Horse Shows

Leo Survives…His First Horse Trial!

That’s right y’all, Leo is a newly minted event horse!

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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.

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And as cute as ever. Boop.

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.

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My face until I got on and realized he was sound

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.

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y r u like this

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.

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Give the poor horse a break

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.

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Going around the arena he didn’t even spook at the judge’s booth. So proud.

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.

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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.

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And this. We did this, too.

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.

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Trainer B’s wife snapped this picture pre-round and then I darted away like a psycho

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.

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Last jump!
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I think Leo was looking for the next one

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.

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Spoiler alert: it worked out perfectly

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.

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Which, even with the 2 rails and the time penalties, landed him in 4th place and he got his first ribbon!

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Husband and his champ

So here’s hoping I have the same success when it’s my turn!

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Horse Shows

War Horse Event + A Surprise Twist

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.

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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.

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4 year old Pilgrim ears

More on that later.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

  1. 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
  2. We had jumped N/T things, so who really cares about jumping BN
  3. I wouldn’t hate life if I didn’t take him SJ
  4. 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.

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He’s as cute as a baby deer…with similarly sized gangly legs at the moment 🙂

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!

 

 

 

 

Horse Shows

Professional BN Rider Part Deux

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

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

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

Yes? Ok, we’re all caught up.

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

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

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

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Winning warm-up, so the potential is there

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

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I swear I’ve ridden before.

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

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

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

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

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

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I feel ya, C

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

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How I predicted our course would go

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

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

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

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

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C & I on the way to the start box

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

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

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

Here’s a sneak peek:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Still not sure what to do with a plain bay…

 

 

 

 

 

Horse Life, Horse Shows

Professional BN Rider

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

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I think this was attempt #3?
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FINALLY completing BN

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

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

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

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

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Pretty much sums up all my recent riding history

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

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

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

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

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

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Not as fun as jumping

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

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

Horse Life, Horse Shows

3DayAdventures BlogHop: My Favorite Event

Thanks to 3DayAdventures for some blog!

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

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

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

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#biased

Also because they have a kick ass XC course.

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

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Because this picture came from there, of course!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Handy for carting the family around

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

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My alternative if no one around has an LQ

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

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

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

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

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Fine with the squeaky toy

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

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

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S killing it in his first real jump course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horse Shows

S’s First HT-Competition Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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S to the start box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Horse Shows

S’s First HT-Schooling Day

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think this was the last jump on that course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Horse Shows

S’s First Show

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

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And for moving up a level!

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

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

Here’s how he stepped off the trailer:

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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

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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He looks SO GROWN UP

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 call to Lord-knows-who (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.

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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.

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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.

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Then you made a left hand turn to 4.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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.

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

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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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