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 (an 8!!!!), 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!