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?
May and I have been a team for nearly 4 years at this point, so a lot of stuff we have managed to acquire over the years. However, there are a few things I have thrown into my shopping cart (through multiple retailers) that I have realized I need to pick up before show season starts.
The Must Haves
RWR No Knot Hairnet
The RWR Hairnets are my JAM. They work wonders with my shoulder-length hair, and they were just as good when I grew my hair down to my waist for my wedding. I always get mine in black because the dark brown isn’t quite dark enough for my hair.
Definitely shop around for this one because I have seen prices everywhere from <$10 to MORE THAN $20.
Cowboy Magic Green Spot Remover
Green spot remover. May isn’t gray… but she really likes to poop all over herself. I like the cowboy magic one, but honestly, most of these spot removers do the job I need just fine. As a result, I try to just pickup whatever my local tack shop has.
Either way, it is non negotiable that, as soon as May gets off the trailer, a rag gets sprayed with this stuff and rubbed on her body.
Super Bands – White
May’s mane might be roached, but I keep her forelock. However, I am far too lazy to braid a forelock the legit way… so white rubber bands are a must. Again, pretty brand-agnostic on this one, so whatever my local tack shop has is great.
Shapley’s Show Touch Up – White
Do I feel like a hunter princess when I break out the Shapley’s? Yes. Do I use it anyway? oh yes. Nothing else gets those white socks GLEAMING quite like Shapleys. Since I only do a 6″ x 6″ spot on one of May’s back legs with this stuff, it lasts me forever. However, my bottle is finally running dry and needs to replaced.
Epona Tiger’s Tongue Horse Groomer™
Everyone keeps talking about this thing and now I want one. Will May like it? I have no idea, but I hope it will last longer (and is chaper) than the plasticy brushes I use to scrub my horse.
And maybe it will be a super boost for green spot remover? One can only dream.
A New Dressage Pad
I love May in white, but the problem is that, after a while, all white pads start to look dingy. A new pad (maybe with some bling?) would be a welcome addition to the lineup.
The “Not Right Now”
There’s only one thing on this list that I am completely restricting myself from buying.. and that is a new jump bridle. Probably due to two reasons:
I really don’t want to spend any more money right now
I can’t find anything I really like (horse size, dark brown, figure 8 noseband)
Maybe I should just get May a regular flash noseband bridle? Idk.
Either way, I plan on making a trip to my local tack shop sometime soon to see how many of these items I can tick off, while supporting my local place. What about you? What items do you need before show season completely takes off again?
Do I get multiples? This photo is so representative of how my horsey-life has changed since switching barns. Tons of new friends, and I am rarely at the barn alone. (And May likes the trail riding opportunities)
Favorite Horse Book or Article
Uhhh… I am going blank on this one. I don’t read a lot of horse books, BUT I do read a lot of books that can apply to horses. This year’s stand out book? “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. It sounds SUPER cheesy, but Shonda is a down to Earth and relatable woman with a fantastic writing style. (not surprising considering she is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder…)
Favorite Horse Ridden (or groomed/cared for) Aside from Your Own
So… I only rode 2 horses other than May this year. I am going to give this one to Cal,
May’s neighbor. I got to hop on him for some fun, while his mom got on May. Let’s just say, as a 16.2ish OTTB, he was a totally different ride from May, but a really cool horse. Image stolen from the barn’s website, so shoot me. But you can see just how adorable he is!
My sister and I showing up to the barn to find a free May was one of the funniest moments of the year. So far, the new stall guard SEEMS to have solved the problem.
Favorite Fence that you Successfully Jumped or Movement you Conquered
The water probably should be here. Buuuuuut you all are getting ANOTHER VIDEO! hahaha. This year wasn’t so much about individual fences or elements but about upping the complexity of our exercises at home to produce results at shows. Like this clip from one of our lessons:
After a week of mostly lazy riding and reflecting on our horse trial, I think I have gotten enough distance from ER MAH GAWD I LOOOOVE my PONY to actually review the goals I had set ahead of time. (Honestly though, OMG I LOVE HER.)
Dressage Goal: Score below a 35
Done! We scored a 29, which is higher then the 24.2 we got at our last horse trail. Again though, that was from a soft judge, in an outdoor arena, and for a test we had done a few times before. I am super happy about the 29, and the consistent 7s & 7.5s in the collectives.
Show Jumping Goal: Ride Forward!
Is anyone surprised that riding forward led to a clear round? Anyone? How about any of my current and past trainers that have been telling me to do this for YEARS? Nope. Didn’t think so. We definitely had some bobbles and less-than-ideal distances, but since we were riding forward, May was easily able to sort through things.
Cross Country Goal: School the Water
The water was way more spooky then I was expecting. Half in the shade, deeper than expected, a bit of algae, and surrounded by other jumps that made it feel a bit claustrophobic. I kept my leg on, and we went into it without incurring penalties. May got lots of pats and love (and then tried to walk into the drain, and I had to hustle her away from it).
No Negative Self Talk: SUCCESS. Created a plan for the water and SJ with my trainer and executed without hesitation.
Utilize visualization: I probably rode through the SJ course in my mind about 5 times. Did it go exactly as well as my visualized course? Nope. But it definitely helped me stay focused on what mattered (Balance, pace, line instead of the perfect distance)
Stay Positive: This was easy because each phase went really well. It was a long day, but an unbelievably fun one.
One of the girl’s from my barn was featured in Eventing Nation for her adorable helmet cam footage. Before her round, I helped her put on her new galloping boots. During her round, you can hear the whole team cheering her on. Mind you, her round went at nearly 4PM, after we had all been at the show since about 8AM. Did that matter for the riders, parents, and people that came to help? Nope, and that is part of what makes eventing so much fun.
I thought May’s ears were too cute to handle, but this takes it to a whole other level.
Who’s ready to party on Cross Country?! (that kind of rhymes, right?) I was able to give the XC course a good walk by myself well before I needed to be on May, so I took my time and took lots of pictures. Overall theme? Jumps were very small, but there were some good questions asked. Below is the full course:
I didn’t bother rewarming up between SJ and XC, since they pretty much rode one right after the other. Also, the first jump in Starter looked like this:
It was then a straight shot to jump 2, which was at least more interesting.
We had a tight uphill rollback to jump 3:
Then, we had a bit of a straightaway downhill to jump 4:
After jump 4, we cantered along the “galloping lane” which ran next to the warm-up for SJ and jumped 5 and 6 in the fenceline.
We had another steep downhill. to jump 7, where May took a GOOD look at the bright gravel behind it.
Jump 8 was a bit narrow and uphill, and led right up to jump 9, which was wider but a bit spooky going into the woods.
We then went back down hill and up again to jump 10. I trotted down this hill to make sure we kept our line and didn’t risk slipping.
We had some time before jump 11, which really wasn’t an issue.
Jump 12 was apparently set for another division when I walked the course, which made me sad because it looked fun set a bit higher.
Then… the water. One of the reasons why I wanted to do this event, and why I wanted to do it at Starter, is because this event has a pretty spooky water complex. It is mostly in the shade (by the time I rode), it has a lot of jumps surrounding it, and the entrance is very narrow and away from the barns.
Then, I found myself sitting in third place in the division, the competitive side of me came out, and the water had a go-around option. I had jumped my first clear SJ round with May EVER, and I wanted satin. This is a terrible way to feel, and I really should stop checking scores during competition. I asked NT what she thought. She told me that, if all was going well and May was feeling confident, to give it a try. I nodded. Sure. I can do that. Here is two views of it, so you can get an idea of how it looked both when I walked it, and when I rode it:
Jump 14 was a small bank going uphill, which was fun. Right after Jump 14 I checked my watch. Optimum time was 5:18 with speed penalties being below 3:20. I was sitting at just under 4 minutes, so no worries there. I had WAY too much fun just kicking on to the last 2 jumps, and the jump judge at the end definitely got a kick out of me whooping along.
We left the woods and went into an open field where the last two jumps were. Jumps 15 and 16 were fairly straight forward, with more stuff sitting in the bench of jump 15.
So how did it go? See below!
When all was said and done, the person in 2nd ended up with a few time penalties, and we moved up to finish 2nd out of 17! Super proud of wonder mare. She was… less than impressed with the whole thing and, as soon as she was cooled down, went back to napping by the trailer.
May was seriously suspicious of the white gravel anytime we came across it, and looking at the video, I am really not surprised. It’s got to be pretty hard for a horse to read. Not a big deal though, and she was super game over all the fences.
We ended up doing the water. She sucked ALL THE WAY back to the walk, but she didn’t stop, back up, or go sideways. She got lots of pats and loose reins in the water. Until I had to steer away from where I knew a drainage pipe was hidden.
We ended up finishing with a time around 4:25, although the video below clocks in at 4:20. Either way, well within both time limits.
Because I have no chill, I looked at the scores and knew we were sitting in 3rd heading into show jumping. Since we had more than two hours in between Dressage and Show jumping, I watched a few people go at BN, and I realized that, to me, BN still looked big. The course was simple though, and the same for Starter and BN. Except, they removed oxers at Starter. >.<
One things I have learned about myself recently, I ride better when I have a “count” to ride to. Sure, ride the rhythm and all that, but I know if my rhythm is good by how well we’re getting down the lines.
I got on May about 30 minutes before my ride time and walked for a solid 15 minutes. I just let her take in the atmosphere and look at all the activity before I asked anything of her. I would say that probably 10 minutes into this, she took a deep breath and relaxed.
Our warm-up went really well, she was in front of my leg and distances came up easy. I think we jumped two jumps. The crossrail and then a vertical, and we were done. I watched a couple of more people go, including my barn-mate, who had a smooth, clear round. I didn’t see any poles go down, and I started to get nervous. What if I was that person that totally screwed up the whole thing?
NT gave me a few tips before we went in. Number one? Get my pace early and keep it going the entire course. Number two? Sit and turn her with my seat, leg, and both hands – don’t just try to pull her around the corners. Got it. Got it.
Below is how it went:
Things to note:
May tripped pretty good before fence one. The footing was just a bit beat up on that edge of the ring, and she was trying to look at the barn/horses in the small pens right next to the ring. This kind of messed up our rhythm and caused the short distance to fence 1.
I didn’t make a decision soon enough about the counter canter after fence one. Once I gave up trying to micro-manage it and just kicked on, she fixed it. Things to remember, just go forward.
The bending line rode pretty good. We got in tight to jump 2, but I picked a good line and moved her forward for a great jump over number 3. She swapped the front end before 3 (because I pretty much pulled her front end off the right lead) and landed crossfiring again. However, because I just kicked her forward after 3, she fixed it. Maybe lead swaps are in our future?
The outside line was my favorite part of the whole course. Over jump 4, I could hear my trainer go “Yes!” from the rail. It was a good feeling, and I just rode the rhythm over jump 5. I thought we got rolling a bit after the line, and I started to pull her around the corner. Then, I thought better of it, sat, and pushed her around the corner with my outside leg and both hands. The head flipping stopped, and we got into the line really strong. I pushed instead of steadied, so it was a bit tight on the out. However, since we had some pace, May had no problem making it work.
We landed on the left lead, and I decided to just roll with it. I kept the outside bend and moved her around my left leg and left hand to jump 8. She stayed on the lead, and I didn’t get the best turn to jump 9. I gave her a kick, she moved up, and we finished the round double clear. Go May!
I knew we at least held our third place into XC, and I ran back to the trailer to grab my vest and pinny!