When I found myself at a loss for topics for today, Tracy came through with inspiration. Then, Olivia joined in on the hop to officially make it a party. If you haven’t checked out their versions yet, do that first!
The partnership between Emily O’Leary and her horse, May as Well, began about as unconventionally as any horse partnership could.
“I was debating just selling my current horse and taking a break for a while. No matter what though, I knew I wanted a plain bay gelding.” Emily admitted, before continuing. “Then, I drunkenly made a trade offer on the internet for a short, yellow mare named Krimpet.”
It turns out, that their first ride wasn’t even that magically. “Oh, I couldn’t steer at all, and we didn’t jump anything higher than maybe 12″. My first thought was that she would probably easier to sell then my current horse.”
However, the two have stuck it out and entered the sport of eventing together. Going from W/T tests and crossrails up to a recognized horse trial at the Beginner Novice level. Let’s open up the stall door and learn more!
May Really Didn’t Steer
While there definitely were videos of May navigating around courses in her sale ad, it didn’t immediately translate to her new role as Emily’s mount. “During our first lesson, she tried to run out of the arena, and she couldn’t make a 30M circle.” It was a steep learning curve, where May learned that life was just easier when she went along with whatever crazy thing Emily asked her to do.
She Was Always Show Perfect
At May and Emily’s first competition together, they did an elementary level combined test. “I remember being terrified because the warm up for SJ was in an open field, and I hadn’t yet ridden May in an open field.” Emily had nothing to worry about, as May was a total pro.
She Has Some Non-Negotiables
May is pretty laid back about everything. Does that new OTTB need a horse to pony off of? May will do it. Did the new dog at the barn just do a zoomies through May’s feet while she’s on the cross ties? She probably didn’t even wake up. However, there are two things that May simply cannot handle.
Fly spray is best delivered through wipes, thank-you-very-much. May lets all her handles know through snorting, wide eyes, and prancing in place that the act of heedlessly spraying her with STUFF is not to be tolerated. Meanwhile, clippers should be avoided at all costs, unless they come with cookies at LEAST the quality of Mrs. Pastures Cookies for Horses. Sugar free substitutes will not be tolerated.
She Is Often Underestimated
It has been assumed that May is a Dressage-only horse, a companion horse, and a retired broodmare before. She will sleep on the cross ties, wander around on the trails, and sunbathe while other school XC fences around her. However, when it is time to go to work, she is all business. As one Equine Dentist once said, “Wow, she really gets up there. You wouldn’t think that just looking at her.”
You might not know it just looking at her, but those that have ridden her have never forgotten it.
It gets pretty easy to forget that May is a “mare”. She is totally cool with other horses getting in her personal space, I have never seen her swish her tail and pin her ears at anyone, and 90% the time, she just wants to get on with the thing. Whatever the thing is (eating, turnout, going back to her stall, riding, jumping, etc etc etc)
In fact, May apparently took some kind of small adventure on Sunday. The barn was out at a small show. When they left, May was tucked into her stall. When they came back, May was somehow in a stall on the other side of the barn. NT went over to her normal side of the barn to see what was up, and then she heard hoof beats behind her. May had re-escaped from stall #2 and was sheepishly making her way back to “her stall”.
My theory? May ducked under her stall guard, wandered around the barn to see if there was any grain dropped on the floor. Spotted some food in stall #2, and decided to spend the rest of the day there. I think she is going to be relegated back to having the bottom half of her stall door closed when the barn is empty, especially now that the weather has cooled off a bit.
So how does May remind us that she is, indeed, a mare? She has OPINIONS.
Last week, I decided it was time to put May back into real work. She is sound now barefoot, and seemed perfectly happy to drag me around again. So it was time to reintroduce some real work. I threw on my Dressage saddle and grabbed my Dressage whip. The ride was planned to be fairly easy – reestablishing contact and bend.
Our warm up went fine. She was a bit stiff off both legs, so I returned those with the help of the whip. She got a bit tense while I was schooling the whole “one leg means move over” thing, but she quickly relaxed once we had a few successes. Great. I picked up the canter to the left and had a nice easy bend and lope in that direction.
Then, we went right. If you remember, bending right has been our issue lately. So, when she went to lean through her right shoulder, I lifted my inside hand and added my inside leg more firmly. As a result, she MELTED DOWN.
I mean, full on temper tantrum. Throwing her head around, stumbling over herself, shooting forward, sucking back, etc etc. For maybe a solid 2 minutes. What was I doing? Keeping my right hand up and my right leg on while cursing quite loudly. Here’s the thing with May. No matter how much she escalates, I can’t give in or escalate with her. I have to be firm, clear, and consistent.
After her meltdown, she gave me a big huff and bent nicely around my right leg. I put my whip and cell phone down, since I didn’t want to really use either if she decided to have another meltdown, and we went back to work. She picked herself up through that shoulder, quickened the inside hind to compensate for the new balance, and moved better going over her back.
At this moment, NT came to the ring and complimented me on how well she was working to the right. I think I and both the other riders in the ring with me (both advanced riders thankfully) had a good laugh as we informed her about May’s mini drama series.
She may be a REALLY good mare, but she is still a mare. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. What about you? Does your horse sometimes hit you with overly dramatic opinions?
After seeing Olivia’s blog post on “The Horse You Bought”, I hopped on over to Two and Half Horses, where the hop originated. Since it has been nearly three and a half years, I figured it would be fun to look back. I have zero media from our first trial ride, but I do have the wording of her ad:
Belgian/QH cross….UTD on everything. Has been shown and placed well at larger shows! Jumps up to 3′ courses. Trail rides alone and in a group, crosses water, trailers well… Literally does nothing wrong. Easy enough for an advanced beginner to handle!
To be honest, our first trial ride was not some beacon of hope where the clouds parted and angels sung. I could barely keep her on the rail, and at the canter, we basically careened around wherever she wanted to go. She leaned so badly that I was concerned she would trip and go down. The trot had no rhythm, and my first thoughts were “I could sell her as a trail horse for as much as I was paying” and “she’d be easier to sell than my c current horse.”
Seriously… so many people have this amazing AHAH moment when they buy a horse, like buying a wedding dress. BUT I didn’t have that. I had “this will probably work” and “I just need to ride something different.” She had really no personality and any jump we took that day was under 2′, and we got to it sideways. With all those romantic images in my head, I loaded her onto the trailer with a smile on my face anyway. Pure joy? Maybe not. Relief and terror? Probably more so that.
She was sort of easy to load (once food was involved), and we took her home. Then, I attempted to get a beauty shot of her at home, and I got this.
My first lesson? She couldn’t do a 20M circle and ran out the gate of the arena. Our canter transitions took more than a dozen trot steps, and my saddle really didn’t fit.
May was a lot greener than even I had anticipated, and I had ridden A LOT of green horses. I had started a couple horses from scratch, and this was even more difficult than that. There were moments of real promise… and moments where I couldn’t even figure out what was causing everything to go Oh So Wrong.
During one of these moments, I turned to my trainer at the time and just told her I was completely stumped. I knew we weren’t straight, thorough, or forward, but I couldn’t seem to get any of those things to work together. That day, I paid for my first pro ride on my horse, and it seriously helped us move forward. I wish I had more media from those first few months because they were… not friendly to me.
I think this was our first “course” together: Video Link
Overall, she was green but a fun horse to work with and every ride was engaging… even when I was mostly failing at accomplishing anything.
Fast Forward to 2018?
May has proven herself to be a really reliable partner. I have spent COUNTLESS hours ALONE riding at different barns. We have seen deer, bicycles, strollers, small children, quads, and, most recently, sheep together. We have done horse trails, Dressage, SJ, XC, clinics, hunter paces, trail rides, games days, and many bareback rides together.
May has been the horse my friends get on to ride something “other than a schoolie” before they set off horse shopping. She is also the horse that has, in slow motion, run away with more than one person in the arena. (never faster than a medium trot, just without willingness to walk)
We even did our first BN together… Which wasn’t the smoothest… But we got it done.
Her personality has come out of her shell. While naughty is probably never the right word, opinionated is probably a better one. She has broken cross ties, simply because she was hungry. She had decided that certain farriers should not be allowed to work on her precious toes. AND she has learned how to express to me when she feels a saddle does not fit to her standards (crow hopping).
However, now, I wouldn’t trade her for the world… Although, I could still definitely sell her for more than I bought her for!
In 2016, when May and I competed more regularly, I was really, really good at setting goals for each show. This year, as we returned to horse trials, I let them slip for the first one, but I am determined to make this a habit again. Our modest Sr. Starter division has 18 entries, so I am going to be really conscious of keeping goals away from ribbons and onto things I can control.
In writing this list, I realized that it is really a combination of two lists I had done previously: the one before our first BN and the one before our first recognized trial. The former was a BLINDING success in my mind, while the latter still feels a bit like a failure. The hilarious part? I got a better score (by like 6 points) at the recognized event. Just goes to show you, scores do not tell the whole story.
I am not sure what to even write here. We scored a 24.2 from a very soft judge at the last schooling horse trial, which had us in 4th out of 19. I am going to throw out there that I want to score below a 35. I think our last test was, more fairly, in the 35 range, and we will be doing Into C, which is not a test I have ever done before.
Ride forward. Really. That’s it. If poles come down because May doesn’t respect anything at 2′, then I am ok with that. I will not be ok with crawling over more oxers. If we are going to get back to BN, we need to go forward.
Do the water if it’s an option. I would much rather be out of the ribbons and get a 20, but school the water, then have the same thing happen at a BN recognized horse trial in the future. I don’t need to prove to anyone that we can win. I just need to make sure that my horse and I come through the finish flags as an even better team.
No negative self talk. I am just going to quote this one from my first BN horse trial:
I am not nervous, I am excited. That is not a huge jump, it is a reasonable effort. I did not screw up; I found something we need to work on. My pony is not a Corgi, she is an elegant gazelle (or something I guess)
Utilize visualization to create positive outcomes before they even happen. This always sounds kind of hippy to me, but it does work.
Stay Positive. At the end of the day, I am at a horse trial with my friends, and I am riding a horse that is genuinely just happy to pop over some fences with me.
Things not on the list:
1. Clean Jumping Rounds: If we get rails, we get rails. If I try for one of the bank/ditch/water options and get a refusal, that’s not the end of the world. I am truly utilizing this event as a barometer for what we need to focus on going forward. I am going to ride like I stole it and come away with issues to work on.
2. Make My Trainer Proud: Maybe one day I will write a full post on this one. However, I think a lot of riders put a lot of pressure on themselves to not embarrass their trainer. I know I do. Of course, I managed to eat dirt during Marilyn Payne’s clinic in 2016, so I am not sure I could embarrass anyone more. At the end of the day, I work hard, am nice to the other boarders, pay my bills on time, and care about my horse. That’s all my trainer really wants from me.
3. Win: One day, I would like this to be our goal, but after so much time out of the game, it is not our goal on Sunday.
Now, this post is going to be full of old photos because, when I was a young teenager, I went on A LOT of hunter paces. I took barely broke youngsters on easier paces with manicured, rolling fields and jumps larger than 2’6″ marked with cute little cones. (Just in case my future-weenie self didn’t know a jump was “big”) I took school horses that needed a bit of schooling over the tough landscapes set by my local fox hunting clubs.
It was seriously my favorite thing to do on horseback. However, I changed barns (a couple of times) and then ended up in KY, where manicured eventing fields greatly outnumbered rough and tumble trails that highlighted the hunter pacing of my teenage years.
During my first lesson with her, NT asked me if I would like to hunter pace May. “Yes. Absolutely.” the words were out of my mouth without a second consideration. May had never been on a hunter pace, but she had always been reliable over fences and strong but manageable traveling in a group. Then, I promptly forgot about it.
The Monday before the hunter pace, I asked NT for a lesson, and she mentioned that we could do Thursday or Friday… but that Friday was probably too close to the hunter pace. It took a solid minute for the phrase to make sense in my brain. “Am I going to that?”
“I thought you wanted to…”
“Yes… Yes! I do!” A quick, but excited, text was sent to the husband to update him on my weekend plans, the entry form was filled out, and we were in business! I did not wear a helmet cover, a t shirt, or suede half-chaps. I pulled out my white sun-shirt, polished up my boots, cleaned my tack, and then stared at my bridle.
The D-ring Myler with the hooks is a great bit for May for eventing. It gives us a lot of help getting balance, but it doesn’t have a lot of “whoa” to it. (It doesn’t need to. I do enough unnecessary “whoa-ing” in stadium all by myself.) Would I even need more whoa on May? We were going about 5 miles in a group of 7 horses including at least 4 thoroughbreds. May is not a thoroughbred, but she likes to play one on TV.
I reached into my bit box and pulled out this bit. A 3 ring, Copper elevator bit with copper. (Thanks old horse for having the same mouth size as May.)
I threw two reins on, one on the snaffle ring, and one on the milder gag ring. I figured that, if she’s good and easy, I can just ride off the snaffle, but if she is strong, I have the gag bit. Then, I did something another trainer had taught me. I vet-wrapped the buckles of the reins together. (The ends farthest from the horse… not sure why this is so hard to explain… The buckles that are included in the bight of your reins… I hope you get the idea). The idea here is I could hold just the snaffle bit without risking losing the curb rein or creating too much of a loop. If I dropped my reins, it would be MUCH easier to get them back, and I minimize the likelihood of a rein going over May’s head. Quick, Easy, Safe.
So on to the actual pace. I didn’t charge/pack my cambox because there had been a chance of rain. Of course, my luck, it was sunny and warm all day. Oh well. Next year! (Tried to find someone else’s video on youtube, but couldn’t find a single one!)
We tacked up the horses, and May was her usual calm, happy self, munching on grass while I tacked up. I hopped on, and she even stood like a statue at the mounting block… I almost threw myself off the other side. I figured out my 2 reins (luckily a smooth curb rein feels a LOT different from my pebbled, rubber reins). We even snapped a quick pic before heading to the start box.
My biggest concern going out was May’s fitness. I had been on hunter paces that had stretched to over 2 hours and covered roads, rivers, etc. I was assured that this hunter pace was 5 miles and optimum time was likely right around 55 minutes. Great. We could do that. Headed to the start box. Started off… and May’s shoe came FLYING off. She must have loosened it during the trailer ride over.
Now, NT is VERY familiar with the farm, and she had already ridden the course once that morning on another horse. I trotted May off. She was TOTALLY sound. I was assured the footing was super forgiving, so we decided to continue. I would just avoid jumping anything of any real size. (i.e. anything larger than 2′ LOL). How did May feel? Like a screaming ball of fire. She kept up with the thoroughbreds on every gallop, big hill, little jump, etc that we found.
Then, we came up on an ITTY BITTY stream at the bottom of a TEENY TINY hill. I brought her back to a walk, so that she could walk over it. I grabbed my neck strap with one hand, kept my body back, and waited for her to figure it out. And she LEAPED over it, snapping her head up.
Luckily, her head doesn’t come that far up, but it did bring my right hand up at an alarming rate of speed… It also brought the butt of my crop, in my right hand, up to my face at an alarming rate of speed. I ended up smashing the butt of my crop into my chin/lower set of teeth. My teeth took off the skin on the inside of my lip, and I immediately tasted blood.
A quick “tongue check” of my teeth found them all still in my head and undamaged. So I kicked on. I ended up sporting a sweet face bruise/fat lip for a few days after.
Near the end of the pace, May was definitely tired. Still sound, but tired, and she politely trotted/loped the last couple of jumps. There was a LARGE stack of barrels I really wanted to try, but it will have to wait for a time when we have our shoes on (or are really acclimated to going barefoot.) After crossing the finish line, I spent some time trying to find her shoe near the start, but I had no luck. Oh well. It was hot, and I wanted to untack, hose May, get her (and me) in the shade a bit. As for my bit choice? Considering that I am sporting at least 4 different blisters, I am glad I upgraded this once.
We ended up coming close enough to the optimum time to come in second! Second apparently included a whole bunch of swag including: gift certificates to the local tack shop, t shirts, bags, medals, and a pair of slippers. Our barn brought 14 riders and 4 teams, and three teams ended up in the “medals”. Super fun day with the barn family.
As for aftercare, May got her hooves packed with magic cushion and was rubbed down before being turned out for the night. I am a big believer that turnout is the most important thing you can do for recovery. Even after being fully cooled out and spending time standing on the trailer, all of May’s legs were tight and cool.
Her foot looked a bit broken up, but it was mostly from losing the shoe. The magic cushion was probably more for me then her since the ride was 80% grass, 15% mud/dirt, and 5% minimal gravel (where we walked), but hey, it couldn’t hurt. May got her shoe put back on Monday, and I rode her on Tuesday. She came out fresh, happy, and totally sound.
Now I remember why I love hunterpaces. Both horses and riders tend to really enjoy them. Looking forward to our horse trial this weekend!
I have a confession to make. There is one thing I have never successfully desensitized May to, and it is fly spray. No matter how often we repeat the exercise, the simple act of spraying STUFF on her body causes her to snort, back up, and stare at me with wide eyed fear. That’s right. Fear. From May. Because of fly spray.
Eventually, I do get her to stand still, but the whites of her eyes will continue to show, and she will still shake with fear. It’s been 3 years, and I still feel like I am torturing her. I have tried natural fly spray, strong fly spray I only need to use a little of, and even home made fly spray. It didn’t matter. She thought it was all going to kill her.
I, however, have been a die hard Absorbine Ultrashield Ex (the black bottle) user for YEARS. Seriously, I once sent the husband into a Dover to just buy that. When they didn’t have the black version in the 32 ounce bottles, he guilted them into giving him a discount on the full gallon… because “that’s really the one she likes.” Unfortunately, that stuff is miserable to use. It smells awful, and too much of it can cause irritations for both me and May.
SO when I realized that this woman in my barn had a line of plant derived horse care goods. I was kind of intrigued. When she mentioned that she also sold fly repellent WIPES, I was all over it. Serious grabby hands.
Now the product description reads as such:
Our unique blend of lemongrass, essential oils and natural surfactants repel Flies, Gnats, Mosquitoes and other Annoying Flying Insects for up to 8 Hours.
What does this mean in real life? It means it smells great, doesn’t irritate my skin or May’s skin, and lasts several hours. It even means that I can wipe them easily on her ears, an area that I could never get near with traditional fly spray.
I bought this product in the beginning of June, so have been using it for about a month. I have found that 2 wipes work best for May’s whole body. At $25 per container of 90 wipes, this works out to about $0.55 per use, so it probably is more expensive than a traditional fly spray.
So would I use this if May wasn’t so opposed to regular fly spray? Yes, but only for ears and such. I would probably also buy their regular fly spray at $25 for 32 ounces.
Other items I am coveting from them? They are coming out with a purple shampoo AND they have a fungicide that I seriously think might come in handy if we have another wet fall. Check out their full line for yourself here: https://www.wholehorseequine.com/
What about you? Make any switches in your core group of products this summer?
THIS REVIEW IS NOT SPONSORED, AND THE ITEMS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW WERE PURCHASED BY ME WITH MY OWN MONEY.
Let me start by saying: This was not a voluntary experiment. After our great Dressage lesson last week, I got on her the next time, and she was just spicy. There was lots of head throwing and dramatics and our ride just got worse and worse. I finally let the reins out, and we just went for a walk. When I hopped off, I realized that she had somehow got pinched by her bit that she was worn for nearly every ride for the last 2 years. (back to the baucher? Thoughts?)
I will say, that I had adjusted the Micklem bridle a couple of weeks ago because it was rubbing against a bug bite on her cheek. I guess it is time to readjust it back. I hemmed and hawed about what to do… I had ridden May a couple of times when I first got her in a hackamore, but the idea of shelling out cash for something I will probably use 3 or 4 times seemed super unappealing. I originally thought about attaching my reins to a crank noseband I have somewhere. I figured it would work kind of like a side pull. However, I COULD NOT find the thing, since I only use the figure 8 on that bridle.
I was convinced that I couldn’t fit my reins on the right attachment on the Micklem to use it, so I brought along some options to rig SOMETHING together and hope I didn’t die. It turns out, I could just attached my reins to the Micklem. I checked to make sure the nose pieces was high enough on her face not to cause any discomfort, and I figured I would give it a try.
Conclusion? I had really no breaks or real steering, so we stuck to the outdoor and just did trot sets. I figured a nice, no pressure ride would help both of us get used to this new way to communicating. Plus, this was only a temporary situation.
Then yesterday, I saw that it looked like the pinched spot had completely cleared up. Since I am going away next week, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just ride the rest of this week bitless. I threw on the bitless micklem, ignored some odd stares by someone who I am pretty sure was CONVINCED I was missing SOMETHING, and I headed to the indoor. I figured the 2 beginner type riders having a lesson in the outdoor wouldn’t appreciate the addition of a large yellow wrecking ball with both questionable steering and breaks.
Instead, a teenager and her thoroughbred had to deal with me in the indoor. I figured that today, being in the indoor, I would push May a bit more forward and try to drive her into my hands. No luck. 0 luck. Possibly even negative luck. I could steer a bit better, but the Micklem did nothing to help me stop any kind of forward motion. To do a downward transition was an act of full body control and divine intervention.
I even had the crazy notion that maybe if we cantered, it would get her moving better over her back! It didn’t work. I did a 30 meter oval to the left with a terrible upward transition and a nearly nonexistent downward transition. But you can’t just do it one way! So we turned around and tried the right lead! It was equally bad. I ended up seriously wishing I had though to at least put my spurs on or grabbed my whip so I had SOME WAY to INSIST on at least one of my aids being listened to.
At the end of the ride, I just had to laugh. No harm was done. I doubt I undid any of May’s training, and if I did, it would be a quick fix anyway. The horse enjoyed the ride thoroughly, and I got to use some muscles that I didn’t even know I had. How about you? Ever gone bitless?
(and my first jump lesson since my birthday back in April) New trainer and I chatted a bit as she set jumps from the prior x-rail lesson. “What height have you been doing? Like BN?”
I blanked… I admitted we hadn’t really been jumping and then said, “between Starter and BN is pretty comfortable.” Spoiler alert, turns out it wasn’t super comfortable (but everything was a hole or two smaller than the pics). The jumps were laid out in a way that gave a lot of options, gymnastics, and related distances. Overall, everything was set up to be super technical.
The orange line was a placement rail, 5 one-stride jumps, and then another placement rail to help riders get into and out of the gymnastic on the right stride. The blue line was a x-rail, two strides to an oxer, and then two strides to another x-rail. The green line was set in a moving 4, and the purple line was set in a steady 5. The only “stand alone” jump was the blue, double barrels. The new trainer offhandedly asked me if I thought they would be an issue, and I flippantly said no. (and then immediately was thinking (OMG we’ve never done barrels like that.”)
I warmed up, and she had me head through the gymnastic towards home, trotting in and cantering through. It was originally set really small, with just one side of each pole in the cups, and the distances were a true one stride. NT explained to me that the ring has a bit of a slant towards the barn, so things will always ride more forward coming towards the barn (i.e. traveling left to right of the above photo).
May was a bit wiggly the first time, and I don’t blame her. We haven’t done a gymnastic like this in a LONG time (like more than 2 years), and she wasn’t totally schooled in them at that time either. However, I kept my legs on, my reins open, and we were just fine. We alternated our approach to it a couple of times (making a right turn into the gymnastic, a left turn at the end, then a left turn into the gymnastic and a right turn at the end), until it was smooth and easy. Then, she put them up to small verticals (about a hole smaller than the above pic).
After that, it was time for our first course. Down the gymnastic (left to right), right turn and up the green line in 4, left turn and down the barrels. Sounded easy enough. Except I also cannot remember the last time I did a line that was oxer to vertical… That line was set to about 2’6″, and the approach to it was a bit weird. I tried to capture it in the below photo, but you had to come maybe 2 strides past the corner of the ring, turn, and then had maybe 2 – 3 strides off the rail to the oxer. AND THEN we would have to turn right and come down the double barrels that I wasn’t too sure about.
I nodded. I picked up my canter. I came through the gymnastic, May landed on the right lead after, I looked for my line to the oxer… and looked… and then just pulled back around the corner, lost her shoulder, lost any straightness or rhythm, and had a BIG OL’ CHOCOLATE CHIP into the oxer. I kicked on out to get the 4 strides to the vertical on the second half of the stride… and finished really well over the barrels. (At least there was some good)
Then the dreaded trainer words, “So what do you think happened there?”
I briefly blanked before blurting out, “I lost her shoulder in the line and then everything fell apart.”
NT nodded and then elaborated, “You lose her shoulder, couldn’t find a distance and did nothing. When you keep this horse balanced and on the line, you have no issues with jumps, distances, etc. However, when she loses her balance, then she pulls you off balance, and then it all just kind of falls apart. Worry about balance and straightness, and if you’re in doubt, add leg. The barrels were really good though.” (I swear, she is SUPER positive, but the negative feedback is more important right now than the positive)
We did that course one more time and while the turn to the oxer wasn’t perfect: I didn’t throw my body at it or panic. I just added leg and tried to keep my body back. Overall, a lot of improvement.
Now for a new course! Down the gymnastic, a right turn to the purple line (so oxer to vertical), and then around to the barrels. Gymnastic was great. I got to the oxer into the purple line, and we lost our balance a bit. I over corrected coming down the line, and got to the out in 5 and 1/4 strides… and promptly threw my body up May’s neck. Uh… not helpful. We rubbed it hard and landed in a heap on the other side.
“KICK AND SIT UP!” I heard from the other end of the ring…. oh gosh. our first lesson and here she is terrified that I am about to eat dirt. Oh well, I kicked on. Got a brief instruction of “always kick away from something like that!” while I cantered past her, and back to the barrels, which were, once again, no problemI walked, and huffed, and puffed (it was like 85 degrees with 80% humidity). May was prancing around like she was ready to go run the Belmont. Trainer sent me back to do just the barrels to the purple line again. It got tight on me again, but I sat back and it rode fine. SHOCKING.
Finally, it was time for our last course. Is your head spinning? Mine was. UP the gymnastic, a left 90* turn to the purple oxer, a right turn down the blue line, a right turn to the barrels, and then ANOTHER right turn to the green line. The turn from barrels to the green oxer wasn’t quite as tight as it looks in the pic, but it wasn’t much more generous.
I jumped up the gymnastic and actually had too tight of a turn to the oxer… and promptly forgot to turn right. I looped back around, got my right lead, and came down the blue line. Despite being a true 2 strides to 2 strides, the second half got a bit tight (*more of this later). The barrels, as always, rode great, but we landed on the left lead. I tried to fix it. I failed. I lost her shoulder and AGAIN the green line was ugly. At this point, I actually felt nauseous from the heat. (May was fine though. Totally amped and ready to keep going).
NT waved me over and said, “I am going to tell you something that is going to blow your mind. Stop worrying about the lead. Worry about balance and your line.” Now, I know this is kind of a controversial topic. However, I can tell you that for May and I to drop down to a trot, get the canter back, get balance, and get our rhythm back… it can sometimes take a lot of effort and coordination and TIME. So I decided to try it her way. (there is also a small chance that, if I stop fixing it for May, she might start fixing her own leads on her own.)
I jumped the barrels, we again landed on the left lead, I left the lead… and couldn’t turn to save my life. I ended up pulling her around the corner at the last minute and almost missed the jump. I did get a nice 5 in the line though. I was officially done tho. We identified something to work on, and it was overall really positive.
NT really liked May. She was shocked by how easily she got down the line, how un-bothered she was by all my mistakes (my words, not hers), and how light she actually is on her feet. She seemed really excited to be working with us, and I felt like I got a lesson that really challenged me without over-facing us. The whole idea is to do really technical courses at home, so, at shows, things feel easy. Sounds good to me!
*Now the striding thing. Since May had her hocks and stifles done, her stride opens up MUCH easier, and I am still getting used to riding the difference. She is also more receptive to taking the long spot, vs. chipping in, so it has really affected my riding.
It is probably fair to say that about 90% of people do eventing because of cross country. It is just… fun. May and I had gone xc schooling once since moving to KY, and we hadn’t really done a full XC course since our last horse trial. Again, due to the late start, we didn’t get a chance to walk the course ahead of time. Luckily, most of the jumps were visible from either the Dressage arena or the SJ area. There were 13 efforts in total. I didn’t wear a watch, so I have 0 idea how long it took us.
There was no formal start box. I decided to pick up my canter a bit before the start line so that we could have some momentum into the first jump. May, of course, wanted to throw herself on her forehand instead of creating power from behind, so we had an argument all the way to jump one.. and then onto jump two…
Jump 2 was a bit downhill, so again, I had a conversation with May about how that was not permission to fall flat on her face. Either way, we were up and over it.
You can see us trotting at the end of the clip, as I tried to find my way to jump 3. Jump 3 was a small down bank, but it was in line with a bunch of other banks through the trees. Of course, I lined up with the larger bank that we had schooled the other week, so I had to correct my course. Either way, May dropped down like a rockstar.
Immediately after jump 3 was the water. The water was flagged generously, so you could go around it on the left. I took that option, since I didn’t have enough time to land off the bank, get May squared up to the water, and create impulsion towards the water. Either way, May bent her body so far away from the water that we almost missed our flags.
We galloped through a fence line and up a small hill to the 5th jump on course, this little red house we had schooled the week before. (somehow, this venue managed to move all the jumps around in just a week. It was really impressive.)
I galloped to the end of the field, looking for the only jump on course I hadn’t been able to find when I was scoping things out. It was described as a “stack of logs.” Cool, I thought, it will just be a little pyramid of logs on the ground. No big deal.
The approach was a bit odd, as the fence line kind of curved away from the jump and then back to it. I managed to find it on google maps, so you all can see what I mean!
Of course, what I didn’t anticipate, was that the “stack of logs” wouldn’t be sitting on the ground. They were actually raised about a foot off the ground, making this both a bit of a looky jump, and the biggest jump on course. Cool. I didn’t look at it too long, just found my line, looked up, and kicked. May popped over it beautifully.
We had a bit of a gallop to fence 7… which I honestly can’t even remember. I am pretty sure it was just a small, brown coop. Then… I got a bit lost… I almost jumped the BN number 8, before I found my number 8. It looked tiny, so I cantered over to it. As I came upon it though, I realized why it looked so tiny. It was at the bottom of a very steep, short hill. Maybe two strides down the hill to the log. May could care less, and we were over.
We came back through the woods to number 9. Jump 9 was a cute, baby roll top.
However, you can see May land and start drifting back toward the trailers (towards the camera.) Our approach to jump 10 was a bit crooked, and then we had to re-balance, turn left, and go down hill to jump 11. As a result, we had a bit of an argument over jump 10, and a not-so-flattering moment. Oh well. It was fine.
Jump 11 and 12 jumped great, and we had a nice stretch uphill to jump 13, so I asked May to give me a bit of a gallop. She did, and I got lots of compliments from people after about how much fun our course looked. Jump 13 was the last jump. It was a cute train jump, which May popped over, and then got lots and lots of pats for.
The event still had several hours to go, and the barn was only 10 minutes away. I decided it would be best to cool May off, take her home, and then come back for the final results. (especially since May decided that any of the water presented to her at the show was poison.) May hopped back onto the trailer and was all settled in at home again within an hour. I drank lots of water, and we headed back to the show for, hopefully, a ribbon.
And we got one! We finished 6th out of 19 horses, adding just 4 jump penalties to our Dressage score. When I went to get my ribbon, I told them I came in 6th and asked for my ribbon… then thought about it and asked what place they give ribbons up to. Tenth! They give ribbons up through TENTH place at a schooling show! Awesome. Definitely, 10 out of 10, will be returning. 🙂