tune up will help you both. There’s nothing to be gained by overfacing yourself in your first outing of the season and chancing that you blow your confidence for the future. As to the trials and tribulations of young horses, Alex isn’t really young anymore, but we still have our battles, especially in the winter. I see my friends with made horses skipping around events and I do think, “gee wouldn’t that be nice?” But then I teach Alex something new or we do something new together for the very first time and I think “I did that! I taught him that” and it’s so rewarding. Hang in there, the really talented horses are sometimes tougher.

  6. I wrote a very similar post at the beginning of last show season, culminating in the same drop from N to BN. My reasons were different (the nature of our struggles perhaps required the drop) but the outcome was the same: I went from stressed and anxious too legitimately EXCITED for the season opener. Which went extremely well for us! Wishing you good luck and a good time!

  7. I don’t have a green horse, but I have the same questions. At the end of the day I believe there is a time to challenge yourself (and your horse) and a time to build confidence — these seasons come and go at different intervals, and it’s important to listen to our gut when making these choices, as well as those I. In our inner circle 🙂

  8. I’m a firm believer in setting yourself up for success when you’re just starting back out. I think you’re making a smart choice.

  9. That is a very smart decision and likely the best thing for you both. Just because you can does not mean you should. Try not to beat yourself up about it. We are all driven and it is hard to swallow. The fact is that everyone, even the horse (yes, made horses too), has bad days. Bad seasons. It is all a piece of the whole. Tomorrow is a new day! You are both progressing together and taking your own path. That is the point. You are a team. If you do not both have fun, what is the point? Would if you both come out strung and burned out? Listen to your instincts and do what is best for the both of you. You will not regret it and your relationship will be better for it. You can both go in, have a good time, and build confidence. This is for y’all and no one else. You have time to get where you are going!

  10. You know my perpetual should vs. could debate.

    I know I’d be a lot further if I sat on even-tempered made horses, but finances aren’t there, and I love a challenge.

    Going down a level after winter is totally fine! Get that good experience under your belt, and then come out swinging for your move up!