“It’s The Heart That Matters”

One of my responsibilities at the USEA is to track and analyze our website’s analytics. In January a guest blog we shared in 2011 resurfaced with a good bit of traffic. Interested, I reached out to the author, Suzanne Adams, to see if she would be willing to blog for us again. She was interested and on Friday I posted a piece of hers called “It’s the Heart that Matters.” The gist of the post is dealing with the disappointments that we each can all experience with horses and especially in eventing. It was very well-received by our readers. I attribute its success to the relateability in something all amateurs can empathize with: falling short of our own expectations. I posted this and went about my weekend not knowing how personally this would affect me.

I had my first event of the year on Sunday at Loch Moy. My coworker, Leslie, and I took the beasts (Orlando and Justin) for some schooling three-phase action. My two-legged boyfriend, Kody, was in town this weekend and took up the roles of Chief Videographer and Expert Horse Handler.

Pony Shows

Three peas in a pod.

Dressage went about as well as I expected, and my score was actually much lower than deserved IMO. We had some un-requested flying changes, but he was overall very supple, engaged and obedient. I accredit this all to Allison Spivey, my dressage instructor, for doing her best to transform us into presentable dressage queens. We finished with a 33.20 – which is on the low side of our average scores. Good boy.

LM Test

“really good guy” feat. Junior’s muddy paw print.

I then went to get ready to jump. I forgot how to horse show, so I ended up being super late to my show jumping ride time. AKA walking into the warm up two minutes before I was scheduled to go. Thankfully, they were taking riders as they came, so my start time was already delayed enough to pop over some things. We were lacking a bit of impulsion, which came to us VERY quickly when Kody brought me my spurs. Giddy up.

I succumbed to my anxious tendencies after being late and rushing, so we ended up having a very not nice show jumping round. We didn’t hit any of the sticks or have time, but still it was not pretty and I absolutely let Justin down on fence 5 and he completely launched. Thank God he’s athletic (see below).

Thankful for a pony with a fifth leg and tight knees #NeedABellyGuard

A post shared by Shelby Allen (@shiiibbyyy) on

Going into cross-country I knew I needed to get myself together, which I managed to do pretty well in the warm up. Basically, I was micromanaging – with my hands – right before each fence causing him to either chip completely or get really deep spots. My goal for cross-country was to go more forward, jump out of stride and not hinder his performance with my “picking” hands.

The first fence was approximately two strides away from the start box. Ok – that’s an exaggeration, but seriously it was like six we had minimal room to get going forward like I wanted to. This meant fence one was deep, so was fence two, but fence three – quite a large table – I finally got it together. The rest of the course was overall nice, but I would like it to be nicer. There were no jumps where I completely beefed, but many that I definitely could’ve done much better.

Here’s what Suzanne had to say:

“As the Bestest Eventing Buddy and I used to say, “Sometimes the best thing about Eventing is the ride home!”  The horses are munching hay in the trailer, you have a nice iced coffee (Dunkin) in your hand, munching on a little snack and the stories get told again and again.  Sometimes it’s a little bit of a…  “wish I had just kicked instead of pulled”, “she was great over the oxer and then I leaned”, “we were having a great run, he was awesome and we blew by the trakener” , “God I love my horse!  Next time, I will ______” and sometimes, we ride the most glorious ride over and over again… her disappointment lightened until the plans for the next one got better, the excitement grew bigger and the desire to do it again was stronger than any tears.”

Leslie and I had some serious reflection on the ride home and I’m continuing it here. We head to Morven in two weeks for a recognized Horse Trial, so I’m already eager to improve my performance. And, to keep myself from being a debbie downer, I am finding the silver linings of the weekend, because although it didn’t go as well as I hoped, we still had a great weekend and we actually finished in second place despite the less-than-stellar riding. I finished well, had fun, it didn’t snow, spent time with my boyfriend during my favorite hobby and left with a sound horse. Suzanne is right, the more I look forward to the next one, the blurrier yesterday’s let downs become. Life is good with the pony always.

Good Points:

  1. NO BUCKING: This really speaks for itself.
  2. Justin was extremely honest: Please scroll back up to the launch photo for explanation.
  3. Generally consistent cross-country: Justin has a nasty tendency of trying to run back to the warm-up and being incredible difficult to get going. He had only a few seconds of hesitation the whole course, which is already a huge improvement seeing as though he hasn’t run a cross-country since last May and even then he was a turd about leaving warm up. So double good boy here.
  4. I was generally more self-aware in dressage: I swear sometimes I do a whole test and black out. This time I was able to make my movements a little more thoughtful.

Goals for Morven:

  1. Ideally, I would like to replicate my score in a recognized competition sans flying changes.
  2. Give him a more confident warm up: I would like to do a much better job of setting him up for success. Although he was a super star this weekend, I need to more confidently set him up for each fence and not rely on his honesty. (AKA get my shit together over fences hehehe 🙂 )

Tired pons.

Thank you Loch Moy/Maryland Horse Trials for a great show!


7 thoughts on ““It’s The Heart That Matters”

  1. Amanda C says:

    This is really timely for me. I had a show yesterday that we won, but I also walked away feeling like I could have done a much better job as pilot. I’m SUPER self critical so I’ve been trying really hard to stop dwelling on every single bad thing I did and instead focus on the things that went really well. It’s so very counter-intuitive for me, but I’m trying. And two cheers for honest ponies!!! Lord knows some of us need them…


    • shelbyrallen says:

      You’re right its so hard to see that “big picture” everything actually went well when all I want to do is pick apart my riding. Trying to remind myself to just be thankful that I have a fun pony to ride!!


  2. emma says:

    congrats on a solid outing! and even more congrats on gathering lots of useful info on how to improve your ride such that the season continues to get better and better!

    also idk what it is about loch moy, but they sure do love putting fence 1 straight out of the start gate haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. aHorseForElinor says:

    Sounds like a great experience for all!

    Neat blog! Thank you for stopping by mine to follow – I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. Love the hunting pictures a couple of posts back by the way!


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