NJ transport willingly trapped in the horse country of Kentucky!
With more than 20 years of riding experience under my belt, I still find myself firmly in the "You know nothing, John Snow" category of riding. That, coupled with a full time work schedule, keeps this 20-something quite busy and not in the saddle multiple hours a day, multiple days a week. The solution?
The Corgi-Horse! (aka May or May As Well) A horse of undetermined breeding, age, height, weight, and talent that mostly tolerates carrying her mostly unnerved owner over stadium and cross country jumps, while attempting to look like a fancy warmblood in Dressage. (or at least not a plow horse)
Together, we are attempting our lofty goals of one day being a good Novice Eventing Team... but we would totally settle for being competent at Beginner Novice.
Apologies in advance for a rather rambly, stream of consciousness post.
Riding at the horse park for our competition was a bit surreal. Spring Bay is a bit of a unique horse trial in a lot of ways. Obviously, running XC at a different venue than SJ and Dressage is interesting, but it is more than that.
As we walked from the trailers to Dressage or SJ at the horse park, you could see the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event coming together. Crews worked to build tents and platforms around Rolex Stadium. The grass on the XC field was being mowed and tended to. Even the barns not being used for our event were cleaned and prepped, ready for the 5* horses to show up.
It’s easy enough to go to a schooling show, especially in eventing, and feel like you belong. Most everyone is on either an OTTB or a QH or a mutt of some kind. (sorry May). It’s pretty rare to see the newest or the best tack/equipment etc on the school ponies poking around baby starter. If you go often enough, you get to know most of the riders/trainers/horses on sight.
So I have gotten… pretty comfortable in that atmosphere.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I ventured to the Kentucky Horse Park, as it preps for KY3DE, my over-sized thelwell pony siting in the trailer, ready for Starter. I watched the Prelim riders perform their long and complicated Dressage tests (to me anyway). I walked the SJ course when it included 3 combinations, a triple bar, and was set to full prelim height. Thinking back on it, it was the first time I have ever been in a competition ring with jumps set to that height.
Then I picked up on the chatter, which horses were just out to do the CT to start off their season, and which horses were stepping down for a confidence building start. Confidence building?!
So the feelings started to creep in. This wasn’t really eventing. Who was I to call myself an eventer? Even a recent article on Eventing Nation seemed to acknowledged it:
I think we should respect the person that chooses to compete at Novice because that’s where they are happy and are enjoying the sport just as much as the person who is running around Kentucky.
HAH! NOVICE?! Girl, those BN jumps look big right now. Did this person purposefully skip the very lowest levels of our sport? The levels that run multiple divisions in nearly every event and help pay for the judges, venues, secretaries etc etc etc? I like to think not…
I have told myself for years that getting to Novice would be really eventing, but the truth is, a couple of weeks ago, me and my horse went to compete three times in three different phases. And we were competent and competitive in each phase. To me, that is eventing.
And you know what? I had FUN! By Sunday, I was eyeing the BN XC fences with excitement instead of anxiety. (May still thinks it would have been WAY MORE fun to “gallop” through the mud over the bigger fences.)
So I look my own doubts head on, and I remind them that being an eventer and a horseperson means showing off your horse to the best of your abilities in that moment. My choice to run Starter doesn’t need any explanation beyond the choice to set myself and my horse up for success. In fact, it needs FAR LESS explanation then anyone who pushes their horses up the level without proper fitness or training.
Moral of this story? Do right by your horse, and the eventing community will always support you.
Yay Cross Country Day! Right? Right! Except…. we left the barn at 6:30AM to make my trainer’s ride time and… it rained most of our drive. I anxiously watched the weather report, and that wasn’t looking promising either. My 3:46PM ride time was right smack in the peak of the anticipated thunderstorms. Plus, if there were lightning delays, we might run out of sunlight before my division could run. UGH UGH.
No matter what though, our team would not be deterred! We all hopped out of the truck and hustled to get my trainer on. It was super fun watching the Prelim and Training level riders go out and come back on course. Although, I was kind of shocked at how many of them were going out in muddy, hilly conditions without breastplates on. Is this a thing? Let me know.
Things wrapped up pretty early, and the sun started to come out. We have a few hours until the BN riders had their rounds (around 2PM), so we got the horses all settled with hay and water and then grabbed some lunch. Honestly, those few hours were BEAUTIFUL.
After lunch, we decided to walk the course again with our trainer, since we had walked it on Saturday night without her. There were very few things to talk about on the Starter course, but we did have a short discussion about the water complex for starter. I really should have gone back and read the rule book about it. The water complex was marked S1, but the flags were snugged up around the water with no way to go around it.
Future reference, this is a compulsory passage. Here’s the rule:
Numbers and Letters – Each obstacle shall be numbered. Obstacles with elements or options (see EV140.2) shall in addition be lettered (A, B, C, etc.). Each compulsory passage shall be marked with the first letter of the level and numbered consecutively.
ERRORS OF COURSE. All compulsory passages and all obstacles, including all elements and/or options, must be passed or jumped in order, under penalty of elimination.
However… I couldn’t find anything about if you can even get a refusal in a compulsory passage? I wish I had known the answer, because if it was no (which I think it is), then I would have schooled the water. Oh well. More on that later. I figured I would throw the pics of the whole course below, so you can see it in SUNLIGHT. You know, the way I saw it before I left the startbox.
Around 1:15PM… it started to thunderstorm and BAD. We all ended up huddled in the dressing room of the trailer with the door closed because it was raining sideways. At this point, I texted the husband and told him not to try and come. The last thing I wanted was him spending nearly 3 hours in the car on a Sunday, driving through torrential rain, to see me NOT ride. The radar looked miserable and only one BN rider had gone out at that point.
Luckily, there was only one round of lightning delays. Once it was lifted, everyone moved quickly to get the BN riders out and on course before weather could roll in again. At this point, I have to give so much credit to the organizers, volunteers, and competitors at this competition. Everyone HUSTLED, but there was NO chaos. Riders showed up in warm-up, got their place in line (seemed to be 4 – 6 horses out), got warmed up, and went. No one complained, got angry, or even seemed all that frazzled.
The footing though… was pretty shot. As a result, there were a lot of refusals and a few eliminations, so I was rethinking my plan.
Once our BN riders were done, I looked around and realized that they seemed to be almost done with BN, so I hustled back to the trailer and threw tack on May. How quickly did I get ready? I put my riding pants on OVER the leggings I was wearing, and I wore my trainer’s C4 belt because I couldn’t find mine.
We power walked up to the XC area, and I felt my little fear bird show up.
The mud was deep. My horse is barefoot. The course was soft and easy for her but I don’t think I have ever ridden this horse in conditions like this. Then, I walked my way through my fear. The truth is, I spent my younger teen years hunter pacing very green horses over WHATEVER in the Spring and Fall in NY/NJ. We never used studs, and I had definitely ridden in worse weather. I just needed to take my time, ride the rhythm, and keep May’s hind end under her.
I warmed up on the flat as quickly as possible, since the footing in warm-up was fetlock deep mud at this point. NT advised me to pop over the crossrail… and I told her I couldn’t. the takeoff and landing for the crossrail was pretty much gone. Deep skid marks crisscrossed through the mud on both sides and at all angles. We decided to just pop over the small coop and then the log. May was ON her game and taking me to the fences, despite the footing. I felt good, so we headed to the start gate. On the way to the start gate, someone commented to me that my horse looked totally unfazed by the footing and was definitely a mudder. I couldn’t agree more.
Then… as we were standing by the start gate, the water flag conversation came up again. I guess people weren’t going through the compulsory crossing by the water. We were coming up with a plan for it (i.e. just go through the flags no matter what), and then all of sudden I got the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” countdown… and I was probably 20′ from the actual box. DAMN! I pulled May around, trotted into the box. Stopped, set my watch, and went!
Jump one rode great, but she quickly fell right on me. We had a discussion about NOT doing that… and then she did it again at jump 2. I guess the starter jumps were too easy, so she needed to add her own level of difficulty.
Jump three was a VERY small jump, but it was off a tight left hand turn. It also had a steep hill right after it that crossed over both the BN and Novice paths from earlier in the day. Since I wasn’t sure about the footing there and the jump was so small, I trotted the turn and kept May in a collected canter over it.
We swept down the hill to the brush at 4. There’s a picture of this somewhere… I didn’t totally get our rhythm back by it, and I didn’t want to make any big moves in this footing. As a result, it rode pretty awkward. Oh well, May could care less.
Jump 5 was a little roll top on the hill. May was looking back at the warm up and we jumped it weird. Oops. Jump 6 was shared with BN, but they took the brush off the top for us. It was a bright blue roll top that rode GREAT.
Jump 7 was a little oxer thing. By this point, we were getting into a rhythm. The rhythm was simple. Pitter patter canter on the long stretches. Then, I would pick her up and get her moving forward maybe 8 strides before the fence. Then land and back to pitter patter. We had SEVEN minutes to finish this course, so I was in ZERO rush.
Jump 8 was a little red coop that she jumped great… with her eyes mostly closed.
Jump 8 was a cute little cabin going downhill. I kept her canter super collected so that we didn’t launch ourselves down the hill in the mud.
After Jump 9 was the water crossing. As I got closer, I saw that the flags had been moved so that you could go around the water. Again, I wasn’t sure about the rules here, so I went around the water but through the flags. May took a hard look at it, since it was now deep, dirty, and a bit slick, but she went through. At this point, I had 3 jumps left in a mostly straight line, and I had a 4:15 on my watch. The penalty time was 5:00, so I decided to grab a quick trot circle. (Of course, now I realize my watch was slightly behind but whatever). Either way, I am glad I did because it led to some cute pics (PC: Vic’s Pics).
After wasting maybe 30 seconds, I continued on. Jump 10 was tiny. like TINY, so that was fine. Jump 11 was a cute little saddle rack. Then, it was over the last, through the flags, and within time!
Neither May nor I was at all winded, but it was just starting to rain again. While I chatted with my teammates a bit, May got to walking around. I saw the girl in 1st place coming through the finish line after me. It was a junior rider, who was just BEAMING ear to ear. I congratulated her on a good weekend before walking my own pony back to the trailer.
Overall, we finished on our Dressage score of 29.3 and in second place. I couldn’t have been happier with my little yellow mare, who was a total professional the whole weekend. I guess it’s time for the BN move up. 🙂
While my background is completely hunter jumper (from ages 6 – 23), somehow, show jumping is the only phase that wants to give me pause. However, this time I was armed with some new rider psychology tips via the Brain Training for Riders. (Big thanks to Amanda for the recommendation)
I did have one advantage on Show Jump day though. We walked the course when it was set for Prelim. In case you are wondering, walking a course when it is set for Prelim makes Starter look REALLY small. Still though, it was a complicated course with 0 straight lines in it… I wish I was kidding.
However, I had a plan. I was going to ride May forward enough that I wanted to pull… and then not pull… Other than that, I was going to get her body straight and square to ever fence. I wasn’t going to worry about distances but concentrate on my pace, line, and balance.
I also got the whole thing on video! (Sorry for Youtube killing the quality.)
All photo credit goes to Vic’s Pics. They had an AMAZING deal at the show to get ALL your pics for $50 on a USB. And honestly, they got so many great pics, especially in SJ, that I put in my order before I even ran XC (and when I was questioning if XC was even going to happen). Oh and that cambox you see? I forgot to turn it on for SJ. >.<
Jump 1 was the best jump 1 I think I have ever ridden in my life, and May jumped it so well. (It’s the top pic of this post). Then, we bent around to get a great jump at 2…. and again to jump 3. It felt AWESOME. Usually, my first three jumps on course are me getting into a rhythm and don’t flow great. This time, I HAD the rhythm, balance, and line, and they jumped GREAT.
So here I am. So super excited about how things are going. I made a great turn to Jump 4… I got her square… and she suddenly decided to RUN at it. It’s really hard to see in the video, but she wanted to get flat on me. I halt halted, but it threw us off enough to tap 4 pretty hard (I am shocked it didn’t come down). That also meant that we didn’t land as balanced as we needed to in order to get a good turn to 5. I didn’t put my leg on as soon as I should have, and the distance came up ugly. She jumped that one awkwardly but kept it up.
The turn to 6 was seriously what jumping dreams are made of, and she jumped it out of stride. Then an easy bending line to 7. Despite our cross cantering, the rhythm and line were good, so she popped over it easily. Then… we made kind of an awkward turn to 8, so she jumped it kind of funky. Oh well, it was still easy for her.
Jump 9 just came up out of stride, and we made a sweeping turn to jump 10. I had to put my leg on for the big spot, and she jumped it great.
Obviously, I was super happy to have a double clear round. I think that it, honestly, would have rode BETTER if the jumps had been a little bigger. May was super unconcerned with distances to the point where it actually made things more difficult. She was also very unconcerned with what any of the jumps looked like. There was no peaking or over jumping. Just happily cantering around.
However, I am VERY VERY happy that I managed to execute my plan. I am also happy that, in the pics, when the distances got ugly, I kept my shoulder back and my body over her center of gravity… instead of throwing my whole body up her neck.
As a result, we maintained our 29.3 score and 2nd place standing going into cross country on Sunday!
I want to start the recap of this weekend’s event with so many “thank you”s. I am not sure who I can thank first or even the most.
Obviously, a massive shout out goes to my friend that really pushed me to sign up for this event. Over the last several months, she has gone from a girl I knew at the barn, to the girl I go to the gym with, to one of my biggest cheerleaders. She got 5,000 questions from me about pretty much everything, and she had to reassure me maybe another 5,000 times. However, I am so happy she pushed me to do this horse trial. Hereby, she shall be dubbed “Motivational Friend” hahaha.
On that note, I need to thank the rest of the barn family. We had tons of people show up both days of the show to watch and help. We had people help out at the barn while we were gone. Our younger riders volunteered both days and were a massive help to the show. My teammates all stepped up to help one another and make sure our ponies were as comfortable as possible over a crazy weather weekend.
My trainer gets a HUGE shout out. Not only did she compete her own horse, but she was completely committed to each of us competing in the lower divisions. She took my warmups and prep just as seriously as everyone else, even though I was only doing starter. It was only my second time showing with her and the first show was a super soft schooling show. At this show, between the atmosphere and the weather, it was an incredible experience. It really is an amazing confidence boost to have a pro in your corner who knows you, knows your horse, and totally has faith.
Finally, I am so incredibly thankful for my amazing husband. I ended up recommending that he stay home on XC day due to the weather (more on that later), but as soon as I got home, he was combing through the pro pictures with me and watching my helmet cam footage. He was so proud of me and excited for me that he posted some of the pics (all purchased) on his facebook. If that doesn’t make your heart grow, I’m not sure what will.
ALRIGHT – ON TO THE COMPETITION
Both days were super long days since we had riders and horses in the first division of each day, and I was in the last division. Since Saturday and Sunday were held at different venues, we trailered out both days instead of stabling. However, that meant that May was on the trailer at 6AM on Saturday, and our first ride time was at nearly 2:30PM. May didn’t seem to mind. She drank really well all day and had plenty of grazing breaks throughout the day… and she took a few naps. All in all, a pretty good way to spend the day in May’s book.
Since day parking at the KYHP is so far from the Dressage complex, we got on pretty early to walk over… and then got lost. Oops. Luckily, Best Husband Ever was there, and he helped navigate me in the right direction. I started warming up quickly, thinking I was running late. May felt AMAZING. We had floppy Dressage ears. Does anyone know what I am talking about? She was ON IT.
Then, there was a delay in our ring. so I let her walk on a long rein. Then, when we were one out, I picked her back up, did a few walk/trot transitions, as per my trainer’s recommendation. I threw in a quick canter transition, and we were ready to go in!
(Below are the movements, score, and a version of what the judge wrote. It’s not verbatim because… drawings. Any of my comments are in italics)
Entrance, Halt, Proceed at Working Trot: 7.0 – Obedient to Halt. Square. I am surprised this scored so well. There was a ring and warmup running behind the judge’s booth… As soon as we came down centerline, May REALLY wanted to watch those rings.
Track Right at C: 7.0 – Smooth Turn
Circle Right 20M at B: 7.5 – Active Trot Steps. Well Shaped Circle
Circle Right 20M at A, with Canter: 6.0 – Prompt Transition. Lack of Bend and Poor Circle Shape. I got so excited about a decent up transition into the right lead canter, that I almost forgot to circle.
Transition in and out of Canter: 6.0 – Well planned up transition. Unbalanced down transition.
Change Rein at working trot: 8.0 – Good quality trot shown
Circle Left 20M at E: 7.0 – Becomes a bit rushed. Loses shape a bit. She actually thought about giving me a canter transition here… hence the loss of rhythm.
Circle Left 20M at A, with Canter: 7.0 – Better plan to start circle. Better quality canter.
Transition in and out of Canter: 7.5 – Fairly good prep for transition.
Medium Walk: 7.0 – Keep marching walk I was just super happy that she didn’t jig because she was getting VERY jiggy in warm-up.
Free Walk: 7.0 – Covers Ground in FW. Show more stretch down. Agreed.
Working Trot: 7.5 – Smooth and Forward
Center line and Halt: 8.0 – Straight and Square.
Gaits: 7.0 – Some stiffness in Canter
Impulsion: 7.0 – No Comment
Submission: 7.0 – No Comment
Rider’s Position: 6.5 – Keep eyes up!
Rider’s Effectiveness: 7.0 – Effective Rider
Geometry and Accuracy: 7.5 – Well executed test
Overall Score: 29.3
How could I be anything other than thrilled with that? Scores at schooling shows tend to be pretty soft, so I wasn’t sure where we were going to end up. However, I was really pleasantly surprised to see that 29.3, and it put us in second going into SJ!
While we have our first show this weekend, I figured I would break down what the plan is this season. The plan is a bit finicky because I want to make sure my part leaser gets plenty of opportunities to get out and play (her and May look AMAZING!), but I also have some pretty big goals.
Spring Bay Horse Trials
We’re just going starter this weekend, but it’s a beefier starter than what we did at schooling trials last year. The omnibus ranks the cross country as “Terrain: Rolling hills, mostly open; water & up/down banks at all levels. Good early season or beginning of the year courses; but NOT move-up courses for horses with no experience at their new level.” With a max height of 2’5″ for both stadium and XC, I have no doubt that May and I will have a fun weekend.
This is one of the stranger recognized events. Since we are so close to KY3DE, they run the XC on Sunday at Masterson Station Park ~15 minutes from the horse park. Either way, it will be fun to get out and do Dressage and SJ at the KY horse park and then see another Lexington venue for the XC.
I have no plans to show May in May…. sometimes I really regret giving her that name haha. Matt and I are traveling mid month, and my part leaser is going to take her out to get her feet wet. We are going to take the time to polish those SJ skills for BN.
Spring Run Farm used to run recognized horse trials. If you remember, it was this venue that we did starter out last year:
We might even get the chance to school here before the June competition. Either way, I had a ton of fun there last year, and I figured it’s legit enough to give us a sense of where we stand for a real BN competition.
We have one recognized BN event on our record, but I really think this is the year that we get back to that, at least. May feels great, she will have three events under her belt at three different venues before this event. In theory, it will only be 2″ higher than what we do this weekend. The goal would be to be schooling Novice height in lessons before getting to this event. 2 and a half months. Seems doable.
So here is where things start to kind of… divert. If Midsouth goes REALLY WELL, we might set our eyes on Novice. Below is that plan:
Flying Cross Farm Jumper Derby
This is the same venue we rode at on Tuesday night. Its just down the street, and they do a jumper derby series on Wednesday nights throughout the season. Seems like a good place to get our feet wet.
“The Jumper Derby Series is a mixture of natural stadium jumps and cross country jumps. The competitor will go from an arena to open fields.”
Spring Run Schooling Trails
It seems to make sense to go back to this venue to do our first full horse trial at Novice. It’s a big beefier than your typical schooling trial, but it is softer/more forgiving/not on May’s permanent record. >.<
And again, it’s a venue we can school at ahead of time. Win. Win.
Again, this is a venue that we will be intimately familiar with beforehand. Last year’s omnibus stated “Set on a horse farm so galloping through several paddock openings. Educational for all levels.” By this time of year, most of the events at the horse park are pushing the championship level courses, so this is the softest move up. That, coupled with our familiarity of the venue, should set us up for success.
If we don’t move up to Novice, I will skip this horse trial and aim for Hagyard MidSouth instead.
Let’s be honest, this is just a fun event with my teammates. However, it is most definitely NOT a move up course. The omnibus says: “All courses: Moderate to Challenging. Open rolling terrain. Good galloping courses with water, ditches & banks and combinations at all levels.” BUT if you read the link above, it is clearly described as “The cross-country courses can be quite strong – fair, but strong.”
By this point, however, we should be well prepared to rock it at BN.
Finally, there is one last schooling trial at Flying Cross at Novice in November. Honestly, I will probably be too burned out by that point to even think about it, but it is there if we decide to go for it.
What do you all think? I have never really had the opportunity to plan out a whole season like this. Do you all think it is doable? Do you try to plan out you season in advance too?
With our first event coming up this weekend, I began to doubt if we would be able to squeak in a XC schooling. I figured that, with us doing Starter, May and I would be totally ok. However, I got a text around 2PM asking if I would be open to going schooling instead of a lesson. All of NT’s lessons that afternoon were going to the show, so it was easy enough to organize a quick XC schooling. The joys of being in KY, this venue was only a 3 minute trailer ride from my barn!
We were able to throw everything on the trailer and get going by 6PM, which for us, is a huge accomplishment. We figured we had until at least 7:30PM before the light got too dim to get anything accomplished. This was my first time going XC schooling with NT, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect.
I quickly learned that NT has a preference for putting together courses vs. schooling individual elements. Part of this is probably due to the fact that we had 3 fairly experienced horses with us. (May and one of the geldings have both gone BN, annnnnd the other gelding had done a 1* haha). However, the courses were built to be inviting at first and harder after you got your groove on.
The first course, NT started out really easy on me and May. We went over a little baby log, popped over a house in the shade, down the hill to a little roll top, over a bigger coup, and finished up over some stacked logs.
Feedback? I needed to ride a bit more forward. NT had us go out again, but told us to take the BN option at the end.
Other than getting left behind a bit at jump 2, where I totally didn’t trust the big spot in the shade, it rode great!
The next round, we started with the starter house, over a larger house, down the hill, through the brush, over the ditch, up the coop, over the BN open oxer, and finished through the 2 stride line. This was kind of a funny line because the height was BN, but the question was not a BN question.
Before starting this course, NT asked me if May had any problem with ditches. I gave her a quick “nope” and then immediately thought, “Please do not make me a liar horse.”
I was really happy with our execution of this course! (and the ditch was a complete non-issue.) I was really guarding against the right shoulder drift through the two stride and probably was a little too aggressive, and I ended up riding her a bit left through the combination. Either way though, she jumped FANTASTIC over the out brush.
At this point, I was kind of dying. I somehow developed a pretty nasty sinus infection that came to a head yesterday, so my ability to get breath into my lungs was severely comprised. I actually felt a bit dizzy and overall just not great. I decided at that point to forgo any long courses. We didn’t need a repeat of last week, and May felt great!
We moved on to the “water” complex… which hadn’t really been filled with water for the year. Oh well, we splashed through the puddles and then practiced the banks. Again, NT asked me if she cared about ditches. My response? “Nope, but she’s going to make me a liar if you keep asking.” Luckily, she didn’t!
First we came down the bank we did at last year’s starter event at this venue and then up the out bank of what should have been the water complex. We then looped around and came back through.
Not super surprising that May just popped right through it. The part of this exercise that was caught on video was better than the beginning. May wasn’t super thrilled to be trotting over the rocks of the water complex with no water in it. Oh well. Still adorable.
The last exercise we participated in was working on terrain in less than ideal footing. The footing was considerably deeper in this field than the other one, and there were some good patches of mud. We worked on coming up and down a steep hill and then over a little roll top. Issues? Nope.
Overall, it was a really fun outing. It feels great to be a part of a barn team again. In every video, you can hear people cheering and egging us on. It was a beautiful night, and I am super excited to show this weekend!
First of all, thank you for all the comments regarding yesterday’s post. Hope you all enjoyed some April Fool’s Day Fun. 🙂
In the nearly 25 years I have spent around horses and in barns, I have witnessed many people fall off. From green horses having green moments to finished horses having serious opinion issues to the stuff that falls under the category of “stuff happens.”
This weekend, I witnesses one of the scariest accidents I have seen in a long time, and it definitely fell under the “stuff happens” category. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I was riding in the indoor with 2 other riders. One was on her upper level Dressage horse and the other was riding her green, but lovely hony (not sure if he actually measures under 15h, but he’s adorable).
Down the center of the arena was a line of trot poles. The sides of each trot poles were raised in those ikea potty training things:
So the poles were barely off the ground. They weren’t painted poles, but they were a light brown against the super dark brown/almost black footing of our indoor.
As May and I came down the long side of the arena, preparing to run through our Dressage test for this weekend, I heard the poles clatter, and May pretty much exploded. Now, my first thought was “you’ve heard poles scatter before, May. You actually occasionally do that yourself.”
However, when she spun around, I heard the screaming and saw both horse and rider on the ground. The horse seemed stunned and was laying on the rider’s left leg and the rider yelled and shoved at the massive horse on her.
I kicked my feet out of my stirrups and scrambled out of the saddle. I could see from the white in May’s eyes that she was completely freaked by this. I pulled the reins over May’s head just as the horse regained her feet and got up. The other rider in the ring with us was also off and closer to the rider.
I pulled May over to the stunned horse and grabbed her reins before she could think about taking off. Our indoor is open at both ends, and I know how dangerous it can be for a scared and stunned horse to just take off. The rider was trying to get up, on her hands and knees, and I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely hurt or just really shocked.
I walked both her horse and May around the arena for a while, noting the initial stiffness in the mare’s left stifle. Luckily, it seemed to abate a bit as she moved. Once she had calmed down a bit, her rider was back on her feet. I rolled up the stirrups of the saddle (May’s ground manners really have come a long way), and offered to untack the mare for her.
Overall, she seemed sore, but not seriously injured. The other woman in the arena is a magnawave tech, so she offered to come over and treat both horse and rider and to check in on her. While the accident could have been so much worse, it is always a bit unnerving to see such a big accident from a well schooled pair doing a fairly simple exercise.
At this point, I have to ask, was it a full moon last week?! Pat your ponies people and always wear your helmets!
So we all know that May typically gains a bit of weight as the early spring grass pops up. Despite wearing a muzzle full time, she has gained even more weight than in previous years. Since her workload is still pretty high and her diet is as restricted as it can be, I decided to bring in the vet to make sure we aren’t wandering into founder territory.
My vet is a track vet by trade, so she is more used to thoroughbreds than May. She is definitely more used to seeing ribs than fat. We discussed May’s diet and workload, and she seemed as confused as I did. The distinct hay belly just didn’t really make sense. So we decided to Ultrasound her gut to make sure everything looked ok. Well damn…
Sorry. Worst photo ever. Do you see what’s there? I didn’t… But my vet did. I think she actually started laughing, but I don’t know because all I could hear was the rush of blood in my head when she said, “That’s a foal.”
“A WHAT?!” Do you know what my barn and my life are NOT EQUIPPED for? A foal.
How could this happen? Welp… remember when May decided to go on adventures a few months ago? Yup. We thought she never went far but… I might have a thoroughbred/QH/Belgian cross in a couple more months. Or a mule… Really, it could be anything.
I guess I will have to come up with a name, any ideas? I was thinking:
I kind of hesitated yesterday when I posted the “fail” part of the lesson first. To be honest, it was one of the best lessons May and I have had in a LONG time, and it would be pretty short sighted to define the whole lesson by 18 seconds. Either way though, I knew that the rest of the lesson needed its own post!
I showed up to the barn on Tuesday to find a freshly dragged ring and a new course. (No joke, I have never known a trainer who moves her courses around so often!)
The inspiration for the lesson was a grid that Lainey Ashker had shared on her instagram. In fact, my trainer said that she really thought of May with this one’s focus on a horse jumping over their back and really sitting before fences.
Obviously… we didn’t jump it that big. We started with the two oxers practically on the ground, and we first worked from the longer approach into the grid. We nailed it a few times in each direction before trying it the other direction. The short approach off the left consistently caused issues, so we decided to keep working on that turn before each course.
The nice thing about the grid was it forced you to set your rhythm early and then maintain it throughout the course.
The course came through the grid off the short approach, a sweeping left turn to a narrowish oxer, 6 or 7 strides bending line to another oxer, long approach to a vertical, finishing with a right turn around to a wide oxer.
Our first time around the course was just a bit choppy. Obviously, I missed coming into that grid (story of my life). She didn’t really respect the small, narrow oxer at 2, so just kind of rolled past my half halt. I was thinking seven through the bending line and it was fine, but maybe a touch tight. The vertical was fine. Then I made some weird line decision to the last oxer? Like got ahead of myself, came off the rail, didn’t see a distance, and just kind of puttered over it. None of it was TERRIBLE, but it wasn’t good.
NT raised up the narrow oxer to more like BN height (I think?), and we tried again.
To me, that shows big improvement! I was able to make adjustments to the oxer to oxer line, a better distance made the 6 really easy.
I landed off the oxer line and rode… really forward? Like what I am thinking in this picture?
So I had to whoa pretty good coming into the vertical, so May didn’t get her lead. She DID end up fixing it before the oxer, but the counter cantering pushed us off our rhythm juuuuuust enough to mess up the distance. However, I rode forward and she gave me the long spot. Yay!
At this point, the camera died, so no more media hahaha. Our last course was the gymnastic, right turn to the pink (set a bit bigger), right turn bending around to the yellow and black oxer, right turn to the purple and blue plank we hadn’t jumped yet and finishing over the oxer to oxer line.
Shocker… I messed up the intro to the gymnastic. Then… I kind of got lost on my way to 2. I kind of rode to nothing again, but it was fine. When my pace, balance, and line are good, May can easily deal with a less than ideal distance. Amazing how that works, right? 😉
However, I rode forward after 2 and had a GREAT distance to 3. The loop to 4 was easy, so we turned before the gymnastic to get back to the oxer to oxer line. Seriously, as much as I get weird feelings about oxers, I LOVED that oxer to oxer line all day.
At this point, we decided to just try the gymnastic one more time, and I think I said I would try the right turn to number 2 again, since I messed that up last time. Welp, as you all know, I never made it to 2. By the end though, we had figured it out, but I don’t think anyone wanted to jinx it by trying to get it on video at that point! haha
All in all though, it was a really great lesson, and I feel good heading into Spring Bay in like 10 days!
Remember when we were all talking last week about how great it is to get media?
I do! So on Tuesday, I strapped my helmet cam to my helmet and set off for my jumping lesson. With a freshly dragged ring, a new course set up, and temps in the mid 50s, it should’ve been a perfect lesson.
In a lot of ways, it was. We jumped higher. I felt more confident, and I did a lot more jumping than I had been able to handle in my last lesson. Then we had a quick conversation where my trainer said, I just want you to do the grid one last time, so you can really nail that turn.
Sure! I thought. I also thought I had already turned off my helmet cam. Turned out, I had JUST turned it on… so the below is the only helmet cam footage I have of the whole lesson (other than a lot of talking):
Sooo what happened? I never got straight coming around the turn. May has a bad habit of falling through her outside shoulder and in my desperation to get a better distance to the first jump, I sacrificed my line. By the time we were over the first fence, we were already practically outside the grid.
May, bless her heart, tried to correct it, but she realized (as did I) that there was no saving it. She scrambled right and stopped, and I just went over her shoulder.
I ended up asking my trainer to get on. She had never jumped May and has only ridden her once, so I think it was beneficial for both of us. Her thoughts? The right shoulder issue is a lot more prominent in the saddle than it looks from the ground, and I clearly have been compensating for May just blowing off my outside leg when turning left. (PREACH!)
She sorted it out, and I got back on so that she could teach me how to manage it. Three more times through the grid with good results, and we were done.
Today, I am bruised and sore. My elbow is skinned. But honestly? I kind of feel BETTER now that the “worst” has happened. I fell off because we made a mistake. I am fine. She is fine. And overall, we had a great jumping lesson. More on that soon!