When It All Goes Wrong

Linda Durocher shares her philosophy on ‘sucking it up’ in the show pen. At the end of day it probably isn’t that bad! When the show season is upon us, I know it plays on my clients’ minds. Their nerves get more on edge as the first show of the season gets closer. Their concerns are common and you may also be someone who gets anxious or are new to the show pen. Some worry about being watched, the act of being judged and how they look in the saddle; no one wants to look inept.

Well you can quit worrying. I’ve learned that unless you have a mind blowing run, fall off your horse, jump a fence or God forbid crash through a fence, nobody remembers a run. The judges see so many it’s impossible for them to remember who did what. That’s it, that’s how it is - no one will remember. What’s the worst thing that can happen? A zero?

Every time you step into the show pen it’s not going to be perfect. You’ll have bad runs along with good runs, and when it all goes wrong you need to find your sense of humour, take it on the chin and if all else fails suck it up! There will be more runs and it’s not the end of the world.

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One story of show pen survival I tell my clients begins in Lexington, Virginia. I was riding a reining mare that I had just purchased. She arrived in Michigan the same day I left for the show and I had only ridden her twice before buying her. The first day I showed her, I felt her out and I knew we would make a good team. The next day I was on deck visualising the mares’ turnarounds, when a friend noticed the back strap on my chaps was crooked and offered to straighten it for me. ‘Sure,’ I said. I walked through the gate and started heading for the centre of the pen thinking I’m cool, got my new horse and I’m ready.

Turnarounds were first and her biggest hole but we managed to eek out 0’s each way. Next up were left circles. I loped off and asked her for some speed at the quarter circle. As she kicked it in gear the concho on my chaps fell off and I felt my chaps come apart. I was thinking, ‘Crap, this can’t be good.’ Then it happened, the one thing that can make every rider cringe; a hushed ‘Oh’ from the crowd followed by a trickle of laughter that quickly manifested into a large roar. I was locked into that large fast circle and my saddle was eating me up, literally. The chap strap was now under my saddle and sucking me under. The faster I went the more I got sucked back onto the cantle. Eventually I was lying so far back, that the cantle was slamming into me as I lifted my head to catch a glimpse of where I was going. Just about the time self preservation kicked in and I considered stopping, I felt a pop in the front of my chaps. The buckle broke and instantly I was flying around the pen with my chaps down around my knees.

Just when I thought I was home and heading to my last stop, my hat flew off. Halting to a miraculous finish, the crowd was laughing and applauding as I dismounted to pick up my hat. I rescued my hat and headed for the end gate with chaps a dragging, laughing as I saw friends standing by, eager to hand out a little ribbing and a pat on the back. I knew then, this would always be a hard one to live down. The bit judge was laughing so hard he could barely check my equipment. All he could manage to say was, ‘Nice run.’

These days, I can’t remember who the judge was or who the bit judge was. That year I showed in both Intermediate Non-Pro and Novice Horse Non-Pro and couldn’t tell you which class it was or who won it, but I remember the run.

You’ll survive and if everything goes wrong, in the very least you’ll have a good story to tell for years to come. If everything goes well, you’ll still have a good story to tell. It’s a win, win!

Linda Durocher competed in reining events throughout the USA before she suffered a series of strokes. Her remarkable character and strong will saw her return to the horse world as a coach and trainer, operating out of Michigan. Linda is renowned for her insight into horse / rider relationships and has many successful students in all fields of western riding. Visit her website here.

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