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!