For those that have followed us through our eventing journey, it hasn’t been easy. I struggle with confidence issues after a bad xc accident as a teen and Pilgrim is, well, he’s Pilgrim. 4 year old Pilgrim was the easiest baby TB to train, I bragged about him nonstop to anyone who would listen. “Oh, your horse is spooky? Pilgrim will go anywhere I point him at.” “Your horse bucks after a jump? Pilgrim canters calmly away.” Apparently I forgot 4 year old horses are a ruse. 5 year old Pilgrim suddenly sprouted opinions of his own seemingly overnight and they were very STRONG opinions. I swear that horse was for sale the majority of last year. It was always 1 step forward, 4 steps back. But here we are now, and 6 year old Pilgrim is learning to compromise. I accept that he’s not perfect and he’s possibly starting to accept that I don’t always hold all the answers.
Friday morning I went to crossfit because they had posted a kickass workout, so all plans of leaving for Aiken at 9:30AM were dashed. I hung around afterwards and talked and talked and talked about crossfit and lifting, etc. Then I went home and finished packing the truck, and moseyed to the barn around 11:30, where again, I talked and talked and talked, this time about horses. We didn’t actually leave until about 1. Oops.
It was an uneventful trip to Aiken, and I pulled in around 3:30. The show secretary wasn’t exaggerating when she said trailer parking was close to the stalls- I was able to park directly in front of P’s stall so that made unpacking quite simple.
The cart was a last minute buy and totally worth it. $49.99 at Dick’s.
And I had QUITE the view of the xc course out of the back of my trailer.
And I was able to enjoy the view from my super comfy hammock.
When P was all settled in, I went and checked in then went to the xc course. It was gorgeous and looked like a lot of fun, but it also worried me and by jump 2, I had convinced myself that we’d be eliminated.
Quick backstory- P has a history of stopping at jumps he doesn’t know. He’s a phenomenal jumper and super athletic, but he’s also very cautious. At the Tim Bourke clinic 2 weeks ago, he repeatedly stopped at new jumps with the 4* event rider himself on his back. This was all I could think about while walking xc.
The jumps themselves weren’t difficult, but the terrain was much different than from what we’re used to, which is, well, FLAT. Paradise Farm’s xc course is very hilly, with variations of gradual to pretty steep.
Jump 2 was where I was sighed heavily. P had issues with black logs before (aka, stopping) so even though they were tiny, I wasn’t confident about it.
Jump 3 was at the bottom of a steep hill so I made plans to trot that one.
“Jump” 4 was the itsiest bitsiest up bank you ever did see.
Jump 5 was a square yellow box that P has never seen before. I knew he’d be super distracted because it was next to a pond so I’d have to ride very forward towards the pond before turning right to go straight to the jump.
Jump 6 made me dizzy. It was on such a slant on the other side of the pond that I figured if jump 2 didn’t do us in, this certainly would. Even just walking the course, I was wiggling from side to side trying to get to it on a straight line.
Jump 7 was a small bench, but again, P has never seen a bench. Geez, I need to branch out on my XC schoolings.
Jump 8 was very tiny…but again, P has never seen anything like this before. He’s been so great about jumping the jumps at home with fillers that I hoped he’d just ignore the strangeness of it.
Jump 9 was yet another new one and I wasn’t sure how he’d like the lack of a ground line, But again, we jump jumps at home with no groundline sometimes so I was hoping for the best here.
Then a left turn to jump 10 which was just a bigger log than the rest. I wasn’t sure how he’d do with the ditches to the left, so the plan was to get him focused on the jump early.
11 A & B was just a water crossing, no jump in there. Just go into the water, through the complex, and back out and then up a STEEP hill.
Jump 12 was another newbie, but I didn’t think he’d have an issue with this one.
Jump 13 was the tiniest box EVER and there were no concerns there.
Jump 14 was brand spanking new to us as well, like 85% of the course. It was at the top of another steep hill so I had zero idea how he would react.
All in all, it was a great course. Simple enough jumps, sort of challenging terrain if you’re not used to it, but a very fair starter level course. I was just unable to get the memories of him stopping repeatedly with Tim the LAST time he was on an xc course.
I was a bit down after that, and alone because Matt wasn’t coming until the next day to watch the competition. So I did what any 30 year old adult does when she doesn’t want to think about her first world problems, and went to Walmart to buy 2 bottles of wine. Problem solved.
I had 3 coolers worth of food in the trailer so I was heading back when I spotted this beauty out of the corner of my eye.
Made the sharpest turn Big Dusty could handle and 15 minutes + some shitty service later, had the best sub in the world. Goes great with cheap Walmart wine. With an apple + peanut butter + chocolate chips for dessert. Seriously, heaven.
So for the rest of the day I hung out in my hammock, rode P, read my book, then grazed P, and I had just put him away and was about to walk the XC course again before it got too dark, when husband pulls up. Whaaaa? Turns out he was concerned about me after I told him my doubts about making it around the course. So he took the kids to spend the night at the babysitter’s, made chocolate covered strawberries, rice krispie treats and marshmallows, and drove the 2.5 hours to Aiken. Husband for the win.
Sooo…about my super comfy hammock. Still super comfy, but sleeping in the open during a South Carolina summer is not for me. Bugs were EVERYWHERE. I don’t do bugs very well. At least not gigantic creatures that flail around on their backs all over the tarp underneath me that I mistake for a DOG digging close by. Seriously. Love it for hanging out during the day. I took the most heavenly nap in it Saturday afternoon, but I’m going to need something that I can close myself off from the bugs in. A truck tent was recommended to me, but since I wasn’t sure what the parking situation was, I didn’t know if I’d be able to unhitch my GN trailer. Well, I could, so I’m looking into those. Definitely need a barrier between those bugs and I.
Saturday was the longest day ever. Dressage was at 1:45, SJ at 2:27 and XC at 3:03 so I had all day to get more and more nervous about XC. We went to Aiken Saddlery and out to breakfast, then back to watch the upper levels do SJ.
Finally it was time to change and get on to warm up. P was electric and just wanted to scoot his butt around to look at everything. I was able to get the left lead about 75% of the time in warm up, but it took ALOT of work. And I was SO hot. I had to wear a jacket because my brilliant self only brought a bright blue, bright pink and 2 bright purple sports bras. They waived jackets, but you could clearly see the colors through my show shirt (the white Ariat long sleeve show sun shirt from Riding Warehouse), so I opted for my jacket to remain somewhat classy. I was DRIPPING when they finally called us in. P remained a little more nervous going into the ring than he usually was, but I think he was just picking up on my left lead anxiety.
We headed down centerline, did our trot circle but then he didn’t respond when I asked him for the canter. So I did what you’re supposed to do and cut the corner, leaned forward and…leg yielded him straight out of the arena at A. Brilliance.
At our very first HT together, P was sure I was asking him to go into the Deep Blue Sea, rather than what I was actually asking him to do, which was to jump a tiny log that was placed in the vicinity of the water complex. Elimination.
In November of last year, we went to a CT and P was not a happy camper that day. We got eliminated in SJ after a shitty dressage test and repeated refusals at jump 5.
So here to round it out, is our elimination from dressage.
The judge was really nice and had us come back in to redo the canter circle as a training opportunity. She kept saying, “He has to know he can’t get away with that!” And I’d agree, except for this was 100% rider error. P has never even attempted anything like that and I can see myself in the video steering him out, not paying attention to anything but whether or not he picked up the left lead.
But we went back in and he was great. Because, you know, steering.
Then the judge got out of her car and said that it happens to everyone (I may be in the starter division with this horse, but believe me, it’s happened to me before as well), and that they would probably still let me go through SJ and XC.
I thanked her and we walked out and back to the trailer, where I promptly burst into tears. I was so hot and sticky and tired but also relieved and at the same time disappointed in myself that I had made such a stupid error. No, it’s not the first time. Hell, it may not even be the last time. So I let myself cry for about 30 seconds, then straightened up and went about putting P away and peeling off my show clothes.
Matt asked if I was going to do SJ and XC and I said no, which I think disappointed him. But I had 4 lessons planned for the next 2 days and I’d rather start fresh than run the risk of having to repair anything that may happen on XC that day. Plus, P had already been ridden for about an hour already and the weather sucked. So Matt left to get the kids home and I fell asleep in the hammock for a few hours then comforted myself with O’Charleys spinach artichoke dip and shrimp. And wine. Of course, wine.
Luckily the next couple of days were AH-MAZING.