Waking up this morning, I knew it was do or die. Day one of the George Morris clinic had gone so well, this was my chance to prove that yesterday wasn’t a fluke. I was greeted by the brisk Missouri air as we made our way to the barn, it was going to be another cold day for all of the riders to overcome.

During the course build, we set up a ton of exciting new exercises to try out today, including a triple combination which, if you read my blogs last year, sent me into a series of flashbacks to the Urgent Care. But, I kept my chin up and decided not to count myself out before the fight.

Our flatwork consisted of a ton of lateral work, which was much improved from yesterday. After about ten minutes, we dropped our stirrups and continued our lateral work and allowing our horses to collect and extend a bit. This time last year, I was already exhausted and felt very unsteady going into our stirrup-less work, but not today. I have lost 26 pounds since May and have been riding heavily in an attempt to get myself in better shape for this weekend’s clinic and I feel as if it showed.

After receiving some praise on our shoulder in work, I felt pretty confident going into our first jumping exercise of the day. George had set up two cavalletti, one on either side of our big bank, with two sets of small verticals at each end of the bank to create one large serpentine exercise. And to my surprise, George called out, “Meagan, you go first!”

Photo by Joanna Russell

Ty was excellent navigating the tricky serpentine and taking the tighter turns in stride. We made our way around the drill several times before making our way over to the grob, which George had set up a little tighter today with a small vertical, three strides to the ditch, followed by two strides to the oxer. It was then that Ty began feeling his Wheaties a bit, but I decided to let him be a bit more forward and bold so we could get the striding correctly. George had us come back and redo the exercise once after Ty took a brief pause at the ditch at first, but the second time Ty didn’t even hesitate and we whisked our way through.

As we launched into the next series of obstacles (a liverpool, the triple combination and the ASPCA wall) I noticed how much George had set the course up to help our horses succeed. As the day went on I watched as George tweaked the final line just a bit to capitalize on each group’s experience level and I was extremely comfortable, despite being out of my element, during our group’s go. We were to jump into the liverpool, right turn to the triple which was a one-stride in between each fence and follow it up with a sharp, five stride turn to the wall. Later, we would make a turn to the right after the wall and gallop back up the hill and through the triple and back to the liverpool the other way.

Photo by Joanna Russell

At first, Ty lingered a bit in the triple which on our second time through put me in a bit of a pickle when he tried to add a two-stride into the one. Last year’s Meagan would have come off in an instant, in fact that is exactly what happened. After hopping into the first element of the triple quite boldly last year, I could not catch back up to my horse and we parted ways after the final element, leading to the origin of my George Morris scar. This year, however, I was able to go with him despite our blip in the line and finish out the combination still on top of the horse. That in itself was a small victory I felt I could be proud of!

“You are a bleating sheep,” George exclaimed as we wrapped up that round. “You sit there like a sheep, you need to make a decision!”

And he wasn’t wrong. One of my biggest flaws is not being able to decide on a distance and having to just go with whatever comes up last minute, which often lands me in a tough spot. I decided that I was going to buckle down, get assertive and get it done to show George that I was listening and learning.

I feel like this video sums up just how that went:

When George pulled us back in at the end of our session, he spoke to us about how riding out in this field pushes us and makes us more confident, even if it is a bit uncomfortable at first. Last year was a whole other story. I remember being petrified of every obstacle because I was so horribly underprepared. I left last year knowing I had a ton of work to do and unsure of how I was going to get to where I want to be in the next ten years. There were a lot of variables, but the one constant was my determination to get it done.

This year, I have felt confident about the things George has faced us with so far. I know there is still one more day left in the clinic, so that could easily change, but as Ty and I made our way back up to the barn today I felt a combination of pride and thankfulness. Sure, I put in a lot of hard work to get to this point, but so did a whole group of other people. Those people are who got me to this point today, to where I can walk by George with my head held high. I wasn’t perfect, but I was much improved. And I am eternally grateful for everyone who has helped me reach this point in my riding career.

Now excuse me while I crash. Onto tomorrow…