Question 3: My Best Riding.
I'm not sure how to answer this question. I don't show, so I don't have an official, "You scored X at this event, which is your best score yet." Since I don't have that, I'll talk about a time that I rode through something where I could have fallen off that also shows how I worked through an issue successfully.
Some background is necessary before getting to the best riding part, which unfortunately is not some of my best riding. I was on a trail ride with Rocky and Bear, but no other riders. We got to a part of the trail that enters the woods from a meadow. Rocky was uneasy, but I asked him to keep going anyway. We began to cross a sandy strip of trail when he spun and bolted. I stayed on for the 180 degree spin and when he rocketed off, leaving deep gouges in the sand where he used his hind end to launch us away from "danger."
I lost my right stirrup in the process but did my best to resettle myself in the saddle as we flew across the small meadow. After the meadow, there is a hill that we have cantered up before and then we run down a fence line. The fence line comes to a corner after about 120 yards, and taking this corner would bring us back to the barn. As we galloped across the meadow, I realized that I did not want to try to stop him after going up the hill. There is only about 15 feet of flat space before the hill would drop off to our right, and a fence would be to our left.
My right arm is stronger than my left, and I began to try to pull Rocky's head around so we could circle and slow down. Instead, he shook his head and kept going. I continued to try to tug his head around, but he gave a little buck now. Having lost my right stirrup earlier, I had nothing to brace against to try to pull him around, and instead fell hard to the ground, where I slid several feet across the grass. I had cuts from the grass on my face, and for a few days after I had trouble lifting my right leg due to falling hard on my right hip.
Cut to about a month later, and I am riding to that same sandy spot on the trail, this time with another girl at my barn and my mom. This spot now caused some fear for me, as Rocky had never pulled a 180 degree turn-and-bolt on me before and I was loathe to repeat the experience. I took some deep, calming breaths and settled into the saddle.
We got past the sandy part and started down the little gravelly hill. He huffed, spun, and started to trot back up the hill. Again, I lost my right stirrup and the bumpiness of his trot bounced me to the side. He couldn't quite run up the hill as my mom and Tapper were coming down it. I shoved myself back into the saddle and managed to stop him at the top of the hill.
He tried to fight me a bit, but I pulled him into a trotting circle and yelled at him for being so naughty. He immediately stopped fighting me and, when I asked, halted.
The girl we were with told me that she would have smacked her horse for misbehaving so badly. I had thought about it, but as soon as I raised my voice and told him he was bad, he looked guilty and stopped resisting me. For the rest of the ride, he was angelic, doing everything I asked as willingly as he could. I think this counts as an example of my best riding because I did not fall off and I was not too harsh with Rocky, even though I was scared.
After that, I was much less fearful of riding across that bit of sandy trail, and he didn't try to spin and run again. It reminded me that he does care about me and will try to make it up to me when he knows he's done something wrong. I became more confident in scolding and correcting him, knowing that he will not flip out or try to hurt me on purpose. The best riding, I think, comes from an understanding and sensitivity to your horse and how they operate, which I achieved on this ride by not smacking him. He didn't need that strong of a punishment to get the message that he was not allowed to take off whenever he thought he might be scared.