I really dragged this one out, didn’t I? Well, it was my first hurrah since March and my last hurrah for quite awhile, so sorrynotsorry. Plus, I was waiting for show pictures but at this point, 11 days later, forget it. Literally everyone that I know who showed at different venues that same weekend had their pictures within 48 hours and mine still haven’t been uploaded. They have like 1/10 of the competitiors’ pictures up under the VA folder on their website, and it’s been that way for 2 days now.
But anyway, we came out of SJ with Leo getting all the pats from everyone because he was SUCH A GOOD BOY, and then Trainer B and I headed up the hill so Trainer B could do his BN show jumping and I had to get to XC. I stopped by the arena so I could get my XC gear out of the golf cart and was fully prepared (externally, at least) to head to XC alone, but Trainer B persuaded the other competitors and the stewards to let him cut in front of everyone else and do his round so he could come with me to XC.
Seriously. Best Trainer Ever.
During that interlude it was discovered our rail had dropped us from 2nd to being tied for 6th so there were some jokes made about going for optimum time, which Trainer B quickly squashed. He wanted me to stick with the plan of trotting the first fence, then cantering only if Leo was balanced and not rushing. Any sign of rushing or pulling and I was to do a downward transition, even walk or circle if I had to. He said coming out of XC with a better trained horse was more important than what the results looked like on paper (FINE), told me to ignore the fly bonnet message (P’s “Go Fast” bonnet) gave me a few last minute tips and we headed to the start box.
Leo was super game, didn’t so much as peek at jump 1, landed in a beautiful canter and we set off on quite possibly the most gorgeous XC course I’ve ever been on.
While the round wasn’t perfect- he definitely got a bit rushy after some of the jumps, requiring quite a bit of trotting and one circle after jump 6, and then there was the little debacle on our way to the last jump where the pair behind us had gone balls-to-the-wall and galloped past us with no warning (she apparently got reamed out afterwards)- but I just had a blast. There was no question in my mind that he was going to jump all the jumps and even the water didn’t back him off.
He was clearly enjoying himself and I just wished we could go around and do it again and again.
The time penalties added quite a bit to our score, dropping us to either last or almost last, BUT, had we not had time penalties, we would’ve ended up 5th. Had we not had time penalties or the rail, we would’ve held onto 2nd. Which in such a big field, with nearly half the field consisting of professionals (seems a little weird for Starter but whatevs), is sort of amazing.
And as we walked back to the barns, Trainer B reaffirmed that this was, indeed, Leo’s final Starter.
And Fun Fact: the horse we were tied with after dressage has gone prelim/1* with Lainey Ashker. Leo is a champ.
Simply put, it was the best possible way to end the year. Leo gets a break now and will head to Ocala with Trainer B at the end of the month while I try my best to get P back in some semblance of shape before his break while I have surgery and have to take my break.
Ok, so at this point Leo and I had been at the Virginia Horse Center since Thursday afternoon, where on that day I worried the entire time how or if I was going to ride my horse. One of the reasons I’d put off telling Trainer B I’d wanted to ride was because we’d had two, ahem, interestingeducational lessons leading up to the show, and I had this ridiculous fear that if I’d told him I wanted to ride, he’d be all, “I mean…should you?”
But on Friday I bit the bullet after seeing how tiny the XC jumps were, we switched as Leo’s rider, and I did dressage on Saturday, which had us tied for 2nd place, 2.2 points away from first. Now all I had to do was jump my horse over a course of jumps for, well, the first time ever (his 2nd course ever), and possibly even canter fences…another first, seeing as Leo, aka Spider Legs had been solely trotting fences up until that point.
Then my nerves were slightly abated when I heard the announcer say that the horse trial divisions (the show was also running CCI1/CCI2/CCI3 divisions) would be doing stadium up in the arena Leo and I had just done dressage in the day before. So whew. At least it’s an arena he’s already been in.
Until I went with Trainer B to check out the CCI3 SJ course in the big Grand Prix arena in the middle of the Horse Center and saw course maps posted for the FEI levels…AND STARTER.
How cruel does one have to be in order to run the 3* and STARTER in the same giant GP arena?
I considered asking the show office if I could just stick him in BN. After all, we’d done the same dressage test as the BN division- just slide my score in wherever you see fit, mmmkay? I’ll totes jump bigger fences if it means I can do it in a quieter arena. To give you an idea of how nuts the area the GP arena was, when I was standing near it with Leo earlier in the day, FIVE loose horses (in the span of less than an hour) galloped directly past us, as that arena stands directly in the path from all the other arenas/XC back to the barns.
But I digress.
The warmup was next to the coliseum, and while Leo was a little on edge at first, he actually warmed up super. Didn’t do even a little bolting after any of the jumps and was fairly steady to each fence, even the oxer. So with that, we went into the GP arena with the instructions to trot the first fence, immediately do a downward transition, trot the 2nd fence, then play it by ear after that. If he rushed before or after a fence, immediate downward transition. If he was balanced and relaxed, let him canter.
He had a rail at jump 2 because I simply held on too long, but it was so fun to feel his confidence grow as we went along. They had the ground poles set about 6″ in front of each jump, so he whacked at least 3 of those, but the rest of the rails stayed up. And check out that flying change in between jumps 4 & 5!
I was thrilled as we came out, even more so as we headed up the hill to Trainer B’s SJ and my XC and Trainer B said that’s what he needed to see before moving him to BN.
So after finally making the decision to ride (for goodness sakes) and officially making the switch from Trainer B to myself, Leo and I had a most perfect ride around the Virginia Horse Center. It was filled with over crowded arenas, spooky indoors, loose horses, blaring speakers, flapping tents, zooming golf carts, barking dogs, falling jumps…to name just a few stimuli. So why was it perfect? Well, because for how insane everything was, Leo was most decidedly NOT insane.
The team had 5 horses showing: Trainer B was riding one in BN, one in N, and one in the 3*, another student was riding in the T, and I was the last ride of each day in the Starter. Which normally would drive me crazy, having to sit around all day waiting to go, but in reality I didn’t have even a second to get nervous, as we were running around all day, every day. I walked the 3* XC course (which made me really laugh at my Starter fences), helped in the vet box, tacked/untacked/washed horses, etc…thankfully there was ALWAYS something to do.
I did manage to pre-ride Leo Saturday morning before our 3:40 dressage time, and despite almost being run into multiple times from multiple angles, and him picking up the wrong lead going right twice (first time in awhile that’s happened), he felt pretty good and I was just happy he was still holding onto his sanity.
When it was our turn, we headed up to warmup and Trainer B told me I needed to win the dressage (which made me laugh out loud), and we worked on getting some semblance of a stretch out of him, then headed down the hill and into the dressage arena.
Where Leo immediately went, “Ummm, WUT” and got all tense.
But other than a bobble right before we went in (and I immediately circled before he spooked), we went in and rode Leo’s 2nd ever dressage test (video has captions w/scores):
The collectives were:
With the final comment: “Be more forward to help solidify a better frame; show more bend.”
For a score of 35.0
I felt his nervousness throughout, but was super happy because umm, hello, he picked up the right lead, we stayed in the arena and I really felt as if I rode the test, rather than my usual sitting like a passenger, thinking about what was coming up next. So while obvi we wouldn’t win the dressage (there were 19 people in the division), Leo and I had both survived- his 2nd dressage test ever, and my 2nd in over a year.
Then the texts started coming from friends:
I really didn’t want to know my placing after dressage, and would’ve been happier had we been last, but it was seriously cool to know that despite the tenseness I felt, the judge liked Leo enough to score him as well as she did.
Unfortunately, dressage was all we got to do that day, as both SJ and XC were being run on Sunday, so I got to sit and stew all night about how the only time Leo’s ever done a full jump course was at Windridge with Trainer B, and how I’ve never actually cantered a fence on Leo and the last time we had jumped was a grand total of 3 fences nine days prior…
So when we last left off, after waffling back and forth about who would ride Leo at the Virginia HT, I finally submitted the entry under Trainer B then tried on show clothes.
Well, I had decided that damnit, I wanted to ride. So I prepared a speech and practiced said speech on the way up to a lesson, fully prepared to deliver it once we had wowed Trainer B with how amazing we were.
Then neither Leo nor I could get ourselves together over GROUND POLES without one or both of us freaking out. So I figured it wasn’t quite time to pull out the speech, and went home slightly defeated.
So the next lesson, I had just resigned myself to let Trainer B ride him, seeing as it was 1.5 weeks away from the show and we were still working on canter transitions. Then I packed all my show clothes (because…psycho) and off to VA we headed.
We arrived Thursday afternoon, and I got Leo settled, then tried to find time to sneak off to go look at XC, which I figured would be my deciding factor. If there was something on course that I thought would be super spooky, then I’d let it be and have Trainer B ride. But soon after I arrived, we all headed off to dinner and of course while we were out it started POURING, so when I got back on the grounds, there was no way I could see any of the jumps in the rain and the dark (believe me, I tried and looked like a drowned rat for my troubles).
The next AM, I got to the barn, we fed all the horses, did stalls and then I snuck out to go RUN the course before the day really started. If you don’t know, the rule for recognized HTs is that only the competitor can ride the horse on the show grounds, and the schedule for that day had Trainer B doing dressage in the 3* and then after that, riding his other 2 horses + Leo that afternoon. So I finally had to make the decision.
And…XC was tiny. So tiny, in fact, that I mistook a few Novice fences for Starter (2’3″) and was even a bit disappointed in how little everything looked. But of course, the size of the fences wasn’t the point, just getting Leo to understand the job was. But still.
But that clinched it for me. Now I just had to tell Trainer B he’d lost the ride.
As we walked to dressage, he said we’d go check out the Starter later on. I figured that was as good an entry point as any and said, “Well, I already walked it.”
Trainer B: And?
Me: It looks tiny.
Trainer B: Too bad you’re not riding.
Me: I know.
Trainer B: Do you want to ride?
Trainer B: Seriously?
Trainer B: Do you have your stuff?
Trainer B: Even your show clothes?
Trainer B: They might charge you $25 to change it.
Me: Actually it’s $50.
Trainer B: Did you plan this?
So we made it official in the show office, then I hopped on Leo and we had an amazing ride around the enormous show grounds to prepare him for the madness of dressage the next day.
That’s right y’all, Leo is a newly minted event horse!
I’d decided to have Trainer B ride him for this first one, to give him the best first outing possible, and while I kept waffling back and forth about the decision (even packing my show clothes and gear), I’m so glad I stuck to it, because it could not have gone better for the horse. He came out of each phase looking more and more confident in his new job.
Leading up to the Big Weekend, I was a nervous wreck that he would hurt himself. Thanks P, for the PTSD. So last Monday (T minus 5 days til showtime) when I tried to curry off what I thought was mud but turned out to be a gash that blew up his leg, you can probably imagine my reaction.
And then when he had an allergic reaction to fly spray (of which I’d bought a gallon of), I pumped him full of Benadryl and physically stared each hive down.
BUT we made it to Windridge intact, Leo settled in nicely, and Trainer B hopped on him to hack around the show grounds….then promptly got chased down the street by loose dogs.
So the next morning when it was time to go back that way to get to dressage, Leo was understandably a bit nervous to return to the scene of the crime and required a lead into warmup. Windridge’s dressage arena is quite a bit spooky, as it’s plopped in the middle of the woods, and while there were some moments where Leo couldn’t contain himself, Trainer B is such a quiet and patient rider that he was able to get some really nice work out of him before heading in.
He scored a 36.9- the lows being the canter transitions (5.5 for the right lead unsurprisingly), the free walk (he jigged, which earned him a 4.5), and the highs being his medium walk (an8!!!!), the canter circles (7 for the right, 7.5 for the left), and the left trot circle (7.5). The rest of the scores were a mixture of 6’s and 7’s, and collective marks were 6.5’s across the board, with the comments mostly noting bend and tension.
A few hours later we headed up to SJ. I was an absolute wreck by then, as Bette can attest to (thank you SO much for coming and cheering!). I couldn’t manage to properly ask her to hand me the girth, as I’d forgotten how to pronounce “girth,” and then I put his open fronts on backwards. One would think I’d be less nervous with someone else riding, but in fact, I was MORE nervous. I’ve had the horse for 4 months and Trainer B had ridden him maybe 5 times at this point. 99.999999% of everything has been done by me, so if he sucks, it’s on me. If something were to go wrong, you couldn’t even blame pilot error, like you could if I’d been aboard. And Leo hadn’t jumped for nearly 2 weeks at this point, as we’d focused solely on flat work at home and at Trainer B’s leading up to the show.
And Windridge had decided to change SJ up. They typically hold SJ on grass, but this time they’d decided to hold it in the middle of the XC course. So there was A LOT of terrain and A LOT of things to look at. Leo was a little excited to be jumping and tried to run off upon landing for the first few warmup jumps, then put in a few solid efforts and we hung out and let him watch the commotion. Well, Trainer B hung out, which chilled Leo out. I fretted and tried to stay away from the horse so I wouldn’t pass on my insanity.
He went in and had the first rail down (because trot fences are hard when you have spider legs), which upset him, but lots of transitions by Trainer B and he went around really nicely for his first real jump course ever (that was more than 3 jumps). Cantered some, trotted some (had one more rail at another trot fence), and ended the round just looking pleased as punch with himself.
The next day I was even MORE nervous, which I hadn’t thought possible. We’d walked the course the night before and the biggest unknown was going to be the water. While he’s gone right in both waters at Carolina Horse Park, he wasn’t so confident about the water complex at Trainer B’s (which, in Leo’s defense, is dyed TURQUOISE), but then when we were headed up to SJ, you have to pass by the water and Leo was definitely giving it some serious side eye and a wide berth. While there was an option to take a jump instead of go through the water, Trainer B wanted to go for the water, since it’s usually NOT an option. So he made a plan to try to get him in the water on his way to jump 5 (the water was flagged as 10) to get his feet wet.
Husband had thankfully driven up that AM and of course I’m lucky to be a part of the best team ever, so between Husband and I, and Trainer B’s wife and another client, we all scattered on XC to get as much of the course as possible. And besides only one uncertain fence where he didn’t seem to know where his feet were and how to coordinate them, Trainer B piloted him around, uh, like a pro (duh) and Leo finished his first horse trial looking like a real event horse.
Which, even with the 2 rails and the time penalties, landed him in 4th place and he got his first ribbon!
So here’s hoping I have the same success when it’s my turn!
Man, it’s been awhile. Feels like even longer than just a week since I last posted. C & I have had 2 lessons with Trainer B, both pretty interesting. C is such a different ride than P and even S, so it’s been extremely educational for me. He’s super hard to steer, especially to the left, and he’s the opposite of careful when it comes to jumping SJ jumps, but damn if he isn’t going to get to the other side of the fence. He may get to the other side by dismantling the jump, but hey, he doesn’t refuse.
Here’s a helmet cam video of Lesson #2 that I made for his owner:
So we decided to enter the BN at Carolina Horse Park this past weekend, which is always a fun event because they let you (for a cost, of course) school on Saturday before you show on Sunday.
So Friday I arrived at the horse park, then after getting C settled in his stall, I headed to a farm a few minutes away to sit on the first 4 year old OTTB I’ve sat on in 5 years.
More on that later.
Saturday was the schooling day, so C & I headed out to do a quick SJ warmup, do a round of SJ, then head XC. Except C didn’t think the warmup needed to be so short. He was very into the idea that he could just grab the bit and take off, occasionally bulldozing fences along the way. We tried adjusting his bit/bridle, changing the ride to/after fences, but it was all for naught. So I went in to see if maybe he’d settle during the course.
Nope. After running at fences 1-3, then crashing through jump 4 and running away with me after the 2 stride, I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t turn him left, he was completely oblivious to anything I was doing up there, and it was getting embarrassing. There was a line of riders still waiting to go, so I called it and we went XC.
Note: None of this was news to me and these issues had been disclosed to me by his owner. He’s 19 and not going to change, so there really was just zero point in fighting about it.
So, on XC warmup, after making C calm the F down to trot a log in a circle for 5 minutes, we graduated to trotting the BN coop, then the N log pile, then he was allowed to canter the N log pile a few times before we went to the course.
Where we were promptly told to do the BN Jump #1 to Training Jump #2 to Novice Jump #3. And I thought for sure I’d heard wrong because, uhhh, haaalllloooo, we were there to jump the BN.
But I didn’t hear wrong, so we did, even though I’d stood next to Training #2 that very morning and literally shuddered at how wide it was. At that point it hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d be told to jump it. Let’s all remember I’ve now jumped this horse a grand total of 5 times, and hadn’t jumped a single XC fence over BN in a year.
But everything I pointed him at, he tackled with no hesitation. We jumped a few BN and a few Training, and jumped pretty much all of Novice. I wasn’t able to get it all on helmet cam because it died, but here’s a little bit of what we did:
And one ground person was nice enough to get us going through the Training water.
So I ended the day seriously thrilled. No, C is not the most athletic. But he doesn’t say no and that allows me to finally, FINALLY work on other things besides just pleading with the horse to take off. And sure, SJ schooling completely sucked, but you know what? I can’t even be mad or upset. I’m just grateful I was out there on a horse, learning things and not, oh ya know, shoving ointment into my horse’s eye all weekend.
After schooling, Trainer B and I were supposed to go for a second look at the horse I’d tried the day before, but the heavens opened up and storms came roaring through the area, so that was definitely a no-go. And it looked like it wasn’t meant to be because the horse’s trainer was coaching students at CHP on Sunday and between my ride times, Trainer B’s ride times and her students’ ride times, we could not find a mutually agreeable time.
So Trainer B and I discussed options:
Option A: Make an offer on the horse without riding a second time.
Option B: Walk away.
Option C: Go over there late in the afternoon. I really didn’t want to wait around all day after showing.
Option D: Scratch the show and go there at 8 AM.
I chose Option D for a few reasons:
I had no clue where the BN fences were on XC because we’d only jumped a couple the day before and our course walk time got rained out #lazy
We had jumped N/T things, so who really cares about jumping BN
I wouldn’t hate life if I didn’t take him SJ
He’s not my horse and this is an unrecognized show
So 8 AM saw me not in the dressage arena (my dressage time was 8:12), but back on top of the wiggly 4 year old. Who, despite being crammed on a 20m circle due to ring conditions, really tried his little heart out to bend and not break gait. And when I took him out to their jump field and Trainer B set some fences, was just absolutely super.
When we got back to the showgrounds, Trainer B and I discussed the horse and decided to make the trainer an offer. I’ve never bought a horse with a trainer before (hello $700 unbroke 9 year old back in 2010 and then P, who I bought off of FB videos in 2014), and this is definitely the life. 10/10 recommend. Trainer B did everything from negotiations to setting up the vetting which is…drumroll, please…TOMORROW MORNING.
So we’ll see what happens! If this horse doesn’t pan out, there are a couple more on the list to check out. But fingers are crossed that all checks out!
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.
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.
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.
But after a minute or two at the walk, we picked the trot back up and C was just fine.
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.
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.
The walk was slow and disconnected (something I’d already been warned about by his owner), and the right lead canter was very emotional.
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).
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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:
And that clear round was good enough to bump us up a few spots so we could take home some satin!
And while that was awesome and all, one of the best parts of the day was meeting Emma finally!
And realizing at the same time that we’re both terrible at taking interesting pictures.
So looks like C will be heading down to spend some time with me starting this Saturday!
We all know how long it took for me to eventually get P around a BN, right? ::cough cough:: 2 years ::cough cough::
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).
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:
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.
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?
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 afterwardswhen I found out she hadn’t jumped him at all, I was actually quite impressed with how he was.
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.
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.
Waiting on some media…we’ll finish this story tomorrow!
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.
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.
That he does, my dears, but it’s looking like this handsome guy will soon be coming my way.
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.
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.
I will always be partial to Windridge. Maybe because we’ve won there before…
Also because they have a kick ass XC course.
But I have to say that my favorite among favorites has to be Carolina Horse Park.
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.
Trashcans everywhere that are actually emptied DURING the show, so trash isn’t blowing out by Sunday. Small details like that matter.
Another favorite feature is that each stall has it’s own dual electric outlet. Perfect for a fan and a phone charger.
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.
They partner with a nearby golf cart company, so you can have one delivered for the duration of the show for $45/day.
The only thing missing would be showers. If they’d add showers and a real restroom, that’d be perfection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you do enough of these WHES events, you can qualify for the championships, which dishes out hefty prize money and goodies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.