Last weekend I took Perri to a CPE trial. I entered her in three runs. She NQd every single run all for errors of stress. (stressing up and zooming and taking a wrong course while doing so. Stressing down and staring into space and running us over time in the other two.)
I have nothing left, I do not know what to do but to retreat. Perri needs a break and I cannot even say for how long. On the day of that trial I enjoyed a quick cry on the way home and treated both of us to some ice cream. I don't even know why this happened to us.
My brain has started dropping back in over the last week. This weekend was another CPE trial that I had entered Perri in, but I substituted her entries for Molly to enjoy. Molly and I had a really lovely weekend with a strong connection in the ring. It felt very peaceful to trial with only Molly, just me and her like the "old days". Running Perri was putting pressure on me, much less what Perri was feeling. Not fair to either of us. I did bring Perri along with us because she would rather die than stay home. I brought her into the trial building a lot between runs to socialize and eat treats and do tricks - but no you do not have to go in that ring.
I am having thoughts of a few months off and then some toy runs in UKI or Intro USDAA. I must practice never ever stopping when she stops, never letting her know there was a wrong course or an error. Sure I never correct Perri or intentionally shut her down, but even cheerfully asking for her to repeat something or the subtle body language that something went wrong does not go unnoticed by her. I am giving a lot of thought to never running Perri on dirt again. The dirt stresses her up into zoomies and I think it may have added a lot of stress and conflict into our relationship in the ring, more than I realize.
Anyway. It is all "Maybe" and "What If." I don't know where we will end up. But what I do know is that we need to take a step back. I don't think it is wrong of me to hope it is not permanent. I love running my Perri, she is a fun and gorgeous partner when she is "on" and worry free. We have achieved this together during our time together and I hope we can do so again. It feels so hard to hold on to. We work so hard to get to that sweet spot and before long it slips through my hands like sand. The time has come to stop trying to grasp at what we once had, to stop holding onto memories and wishes. I am letting go and I will be honored if we can return to the ring again.