I’d be totally lying if I didn’t admit to being way nervous about XC, but for totally a different reason than in times past. Virginia is extremely hilly and Leo doesn’t have stud holes (that’s about to change), so we figured he’d be fine as long as the course was on the drier side. Which it was when I first walked it. Then it poured two days before and the whole Virginia Horse Center was sloppy. And the one day divisions ran and TORE UP the ground before and after all the jumps. Then it poured AGAIN the night before. Trainer B and I were scheduled to walk it the morning of my XC, and I steeled myself for the possibility of having to scratch.
But while it was definitely a bit slippery, it wasn’t as bad as it had been before, so we decided to go ahead and run. And I was puuuuumped.
Leo knows when it’s XC time. As soon as we turned the corner and he spotted the course, he was like YAAAASSS QUEEN and put on his fancy pants. We warmed up mostly alone on the flat across from the crowded jumping area, then when that cleared out a bit, headed over to jump a couple. Where Leo promptly tried to run away with me 3 times. And then flip his lid when another horse decided he couldn’t EVEN deal. So it wasn’t the greatest feeling on the way to the start box, but as soon as we were on course, Leo was ALL business.
The horse was so perfect there’s not even words to describe how much fun I had. He went right into the water, didn’t so much as blink at a single jump and our real only imperfection was doing the 4 stride in, um, 3.
We had one speed fault, but an otherwise amazing clear round!
And my awesome people got some great video
He definitely came off XC strutting his stuff and almost as proud of himself as I was of him. And while he definitely loves some XC, when I got him home and he dropped to his knees to roll, then got distracted by all the grass and tore off mouthful after mouthful until I forced him to get up.
So, I did a thing and went to another horse show without telling anyone. I have this super weird hang-up where I don’t really share my plans with anyone- likely from the days of P where I would tell everyone, then I’d get a big ol’ E and have to explain it. But LiveScores always outs me in the end!
Anyways, so I entered Leo in the BN Rider two-day division, since that didn’t have too many entries in it (I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed to qualify for AECs), but due to a lack of entries, they combined us all into one giant Open division. Le sigh.
We were stabled in Barn 7, which has stalls lining the sides of the barn, and a small arena in the middle, and is connected to the Reel Arena, an indoor sandwiched between barns 7 & 8. Our division’s dressage happened to be assigned to the Reel Arena and I thought, “Yes! I’ve got an advantage.”
Except…no, I didn’t, as Leo HATED the barn, hated the covered arena, and everytime I’d walk him past the chute that led to the indoor, he’d freak. He repeatedly refused to go in his stall after walks/handgrazing, and I had to resort to sending him forward with a lunge whip to get him in. Literally the only time the horse took a deep breath was when I would take him outside and away from the barn. He was clearly so unhappy that I actually considered withdrawing and taking him home. And this was with a tube of UlcerGard per day.
But I figured I’d take it one phase at a time and see what happened. We’d start with dressage warmup and if he didn’t lose his marbles, we’d do the test. Rinse and repeat for each phase. While he was definitely more tense than usual for warmup, there were no explosions, so we headed down the chute and into Leo’s first indoor experience! Where he took one look and went:
BUT the horse pulled himself together and obediently did everything I asked (except the free walk…still non-existent), to score us a 35.3. Unfortunately I never got around to picking up my test so no idea what the breakdown of scores ended up being. I can pretty much guarantee all the comments are about tension though.
We only had about an hour before SJ started, so Leo went back into his stall (willingly, for the first time) to stand in front of the fan while I switched out his bit (he goes in a loose ring KK Ultra for dressage and a nathe for SJ/XC) and pulled out his braids. Trainer B’s awesome groom had done a beautiful job braiding but I figured I’d need some mane to grab. AND put on my new-to-me Lund grippy reins that Mandy oh-so-generously sent to me so I could actually hold onto my reins in the air (seriously, thank you, girl! Lifesaver). Then it was time for….dun dun dun…SJ warmup. Trainer B and I had discussed how to avoid Rabid Antelope Warmup Leo, and Virginia had just the answer for us. While the main jump warmup was being held in the Wiley Arena, the actual SJ courses were all in the Dee Dee Complex. The end of the Dee Dee Complex was fenced off as a “holding area” for the rider who was next to wait in while the rider on course finished up. There was a single vertical in the holding area, so we ended up w/t Leo in the Moore Arena, which is the covered next to the Dee Dee Complex, then when I was on deck, going to the holding area where I jumped the vertical 3x before cantering straight in to do our course.
No shenanigans, no explosions, just a perfect warmup that led straight into the most rideable course I’ve ever had on him. A little TOO rideable, ackshually, as when I half-halted between jumps 3 & 4, which was supposed to be a seven stride, he came way back, then we put in 8 and the distance out just wasn’t there. But the line from 5 to 6 worked perfectly, he jumped 7 beautifully, then I did what I do best and buried him to the oxer into the 2 stride. Because of course I would.
Still, I was thrilled with him, thrilled with me, and maybe a bit weak with relief that Rabid Antelope Warmup Leo hadn’t reared (literally…no pun intended) his ugly head.
XC, aka the whole reason I love going to Virginia International, was the next day!
After our disastrous (to me, because I overthink things) SJ showing, I spent the night questioning if I should run Leo XC. Maybe I just needed to go home and work on stuff some more. Maybe he needed to get “fixed” by Trainer B before I attempted to jump him again. If you can’t tell, I desperately don’t want Leo to be a stopper.
My XC time was 12:47 so I spent the AM packing, helping the team and trying not to think of how a couple fences would definitely get me eliminated on P. Old habits die hard, yo.
Luckily on my way down to XC, which was quite the hike from the barn, I rode with another adult ammy in my division and we got to chat about our horses, which made me way less nervous about the potential for Warmup Leo to return. And thankfully warmup wasn’t super crowded and I was able to nip in the bud a few antics and have a not-so-bad warmup, despite the announcer saying things like “elimination” and “jump 3 has ANOTHER stop,” and “a big spook at jump 12” (the table with wings). I was wishing for some ear plugs at that point.
Then it was our turn and we were off for our first BN together!
Except…that water. Oh my, the water. I was SURE they were going to give me a 20 for that. Leo’s always been a little iffy about water, but has seemed to be ok with “regular” looking water, aka, not dyed. He’s given me no issue in either waters at Carolina Horse Park, and gave me no issue in Virginia. But he HAS taken hard looks and/or done the sideways thing at Trainer B’s water, and at both HTs in Florida- all which are dyed turquoise. He jumped that oxer thing so well that it didn’t even occur to me that he wouldn’t go, so it really took me by surprise.
The rest of the course? In love with my horse. Jump 3, which claimed all sorts of victims at BN-T, Trainer B proclaimed to be perfect. The winged table? He didn’t look twice. He’s always seemed good with ditches, but has never seen one like this where it was wider at one end and narrower at the BN side (still kicking myself for not realizing the hanging log was an option), so I sat back and squeezed and he was like, “Oh, faster? Okie dokie.”
Now, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and here’s why. I have NO IDEA how fast I’m going on this horse. Like, none. He’s floaty so I think we’re zooming, then I see video and we’re moving in slow-mo. I didn’t wear a watch on course and I thought for sure we were going to get speed faults (I always did on P). WE WERE THE SLOWEST PAIR IN OUR DIVISION/SECTION.
And I guess because we didn’t go BACKWARDS at the water, they didn’t give me a 20, which saw us move back up to 6th!
We were scheduled to show jump at 6:15 PM Saturday evening, but the heavens opened up around 3:30 and this massive storm hung over us for what seemed like forever, pushing everything back by 1.5 hours. It was a mess- stalls had lakes in them and the arena footing was just slop. Something I’ve never ridden Leo in until that point.
Trainer B and I were able to walk about half the course before they started sending riders in, so I stayed to watch a few rounds to know where I was going. And then I had to walk away. I watched about 7 rounds, and in all 7 rounds horses and riders were slipping, pulling rails, and just generally not having a good go of things.
Like, one pair came into the arena as the previous pair was finishing up and the horse ENTERED REARING. Lucky for the horse and rider who were ending their course, that horse didn’t seem to notice. Then the rearing horse jumped jump one and, oh ya know, RAN AWAY with the rider. Legit ran away and they galloped three laps of the entire arena before she managed to pull him up. Then she just left the arena. I felt so bad.
Since the schedule was so messed up, they were just putting riders in order as they came to warmup, so I threw Leo’s tack on to get in line. And wondered if he was perhaps a bit tired, because this is what he was doing the entire time…
But I quickly found out when we stepped foot in the SJ warmup arena that that whole “stall-licking-because-I’m-so-calm-and-bored-with-this-whole-thing was a LIE.
If there is any footage of the first half of my “warmup,” I’ll pay through the nose for it. I didn’t even recognize the horse under me…as he was flinging himself (and me) around like a lunatic. Yes, I had THAT horse. I wished I could trade for the horse that *just* reared and galloped. At one point, when he took a nanosecond of a break from ping-ponging around, a trainer on the rail said with incredible sympathy, “I’ve been where you are. You’re doing great.” The look of pity in her eyes was touching, but I had no time to dwell on it because Leo had caught his breath and off we went for round 6? 7?
And there’s Trainer B in the middle of the arena going, “Ok, now canter!”
But he was right. And Trainer B had already warned me about “Warmup Leo,” but after dressage warmup, I thought he’d been exaggerating and Leo clearly loved me too much to put me in harms way. So…lesson learned. Once I stopped just trying to survive and started making him do things my way, he was like, “FINE,” and we got down to work. Plus, by then the warmup area had calmed down quite a bit (not sure if everyone else had just went to do their rounds or if they left to avoid Leo and I), and Leo got a bit more chill.
But then I found I had a different problem, in that I couldn’t keep a grip on my reins. My Lund ones had finally gone to their death and since they are apparently no longer in business, I went with a type that looked similar…BUT IS NOT. I had gloves on and it was honestly like I had greased my reins.
So here I am, already in my head because I can’t grip my reins, I’m riding a rabid antelope, the footing is a mess, I’ve seen multiple horses slip and slide, and oh yeah, have I ever SJ isn’t really my thang?
Needless to say, Leo is a saint (yes, I’m aware that I just called him a rabid antelope like one sentence ago) because I had NO steering and he still jumped everything. I spent at least 5 strides after every fence trying to get my reins back, and pointed him at fences all wrong. I had explicit instructions to never move him up to a fence- to either sit or whoa a little so he learns to back off fences- and to fences 4 and 5, all I could see was the long one. So while, umm, ewww, at least I didn’t let my (incorrect) instincts take over. But the 2 rails were 100% my fault. I was most disappointed in how I rode the 2 stride. One and two strides are so hard for me, but in the SJ lesson we had the day before leaving for Chatt, I absolutely NAILED the 2 stride. Womp womp.
So the two rails knocked us down to 9th and I spent the hours between 2:00 AM and 4:30 AM watching the above video in slow motion and beating myself up because I definitely, totally ruined my horse forever and it’d be better for him if I didn’t take him XC the next day. And maybe I should sell him to someone more deserving. Ya know. All rational things that one thinks in the middle of the night.
But at the same time, I was the teensiest bit proud of myself. Show jumping has always been my worst phase and I still went in and did the thing, despite being more than a little suspicious of my horse’s mental state.
So as I mentioned, Leo and I had a great ride around the grounds the evening before. He was surprisingly relaxed and I was happy to get on for dressage warmup on Saturday to pick up right where we’d left off.
After a 20 minute or so warmup, we headed down to the rings, where Leo took one look at the XC courses in the distance and went:
Luckily the judge gave us a little bit of time and a couple laps around the arena gave me 90% of Warmup-Leo back. Which, as you can see, was still AH-MAZING.
Submission: 7.0 (this one made me laugh)
Rider: 6.5 Score: 30.3
Now, I will say, I thought a couple of the marks were a bit generous. I’m not sure I would’ve scored his canter transitions as an 8 and 7.5, respectively, but then again, I’m not a judge so what do I know?
His free walk has always been pretty non-existent, but also something we haven’t worked a ton on at this point. I was so proud of his medium walks, because he has a tendency to fling his head in the air randomly at the walk, but held himself together. And I could feel the halt wasn’t perfect, but I also wanted THAT halt on the books, before it devolved into this:
So plenty to work on and improve…as always. But considering his average score over his show career of four events is 35.95, I was over the moon with the 30.3.
So…as some of you know thanks to LiveScores, this past weekend was a biggie for me- Leo’s 5th show, my 2nd show ever with Leo, 1st BN with Leo and 1st EVER recognized competition for me (at a recognized level). I finally have a USEA record!
I’m still digesting.
A couple weeks ago, Trainer B and I were looking at the show schedule, trying to figure out a plan. War Horse (my personal favorite show series) was sold out of stabling for the July HT, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to Virginia International since they’re running during the week, so it looked like our only option was either the August Windridge or the August War Horse, both of which were so very far away.
And then Trainer B said, “Or you could go to Chatt. It’s in 2 weeks, though.”
Thanks to Leo’s time off when he cut his leg, I’d only jumped the horse maybe 4 times at that point since he’d gotten back from FL. So while Leo was ready, I wasn’t so sure about me. So I hemmed and hawed over it, then entered the day after closing and buckled down to work.
I caravanned down with Trainer B + his 4 horses in his trailer, and the owner of Trainer B’s farm, her daughter and her horse in their trailer, and we made it to Chatt in about 6 hours, arriving around 6:30 PM Thursday evening. Since we all entered a day late, we were banished to the temporary stalls, which was miserably hot with no air flow, BUT had the best view in the venue, right in front of the main SJ ring.
Since RV hookups were sold out, I rented a cabin on the grounds and it was small, but perfectly lovely. It had a bunk bed with a double on the bottom, and a little sleeping loft that a tiny person (or kid) could fit into, as well as AC and a mini fridge. And it was super close to the bathrooms and showers. 10/10 recommend at $75/night.
Friday we had an absolutely lovely, relaxed ride around which left me excited to FINALLY show again, for the first time in 8 months, on Saturday!
P is still doing dressagey things. While his transitions are coming along…
…and you can actually point him down the long side or across the diagonal without him running off…
…though lateral work continues to be very snake-like…
He says his life is hard.
Yesterday Leo won the World’s Most Ammy Friendly Horse award during our jump lesson. I’m so glad I don’t have any media of it. The entire lesson consisted of me aiming him at jumps, then sitting there wondering which way I was supposed to turn afterwards, completed by being surprised that I was supposed to keep both stirrups upon landing from said jump. This happened over and over and was utterly absurd. I should offer to pay for Trainer B’s next eye exam, since I’m sure they were bleeding.
Then I ordered 5 pairs of stirrups, because CLEARLY the stirrups are the problem.
But I’m overdue for some new stirrups anyway, as mine have been making my knees hurt. I thought it was just my own problem, until I rode in Trainer B’s saddle with his Antares stirrups, and had zero pain. Here’s what I have coming:
My new-to-me Antares jump saddle arrived last week, and the trial/loaner dressage saddle from Takt is supposed to be delivered today. I have a week to decide if it’s the right model for the boys and I, and if it is, then this beauty will be made for me:
…of all you that have had the motivation to keep blogging throughout this. I love writing, but after spending the hours of 8 AM-12 PM doing schoolwork with the kids (and the 6th grader’s school is ALL on the computer), then 12 PM-4 PM doing my own work, breaking to ride, then back to the computer pretty much every evening to do MOAR WORK, I’ve had zero desire to remain on my computer one second more than absolutely necessary. And I have SO MUCH media from lessons that I haven’t even looked at or attempted to edit. Plus the world’s gone crazy.
But the kids are now done with school-HALLELUJAH- so that’s one less thing. My office has still not reopened, though Husband’s has, so I’m still home.
Pilgrim is still plugging away at dressage, and I’m taking advantage of my flexible work schedule to do lessons 2x/week with Trainer K. We’re working on a lot of counter canter, keeping his neck and withers elevated,and trying to pull a consistent trot extension out of him.
Leo was doing absolutely fantastic, then he decided he needed to slice some skin off his leg. It was superficial, but ugly, and Trainer B and his team took extremely good care of him to make sure he healed as quickly and completely as possible. OF COURSE, due to that, we missed being able to enter the first show back, which was a bummer. But good news- he’s back home with me!
BO and I have been trail riding machines. We went a few weeks ago to Blowing Rock and it was AH-MAZING.
We added a new family member- Jelly Bean! One of the boarders at the barn found this little guy thrown out of a car right before Easter, so has been taking care of him (she’s a vet tech), until he was ready for a family.
The chicks are all grown up and outside in the coop Husband built. The Tiniest Dictator still insists that his favorite chick, Koopa Troopa, love him (facepalm).
Husband and I celebrated our 13 year anniversary and while shockingly, he didn’t gift me with ANOTHER horse this year, I AM getting saddles! My beloved Voltaire no longer fits Leo so I’ve been riding in Trainer B’s saddles, but obvi would need to get my own once Leo came home. And the dressage saddle I’d been using just wasn’t a good fit for me. A replica of Trainer’s B’s Antares jump saddle should be here tomorrow and a custom saddle fitter is coming Monday for us to try dressage saddles!
When we decided to move, friends/family thought we were nuts for downsizing from our big, gorgeous house. But my response was, “We’re never home, the house is wasted on us!”
Joke was clearly on me, as 48 hours after cutting our living space in half, we were all told not to leave our homes.
However, despite the amount of work that needed to be done to bring the house into this decade, it’s been great to be kept busy (and have Husband home to complete projects). And because we now have 2.5 acres (across from the barn), we simply HAD to become farmers!
Husband and I are incredibly lucky that we’re able to work from home. My job can go wherever I am, but I wasn’t sure how Husband’s job was going to fare, since he travels so much (not anymore), but so far so good.
My barn is still open to its few boarders, and is pretty much the only place I go to when I leave the house. That, and all the takeout restaurants- a lot of our locally owned restaurants are really struggling right now so we almost exclusively eat takeout.
Leo is back in NC, but is staying with Trainer B until the end of May, to make the transition a bit easier for the both of us. I was a bit nervous to have him just come home, since I hadn’t ridden the horse in 5 months, but I’ve been able to get up there 2x/week, and am much more comfy on him now. We’ve even jumped XC, which was soooo exciting (for me, Leo was bored).
P has found his calling…as a dressage horse, of all things. It started when Leo left for Florida and my surgery got pushed back a few weeks due to the stupid spider bite. So I took some lessons with my BO’s dressage trainer, and then picked back up when I was cleared to ride again. I was 100% certain P would be so bored and awful, but to everyone’s surprise, he throws himself into the work.
With regular hauling to trails, lots of hacking, and lessons 2x/week, he’s definitely the fittest he’s ever been. He seems to understand that he’s no longer going to be asked to jump and his attitude towards work has completely shifted. If shows ever come back (gaaaahhh), I’m actually toying with taking him to some USDF shows. Who even am I?
I hope everyone is staying safe and doing ok during this incredibly weird time. Can’t wait to catch up with everyone soon!