When I last left off, I was leaning towards entering BN at Carolina Horse Park, since we have only completed one BN last December, and then I retired on course earlier this year at Windridge, when P felt off galloping on XC.
Then I did this:
I entered before the closing date, with the reasoning that if I really panicked, it would easier to
beg convince the office ladies to move me down a level, rather then asking them to move me UP a level if all was going great.
Logic. I gots it.
I arrived at CHP before everyone else, and headed out to check out the XC course by myself so no one would witness me sobbing if the jumps were too terrifying. The first white I saw belonged to #3, a big cabin, and I thought, “Well, it looks sorta big but I guess it’s doable.” Then when I got past some trees I realized it was a Training jump.
Who even am I?
The Novice #3 next to it looked extremely doable and the BN #3 seemed positively miniscule. So I headed towards the start box and walked the whole thing.
Jump 1 was right in between identical BN and Training jumps. So I just kept my eye on the Training jump to make this one look smaller, and then glanced at this one quickly to snap a picture at the last second. #CourseWalkTips
Then you headed right (straight towards the barns), and then psych! Turn left to jump 2, with the huge open oxer directly behind it. Nothing can go wrong here.
Then up a hill to 3, a small raised log pile. Since I had seen the Training jump next to it, I thought this one was pretty small.
Then head to the field and up a short steep hill (next to banks/ditches) and over this thing that then lands downhill. P has done only one similar jump before, and the jump was the tiniest of logs, so this would be brand new. Trainer B said to tap him with the crop 5 strides out to keep his attention on me and not the ditch we were passing.
Then a right hand turn to this canoe jump, then 2 strides into water. Another first for P. He’s a champ at the water, but never has he had to jump a jump this close to it. I wasn’t sure how he’d react
Spoiler alert: no biggie.
Then a left turn out of the water and in between 2 enormous jumps to this coop, that landed downhill and made it look like you were heading off into the abyss. Trainer B cautioned this would be a spooky one for P and to sit way back.
Then you go downhill and make a sort of awkward u-turn then have a good straightaway to this one. P has never been a fan of cutouts in XC jumps, so I was told to have a really forward gallop as soon as we came around the turn.
Then continuing up the hill and to this 5 stride. P and I suck at combinations (glaringly obvious statement right there, I know). And the B element is A LOT bigger in real life than it appears in the below picture.
Then head to the right, down a hill, and around to another combination, this time with the B element being uphill. We kept walking it in a 4 1/2, but due to the terrain, it was a 5 stride.
Then up the hill, turn right and down a hill to this log/coop/thing. Yay, more cutouts.
Then a left and up a steep hill to the “fruit stand,” which sounds inviting but was enormous when you got close. I never actually looked at it besides when I squinted through the camera lens.
Then this was the second to last:
And a bending 7 to finish the course.
Then I picked up my packet and got a little panicky. For better or worse, this was really happening.
I got up at 6 AM, and headed across the grounds to get to P, who had been freshly bathed the night before. I found my horse covered neck to back in manure, and I still had to braid (yep, it’s apparently a consistent thing with Trainer B). So I panicked, threw cold water over my horse who hates any sort of bath, then tied him in his stall to braid him for the 3rd time ever in the 4 years I’ve owned him. Sadly, Husband only got pictures from the opposite side, but they looked really good (and discreet- no one could see the bobby pins!) and stayed in securely, minus the one closest to the saddle that was already thin and then I knocked repeatedly with my reins while tacking up. Oops.
P won the warmup- he was so super fancy, supple, connected…all the good things. Trainer B was impressed, I was thrilled- this was going to be great!
Then we got sent to the spooky ring by the woods with the woodland creatures and the road. And my husband decided a good place to stand would at the edge of the woods (I still love you).
As well as it being our first Novice test in a Novice horse trial, we got another first- a penalty for going off course.
See, what had HAPPENED was…when we hit C to start trotting, P spotted my husband in the woods. I pushed him forward, we trotted, went into the canter, then a huge ass trailer full of horses came flying down the road by A. And P lost it. My only goal was to not exit the arena at that point, so I pulled him down to the trot to quickly regroup, but he dragged me past where we needed to turn and the judge rang the bell.
Fine- I looked back to make sure it was our judge, and she stuck her hand out and waved me over. OMG, no. I finally got P under control and as we headed that way she explained where I went wrong (I already knew), and what the movement was (I already knew). Of course it’s not her fault- she was really nice and was only trying to help- but restarting it and breaking up the test like that pretty much doomed us. The rest of it was tense and choppy.
Disclaimer: I’m SO SORRY for Husband’s language. Perhaps you’ll want to mute it if you’re around small children. He apparently is very passionate about lower level dressage.
I forgot to pick up my dressage test (another first!), so no idea what our individual scores were. We were in either last place or 2nd to last place after dressage. Whatever. I only wanted to finish on a number rather than a letter, and was pretty much just there for cross-country anyway.
We had a few hours until stadium, so I kept myself busy helping the rest of the team and cheering them on. When Trainer B said he’d meet me at warmup at 12:45, that’s when the panic started to set in.
I told Husband repeatedly on the walk to warmup (who was driving next to me on the golf cart blasting “Eye of the Tiger” from his phone. Yes, there were stares.) that I should scratch. I was so incredibly nervous because straight after stadium, we had to go right to XC.
Stadium is what I should’ve been more concerned about. Apparently I forgot how to jump altogether.
The actual round wasn’t much better. While I definitely had a better pace than I usually do (you can hear Trainer B approve of my “aggressive” riding around the 46 second mark), for some reason I cared enough to TURN AROUND after we knocked the pole down at 4, which slowed us in the turn and we had a stop at 5. I mean, seriously? I don’t even remember doing it, but sure enough, it’s on video. We have a hard enough time with combinations, and I made it even harder. Sigh. 12 jumping faults and I think 10 time faults. Lesson learned: look ahead.
But really, while yes, I struggle in SJ for sure, I think most of everything had to do with my trepidation for XC. I couldn’t imagine a scenario where we didn’t have at least one stop- and I had a sleepless night the night before, so I went through many a scenario in my head. Repeatedly. It just didn’t seem possible, no matter how much I lectured myself not to think like that.
Add to that, Trainer B had to get on his own horse after I did SJ, and wouldn’t be able to head to the start box with us to remind me to gallop.
Side story: One thing that I’ve been repeatedly told by Trainer B (poor guy) is to “go faster than you want to.” Because I’ll THINK I’m booking it around and then I see a video and I have to check to see if the slo-mo setting is on. So this past March I ordered another bonnet from my favorite If the Bonnet Fits, even though she had a pretty long turnaround time. When I entered Novice, I asked if it would be ready in time and she expedited it to me and it arrived Thursday night, before I left for CHP. P debuted it at our first Novice- and it totally worked! I caught glimpses of it during XC and kicked on.
So Husband and I head to XC, with me saying AGAIN that I should scratch. Poor guy- his 2nd year in a row spending Father’s Day at a horse show with me in 92 degree weather and I’m obnoxious as hell.
Rather than fumble through warmup, they said they were ready for me so I went straight to the start box.
The volunteer at the start was so nice- when I had a minute to go he said, “What do dressage queens use for birth control?” I had no idea. “Their attitudes.” That cracked me up (sorry, DQs!) and was so nice of him to help ease my anxiety for a few seconds.
Then we were off- sideways. Familiar, if you’ve seen the helmet cam from Full Gallop. But Trainer B and I had walked the exact line we needed to take to jump 1 (since it was off-center) and we were definitely not on it, so I smacked him. He took sort of a leap over it, but we had successfully cleared 1/1 Novice XC jumps!
We had a little fight about turning left away from the barns, but he hopped over it and then zoomed off.
Besides a peek at jump 4 (unsurprising), a fumble on my part through the first combination, and slight spook at the people and carts behind 12 (the enormous “fruit stand”), he was a rockstar. See for yourself:
Husband was kind enough to trek across the field to video the last 4 jumps.
I didn’t wear a watch, but knew we had gone really fast. So when Husband was heading back towards me after finishing, he yelled “How was it?” and I yelled back, “CLEAR!” and the woman at the finish line said, “She had SPEEEEEEED FAULTS.” Hey, lady. Trainer B will be thrilled I had speed faults. It meant I actually galloped.
I swear those are Novice jumps. I swear when you walk up to them, they take up more than half my height. So why does P make them look sooooo small?
We finished in 9th on 68.40, which is terrible but see the column under XC Jump? See how it says ZERO? That was all I really cared about.
The speed fault time was 4:04 so we ended up 10 seconds too fast, and 29 seconds faster than everyone else in our division. There were 51 total Novice competitors and guess what? Still the fastest time. So P’s got some zoomies in him.
I guess what I’m rambling on and on about is…WE DID IT! Novice baby!