Category Archives: Horse Shows

Hillcrest…the Triumphant Return

Last Saturday, P and I went back to the site of our very first HT together in 2015. P had never seen an XC course at that point and despite leading the field after dressage and SJ (all 2’3″ of it), he was so freaked out by the water complex, I couldn’t get him past it to jump 4 and we were eliminated.

Jump 4. My nemesis.

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I had originally entered in the BN division because P has shown repeatedly that 2’6″ is not an issue for him (duh), but after the lesson at Trainer B’s the day before, I emailed the secretary and begged her to put me in the lower division, aka the same division as 2 years ago.

Sigh. But confidence building was the most important thing, I suppose. I’m still trying to remember that I’ve only had him back since April and not to focus on past that.

Since Child #1 had football practice, I was going alone, but meeting up with someone I had met at one of our jumper show forays- hooray for eventer friends! Since I went in the lower division, my ride times were perfect: 11:18 for dressage, then 12:30 for SJ and XC right after that.

I pulled in, unloaded P, and prepared for the day. For some reason I was super nervous and pretty much alternated between pacing around my trailer and chugging water (tip: don’t drink 4 bottles of water if you’re already nervous). Meanwhile, here’s P:

 

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P: Here, try some hay. Maybe it’ll calm yo’ ass down

At 10:45 I got on to meander over to warmup and after a few minutes of just stretching our legs, I asked for the trot. It was…meh, he was behind my leg and felt a little stuck, so I asked for the canter to get his energy up.

Ask and you shall receive, right? Well, not this time.

It was a little, uh, startling.

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I mean, this is P, the actual Energizer Bunny. When I was packing for the show, I glanced at my spurs in my trunk and thought, “Nah.”

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Thankfully, another competitor noticed my struggles and offered her dressage whip. Which at first I was all, “No thanks. I enjoy not being dead.” But after some more struggling, I went back over and said, “So about that whip…”

I think I’ve used a crop with P maybe 2x in the entirety of our time together. Neither with satisfactory results, and while his reaction to there being a whip on board wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I’d initially anticipated, he was still a bit hollow and strung out. BUT. He cantered. So there’s that.

Then it was time for us to go. I still had the dressage whip (wasn’t letting that sucker go), and in we went. I actually remembered to halt at X this time, and we proceeded. And it was bad.

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The whole thing just sucked. Like, P was listening-ish, but there was no softness, no bend, no moment that I felt was good. He was still a bit freaked out by the whip, and was eyeing it most of the time, and leaping into doing whatever I asked.

So. Meh.

AND we got a freaking 5.5 for geometry. I mean, totally deserved, but ouch.

We had a nice hour break, where P devoured more hay- even when his neighbor broke loose and tore around the show grounds.

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Finally I got on him and headed to warmup. I jumped him over the vertical and the oxer exactly 2 times each, and then we went to get in line.

P was good for SJ. Not brilliant, but not bad at all. The jumps were tiny, there was only 7 of them, and besides a couple of rollback, nothing was technically challenging. He jumped them all, we were done in maybe 35 seconds, then finally on to the fun part!

By now I felt a bit bad- P was just so…tired. And that’s my fault. We did a lot of jumping the day before, not to mention he was in the trailer overall for a few hours as well. I honestly didn’t think with how small everything was that it would be an issue, but lesson learned, I suppose.

We got to the start box, P walked in and we turned around, but had a few minutes to wait. And he just stood there, not moving a muscle. Not that he’s ever acted up in the start box, but he was like a statue, a very tired statue.

And then we were off! At first P seemed just really unsure of what we were doing, but quickly got his head in the game. And for that, I am thankful.

Jump 1 was just fine.

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Jump 2 were the tiniest coops you’d ever seen. Seriously. P didn’t even know what to do at these.

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Jump 3 went fine.

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Then down the hill, past the water complex and to jump 4. This is where it got exciting.

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I felt like P was going to go. After all, he’d just jumped 2 logs successfully, and this one was no different. But another horse/rider had just jumped from the back field into the one we’d just left and P got distracted. So I ended up, oh, ya know, on his head.

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I’ve seen the videos of riders who get in those predicaments and try with all their might to not fall and get eliminated. I’ve always said I’d just fall. But even though my hands were on his poll and my feet on his chest, there was NO WAY I was getting eliminated at the same jump 2 years later.


So I slid back down, lifted myself up and over the pommel of my saddle, reined back and we resumed our normal programming. Sadly, besides my helmet cam there’s no other photographic evidence of it, but there ARE witnesses. Many high-fives were exchanged afterwards.

So then it was up a “bank” and then down the “bank” and into the woods.

And I was pretty sure P would stop at jump 7, but he sailed over, much to my delight.

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8 was another tiny lil thang.

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9 was the ditch and P wasn’t so sure about it, but went over anyway.

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Then down a pretty steep hill to 10, which was as tiny as the coops. Funny story, I was actually going to see if I could run HC and opt for some of the BN jumps, then I decided with how tired he felt, that wouldn’t be best. But this jump made me wish I had asked.

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Then it was back up the steep hill and a left turn to a hay feeder thing. P got a little backed off, but didn’t stop.

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Jump 12 was a log into the field where we started/finished.

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Jumps 13 and 14 went great.

Then it was through the finish flags with a huge grin on my face.

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Since it’s such a small event, you run XC “on your honor,” and unfortunately our stop dropped us from 2nd (since the judge was tough on everyone) to tie for 6th. BUT since we had no time penalties, and the other 6th placer had 21 time penalties, we got the ribbon. Don’t judge me for the fact that I was ecstatic about that.

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All in all, I had a great time and was thrilled with P. Stuff to work on (as always), and while it may have been a little bit humbling to be at the same level as 2 years ago, I had FUN. And that’s what it’s all about.

One thing that has definitely held us back is our lack of practicing things between lessons/shows. It’s become ever so clear that something’s gotta give, so fingers crossed, an exciting change is in the very near future for us.

And again, don’t forget to sign up for the Coat Defense Giveaway!

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How Many Jumper Shows Can We Go To?

Friday we headed to Trainer B’s for a lesson, where he wanted to get into some of the more technical aspects of SJ, particularly roll backs. Now P and I can do roll backs, but with our newly acquired adjustable canter, specifically being able to not just wing it, but really control pace around the turns and to the jumps. I’m actually incredibly proud of the work I put into the canter in the last few weeks. P is now CRAZY adjustable on a consistent basis. Like I have 6 different canters. Trainer B says I need 8, but nothing is ever good enough for Trainer B. And that’s ok with me. In the meantime, #winning.

 

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Wrong, Donny T, I’ll never get tired of winning

 

P was in kind of a mood when I was warming up, so we started by warming up over a gate that P has jumped only 6 dozen times or so. And on attempt 3, slammed to a stop.

We just went back and forth until that mess was out of his system, then added in a turn to an oxer-ish thing. And P wanted nothing to do with that.

Now, one thing that I can see from the video is Trainer B is telling me to tap P, and my legs are just clamped. I never noticed that before, but I’d bet anything that I do that all the time. So something to think about.

Once we did that a few times, we added in a vertical after the oxer, then back to the oxer the other way. It was a crazy sharp turn and I failed more times than I can count. But thanks to husband videoing, it looks like I actually only failed 3x.

This first one I took a slightly too long spot to the vertical, so by the time he landed and I could get him back, it was too late.

So Trainer B’s words of wisdom were to stay patient and wait for the fence.

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Maybe Trainer B is actually underpaid.

Then the 3rd attempt, I got in perfectly, but waited too long after landing to actually make a move. Maybe I was just so surprised that I got a good distance to the vertical. Who knows.

Yes, Trainer B. So close, but yet still so far away.

So the next go-round I was determined to do it, even if I jumped off P and did it myself. Luckily my horse cooperated and we did it together, but then I botched the final oxer. Can’t do anything perfectly the first time. It’d take the fun out of things.

So Trainer B asked if I wanted another go-round, which I did, so off we went. And this was jump 1…

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I knew it was ugly, but when I saw this it just made me laugh. Because it immediately reminded me of this clip from the Stephen Colbert show.

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Needless to say, though, we started over.

And nailed it!

The next day, Saturday, was jumper show #2 in 2 weeks.

I’m adding this in to this post because there’s zero media so it doesn’t even deserve its own post. Husband had the kids at a pool party and I totally forgot my Cambox. So…words will have to suffice. Or skip this part because ugh, so much reading.

If you recall, I’ve never been to a show with a trainer (as an adult). So this was exciting for me. He was taking another client as well, and wanted her to start at 2′. I wanted to start at 2’3″ so we decided to meet at the showgrounds at 2 PM.

I ended up getting there shortly after 1 because I’m Type A like that. The other client was going to ride in classes 3-5 and I was going to ride in class 8-11. Well, it was a good thing I got there early because practically NO ONE was there and they were already on class 3. So I texted Trainer B to get over there stat and hopped on my pony.

I did some w/t to loosen him up, then we stopped by the arena so I could watch the rounds and learn the course. All of a sudden, P’s head whips to the left, but I ignored him because I don’t give in to spooks like that, yo. Turns out it was Trainer B walking towards us, which blew P’s mind. For as much as he loves Trainer J, Trainer B makes him work super hard (though so does Trainer J so maybe P is just sexist), and it was like he couldn’t understand what Trainer B was doing here of all things.

 

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If P could talk to Trainer B

 

So we got all warmed up, doing our crazy adjustable canter (still can’t believe all that work paid off so quickly) and jumping the itsy bitsy warmup jumps. I had missed the 2’3″ classes because there was ONE person in one of the 2’3″ classes so it ended even before I had P bridled. So it was 2’6″ or bust.

Now, I know 2’6″ is small. I look at it at home and at Trainer B’s and think, “meh, tiny.” But seeing all those crazy colored poles, fillers, oxers, combinations and weird distances just made it look kind of intimidating. Especially on a horse that, you know, stops.

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So Trainer B said to get in the arena and gallop. Gallop, then forward canter, then collect, then go forward, etc, and come aggressively to the first jump. And P felt awwwwesome.

Jumps 1 and 2 went fine, but I let him drift right upon landing from jump 2, and we cut the turn to 3 a bit too tight, so he stopped at it, a very bright pink and orange oxer. We reined back, he hopped over it, 4 was fine, then a tiiiight rollback to 5, but since we practiced that the day before it was all good. 6 was an American flag verticle with the weirdest distance to 7 (an oxer) I’d ever seen. Like, you needed to land off 6 and immediately go left, then go right, then somehow try to go straight. Anyway, we stopped again, reined back, and popped over. 8 was fine, then 9AB was a one stride, with an oxer to a verticle. Another stop at 9A, the oxer (see a theme?), and reining back didn’t work. I actually almost just quit there, but then it occurred to me that P may not have enough momentum from just reining back, so I circled and picked up a forward trot, and he went just fine over both A and B. 10 was good and we were finally done.

Now, the only consolation I had, and it’s terrible, is that most of the horses that I watched had multiple stops. Maybe that had something to do with our round- maybe mentally I told myself that if other horses are stopping, then of course mine is going to. I don’t know. But I do know we haven’t schooled oxers in awhile and that’s obviously overdue for one or both of us.

We talked about the round, what went well, obviously what went wrong, and headed back in. This time, the only stop we had was at 7 and it was totally my fault. I felt us losing some power coming off of 5 to 6, and turned to get the line to 7 waaaay too late. If I’d ridden correctly, I’d bet anything he would’ve jumped it.

So, again, glad that the second time was better than the first, but  also still frustrated because at a HT, you get one shot. And honestly at this point, I’m not sure what the problem is. He’s ulcer free, his saddle fits, he’s not lame, he gets chiro’d and magnawaved. So pain? Unlikely. Habit? Maybe. I know I was wrong in how long I waited to find the ulcers, so maybe he’s still expecting jumping to hurt? Confidence? Again, maybe. Confidence on my part? Also maybe. I’m a believer in mental toughness and that visualization is a powerful tool. But as much as I tell myself to ride him like he’s not going to stop, it’s always in the back of my mind. Because what other experience do I have to go on? Does he not want to jump? Anything is possible, but I don’t think that’s it. I suppose all this is a post for another day when I’m a bit more clear-headed about it, so let’s pause there.

Sunday, P got back on the trailer (which honestly surprised me) so we could trail ride with friends. I’m sure P was relieved to unload and not see an arena or jump course in sight.

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Today I went out to the barn before the whole eclipse thing happened and we popped over a few fences. It’s so nice to not be run off with after jumps now!

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P will get tomorrow off because I have to take Husband to the airport after work 😦 then we’ll get ready for ANOTHER jumper show on Saturday. Trainer B is out of town at his own show (he should stop the whole “professional rider” thing and just be my FT trainer) so we won’t see him until next Tuesday. I’m hoping to squeak in a lesson with Trainer J this week, but again, “professional rider” and all. Bah humbug.

Happy Monday! Is it, though?

 

Running Wind Jumper Show

I passed on going to the Windridge HT this past weekend (reluctantly) in favor of going to a local jumper show so I could get around some courses. Because SJ is the worst phase for me and if I fell off, well, at least I didn’t blow an entire competition…again.

 

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Bye entry + stall + fuel + hookup fee + dog boarding fees

 

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was half looking at FB leading up to the weekend to see if anyone was selling an entry, though.

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But it was for the best.

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The jumper show started at 9 and was half an hour away, so I  planned to head out at 8. Luckily I got to the barn ahead of schedule because this is what I found:

After a quick bath and a few minutes of standing him in front of the 2 industrial fans in the barn, we headed out only a few minutes late. P was obviously distraught when we arrived at the show grounds.

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If there’s one thing I can (usually) count on, it’s that when we get somewhere new, P will be a rockstar. He’s the type you can tie to the trailer and leave alone, as long as he has hay. He’s also the type that will stand under the registration tent and nuzzle you while you fill out your entry form. Ask me how I know. Ah, the joys of showing alone. But really, for all his under-saddle spookiness, he’s got some great ground manners.

Anyway, I got on just as they were ending schooling, so we didn’t get to do much. I watched the 2′ classes go so I could learn the course and it was fairly straightforward. The only jump I was little unsure about was the skinny at 5. It was really narrow and P has never jumped a skinny, so uhhhh, ok. Then 6 was a forward 4 or collected 5 to a 1 stride, which I was actually looking forward to since we just schooled that at Trainer B’s. That would be my undoing.

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We went in the 2’3″ to use as a warmup, and everything was going fine until the one stride. I got in a little weird to 6 because I’m me, but then P slammed on the brakes at the fence going into the combination. I’ll get more into that below. I kicked him, backed him up and he went right over, then continued like nothing had happened. Only watch if you don’t mind the F bomb going down when P stops- sometimes I wonder who gets more irritated when he stops, me or him.

My original plan had been to use 2’3″ as a warmup, then go to 2’6″, but I decided to go into the other 2’3″ class for another go-round. When in Jumper Land, jump all the rounds you can, right? If I’d gotten there earlier, I would’ve gone in all the 2′ classes also. This time there were no stops and even coming into the combination, P felt locked and loaded. Again, weird distances were to be had by his incompetent rider, but he didn’t hold a thing against me.

Then we went to 2’6″ and unfortunately Husband didn’t hear my name being called, so he missed the first 2 jumps, which were fantastic. We smoothed out the line from 8 to 9 and while it still wasn’t perfect, P felt great. Confidence boosting all around.

I was pleasantly surprised when we got 5th place both Power & Speed classes (out of 15 and 12, respectively) because speed was not on the agenda for the day. I honestly can’t even tell you where power ended and speed began, but I’m always happy to take a ribbon or 2 or 3 or 4….just give me all the ribbons.

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So here are the takeaways:

  • I do wish I had watched the videos between rounds because immediately my first thought when watching any of them was, “That is NOT enough canter.” Trainer B always tells me to have more canter than I think I need, and apparently I didn’t heed that during my rounds. We got in to some weird spots, courtesy of yours truly, that I think would’ve been fixed if I’d asked him to go more forward. But I suppose that was the point of going to this and doing multiple rounds.

 

  • Jumper shows can be quite scary. I mean, I didn’t have the guts to watch some of these riders go around. Some just looked positively unsafe. There was one little girl who rode in the 2′ classes who, no doubt, is a very gutsy rider. But there’s no need to go flying around a 2′ course leaning off your horse like he’s a motorcycle. If that saint of a horse had put one foot out of line she would’ve gone flying. And everyone was clapping for her. No. Just stop. That’s dangerous. I get that jumpers is about speed, but let’s keep it safe, shall we?

 

  • P is getting his hind end checked tomorrow when we go to the vet to rescope. In the first video, coming off of jump 2, he looks stuck behind. It could’ve been the footing since it had rained and then the arena had been trampled on all day the previous day when they hosted a hunter show, but I’ve also felt this stickiness a few times at home.

 

  • I’m baffled as to why P is stopping now. His MO used to be to stop at the first fence he was asked to jump (at a show, schooling, or in a lesson…always the first jump), or if one was particularly spooky looking. Neither was the case on Sunday. This was jump 6 so it’s obvious by now what we’re doing here, and the fence itself was a simple gate with a pole on top. Maybe there were flowers, but P has never cared about that before. It’s frustrating because there’s no rhyme or reason for it, at least to me.

 

  • It seems I’m over my fear of heights (fence heights that is. Don’t invite me on a Ferris wheel). I chose to do the little classes for a few reasons:
  1. They were earlier in the day, before it was supposed to get stupid hot and/or storm.
  2. This wasn’t about height, it was about me getting more comfortable jumping around a course and making fast decisions. Everything just happens so quickly in stadium. In XC, if you screw something up, you typically have a stretch to fix things. In SJ, you have to be really good about not dwelling on mistakes, which is something I need practice at.
  3. P’s intermittent soreness and hind-end stickiness in the canter is something I want checked out before making him use himself more to get over a bigger fence. While he looks and feels sound, every once in awhile there’s just this “thing” that happens so better safe than sorry.

While I was closing my check out, they were setting up 2’9″ and I was almost tempted to go grab P and head back in there, but it was important to end on a good note, which we did. If all is well when we go to the vet, then we’ll be heading to Trainer B’s for a lesson on Friday, then to another jumper show (at another location) on Saturday!

The Trifecta of Eliminations is Complete

For those that have followed us through our eventing journey, it hasn’t been easy. I struggle with confidence issues after a bad xc accident as a teen and Pilgrim is, well, he’s Pilgrim. 4 year old Pilgrim was the easiest baby TB to train, I bragged about him nonstop to anyone who would listen. “Oh, your horse is spooky? Pilgrim will go anywhere I point him at.” “Your horse bucks after a jump? Pilgrim canters calmly away.” Apparently  I forgot 4 year old horses are a ruse. 5 year old Pilgrim suddenly sprouted opinions of his own seemingly overnight and they were very STRONG opinions. I swear that horse was for sale the majority of last year. It was always 1 step forward, 4 steps back. But here we are now, and 6 year old Pilgrim is learning to compromise. I accept that he’s not perfect and he’s possibly starting to accept that I don’t always hold all the answers.

Friday morning I went to crossfit because they had posted a kickass workout, so all plans of leaving for Aiken at 9:30AM were dashed. I hung around afterwards and talked and talked and talked about crossfit and lifting, etc. Then I went home and finished packing the truck, and moseyed to the barn around 11:30, where again, I talked and talked and talked, this time about horses. We didn’t actually leave until about 1. Oops.

It was an uneventful trip to Aiken, and I pulled in around 3:30. The show secretary wasn’t exaggerating when she said trailer parking was close to the stalls- I was able to park directly in front of P’s stall so that made unpacking quite simple.

The cart was a last minute buy and totally worth it. $49.99 at Dick’s.

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And I had QUITE the view of the xc course out of the back of my trailer.

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So much pretty

 

And I was able to enjoy the view from my super comfy hammock.

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When P was all settled in, I went and checked in then went to the xc course. It was gorgeous and looked like a lot of fun, but it also worried me and by jump 2, I had convinced myself that we’d be eliminated.

Quick backstory- P has a history of stopping at jumps he doesn’t know. He’s a phenomenal jumper and super athletic, but he’s also very cautious. At the Tim Bourke clinic 2 weeks ago, he repeatedly stopped at new jumps with the 4* event rider himself on his back. This was all I could think about while walking xc.

The jumps themselves weren’t difficult, but the terrain was much different than from what we’re used to, which is, well, FLAT. Paradise Farm’s xc course is very hilly, with variations of gradual to pretty steep.

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Sponsored much? This place is awesome

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Start box

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Jump 1

 

 

 

Jump 2 was where I was sighed heavily. P had issues with black logs before (aka, stopping) so even though they were tiny, I wasn’t confident about it.

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Looks so innocent

 

Jump 3 was at the bottom of a steep hill so I made plans to trot that one.

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“Jump” 4 was the itsiest bitsiest up bank you ever did see.

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Jump 5 was a square yellow box that P has never seen before. I knew he’d be super distracted because it was next to a pond so I’d have to ride very forward towards the pond before turning right to go straight to the jump.

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Jump 6 made me dizzy. It was on such a slant on the other side of the pond that I figured if jump 2 didn’t do us in, this certainly would. Even just walking the course, I was wiggling from side to side trying to get to it on a straight line.

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Picture does not do justice to the slant

 

Jump 7 was a small bench, but again, P has never seen a bench. Geez, I need to branch out on my XC schoolings.

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Jump 8 was very tiny…but again, P has never seen anything like this before. He’s been so great about jumping the jumps at home with fillers that I hoped he’d just ignore the strangeness of it.

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Jump 9 was yet another new one and I wasn’t sure how he’d like the lack of a ground line, But again, we jump jumps at home with no groundline sometimes so I was hoping for the best here.

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Then a left turn to jump 10 which was just a bigger log than the rest. I wasn’t sure how he’d do with the ditches to the left, so the plan was to get him focused on the jump early.

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11 A & B was just a water crossing, no jump in there. Just go into the water, through the complex, and back out and then up a STEEP hill.

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Water was added that night, no such luck as having a dry entry to the water

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Jump 12 was another newbie, but I didn’t think he’d have an issue with this one.

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Jump 13 was the tiniest box EVER and there were no concerns there.

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Jump 14 was brand spanking new to us as well, like 85% of the course. It was at the top of another steep hill so I had zero idea how he would react.

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All in all, it was a great course. Simple enough jumps, sort of challenging terrain if you’re not used to it, but a very fair starter level course. I was just unable to get the memories of him stopping repeatedly with Tim the LAST time he was on an xc course.

I was a bit down after that, and alone because Matt wasn’t coming until the next day to watch the competition. So I did what any 30 year old adult does when she doesn’t want to think about her first world problems, and went to Walmart to buy 2 bottles of wine. Problem solved.

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I had 3 coolers worth of food in the trailer so I was heading back when I spotted this beauty out of the corner of my eye.

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Made the sharpest turn Big Dusty could handle and 15 minutes + some shitty service later, had the best sub in the world. Goes great with cheap Walmart wine. With an apple + peanut butter + chocolate chips for dessert. Seriously, heaven.

Apples and chips

So for the rest of the day I hung out in my hammock, rode P, read my book, then grazed P, and I had just put him away and was about to walk the XC course again before it got too dark, when husband pulls up. Whaaaa? Turns out he was concerned about me after I told him my doubts about making it around the course. So he took the kids to spend the night at the babysitter’s, made chocolate covered strawberries, rice krispie treats and marshmallows, and drove the 2.5 hours to Aiken. Husband for the win.

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Sooo…about my super comfy hammock. Still super comfy, but sleeping in the open during a South Carolina summer is not for me. Bugs were EVERYWHERE. I don’t do bugs very well. At least not gigantic creatures that flail around on their backs all over the tarp underneath me that I mistake for a DOG digging close by. Seriously. Love it for hanging out during the day. I took the most heavenly nap in it Saturday afternoon, but I’m going to need something that I can close myself off from the bugs in. A truck tent was recommended to me, but since I wasn’t sure what the parking situation was, I didn’t know if I’d be able to unhitch my GN trailer. Well, I could, so I’m looking into those. Definitely need a barrier between those bugs and I.

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Off the ground with a zipper sounds good.

 

Saturday was the longest day ever. Dressage was at 1:45, SJ at 2:27 and XC at 3:03 so I had all day to get more and more nervous about XC. We went to Aiken Saddlery and out to breakfast, then back to watch the upper levels do SJ.

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Finally it was time to change and get on to warm up. P was electric and just wanted to scoot his butt around to look at everything. I was able to get the left lead about 75% of the time in warm up, but it took ALOT of work. And I was SO hot. I had to wear a jacket because my brilliant self only brought a bright blue, bright pink and 2 bright purple sports bras. They waived jackets, but you could clearly see the colors through my show shirt (the white Ariat long sleeve show sun shirt from Riding Warehouse), so I opted for my jacket to remain somewhat classy. I was DRIPPING when they finally called us in. P remained a little more nervous going into the ring than he usually was, but I think he was just picking up on my left lead anxiety.

We headed down centerline, did our trot circle but then he didn’t respond when I asked him for the canter. So I did what you’re supposed to do and cut the corner, leaned forward and…leg yielded him straight out of the arena at A. Brilliance.

At our very first HT together, P was sure I was asking him to go into the Deep Blue Sea, rather than what I was actually asking him to do, which was to jump a tiny log that was placed in the vicinity of the water complex. Elimination.

In November of last year, we went to a CT and P was not a happy camper that day. We got eliminated in SJ after a shitty dressage test and repeated refusals at jump 5.

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So here to round it out, is our elimination from dressage.

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The judge was really nice and had us come back in to redo the canter circle as a training opportunity. She kept saying, “He has to know he can’t get away with that!” And I’d agree, except for this was 100% rider error. P has never even attempted anything like that and I can see myself in the video steering him out, not paying attention to anything but whether or not he picked up the left lead.

But we went back in and he was great. Because, you know, steering.

Then the judge got out of her car and said that it happens to everyone (I may be in the starter division with this horse, but believe me, it’s happened to me before as well), and that they would probably still let me go through SJ and XC.

I thanked her and we walked out and back to the trailer, where I promptly burst into tears. I was so hot and sticky and tired but also relieved and at the same time disappointed in myself that I had made such a stupid error. No, it’s not the first time. Hell, it may not even be the last time. So I let myself cry for about 30 seconds, then straightened up and went about putting P away and peeling off my show clothes.

Matt asked if I was going to do SJ and XC and I said no, which I think disappointed him. But I had 4 lessons planned for the next 2 days and I’d rather start fresh than run the risk of having to repair anything that may happen on XC that day. Plus, P had already been ridden for about an hour already and the weather sucked. So Matt left to get the kids home and I fell asleep in the hammock for a few hours then comforted myself with O’Charleys spinach artichoke dip and shrimp. And wine. Of course, wine.

Luckily the next couple of days were AH-MAZING.

Showing with a Normal Horse

The week leading up to the show on April 30th was one of our best in a long time, consistency-wise. I can’t recall a ride that week that went badly…a first in a long time. I had P’s feed switched to see if that made a difference and it may just have. He was less spooky, more focused and had a happier demeanor. Friday I went out and set up “spooky” jumps- fillers, panels, oxers, expecting somewhat of a fight, and he was perfect.

P jumo spooky

Husband couldn’t be bothered to stand back to get me in the shot

The one thing that was still an issue was the left lead, though he’d happily land on it after jumps. I even had him land on the right lead and ask for the change and he was fine with that. He’s had some trouble with that right hind this year- two abscesses early in the year and then that mystery 24 hour puffiness/lameness at the beginning of April. My theory is that he’s reluctant to strike off with that leg with me on his back- he’ll pick up the lead on the lunge and then he’ll pick it up with me riding if I get off his back in half seat. So there’s hope. Still, I was concerned for the left lead canter in the dressage test, and still a little nervous for SJ since P is a pansy.

One would think that since I was bringing both my husband (with kids in tow) PLUS a teenager from the barn to groom, PLUS my GoPro, that I would have tons of pictures and videos, but I think this is the show where I actually have the least. The kids drained my iPad on the two hour drive there, there was zero prep for SJ, and I apparently cannot work a GoPro from horseback. Major fail.

The event was just a schooling one, at a regular boarding barn. While that show was impeccably managed, unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be attending there again. While it would be awesome to BOARD there- they have a full size dressage arena, a grass jumping field and their own XC field- showing was a different story. There were horses turned out all around the property- many of them running around like lunatics, especially the one whose pasture was next to the XC start box. Each time a horse started, he would run alongside them. If you’re going to have a show- LEAVE YOUR HORSES INSIDE.

The other issue was the footing. The ground was torn up all around the XC field, particularly before/after each jump, and there were ruts everywhere. Not to mention the pictures made it look much more wide open than it was- it was really an average size field with a ton of jumps crammed everywhere. That meant lots of tight turns and nowhere to really let your horse go forward. That plus the footing made me sad and want to scratch.

We went and warmed up for dressage (surrounded by 3 sides of horses running around because after being in the 80s all week, the temperatures dropped to 65 and windy), and I was still having left lead issues. We got it and then I let him gallop a few laps because he was so antsy. Not so much spooking or even really unfocused, there was A LOT to look at and he just needed to blow off some steam.

We went in for dressage and P turned his usual pro self just like anytime we head down centerline. He did everything I asked, including getting the left lead (I almost cheered out loud), then gave me the squarest halt we’ve ever had in a test.

Canter RCanterL

Halt

As soon as we were done and I had saluted and turned him to head out, it was like the rest of the world materialized back in front of him and he spooked at the horses along KEH. Whatevs. Horse is still a rockstar.

I’m not a fan of Intro C, and the one time we’ve done it we scored a 33. This one earned us a 29 and the only time we’ve cracked the 20’s so far. So that had us in 1st place in a field of 15. Back to the trailer for a tack change because XC was next. P got super nervous as we got closer to the field because that one horse was just charging around his pasture and horses were going the opposite way (coming back from XC) and we were the only ones GOING there. He’s a follower if nothing else.

The start guy gave me a few minutes to warm up so we started with the little pile of logs, then moved up to the BN log jump to school. Finally there was really nothing left to do but start. So we left the start box, ran along with the horse in the pasture, which made P bolt over the first jump, then we made our super sharp turn and kept going. P tried his little heart out, but was super backed off of everything. The jumps for each level were really squeezed in together so there was so much to look at, plus we had to turn every 50 feet or so…not much time to get into a rhythm.

Then I got lost because I just couldn’t find jump 7. The wind had blown the number down so I circled twice while looking at the clusters of jumps, trying to remember which of the 30 piles of logs in front of me were ours. That put us over time by 9 seconds and dropped us to fourth.

XC 3XC1XC2

Next was SJ, which was in a grass field next to the road and across the street from guys building a house. Of the 6 or so riders that were in front of me, only 1 went clear because of the noise- jackhammers, saws, cars driving by, etc. The course was literally a hunter course which was a little annoying, and literally no fun, but P put on his pro hat when we went in and we did our thing. We jumped double clear, though I got jumped clean out of the tack over jump 5 because, OMG CHEVRONS WILL EAT US.

That put us into 2nd!

2nd

We got back to the trailer and it was obvious P was tired. Apparently being off the rocket fuel-like feed he was makes him normal, which is appreciated but I do need to work on getting his fitness level back up. My BO’s mom co-owns the barn and is purchasing the house next door, which comes with a large field. BO wants to make that a derby course (I will sneak XC jumps and be out there at midnight digging a water complex), so that will give us a break from the arenas. My trail riding group is no more, due to horses being sold, weekend jobs, etc, but it’s clear we need out of the arena. I wish P was trustworthy enough to haul off and go trail riding alone, but I’m not 100% comfortable with that just yet. I may try it one day, though, as it’s been awhile since I’ve attempted hacking him alone.

This weekend my mom and sister are coming for a visit, then the following weekend is the Tim Bourke clinic!

On the Fence about F.E.N.C.E and New Gear

It looks like my original plans to head for the F.E.N.C.E. horse trials on April 16-17 are about to be derailed. I work as the executive director of a non-profit and I’m part of a group of local non-profit E.D.s and there’s a fundraiser that I really should go support. I’m already going to be missing another one on May 15th because of a horse show. Besides, F.E.N.C.E. is going to be pretty freaking expensive to be doing the intro level. Thanks to the lack of hotels in the Tryon area, it would be around $300 (with a military discount) just for the hotel stay- doesn’t include food, fuel, entry fees ($130), stabling ($120), tack stall ($50), etc. And all to jump 2′ and do a walk/trot dressage test? Ehhh. So instead, I’m thinking I’m heading to Raeford to the Heather Ridge Farm schooling HT at the end of April. It’s $75, a one-day show and 2’3″ with water, ditch and a bank. And Intro C- we get another shot to actually halt at X upon entering. Watch me screw it up again.

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On a good note, I have a lesson scheduled with dressage trainer J this Sunday and then next Saturday, we start with our new jumping coach, trainer D! Trainer D is the one we took the clinic with last November and I really liked her teaching style. She is a pro eventer herself, and actively competes…and takes students with her! I’m excited to get started. And to correct this issue…

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I’m currently waiting not-so-patiently for UPS to arrive with boxes from Riding Warehouse, SmartPak AND Kastel. Since more horse trials are finally in my midst, I need to do something about P’s xc boots. The first time he had rubs on his pastern after going xc schooling, I thought it was because the boots had slipped or I had put them on too low. But after Full Gallop, when I was very careful about boot placement and he got these:

Done.

I was going to get them in a smaller size, but SmartPak (which is where my husband got them for me from) is always out of the small fronts, and I’m too impatient to wait until mid-April to see if they come back in stock. I absolutely love my Majyk Equipe open-fronts

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So I decided to give the Majyk Equipe XC boots a try!

These babies will be here today!

It was so hard to decide between white and black since the open fronts are white and P looks great in them, but I have to scrub them and I just don’t want to put that much effort into xc boots. So black it is, but I always have my turquoise duct tape to fancy them on up. Fingers crossed that they fit and don’t make P uncomfortable at all.

P also got a turnout sheet since he’ll be turned out pretty much 24/7 and while he loves to roll, he hates to be brushed. And I’m trying a new bit at the suggestion of trainer J. An Herm Sprenger loose ring. My wallet cried a bit when I put that into the cart. But that I bought from SmartPak, so at least if it doesn’t work, I can return it.

And then last, but not least, I finally jumped on the Kastel bandwagon. Maybe. I ordered a yellow sun shirt and if I like it then, more will follow. A lot of people at my barn wear them and love them, but they’re all pretty petite. Thanks to crossfit, my shoulders and arms are fairly muscular, and a lot of “regular” clothes don’t fit. But I really hope this does because I LOVE the colors. NC is so brutally hot in the summer and tank tops just don’t cut it.

Oh, and look what husband did for me over the weekend!

Stall sign

Stall sign and ribbon

Secretly I think he loves P.

Matt and P I

Even though there’s no better picture to describe me than this:

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Or this:

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And yet, he still puts up with me.

 

Winning!

Spoiler alert- we won!

P was fantastic yesterday. The past two weeks it’s been hot and sunny and then Saturday night comes and it’s freaking freezing and RAINING. 78 and sunny on Friday, 55 and raining on Saturday. Of course, NC, of course.

NC weather II

My dressage time was 11:13 with stadium between 12 & 1. So I got to the barn around 8 since I couldn’t handle packing (or cleaning) the trailer the night before and then we loaded up and were on the road by 9:15.

P came off the trailer super up and unfocused. Yaaaaay….So I made my husband take him away to graze while I checked in and walked stadium so I wouldn’t make him more nervous with my nerves. The course was fairly straightforward with some bending lines and rollbacks, but looked totally easy. Of course, it was still 18″ so how hard could it be?

I got on P around 10:30 and we headed to the arena to warm up for dressage. P has been in this arena about 4 times or so but they just put in mirrors along one short side and part of one long side and P was like, “Uhh, so there’s this grey horse following us but I think we can outrun him. Hold on.” Fun times.

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Then he settled down for the most part, thank goodness. We were doing BN A, same as the last CT we did (at KFP also, last November), and we’ve never scored over a 61% on that test. I think we’ve done it like 4 times now and it’s just not my favorite. I much prefer BN B, but really can’t wait to start showing Novice because I love Novice B even more. Ok, slowing my roll now.

Anyway, the last time we did BN A, this happened.

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So while I normally don’t really ever canter him in warmup, I wanted to be sure he’d pick up his leads. Since starting back riding, we haven’t cantered much due to ankle weakness. So I asked for the right lead and got it right away, asked for the left and still got the right.

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Out of 6 left lead canter requests, only one was granted. And by now I’m flopping like Raggedy Ann on my unfit horse so the only fair thing was to walk him and whine about it to myself. Then I whined about it to an eventer friend who was coaching two of her students. She said to ask him for a leg yield with my left calf at K, rather than attempt to use my ankle or heel. No time to practice, though, so I said a lil prayer and headed down centerline.

My husband used the GoPro to video my dressage test and I have not yet mastered how to edit the video properly yet, so video will be following at some point in the near future.

But here are some stills:

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Dressage V

Hard to see but we have left lead take off!

 

Dressage II

Dressage IIIDressage IV

I felt not so great about the test and really felt like I lost my left stirrup a bajillion times and was just unbalanced. Quote of the day was to my husband as I exited the arena, exclaiming to him that P was the greatest, to which he goes, “Come on, not the GREATEST.” My response was, “Did you see the way I rode? He’s DEFINITELY the greatest.”

But really, P is not a very forgiving horse and he totally not only tolerated me, but took care of me. I’m pretty sure he knew which test we were doing and went on autopilot.

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Now my ankle is hurting pretty bad. So I’m seriously considering calling it a day because, 18″ or not, if I’m not confident, that’s not going to give P confidence. And the shorter stirrups on my jump saddle put more pressure on my rigid tendon so jumping any height probably wouldn’t be the best idea. But because I’m me, I decided to rest for about 20 minutes and take an ibuprofen- one of those 800 mg ones because that’s how I roll- then hop on to see how I felt. So my husband took those 20 minutes to play dress up with P. Because that’s what he does.

P Sunglasses IIIP Sunglasses

So I rest up, change my clothes and get on and we walk down to stadium. P got lots of compliments on his sunglasses and he felt pretty relaxed (or I would not have been putting on gloves and riding at the same time).

I popped him over one of the eensy weensy warm up verticals and HE.FELT.AWESOME. No hesitation but not super strong either. So I headed around and did the itsy bitsy oxer and he sailed right over it! It felt great to be jumping and I didn’t want to stop so I volunteered to hit stadium.

This was videoed on my GoPro (on my helmet) and I’ll post video when I figure it out, but it was a fun ride. Pilgrim had zero hesitation except when I nearly pulled him up because the number for jump 3 had blown over and I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way for a second. I trotted a lot of it to negate my swinging left leg and was sure I had some time penalties, but it just felt good to get this first show out of the way.

So we headed back to the trailer, I untacked and then went up to go wait for my score. As I was nearing the table, I heard “…problem with #82…” which, of course, was MY number, so I asked what was going on and apparently my dressage test was nowhere to be found.

30 minutes later, I’m told that because one of the riders in my division scratched, there was a mixup with tests and numbers and someone else had my test and had already gone home. She was called and said she’d bring it back on Monday but gave them the score- 35! So 65%, officially the highest score for BN A, and not too shabby considering the circumstances! So now I’m in the lead by 3 points and they’re waiting on stadium scores.

NOW I’m wishing I had just cantered the course, ankle be damned. I was sure I had time penalties from my hesitation at jump 3 and the trotting. But the guy came up with the sheet and no penalties- we win!

Blue ribbon IBlue ribbon II

P was so great, I’m so proud of him for taking up the slack. I really need to get a jump lesson (or two…or three) in, and an xc school before going to FENCE, and I have a dressage lesson with trainer J next weekend. But I’m happy to be back and from his attitude yesterday, so was Pilgrim.

And of course, as soon as we pulled into the home barn, the sun came out.

Bonus- I had Matt video Pilgrim’s trailer loading. When I got him, he was a little bit sticky going into a trailer and had to really be persuaded. After being stuck at a show last year (alone, of course) trying to load him for 45 minutes or so, we I worked really hard on this. This is how he ALWAYS loads now and it’s amazing.

Now time for bed…I suppose I have to work tomorrow.

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