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.

Trainer B had me exaggerate flexing him to the inside before asking for the canter, which helped a little, but S just seemed a little over all the flatwork.

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 finally 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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

-P is a better 3 Day horse. 

Trainer B and I talked about this for awhile. When we were at Virginia, P got to do all 3 phases in the “correct” order. And he was great. Trainer B said the one day format where you do SJ before XC isn’t the best structure for P.

XC gets P forward. SJ gets P sucked back.

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A little behind the leg
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Booking it

He encouraged us to look into the Novice 3 Day next year at Heart of the Carolinas (which was already on my radar, but at BEGINNER Novice…yikes), and that will also probably factor somewhat into which events I chose to attend.

We need to change up the start box routine. 

I’ve always just walked P in, stood there, and then headed straight out when we’re counted down. Since this marks 2 times P has come out sideways, Trainer B suggested picking up the trot/canter outside the box and coming through already with some speed.

He also had the idea to wait until we’re counted down, and THEN pick up the trot/canter and head through the box. That way we waste some seconds, to maybe avoid speed faults.

-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 Trainer B’s this Friday. 

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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 officially the worst phase. 

Out of the mouth of Trainer B. 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. What an idiot), 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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The look on your face when you can feel Trainer B standing ringside judging you.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Trainer B cautioned this would be a spooky one for P and to sit way back.

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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 with Trainer B). So I panicked, threw cold water over my horse who hates any sort of bath, then tied him in his stall to braid him for the 3rd time ever in the 4 years I’ve owned him. Sadly, Husband only got pictures from the opposite side, but they looked really good (and discreet- no one could see the bobby pins!) and stayed in securely,  minus the one closest to the saddle that was already thin and then I knocked repeatedly with my reins while tacking up. Oops.

Nov3
Game face
Nov5
Husband being a cheeseball

Dressage

P won the warmup- he was so super fancy, supple, connected…all the good things. Trainer B was impressed, I was thrilled- this was going to be great!

Then we got sent to the spooky ring by the woods with the woodland creatures and the road. And my husband decided a good place to stand would at the edge of the woods (I still love you).

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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 ass trailer full of horses came flying down the road by A. And P lost it. My only goal was to not exit the arena at that point, so I pulled him down to the trot to quickly regroup, but he dragged me past where we needed to turn and the judge rang the bell.

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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 (you can hear Trainer B approve of my “aggressive” riding around the 46 second mark), for some reason I cared enough to TURN AROUND after we knocked the pole down at 4, which slowed us in the turn and we had a stop at 5. I mean, seriously? I don’t even remember doing it, but sure enough, it’s on video. We have a hard enough time with combinations, and I made it even harder. Sigh. 12 jumping faults and I think 10 time faults. Lesson learned: look ahead.

But really, while yes, I struggle in SJ for sure, I think most of everything had to do with my trepidation for XC. I couldn’t imagine a scenario where we didn’t have at least one stop- and I had a sleepless night the night before, so I went through many a scenario in my head. Repeatedly. It just didn’t seem possible, no matter how much I lectured myself not to think like that.

Add to that, Trainer B had to get on his own horse after I did SJ, and wouldn’t be able to head to the start box with us to remind me to gallop.

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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 kind enough to trek across the field to video the last 4 jumps.

I didn’t wear a watch, but knew we had gone really fast. So when Husband was heading back towards me after finishing, he yelled “How was it?” and I yelled back, “CLEAR!” and the woman at the finish line said, “She had SPEEEEEEED FAULTS.” Hey, lady. Trainer B will be thrilled I had speed faults. It meant I actually galloped.

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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Horse Shows

Virginia Horse Trials

This is going to be a long one. I know a lot of you split up posts by phases/days, but nah. I got a lot of texts from people who had checked live scores so I’m just putting it all out at once. Maybe take a few days to read this one. Maybe just skim through and look at all the awesome pictures/videos. Enjoy!

To start, I’ve never been to VA Horse Center before, and WOW, it’s such a gorgeous venue. The stalls were huge, aisles were wide, and I loved the mesh stall fronts- made it so easy to hang all the things.

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We got up there around 5 PM on Friday, settled all the horses in and headed out to dinner. Halfway through, someone mentioned braiding. Braiding? For Novice? That’s a thing?

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Apparently.

Thankfully E, whose horse Trainer B was riding in Novice as well, saved the day and P looked suitably fancy for prancing down centerline.

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And fancy he was.

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All the heart eyes at this fancy guy.

When I did Novice A back at a schooling show (remember when the judge laid on her horn in our faces?) we scored a 35. This test was significantly better than mine (should go without saying) so I was a bit surprised to see the score of 34.3 pop up. The judge was equally tough on everyone though, as E’s horse, who takes the word “fancy” to an entirely new level and routinely scores in the low 20’s, scored a 31. But P was dinged for his open mouth (an entirely other discussion/post), coming above the bit a couple times to whinny (which he NEVER does ::facepalm::), and she wanted to see P cover more ground in the canter. Which would be ideal, yeah, but because of P’s tendency to get stronger and then strung out in the canter the longer he goes, Trainer B did a great job of keeping him rounder to prevent that from happening.

That score stuck them in a 3-way tie for 11th.

S8
Not sure what P is staring at here, but he just looks so handsome.

Because the weather had showed storms all weekend (which never came to fruition), the schedule got changed up and P’s division ended up doing XC on day 1, instead of the SJ as originally scheduled. So that morning we treked up and down lots of hills to walk XC.

Jump 1 was just a simple log. It actually looks a bit smaller than the BN one to the left of it.

XC1

I didn’t see anything intimidating with jump 2, but it apparently caused the most issues on course- B said P looked really hard at it and on his other ride, he almost had a stop at this fence.

XC2

Then you went straight down this really steep hill to this table/box thing. It looks much bigger in real life, I promise. Trainer B said it was a bit unfair for the level to have that steep of a hill to this big of a jump. His words, not mine.

XC3

Then you made a left hand turn to 4.

XC4

Then curved back to the right and uphill to this rolltop. Which was green. Godspeed, Trainer B.

XC5

Then back to the left to this 3 stride. P gave a good peek at the B element with all it’s little branches. Then through the water, which I could say with great confidence that P would be fine at. And I was right.

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Then up this massive hill with a fairly sharp left turn to 8, a coop.

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Then down the hill to 9, which was a ditch/wall. Trainer B said he didn’t notice it had a ditch in front until he was galloping at it on his first ride of the day (P). But he said P didn’t give any indication that he noticed the ditch, or cared. So win!

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Then 10- which landed slightly downhill and from the backside just looked massive. Remind me when it’s my turn not to turn around and look at jumps from the back.

XC10

Then 11 AB was a feeder with a 4 or 5 stride bending line to a corner. P has jumped a corner built out of rails before, but never seen one on XC. Trainer B said he could’ve cared less.

XC11

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Not sure why this is so blurry, but it’s all I got 😦

Then around the woods and down the hill to this airy table. Again, not sure why it looks so small in the picture. I assure you, it wasn’t.

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And then a right hand turn to the coffin ditch. Trainer B said he was really glad he jumped P over the ditch at his place 2 days prior.

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And then 9 strides to this hanging log with brush.

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Then curve around, up another hill and over the logpile.

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Then a looong gallop straight uphill to this table. This was one of the very few jumps I didn’t really want to look at too hard.

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Then over a cabin which again, looks super small until you walk up to it.

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And lastly over a bench to be done!

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Here’s where life gets a little disappointing.

Before I left, I plugged my Cambox in and deleted all the files off of it. Trainer B rode XC with it on his helmet, but when he got off, said it might not have worked because it beeped a few times and went dark. When I got home, somehow it had turned on in it’s case and used up all the memory because I could hear my kids’ voices. So bummed.

We headed up to warmup and P looked pretty good, so I headed down to get a good spot on course for videos. After I had left, I was told that P was galloping around and suddenly stopped and ducked to the left, nearly sending Trainer B flying. It’s a move I know well, as my face and P’s right shoulder are by now intimately acquainted. But usually there’s a reason, and this time there were no other horses nearby, he wasn’t anywhere near a jump, and nothing anyone saw could be the reason. Gotta love P, right?

Trainer B asked me how competitive I wanted P to be- did I care about the time or no? I said no, only thing I was hoping for was no refusals. So he didn’t wear a watch, and said he regretted it later; that halfway through the course he thought he was going way too fast. And yeah, out of the 25 horses in the field, only 2 were a couple seconds faster than P. Goodness.

The video starts with jump 3.

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Making easy work of the jump on course that I deemed most scary

That clear run bumped them up to 8th, 5 points out of first.

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The next day P seemed a bit off. Not lame or anything, but just a lot of standing at the back of his stall, not eating much hay (though enthusiastic as ever for his grain), and not really being very sociable. Since he’s turned out practically 24/7 at home, at shows I usually get him out every few hours, but this time I really couldn’t- Trainer B was riding 4 horses in 3 different divisions and both days were extremely busy. I just hoped that P would pull it together and have a good attitude for SJ Sunday afternoon, as they had moved his division into the coliseum and P has never stepped foot in an indoor, let alone one like that.

Luckily, the warmup was all clear by the time Trainer B got on P, as P was the last horse to go in his division. Trainer B had just won the division on E’s horse (yay!) so at least I knew HE’D be in a good mood, and hopefully that would transfer over to P.

Then Trainer B pointed P towards the first warmup jump, got him in all sorts of wrong and P clobbered the top rail. Uhhh, Trainer B doesn’t miss.

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He would later explain the reason, which is actually quite genius. Because P can’t always be counted on to jump the jump, Trainer B wanted to start off by seeing which P came out to play that day. So while he didn’t exactly set him up wrong on purpose, he didn’t help him out with the distance either, and then he just sat there to see what he would do. I can only assume he was trying to ride like me. But P passed the test by jumping anyway, so Trainer B so kindly helped him out the rest of the warmup.

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Warmup

Then it was his turn. P definitely gave the hairy eyeball to the chute into the coliseum and was a little hesitant to go in for a second or two.

Now let’s just gush about this round. The flag jump in the far corner was definitely the problem fence for all the divisions and while P took it a bit long (unsurprising), everything else was pretty much perfect.

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Blurry, but let’s all just take a second to admire those knees.

So THIS clear round put them up into 6th place, only 3.3 points out of first.

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And earned P an enormous green ribbon!

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Funny story- not one of the 3 beings in this picture actually wanted to take a picture. We’re all pretty good at faking it, right?

 

Horse Life, Horse Shows

It’s HAPPENING

Capture

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I’m a little sad not to be riding, as I love competing and it seems like it’s been forever. But then the experience portion got filled out and, well, I think P’s in capable hands. Cough cough.

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Opposite ends of the spectrum 

Because of course, the most important thing is to give P a good experience. Besides a handful of schoolings, most of our XC experience has come from horse trials, equating to 5 minutes every few months or so- not a lot of education there. Currently P & I both go around cross-country alternating between “Cross country is so fun!” to “WTF is THAT?” It’s just been luck that we haven’t had the same WTF reaction to the same fences, and I don’t want to rely on luck. I want education.

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Like our stadium education- which is getting pretty solid

And as much as I love competing, I’m a little excited to just play owner for the first time. My friend is one of the photographers, and will be there, and Trainer B is also riding another clients’ horse, so they’ll be there and they’re super cool people. And if Michele can stop by on her way to TN, that would just be ahhhhh-mazing (no pressure, Michele. J/K there’s SO much pressure.).

Come ON May 24th, I’m ready to go!

Oh wait. I need my trailer finished first.

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Horse Shows

Sport of Horses Dressage Show

I’ve been working on this post for FIVE DAYS NOW. Thanks, work. Better late than never though, right?

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What being in non-profit feels like (especially during grant season)

Saturday morning came way too fast. My ride times didn’t start until 2:13, but BO was going at 10 so we had to leave the barn by 7:15. SO EARLY.

We got to the venue at 9 AM, unloaded, and checked in. And that’s when it started.

P is a solid citizen at shows. In a stall or at the trailer, just give him hay and he’s good to go. But we’re always alone…this time we had with us none other than the object of his intense bromance, Sandero.

I only have one tie ring on each side of my trailer so Sandero had to go on the opposite side. And P lost his ever loving mind.

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Creeping on Sandero through the trailer windows. That was all grass when we arrived.
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Now it’s a mixture of poop (5+ times) and pee (2+ times) stirred up via much pawing and stomping. Pretty sure we’ll never be allowed back.

But it had to happen sometime, since I would like to continue showing with friends. So while my horse flailed around like a crazed maniac loose from the looney bin, BO poured me a healthy sized glass of wine, no matter that it was 10:30 AM. BO is a great show partner.

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Then the super nice show management team took pity on me and cut the judge’s break short so I could get my 1st ride in two hours early. And then weaved me in a few rides later. It was my first time riding in front of an “S” judge, and I was pre-warned that she was a seriously tough cookie. Only one rider out of over 25 had scored in the 60’s with a 62%. No pressure.

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Despite P’s intense psychotic-ness at the trailer and the beginning of our warmup, he settled down for the most part after a few minutes in warmup. Since I was the first to go after the break, the venue’s owner told me when I rode by the judge to let her know I was going out of order and was doing Novice A. So I head over there on P…both car windows are up, with both the judge and the scribe just staring at me. I halted for a second, unsure of what to do, and the judge BLEW HER HORN IN OUR FACES. Like, we were literally less than 2 ft in front of her. And it wasn’t a polite little honk, either. Thankfully P just stood there and didn’t even flinch. But she had no way of knowing how he’d react, so I thought that was incredibly rude. But I turned around and we headed down CL. If she didn’t have the right test, probably all the better anyway.

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I guess he’s sorta bombproof.

Surprisingly, we actually put in a decent test, save for the right lead canter circle in the first test where I panicked as we got super close to B and he was kinda like, “Naaahh.” And then another panicky moment at the end of the circle when we were fast approaching F and P was all “FREEEEDOMMMM” instead of coming down to the trot. But it was our first time doing Novice A, which was a nice break from the BN tests, and I was just happy he was as rideable as he was (re: no longer the lunatic he had been shortly before).

I finally took the time to add in the scores/comments for each movement. That took forever so you’re welcome for the effort.

Final score: 35 (or 65%)

Then we waited for a few more riders to go, and they let me go again. My original plan, and the reason for doing Novice A twice, was to ride, get my scoresheet and see the comments, then do it again while trying to fix the issues from the original test. It was a great plan, but since they were fitting me in before my ride times, it didn’t happen like that.

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P wasn’t thrilled to be going back in- I could practically feel the disdain radiating off of him when I started the customary circle around the dressage arena. This time he gave me some issues in both canters, his free walk was non-existent (seriously…aimed him across the diagonal at K and felt him immediately suck back), but that halt…woot! It exists! I’ve been trying to unlock that baby for awhile.

Final score: 37 (or 63%)

I’m glad I went- it was low cost and a relaxed atmosphere, and the venue management was incredibly friendly. While better scores would’ve been nicer, I didn’t go for the scores, but solely to make it through a test while feeling I somewhat RODE my horse instead of sat there only thinking about the next movement. I left feeling like I did that somewhat in the first test…then the second test I had a brain freeze at the 2nd trot circle and never got fully out of my head after that.

All that means is more practice is needed. I would love to be able to get to some with Trainer J to really maximize our warmup and have her be able to see us in competition, because in lessons I’m much more relaxed and it shows in P. After going to that show with Trainer B last year, I’ve seen the light and how helpful it is to have a trainer with you. Not that I won’t go without one #adultammyproblems but I’m making it a goal to make it to at least one with Trainer J.

And here are some cherry picked screen shots in case you don’t want to watch paint dry, aka, a lower-level dressage test.

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