I even put it in slow-mo for you guys. You’re welcome.
And to think, I told my husband to keep my XC vest in the cart because, “I didn’t need it for SJ.”
Now that that’s out of the way, I do have to say that even with my most spectacular fail, I had a blast this weekend. And learned a lot. But most importantly, I got to test out my newly upgraded horse trailer! And it was heaven.
It almost wasn’t done in time, because they received the wrong awning, but Shetron pulled through and I picked it up Friday morning. It’s awesome. The new awning is teal (perfect) and you literally just flick a switch and it extends out, then you can manually adjust if you want to account for shade or rain. Then when you’re done, you flip the switch again and it rolls back up under an aluminum cover so no more rips if you go under a tree!
Of course my favorite modification is the AC in the dressing room. I had a 30 amp RV hookup installed in it, so we pulled into the RV camp spot and hooked up and instantly had AC. There are also 2 regular outlets in there next to the saddle racks for phone chargers, etc. Spectacular.
The 3 year old and I slept in the GN- he had the air mattress with the sides and I had the sleeping pads, and then husband and the 9 year old slept in this bad boy:
And we brought an extension cord with us, so they had a fan in there and neither had any complaints.
Husband bought a little charcoal grill from Walmart and on Friday night we cooked hot dogs, grilled cheese, asparagus and roasted marshmallows. Perfect horse show food.
We also were able to successfully use the 2 room changing tent with the solar shower.
The other modification I had done to it was to extend the hinge on the back window on the awning side so that it could close. I’ve hauled P with the back windows open 3x now and all 3x he’s arrived at our destination with nary a drop of sweat on him. So another huge win for Shetron Custom Trailers!
P loved his stall at the Carolina Horse Park- those things were HUGE. And since it was a horse show, the Likit came out. He goes through one of those in a matter of hours so he only gets them for shows.
We also rented a golf cart for the first time since the RV camp was across the road from the barns, and the grounds were huge.
Best $200 I’ve ever spent- the kids had a blast and it was super easy to get everything back and forth from the barns and my trailer since I didn’t get a tack stall. I just loaded everything up in my cart (that’s another of my favorite horse show purchases), then held onto it from the back of the golf cart.
The other genius thing I did was bring my hammock, with the intent of putting it in the horse area of the horse trailer. But then I saw someone else hang theirs in front of their stall, so I made husband rig mine up there also. And it was perfect. I spent pretty much all day Saturday swinging in that thing in front of P’s stall.
Friday we got to the horse park around 5 PM, so by the time everything was set up for us and P, it was too late to ride. So I hand walked him around, and we got over our fear of water meter signs while also investigating every trash can around each of the barns.
This was a schooling HT, where you could school each of the phases on Saturday. I was invited to a clinic with a local eventer that was being put on by the Area II Young Riders program, so I signed up for it because it included schooling on Saturday, course walks and coaching for the HT on Sunday. Since a grounds person was required and my husband had the kids, it was perfect for me to join. And I was even more glad when I went out and walked XC on Friday.
When I signed up for BN, especially a schooling one, I had visions of log piles, coops…everything made to BN specifications and jumps that made for a positive course.
Not this one.
One of the sessions for the clinic was on course design, and we literally took a ruler and level out to measure the jumps. Many were technically Novice fences either in height or width, and the actual track and terrain made the course more suitable for horses with more experience. If I had seen the course or jumps beforehand, I would’ve stayed home.
Jump 1 is what I expected. It was pretty much straight out of the start box, and easy.
Turning left after jump 1, jump 2 was considerably wider, but still shaped pretty invitingly. Plus, it was heading towards home so it supposedly rode well.
Jump 3 was a small feeder that jumped downhill into the woods. So now the horses know they’re not actually going home, plus the landing point was an entire foot lower than the takeoff. The jump from takeoff measure 2’3″. The jump from the landing point measured 3’3″. That’s the maximum drop allowed in BN and we were only on the 3rd jump.
Jump 4 was just dumb for a schooling BN. Not only was it actually bigger than 2’7″ (if I remember correctly, it measured 2’10”), it was wide, set next to a tree, so very shadowy, and it was painted in such a way that the horse couldn’t tell that it was actually a bench and not a more vertical jump until they were right on top of it. And set directly behind it was a Prelim jump with airy logs that the horses would be looking at. To me, it was the opposite of what I expected to see at a schooling BN horse trial. We’ve jumped both BN and Novice benches before, and this one was the biggest and weirdest designed one I’ve seen.
Jump 5 was also, in my opinion, inappropriate for BN. It was at the top of a hill, next to a cow jump (?) and not only was bigger than 2’7″ (I think this was 2’9″) it was also way too wide to be BN (52″ or 54″).
Jump 6 was a combination with a bending line.
Jump 7 was just a water crossing.
Jump 8 went into the woods and was a replica of jump 6A.
Jump 9 was again, inappropriate for BN. It was 2″ too big, was 4″ too wide, and was another combination. The B element had another big drop on the landing side, then you continued down a steep hill.
Jumps 10 & 11 were what I actually expected for BN.
And jump 12 was at the top of a hill, so you had to get a really good and balanced gallop up.
I have to say I had a preconceived notion that this was going to be a pretty soft HT. And I couldn’t have been more wrong in every aspect, not just the XC course. When we arrived on Friday evening, there were maybe 50 stalls filled. Saturday morning, every stall was filled (all 192 of them), with tons of people showing out of their trailers. It was HUGE. There were just under 240 entries, not even including the non-compete horses that were just there to school. The atmosphere was bigger than at any show we’ve ever been to, but P seemed to be ok. I hand walked him a few times Saturday morning as well, and besides one spook when a cart came up behind him, he was calm. The BN group was scheduled to meet up with the clinician on XC at 12:45, so I got on at 12:20 to walk over there.
And it was terrible. Not terrible like, oh silly Pilgrim, terrible as in people were scattering because I couldn’t control him. He was wheeling around, bolting everywhere, super tense, and didn’t calm down once.
The clinician (poor woman) had us trot an x-rail like 10x because he wasn’t behaving in the slightest.
Then we went over to XC. Everyone else cantered jump 1, we trotted it. But he didn’t refuse, so I chalked it up to a win. He didn’t refuse jump 2 either, so again, another win. Then we went to the last jump and she said she’d rather not have us do this one so early on because he was still incredibly hard to control and the uphill approach wasn’t exactly conducive to trotting. So we watched everyone else go, then did jumps 10 and 11. 10 he didn’t give me any problems about, but 11 was slightly raised off the ground so he refused. She said he had a shitty attitude and has us try again. So we did and then he bolted off towards the group behind the jump. Ugh.
Then we went to jump 6, where we just did the A element. He refused again, but that one was more on me because at this point I was exhausted from just keeping myself in the saddle and I was really just over even riding him.
He went through the water just fine, as I knew he would, then I followed a horse over jump 8. We skipped 9A, instead waiting for the others to go over…well, tried to. He spun in circles and bolted around. It was actually truly embarrassing and there were a few moments where I found myself feeling unsafe. I typically don’t feel unsafe on P, but he had now been uncontrollable for over an hour and I was soooo done with him. We were allowed to follow a horse over 9B, and he bolted down the hill, even sliding a bit, which did nothing for my nerves. All because the group was down there.
Then we were done with XC, and I opted to go to SJ for some assistance there. We did some warmup jumps and he was much more manageable. And no refusals. Even when she put the oxer up and spread it out, which by then Cambox had had enough and said goodnight.
And from my husband’s POV (child issues included):
Then we went into the Maiden/Green Bean field and did their course. The line for the BN one was really long and she thought it would overface him (and I). So we went in and flew around the smaller course twice, and he was pretty great. Slightly wild in a couple of spots, but still good.
And then we called it a day. We’d been at it for 2 hours and wanted to end on a good note. She recommended we move down to a lower CT, and at that point, I agreed. XC was pretty much totally unproductive. I kept hoping he would settle down, and that point never came. It was truly one of the worst rides I’ve ever had.
So I looked at moving him down, but then saw that the dressage test was Intro A. Ummm, no. I’m not paying a change fee to do a w/t test. So I decided I would keep him at BN, and just take it 1 step at a time. If dressage warmup went well, we’d do dressage. If SJ warmup went well, we’d do SJ, even though we hadn’t schooled any of those jumps. If that went well, we’d go to XC warmup. Though I did decide that if we made it that far, I’d tell them I was skipping the jumps I didn’t school- particularly #4, #5, and #9.
The clinician thought we should be jumping poles on the ground and I can’t blame her. I’ve never met her before so her only interaction with us was on Saturday, now memorialized as P’s Worst Day Ever. But I also know that we CAN do BN, because 3 days prior we were hopping around Trainer B’s course. P was reacting to the huge, electric atmosphere and that combined with the lack of his usual 12+ hours/day of turnout, he was wild.
So the next morning I went out and lunged him first thing in the morning. Not out of control or to make him run, but he obviously had pent up energy that needed more of a release than hand walking gave him. He was great and quiet, listened well, so I put him away after about 15 minutes. Luckily we had a HUGE field to lunge in, so it wasn’t 15 minutes of circles (which I hate).
Then I went back and got dressed for dressage in the AC, tacked him up for dressage an hour before our ride time of 10:22, and lunged him again. He stayed quiet, did everything I asked, so I got on and we went to warmup.
And he was my usual P. Slightly up and alert, but not crazy or out of control. I let him warm up for a few minutes without asking too much of him, then slowly started to take more of a connection and asked him to soften. And he was great. The clinician came over about 10 minutes in and remarked that even just the look in his eye was incredibly different than it was the day before. She gave me some position tips and then we were up.
It was P’s first time doing dressage where there were multiple rings running simultaneously- 5 to be exact. We went around the outside each direction, and our entry sound was a “squeaky toy.” Just as I was wondering how squeaky it would be while we were trotting down the long side towards A, she squeaked her toy and P spooked. But only for a second, then he came right back and we headed down centerline. In hindsight, I should have circled to give him another few seconds to settle, as our first CL was a bit crooked. But everything else in the test went incredibly well. Our downward transitions still need work, but he listened to everything I asked him to do and for the first time EVER, got an EIGHT on our last halt of all things. Usually we do great on our final CL, then the halt gets all wonky. When we halted, I knew it was good, but since I didn’t see a video, I wasn’t positive it was square. So yay for improvement!
I thought we had scored maybe a 34 or so- BN A has never been our greatest test since the first canter comes up so quickly, then he has to walk shortly after, and we’ve never scored below a 36 for that particular test. So when we got back a 30.8, I was thrilled.
Due to the # of BN entries, there was a Jr division, then 3 regular Open divisions, and I was in BN-A. Like 7 people scored in the 20’s, so we were in tenth, but if we had been in BN-B, we would’ve been in second, and if we were in BN-C, we would’ve been in first. If there were no splits, we would have been 12th out of 41. So it was a huge confidence booster, and I definitely have to give credit to Trainer J.
SJ wasn’t until 2:26, so after cooling out P, we went back to the trailer to pack up so we could leave after the show was over,. And P napped.
Then I went to walk XC, since I hadn’t seen it the day before. And of course, jump 1 was an oxer with rolltop-ish boxes. Seriously? The clinician told our group to get the horses going right away and going more forward than you think you need. Because for jump 1 you’re going to need it. Dear Lord.
Like XC, SJ was maxed out, with everything at max height/max width. There were 6 oxers and jump 1 was not inviting at all.
Jump 2 came up very fast.
Jump 3 was the widest oxer and was a sharp turn to the right after 2.
Jump 4 came off of a longer approach and was towards the in-gate.
Jump 5 was an oxer version of 4, and walked in a very forward 5 strides. The clinician recommended going for the 5, because the horses were heading towards the in-gate and would land going forward.
Then you landed and made a sharp right turn to the 2 stride combination.
Jump 7 came off a short rollback turn. Luckily we’ve been practicing these with Trainer B, so I wasn’t too concerned.
Then you had to go around jump 3 and do another rollback to 8.
Then ANOTHER rollback to 9.
And finally the bending line to 10.
So again, we’re at a schooling HT, our first at BN, and everything is maxed out with a pretty technical course. My only real concern was jump 1, so the clinician helped us warmup and put the jump up slightly higher than BN height (since everything else was higher than that anyway), and made the oxer wider. We had a great warmup, with P jumping everything out of stride and I was riding really positively.
It was our turn, so I got him in there turned him left in front of the rolltop-ish jump, then turned him right (not EXACTLY presenting because that’s not allowed), and got him going forward. And I thought it was going to be ok…but no. Refusal. Not unexpected, but he did jump it on the 2nd try, so success, I guess?
Jump 2 was great, 3 was the wide oxer and I felt P hesitate, so I sat back and kicked and he flew over. Jump 4 he was great to, then did a forward 5 strides to jump 5 and it was great then…
P chipped. I didn’t, and I went flying over his shoulder. I was up right away, P was already waiting for me, so we were fine, but it was still disappointing. And uncomfortable. I had sand in all the unmentionable places. But I got back on, went back to warmup and cantered a lap, then went straight for the biggest warmup oxer again. More for me than for P, because what happened was all my fault. I did the 5, and P rarely ever chips. So I leaned up his neck like any good amateur would, and P couldn’t lift his front end off the ground. One hundred percent avoidable if I had sat back and waited.
Here’s the full video:
Super graceful, right?
Apparently that fence was more trouble than it looked. The girl who went right after me (and was also stalled next to P) fell off at the same fence. There were a few other casualties there as well, and we weren’t the only ones to stop at fence 1. It made me feel slightly better, but not much. Oh well. It is what it is. They said I could still go to XC if I wanted, and I did want to, even though I was still planning on skipping some jumps, but the sand was really unbearable. So I opted to get off and go home. Even though I fell, we ended on a good note back in the warmup, and going around XC with sand in my breeches would’ve done me more harm than good. It was time to call it a weekend.
So. Lessons learned?
- If P is going to be stalled, lunging is my friend.
- Golf carts are awesome.
- Dressage is not our issue. And he CAN halt straight. Also, squeaky toys as entry whistles suck.
- Oxers are no longer homes to monsters.
- I like hearing our names called out on the loudspeaker when we enter the arena.
- I need to get myself some green felt and cover all the things with it at home. That’s obviously a sticking point for P.
- I need to get another fly bonnet with some helpful “tips” embroidered on it. Like SIT THE F BACK AND WAIT.
- Aquaphor is not just for diaper rashes. It is also a miracle worker for when wet sand gets squished around in your pants.
- Most importantly- just because it’s a SCHOOLING show, doesn’t mean its easy. It’s probably harder because they don’t have to follow USEA rules.
So that’s all, folks. P gets today off, then tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled programming.