Horse Shows

Professional BN Rider Part Deux

So when we left off yesterday, I had decided that, despite having ridden this particular horse all of 90 minutes, I’d compete him at BN. Which yes, BN is the lowest of all the recognized levels and not exactly hard. But seeing as I’d completed 4 horse trials at BN/N in the last 12 months, I’m not exactly, uh, what you’d call a seasoned competitor.

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Did I mention I had only jumped 2x since last October at this point? And maybe ridden a grand total of 7 days in the past month, since P broke off his hoof?

Did I mention the horse had sat in a pasture not doing anything for the last 3 years?

Yes? Ok, we’re all caught up.

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So Sunday came and we loaded C up and headed off to Loch Moy. I’d never been there before but definitely want to go back. Their MDHT Starter Series is similar to Carolina Horse Park’s War Horse Event Series, where the courses/fences are what you’d see at recognized HTs, but for a fraction of the cost. #Winning.

I got on about 30 minutes before dressage and C came out ready to work. He felt great until he took a weird step as we tried to avoid colliding with a man who clearly didn’t care who or what was in his path, then took some head-bobbingly lame steps. And I thought hard about quitting horses forever.

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But after a minute or two at the walk, we picked the trot back up and C was just fine.

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Winning warm-up, so the potential is there

Still, as we circled around the arena waiting to go in, I was nervous that the lameness would come back and we’d get thrown out of the dressage arena, which is probably why I didn’t notice that I WAS ON THE WRONG EFFING DIAGONAL LIKE A BEGINNER.

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I swear I’ve ridden before.

From the little I’ve ridden him and the little his owner has told me, C’s canter is hard. The horse gets a break because he’s not fit, though, and I didn’t exactly help him by being on the wrong diagonal and not knowing him well enough to predict his reactions. So we landed the wrong lead in the first circle and when I brought him back down to fix it, C had, uh feelings about that.

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The walk was slow and disconnected (something I’d already been warned about by his owner), and the right lead canter was very emotional.

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Afterwards the judge was nice enough to explain her scoring, but she definitely wasn’t a fan of C’s, and wasn’t a fan of mine until she asked if he was my horse and I said no, I’d only ridden him a couple of times. She changed her tone then, and said I was a good rider despite him being difficult with some upside down muscling, gave me some tips on things to work on, and we were finally set free. After that, I figured we’d score like a 70 (in penalties).

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But we scored 7’s and 7.5’s for the trot work, and 7’s for both centerlines (booyah), with a 7 for gaits and for rider, so that evened out our score to a 40.3 and put us in the very competitive position of last place.

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But…whatever. We stayed in the arena, he wasn’t lame, and who actually cares about a dressage score when there are jumps to be jumped?

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I feel ya, C

Stadium was next and when it came time to hop on, I found myself with my usual knot of trepidation that comes along with SJ + an extra heaping of nerves that I wouldn’t be able to steer. The warmup was a zoo, so I just walked a few laps until it thinned out some, then popped him over the vertical and then oxer a few times. It seemed to go well until he did his whole, Right-Side-Is-Stuck-Must-Plant-Feet-Solidly thing when coming off the left lead, and I figured all hope of steering around a course was nil.

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How I predicted our course would go

Naturally the course started with a bending line off the left lead, so I planned to trot the first fence and take it from there. He either doesn’t have flying changes or is just not strong enough, so I figured if he landed on the wrong lead I’d trot the next fence, rather than re-enact the emotions he had when I corrected his lead in dressage. And I stuck to my plan- we had some really nice fences (including NAILING the TWO-STRIDE) and went double clear!

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When I finally got him pulled up (we lapped the arena nearly 2x before I could stop him), I was honestly thinking of maybe just ending it there. I suck at stadium and somehow got this strange horse around clear while looking semi-decent, so why not end on a high note? But I really couldn’t make myself do it, and figured I’d pop him over a couple XC jumps and make a final decision then.

Because, ya know, I’ve never jumped this horse XC, and while I myself haven’t been on an XC course in 5+ months, he hasn’t been on one in ohhh, ya know, YEARS.

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But again…YOLO? So I aimed him for the BN log warmup fence and he went over it with zero hesitation. Ok then. Let’s do the damn thing!

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C & I on the way to the start box

Since the first fence was so close to the start box, I figured I’d come out trotting instead of messing with his canter and then take it from there. Besides a biff at fence 3 (seriously, NO ONE took that fence nicely- everyone chipped and I was determined I could do better, but clearly not), and the part where he almost ran off with me past the water, he was an absolute machine.

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Clearly uphill fences are not even slightly a challenge
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Burning some rubber. Well, turf
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I think someone is locked onto the fence

And the helmet cam view! The last 3 fences of the course were ones that, during the coursewalk, I had targeted at those P would definitely have a hard look at. Check out C’s reaction to the speed bumps.

Here’s a sneak peek:

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Note: I purchased this picture already and am just waiting for the photographer to send it to me, but couldn’t wait to publish this post.

And that clear round was good enough to bump us up a few spots so we could take home some satin!

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C got a ribbon and I got Taco Bell- then I took his ribbon #SorryC

And while that was awesome and all, one of the best parts of the day was meeting Emma finally!

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And realizing at the same time that we’re both terrible at taking interesting pictures.

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“What do we do? We dunno.” – Us, when told to do something funny

So looks like C will be heading down to spend some time with me starting this Saturday!

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Still not sure what to do with a plain bay…

 

 

 

 

 

Horse Life, Horse Shows

Professional BN Rider

We all know how long it took for me to eventually get P around a BN, right? ::cough cough:: 2 years ::cough cough::

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I think this was attempt #3?
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FINALLY completing BN

Then I started riding S when P injured himself the FIRST time. And it was sort of a miracle that after only 4 weeks or so, I took him around his very first event at BN (and really only my third).

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Last month I headed up to VA for a weekend of riding ponies with my friend, and got to take her guy out for a spin:

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And after a day of flatting, took him to a little jump clinic where I jumped a few little fences for the first time since October 2018. We made tentative plans for me to come back up to VA in March to compete him at Loch Moy and then possibly bring him back with me to ride while P continues to recuperate.

But I had some serious doubts. I mean…I’d ridden the horse all of 60 minutes or so, not to mention the teensy fact that I’ve done nothing besides w/t/c rehab rides (when I could ride at all) for the last 5 months. Not exactly a professional here, y’all.

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Pretty much sums up all my recent riding history

So I made the decision to get there, ride him Friday & Saturday, then decide. He was already entered under his owner and the office said we could make a last minute rider change.

Here’s a little background on C: he’s 19 (but you’d never know), and my friend has owned him for about 10 years or so- she completed her first BN/N on him, and schooled Training, but said she could never put all the Training phases together to actually compete at the level. She bought a different horse 4 years ago, and C pretty much has sat since then. He briefly came out of retirement in 2016 when a friend tried to show him at BN, but they didn’t get along well, so back into the pasture he went.

So the horse hasn’t been to a show, hasn’t schooled XC, has now jumped exactly ONCE (with me in Feb) in nearly 3 years, and I think I can just saunter around a horse trial?

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Friday I hopped on, my friend set some jumps, and off we went. At this point, I was under the impression that my friend had worked him over fences at least a couple times, so afterwards when I found out she hadn’t jumped him at all, I was actually quite impressed with how he was.

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But he does have the tendency to bulge to the right and get sort of…stuck. He did it a few times off the left lead as I was turning to jumps, and it was a little un-nerving. I’m told that’s one of his quirks, which is totally fine since all horses have their “thing,” but it didn’t exactly inspire confidence that I could steer him around a SJ course.

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Not as fun as jumping

But I figured…YOLO, maybe? I really can’t explain why I decided to go along with competing him, but found myself paying the rider change fee the next day.

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Waiting on some media…we’ll finish this story tomorrow!

Horse Life, Horse Shows

3DayAdventures BlogHop: My Favorite Event

Thanks to 3DayAdventures for some blog content other than hoof holes!

It’s been raining in NC for what seems like 5 nonstop months. Temperatures have fluctuated from 30 to 80 (sometimes in one week), and some days I don’t even MIND that I don’t have a rideable horse because it’s just plain ol’ nasty.

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But with the end of March comes a few things…Trainer B’s return as well as the beginning of show season.

But KC, you might say, your horse has a gigantic hole in his foot.

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That he does, my dears, but it’s looking like this handsome guy will soon be coming my way.

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Not sure what to do with a non-gray, to be honest

Right now the plan is to head up to VA at the end of this month and compete C in a schooling horse trial, then bring him back to NC with me. His owner will be following him down to NC shortly after that, as she heads back to work for Trainer B, and C will stay with me until P is ready to go. Which will probably be early summer, because the second that horse is declared good to go back under saddle, he’ll be heading to Trainer B’s for at least a month. I seriously can’t even with that horse anymore.

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Me to P when he’s cleared

So all hopes for a spring season may not be dashed after all. Which has me thinking about the events I’ve been to as both a rider and a spectator, and which ones I can maybe, just maybe, plan to get to this year.

It was so hard to pick a favorite. I loved going to Virginia HT when Trainer B competed P and really hope to get to compete there myself this year.

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I love galloping up hills and VA’s XC course looked like SO MUCH FUN

I will always be partial to Windridge. Maybe because we’ve won there before…

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#biased

Also because they have a kick ass XC course.

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But I have to say that my favorite among favorites has to be Carolina Horse Park.

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Because this picture came from there, of course!

All around, I just love the venue. The stalls are roomy, and designed to be able to conveniently hang things like saddle racks/bridle racks/hay nets/buckets, etc. The overhangs are great at keeping the rain off ya and are spacious enough to have trunks/hay bales in front of stalls.

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Approved by S
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With posts spaced out perfectly to hang the hammock

Trashcans everywhere that are actually emptied DURING the show, so trash isn’t blowing out by Sunday. Small details like that matter.

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After P stumbled upon some leftover Chick Fil A one time, he made it a mission to go inspect every other garbage can. Because he’s weird.

Another favorite feature is that each stall has it’s own dual electric outlet. Perfect for a fan and a phone charger.

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They have 2 areas for campers/LQs, both of which are about a 45 second drive to the barns. The hookups are far enough apart that no one has to park on top of each other either.

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They partner with a nearby golf cart company, so you can have one delivered for the duration of the show for $45/day.

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Handy for carting the family around

The only thing missing would be showers. If they’d add showers and a real restroom, that’d be perfection.

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My alternative if no one around has an LQ

 

I believe they run only 2 USEA events throughout the year, in addition to Carolina International at the end of March, then from May-November, they host a schooling series called War Horse Event Series.

Timing has never worked out to where I’ve competed in one of their USEA events, but I have attended several of the WHES events and love how well run they all have been. Plus, stabling for Friday-Sunday is only $75 AND you don’t have to clean the stall at the end of the weekend. With a horse like P, there is no better deal than to NOT have to strip the stall.

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Everyone when they glance at P’s stall

But even though the cost for the schooling events is less than recognized, don’t think the competition is easy. It’s a big atmosphere at each of the shows, with all 8 barns being completely filled most months. They typically have around 300 entries per show, and offer HTs through Training and CTs through Advanced. As such, they hire real course designers for both show jumping and XC, and those courses are over the same tracks and jumps as you’ll find in their recognized shows.

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Dressage is always interesting, as they run 6 rings at one time, so keeping your horse focused while there’s a bunch of horns/bells/SQUEAKY TOYS (of course for the ring we usually get put in) sounding off around you can be challenging at times.

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Fine with the squeaky toy
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Melts down when a horse trailer comes down the road next to the ring

Stadium they have two different arenas- one on grass for the little stuff (up to 2’3), and then BN+ in the Century Link arena.

The grass arena always has great footing and is slightly more quieter, which is great for the green horses and/or riders.

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S killing it in his first real jump course

On the other side, the Century Link arena is quite busy with the barns on one end, another side taken up by loudspeakers and tents, and warmup on the other side. The courses are definitely never easy either.

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Ever to my dismay, there is always AT LEAST one in-and-out #nailedit
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When you and your horse both derp hard over rainbow poles
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Expect to see at least one bending line in there as well
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Not to mention related fences that are juuu-ssst far enough apart that you panic a little halfway down the line. This was actually a miracle.

And then there’s XC. While some horse trials I’ve been to never really change up their tracks, at CHP I’ve never seen the start box in the same place. Like stadium, they have two separate areas for the levels: starter (2’3″) and below uses a completely different track/course with BN+ in another.

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“Oh goodie- a combination on XC,” said me NEVER

If you do enough of these WHES events, you can qualify for the championships, which dishes out hefty prize money and goodies.

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The prizes are the same for Green as Grass through Training. INSANE.

And as a cherry on top, they always have at least 2 food trucks onsite, and 2 mobile tack shops. For dinner, the venue is close to town with lots of restaurants to choose from.

It’s just under two hours from me, so I’m hoping to make it there at least once this year, or as many times as is on the schedule.

Of course that depends on, ya know, having a horse to ride.

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Horse Shows

S’s First HT-Competition Day

So when we left off yesterday, S had just rocked around the BN SJ and BN XC, and we were given the green light from Trainer B to go for all 3 phases in the show.

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We had the bad luck of having an 8 AM ride time…super yuck. After a sleepless night (not due to nerves, just lots of bad stuff like neighboring truck alarms that wouldn’t turn off), I hopped on S about 30 minutes before our ride time. He was pretty unfazed about the crowded warmup, but would not/could not relax at the canter. This is something we struggle with at home as well, and I think was exacerbated by some tiredness. He was super stiff going to the left, and even to the right, which is normally decent, was lackluster at best.

I didn’t get a video, but at first he scored a 40.6, which put us in 2nd to last place. Some of it was earned- in the first canter he kicked footing onto the plastic boards and then decided he clearly needed to be closer to the quarterline to avoid such offensive noises for the rest of the test. His free walk was non-existent and BN A unfortunately has the free walk on the long diagonal and comes up really early in the test. Then I spent the 2nd canter circle just trying to keep him from breaking into the trot. The trot work was decent and we nailed our centerlines, though.

Except…the judge and C were NOT on centerline. When I went for the final centerline from K-X-G, I knew I was in the middle, so why was C to my right? When I came out of the arena, Trainer B said I rode centerline dead accurate, but the arena clearly wasn’t set correctly. 2 riders after me, someone said something and they moved C and the judge closer (it was apparently still about 2 feet off but better than before). So when I got my score sheet back and saw she gave us 5.5s for both centerlines with the comment “Not on CL,” Trainer B had me contest that. I did, and the secretary sent the score sheet back to the judge to see if she’d revise it. She did, but only gave us 0.9 points back, which changed my score to a 39.70. Not really fair, but whatever. I scored a 7.5 for Rider Position so that’s what I actually care about.
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The other thing that didn’t work in our favor was the division we were put in. Normally recognized HTs have divisions like Open, Rider, and Horse, right? Well, at CHP they just do A, B, C, with no thought to experience. I had the luck to be in a division with 8 professionals (like Bonnie Mosser and Daryl Kinney). So not really too much of a hope for me and greenbean S, but luckily we weren’t there for dressage anyway.

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I got back at 1:15 to warmup for SJ, which thankfully was not nearly as crowded or eventful as the day before. He jumped well when I rode well, which is fair, and we worked on adjusting his canter, which is another struggle (but getting better as he gets stronger).

We went in, and I immediately rode over to the final jump, which was CHP’s “trick” for this show. Where for the schooling day you ended with a 2 stride, for the competition the designer took away the B element of the 2 stride and instead put up a vertical with a solid white panel about 6 strides away. There were countless close calls/stops/falls in the Training/Novice division at that fence, so I wanted to show it to S and hope he wouldn’t freak out.

But S didn’t even look at the fence. He was too busy staring at the crowd on the side of the arena, and the decorations they’d put up and seemed a little like his mind was blown. They rang the bell and I said a little prayer.

He was super to jump 1, and I fixed the turn from 1 to 2, but he backed way off of 2 when he saw all the commotion on that side of the arena and then backed off again to 3. When we landed off of 3 I said, “Sorry bud, but you’re going to get me in trouble if I don’t do this,” and gave him a fairly decent whack with the crop. It worked, so worth it 🙂

Besides a sort of crappy approach to 5 (he spooked at the tent on that side), he was super. He definitely looked at the last fence, but I calmly informed him when we landed off of 9 that he wasn’t going to stop and by then he had his listening ears on. So yay! Double clear!

So I hopped off, we changed out his boots, I strapped my vest on and it was time for S to put on his big boy pants and go XC.

He was MUCH calmer walking out to XC this time, but was not sure what to make of the start box. It had some decorations, the volunteer and his table, the garbage can, the signs flapping- very suspicious, that start box was to dear S.

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S to the start box

We got counted down and he was a little hesitant on the way to the first jump, but cleared it nicely and we just kept rolling from there. He thought hard about 3, but a little wave of the crop on his right side kept him straight. My own right drift came into play on 5A, but I realized my error and got us straightened out.

Then it was the moment of truth- the water. Trainer B’s advice had been to gallop him at it so that if he broke to the canter or trot, he’d still be going forward. He gave a little stutter and dropped to the trot, but went in which was pretty much a miracle.

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Then I made an error. He had lost so much power in the water that in hindsight, I should’ve circled in the water (which would’ve been allowed) to get him in front of my leg. Instead, I just continued on the route and by the time we got to the bench, he was so far behind my leg (and his stifle gave a quick lock when we exited the water), that he ran out at 9, the bench. Really not his fault- I believe if he’d had, oh, ya know, one iota of experience on XC, he would’ve made it over. I circled quickly back to it and he didn’t hesitate at all. 100% my own fault there.

The rest of the course was super easy for him. He hopped down the bank, then I trotted him down the hill as planned, and as we were doing so, I was sad it was about to be over. This is the reason people have multiple horses- so they can do this more than once. We made quick work of the last 3 jumps and came in like 30 seconds under optimum time.

At first, even with the 20 penalties, we had moved up to 9th out of 15, but when they posted the final scores, it appeared as if some other riders had contested their dressage scores and we ended up back in 2nd to last, excluding 2 riders who had falls. Doh.

STILL. This horse wasn’t even supposed to run XC.  Trainer B said it best when he told me he couldn’t believe I took a horse to his first event at BN after only riding him for 4 weeks. And I totally agree, I couldn’t really believe it either.

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All the other horses did great as well. Trainer B won 3 divisions (of course), the Intermediate CT and the Novice with his own horses, as well as BN with a student’s horse; and another student was doing her 3rd BN and had double clear rounds. All in all, a very successful weekend.

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So next up on the schedule is a jumper show at the end of the month, and then as long as S is still around, we’ll be going back to CHP next month to run BN again and hopefully school some Novice.

Poor S had no idea all of what would entail when I started riding him- all he really wants is someone to scratch his ears.

 

 

Horse Shows

S’s First HT-Schooling Day

So when I left off nearly 2 weeks ago (SMH, I swear someday life will be more interesting), S was entered in his first HT at BN. Which was a pretty lofty goal, considering the horse has never seen an XC course in his life, and I’ve been riding him for all of 4 weeks. The original plan had been to school him Saturday and just enter him in the BN CT, but they schedule the CT division for after the HT division, and I didn’t want to wait until 4:30 PM to ride. So we decided to enter him in the HT with the likely plan of scratching after SJ.

 

Saturday was the schooling day, and they were running the BN SJ ring first. We were all on a pretty serious time crunch, with 4 horses on the team entered in BN and Trainer B doing dressage that morning with 2 horses. So S and I arrived to the SJ warmup ring at 8:30…and it was a ZOO.

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S impressed me with his cool head about all the horses, as he definitely got all the crazies running up behind him and head on. We even experienced jumping a warmup jump while a horse and rider FELL right next to us after crashing through a fence. It was an exciting time down there for sure. (note: horse and rider were both ok)

We went in the ring and he was a little startled by the atmosphere in the ring. In his defense, it’s a huge ring with lots of decorations, tents, banners, the loudspeaker, etc. Jump 4AB was a 2 stride- a max height/width obnoxiously orange oxer to a vertical. In our first go-round, he stopped at 4A, received a smack, and went over with no additional issues. But he was quite wiggly down the lines, and a bit bulgy through some of the turns, so we opted to go back in for a second round.

I was happy with him in that round, though he still cut the turn from 2 to 3 and wiggled pretty hard down the line from 5 to 6. I struggle a little bit in his saddle (it’s fitted to him, so I use that one instead of mine), and am experimenting with stirrup lengths so for sure some of the issues were mine as well.

After that he got a few hours to nap in his stall, then the 4 of us headed out to XC. I was expecting S to be a bit tired, but as soon as we headed across the street and he saw the wide open fields with horses galloping and leaping, his brain seemed to turn off. Suddenly I had *THAT* horse that was jigging, bumping into horses sideways, and acting like he was about to run the Kentucky Derby.

For warmup, we all trotted the Green as Grass course, which are 18″ inches. We went single-file line, with 2 other students in front, then me, then Trainer B. We made it over jump 1, then S tried repeatedly to take off with me down the hill (again, this horse has never been on an XC course and has no experience with terrain) and I thought to myself, “Well, this is where it ends for me. On a Green as Grass XC course,” and thought of all the jokes that would be cracked at my funeral. The thought crossed my mind at least 5 times during that little course, but by the end he was much calmer.

I think this was the last jump on that course.

Then we went and trotted the Maiden course (up to 2’3″) with everyone, and he had sort of figured XC out by now. He didn’t even need a lead into the water, so was much better.

Then it was time to go to the fields with the BN+ courses. I wasn’t sure if we should even attempt BN, and thought maybe we should just end on that note, but Trainer B had us try out jump 1 just to see. And he was great, so we went to 2. And watched 3 horses refuse that jump. Definitely the widest jump he’s ever seen, so Trainer B just said, “Trot, canter, gallop, and sit back.” Oh, is that all?

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While we were standing around on the backside of this jump waiting for the others, a girl came galloping at the Training level version of this jump just to the right of the BN one. The horse stopped at the base, then tried to leap from a standstill…and GOT STUCK. Like, front feet on the ground on the landing side and back legs on the ground on the takeoff side. The girl got thrown off and the horse was scrambling trying to get off the jump. The horse did eventually make it off and though he got cut up quite a bit will be just fine. But poor S- first horses are falling down next to him in SJ warmup, now he’s watching horses get stuck on XC jumps. Definitely a great first experience.

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Then we came to 3, which was the BN version of this:
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So another quite wide one. As we were galloping up to it, I could feel the exact moment S assessed it’s width and he was just like, “Uhhhh, WUT?” and ran out to the right. So we re-approached, this time adding a little smack on the right shoulder, and he sailed over.

The next few jumps were uneventful, and the real test was going to be the water. It was a different water than the one he had already gone into on the Maiden/GAG course, and this one was much spookier- you had to go downhill into it, it looks much deeper than the other one, and has jumps/decorations around it. And while he hesitated, he trotted right in with no lead required. Good boy!

There was a tricky jump out of the water that required following a slightly uphill approach to a bench, which with some whip encouragement, he went right over.

Then onto a rolltop to a down bank combination. The first time through he galloped the rolltop incredibly boldly and I had no idea we needed to turn right after until I saw the flags out of my right eye. It was too late to turn, but neither S or I realized that we were headed straight for an unflagged bank until we were Supermanning off of it. I was worried he would balk at the down bank as we re-approached (in a much more controlled canter), but he popped down with no issue.

Then we continued down the hill to a rolltop set next to what looked like Swamp Thing’s Home Base. He definitely gave that water the hairy eye ball, but popped over the jump.

So we went back and redid that jump, then finished with the final 2 jumps on course, a feeder with some feed bags strapped to it and the little orange and black rolltoppy thing. He spooked at the volunteer sitting in golf cart, but jumped the 2 unfamiliar jumps just fine.

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So when everyone had jumped the final jump, I was all ready to hop off and give S lots of peppermints. But Trainer B had other plans. And that plan was for everyone to go around the course on their own. So off he went, then the 2 students went individually, and when they were out of sight, I started. He popped over 1 just fine, then 2, then took off galloping and I was concentrating on slowing him a bit and almost didn’t see the woman who came running in front of us, waving her arms and yelling at me to stop. I got him pulled up…and saw a loose horse. The student who went first after Trainer B had come off at jump 4 and her horse was trotting around. The student was ok, and caught him and decided to head back to the barn. So I headed back to the start field to let Trainer B know what had happened, and then started again.

And S was…great. Cantered through the water, popped off the ditch, was a bit easier to regulate….it was a lot of fun and I was glad I’d had the chance to do the full course.

So as we were walking back towards the barn, Trainer B goes, “You know how you weren’t going to run XC tomorrow?” And I said, “Yeah,”(thinking daaamn, he’s going to say this was enough for him), and he said, “You’re running XC tomorrow.”

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Horse Shows

S’s First Show

Carolina Horse Park puts on a show series called War Horse Event Series that runs on a monthly basis from May-November. You can choose between doing a CT or HT that runs on Sunday, and they offer a schooling day on Saturday where you can school the courses and go play in the dressage rings, so great for green horses.

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And for moving up a level!

So even though I’d only been riding S for a couple weeks, I felt like the format would be a great way to see how he handled himself at shows and around a real jump course. Originally we were only going to go for the schooling day so he could get on XC and go around the SJ ring, but with Florence dumping so much rain on the venue, they cancelled all XC for the weekend and offered it only as a CT. So I signed up to compete.

Definitely a weekend of firsts: this horse’s first time staying overnight somewhere, his first time jumping in a show, and his first time jumping a course of more than 5 jumps.

Here’s how he stepped off the trailer:

S1

That was about the most excited he got all weekend. So…really impressed with this guy’s brain.

I entered him in the Maiden division (2’3″) to keep it simple, but we had wanted to school him over the BN course in the big ring also. Unfortunately the times just weren’t in our favor: they had BN run from 9 AM-11 AM, and Maiden run from 12 PM-3 PM. It didn’t really make sense for him to do the bigger course first, so we opted to not take the chance of blowing his brain and just schooled over the little Maiden course.

Did I mention that was his first time schooling over more than 5 jumps? Winner, winner.

S2
Except for the stall situation. This was at 7am, AFTER a midnight cleaning. Just as bad as P. For shame, S…for shame.

The next day I hopped on about 30 minutes before our test. He was super chill in warmup, even when this horse came straight at us and I had to sharply veer S away. The woman’s response? “I’m on a TEN METER CIRCLE,” like I’m supposed to know. Love lower level warmups.  Whatevs. We did Intro C, which is a terrible test in itself, and S was a bit distracted (lots to see), but I was pleased with how he handled everything. He scored a 37, which was a little higher than I thought, but as always, I wasn’t exactly there for the dressage anyway.

Unfortunately no media exists of the dressage test. Trainer B and his working student were both riding at the same time I was, so the moms were busy back at the stalls. If it had received a great score, I’d be more upset!

S got about an hour to chill before I started tacking him up again. Sequence of trying to take a picture of S without the sideeye business.

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I love that WHES allows for schooling the day before, but I also weirdly put pressure on myself because of it. If schooling goes great, what if I screw up the competition round? Sounds dumb, but it really makes the nerves kick in for me.

I shouldn’t have worried, though:

S9S10

Which moved him up from 7th to 5th and earned his owner a ribbon and some treats from sponsors!

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Everyone on the team posted double clear rounds and got a ribbon!
Horse Shows

CHP Novice Takeaways-Cross Country

He’s a cross-country beast with the right rider. 

Remember when I wasn’t so sure he liked cross-country? Well, if he’s ridden correctly, he damn sure does.

Nov10

He was a bit sticky to the first 2 jumps, but I can’t really blame him- we were heading right for the barns, where he had a fan and 2 buckets of cold water in his stall. It was 94 degrees at 1:30 PM and we had just jumped SJ. But as soon as we were over jump 2? He clicked into a whole ‘nother gear.

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Into the field towards 4

Jump 4 was a jump where I had no idea how he’d react. This has been his only experience climbing a hill, jumping, and going straight downhill:

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October 2017
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And even though he peeked, and it was a bit awkward…
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…He made it over to the other side, which is what counts

I was so impressed with him in the water. This is the same horse I used to have to drag through every puddle I could find because he was aversive to getting his delicate tootsies wet.

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2015- hesitant about splashing in the water
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2016- He spent the year convinced he couldn’t go faster than a trot through water.
2017- finally getting there
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2018- Sees water, accelerates towards jump, and flies in.

The next 2 jumps were ones I was definitely hesitant about. Jump 7 we had to weave in between two scary looking jumps, and it landed downhill. Didn’t know what P would think about the drop off, but man, he flew.

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I did have to slow him down a bit to make the U-turn, and I was sort of dreading jump #8. It’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s uphill, and P historically has not been a fan of things with cutouts. So imagine my surprise when he charged at it.

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The other one I was a bit concerned about was the table. Not for P, because P doesn’t seem to mind those types of jumps. But I was worried that I would do something to mess him up or convey that I thought it was a bit large. So I made sure to keep my hands forward and while it took every ounce of mental strength I had not to mess with him, I let him figure out his own stride. He definitely spooked a tiny bit at the carts/people walking directly behind the jump, but was a champ.

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Spotting the table
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Chances are high that this picture will be somewhere in every post from now until the end of time.
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At this point I was sad there was only 2 more jumps to go.

The last bending line I was slightly concerned I wouldn’t be able to turn him and the last thing I wanted was a run out at the final jump. So I took him to the right of this and we met it slightly awkward.

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He made the line easily, though, and made the feeder look like a Green as Grass jump.

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Now at this point I got a bit choked up, and was so ready to jump off and throw my arms around this big guy. P had other ideas- get through the finish flags as fast as he could.

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Not sure if I’m smiling or crying here. Probably both 🙂

I was happy with how I rode on XC.

Trainer B said, “If you feel a little out of control, go with it,” and I did. I feel like I steered and stayed out of his way, which is key for him. I was also told that if I didn’t feel him accelerate 10 strides out, to use leg and the crop. I only had to do that to fences 1, 2, and 4.

While we were walking the course, Trainer B told me that when I try to set him up before I fence, P listens, so if I don’t then follow the setup with clear directions, it confuses him and he shuts down. Which makes sense. When I kicked on towards a fence, or tapped him with my crop, he responded immediately. Even when I felt uncertain about a distance or our stride, I just stayed out of his way and he figured it all out, as long as he knew I wanted him to go.

The bit change was necessary.

I don’t think I brought it up before, but Trainer B changed up his bit for XC when we went to Virginia. P gets low and flat while galloping, and will blow you right off in rubber bits/snaffles. When we first changed him into a rubber bit, the hope was that it would give P confidence to the jumps. Well, it worked a little too well. 2 days before we left for VA, Trainer B jumped him around his XC jumps at his place in the Nathe and said nope, that he’d bring something for him. He ended up putting P in a full cheek, rubber gag for VHT.

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And I think we can all agree P was great there.

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My concern was for when I took back over. I’m clearly not the same rider as Trainer B, and didn’t want to do anything that would hurt P and thus back him off from XC even more. But I also know how P is on XC, and the tugging match isn’t fun. When you’re flying around, hauling on the reins and getting no response, you tend to not enjoy XC very much.

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Before we left for CHP, we had an XC lesson in the gag, and I was seriously afraid to canter, lest I hit him in the mouth. But I was overreacting- P was fine, and he was definitely fine on XC at CHP. It’s not a harsh mouthpiece, but it does allow him to go around in his own frame where he’s comfortable, while still giving me the control to get his head up before a fence. I always felt like I HAD brakes…I just obviously didn’t use them, hence the speed faults. But I knew they were there. So a win for everyone.

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Booking it

-We’re at the level we should be at.

After the competition, I asked Trainer B if I should enter at BN for the next competition, which is recognized.

B: “Why? So you can ride like a slug around SJ and get away with it?”

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Slug? Me? 😦

Fair point.

Honestly, the whole day before, as well as the day of the competition, I felt like I shouldn’t have been there. I had no idea what possessed me to enter at Novice, and why I thought it would work out considering we had such little experience at BN.

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But Trainer B said that sure, it was technically unrecognized, but the course was a legit Novice course. It wasn’t a “guaranteed success” course. The War Horse series is a big one around these parts. They bring in real course designers and use the same jumps that they use for recognized competitions. So ok, maybe we won’t look like idiots the next time.

-The “T word” resurfaces. 

While neither Trainer B or I were upset by the speed faults, I asked him if I should do something different next time. Pull him down to the trot at some point in the course? He said no, P needs to get going from right out of the start box and stay forward. His confidence obviously increases the further he gets in the course, so messing with his rhythm wouldn’t be a good idea.

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Agreed

Then I got, “Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to get speed faults until you go Training.”

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Horse Shows

CHP Novice Takeaways- Stadium

-I can pretty much guess what we’ll be doing at our next lesson. 

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Wait, that’s not how you properly go through a one-stride?
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All the yikes

Which probably stems from this:

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October 2017

And while we eventually got it after multiple tries that day, my psyche was already damaged. Which I continue to relay to P 8 months later.

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This only took five billionty times

Stadium is back to being the worst phase. 

We get by when the jumps are small, but missing to 2’6″ is different than missing to 3′. Who woulda thought?

Heckling helps.

Now I had just taken P to our first jumper show this year and we cruised around 2’6″ and 2’9″, but the videos showed a much slower pace than I thought we had.

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Jump-off. I thought we were flying. Not so much.

On our way to dinner the night before the horse trial, we all went out to dinner and Trainer B rode with me. As I was driving towards the restaurant, he goes, “How come you drive your truck so fast, but ride so slow?”

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HA. HA. Maybe because my truck responds when I put my foot on the accelerator and doesn’t stop unless I choose to engage the brake?

Then later we were all sitting around outside the stalls and Trainer B says to Husband, “I’m going to Petsmart to get a shock collar to attach to P’s girth. Anytime I think she’s going too slow, I’m going to press the button. Cool?” To which Husband replied, “Yeah, man!” And then I laughed. And then Trainer B looked me dead in the eye and said, “Oh, you think I’m joking?”

Ummm, I actually can’t tell.

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So. We rode fast the next day.

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Made it over jump 1 on our first real Novice course 🙂

It wasn’t all bad.

Was it pretty? No. BUT. I didn’t micromanage him to fences. I didn’t freak out if I saw nothing or saw a wrong distance a few strides out. I added leg and we moved on. That in itself is a HUGE win.

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I had to cut the turn after jump 1 to this oxer super sharp so he didn’t have time to think to stop.

Like, despite the rail at 4, I was really proud of how I rode this 7 stride. Because when we walked it, it walked in 7. And then I did 7. Not 6 + a flier. Not 8. SEVEN.

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Count for yourself!

Even though SJ went nothing like I wanted it to, Trainer B said my riding was good (except the whole looking behind me. That was dumb), and this is all stuff we can clean up at home. So pray for me.

After SJ, we still had a number score, not a letter.

I mean, we made it around with no falls! Quite a different result than when I attempted BN at this same HT last June.

 

Go or Crash

Trainer B said I try to make things too perfect for P while jumping. And P has learned that if it’s not perfect, the answer is to stop and try again. And then I try even harder to set him up right, but if the Princess deems it not to be so, stopping is alright.

No. He said he’d rather P crash through fences than stop at them. Seems a little harsh, right? I did at first, but he explained that P has got to learn that not everything is going to be perfect for him, but that unless it’s absolutely dangerous for him to jump (like if I point him off the edge of a cliff..banks don’t count), the answer has got to be, “Yes, ma’am.” He also said P is smart enough not to WANT to crash into fences. But if I have that in my head as those are the only 2 options, chances are better that P will jump rather than stop. So basically he’s telling me not to let stopping be an option that I’ll accept, which I will then convey to P.

A new way of repeating something he’s been telling me for a long time. But the phrase is catchy enough that I might actually remember it.

Open-Fronts for Stadium. 

Because we had to go straight to XC after stadium, I opted to just put on P’s Majyk Equipe XC boots for SJ. Which, looking back, probably contributed to the rails we had. I was honestly really surprised about the rails, because well, we never have them. If P jumps, he’s pretty much going to do what he needs to do not to hit a rail.

But in warmup, we hit a rail, then went in and he knocked down 3 rails (technically only 2 counted- the organizers were supposed to take out a jump after the final 2 stride, but they hadn’t done that when we went in), and was very casual about the whole thing. So great, ME technology is wonderful, but open-fronts for P from now on.

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First ever stadium round- August 2015 at Kingfisher’s CT.
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June 2018 (something in his mane is obvi very interesting)
Horse Shows

CHP Novice Takeaways-Dressage

“Hey, remember when P & I completed our first BN and I referenced it pretty much every post after that? Well, prepare for more spamming, this time Novice-style. Because Novice. And this time I have professional photos!

When I left CHP Sunday evening, I drove home with no radio, no phone calls, just drove and thought about the day. 48 hours later I’m still in disbelief. I can’t believe we did it!

But as always, there were lessons learned that I need to hammer into myself before the next one.

-Ride every movement in the dressage test. 

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The smile when you nail centerline then think, “Wait, which way do I turn?”

Despite the error-on-purpose, I felt like I actually RODE the movements, vs just sat there and reminded myself what came next. Which is something that I’ve always struggled with in dressage. So despite the terrible score, there was something positive to come out of it. 

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My tendency is to freeze when P is going well, when actually, small movements with my aids will be what keeps him consistent and focused. Unless a trailer full of horses is banging down the road 10 feet from us. I guess he gets a pass for that.

Nov8
30 seconds later. I wish there was a hi-res version of this.

P’s capable of a lot- he has good gaits and he’s more consistent in his balance than ever before. I need to shorten my reins and carry my hands a bit more to relay messages to him faster.

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Would be a great picture if we could both keep our mouths shut

He’s come a long way since scooting around in hexagon shapes like a giraffe. And while we have a ton to work on, ahem, right lead canter, it’s the journey, right?

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P: “I spy with my little eye…something to spook at. 3..2..1..”

 

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The braids made it through dressage!

 

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First dressage show- February 2015
Nov15
June 2018

 

 

Horse Shows

White Numbers

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:

Nov1

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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.

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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

XC1

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.

XC2

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.

XC3

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.

XC4

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 reactXC5

Spoiler alert: no biggie.

 

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He didn’t even peek at the shark in the water!

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.

XC6

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.

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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.

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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.

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Then up the hill, turn right and down a hill to this log/coop/thing. Yay, more cutouts.

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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.

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Then this was the second to last:

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And a bending 7 to finish the course.

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Then I picked up my packet and got a little panicky. For better or worse, this was really happening.

Nov2

Competition Day

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). 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.

Nov3
Game face

Dressage

P won the warmup- he was so super fancy, supple, connected…all the good things. 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).

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Preview:

Nov8

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 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.

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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.

Stadium

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.

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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, 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.

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Don’t want to be THAT client, but I was freaking out.

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.

Nov6
LOVE IT

Cross Country

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 awesome and trekked 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. I’m thrilled I had speed faults. It meant I actually galloped.

Nov10
Yep. Galloping: check

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?

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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.

aThe 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!

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