A show recap: First Jump Syndrome

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I’ll start off by being honest- I am a bit dissapointed in the way the show went for us yesterday. However the silver lining to this is that there is plenty of room for improvement, and I am prepared to make changes to our approach and try again next time. Fair warning, this post will be long as I try to recall what happened, and if you don’t want to read look for the pro’s and con’s after each phase.

I seem to be in the habit of not leaving myself enough time in dressage warmup. This time that was partly due to the fact that I have a nervous bladder (TMI sorry!) and my constant running to the ladies room ate into my warmup. But my warmup (15 minutes total) also included surveying ring stewards in hope that someone could direct me as to when I was going into the arena, or what horse I was following, and even some confusion over having two #15’s floating around.. crazy. Foster of course also chose this particular show to miss his best friend, and the hollering and distraction were not helping us in the short time we had.

Granted, I thought when we got into the arena (aside from yelling down centerline) that maybe he has found his game face. I felt like I rode a fairly accurate test, but the judge nailed us on several movements in the second half. It is interesting to note that I sat the first half of the test and when I thought he was relaxing a bit I started posting, and the scores went down noticeably. Otherwise, I know that there is some resistance in his right lead canter, but his depart was clean and on target- did that deserve a 4? I don’t know. This was the first time in some while where I got a test back and was surprised by the results, and not for the better. Normally I can pinpoint our weaknesses and have a good idea of how a test went, and see the judge’s comments reflect what I felt. This time though, the tension was obviously more prominent than I thought.

Our test.. off to a good start before falling apart!

Our test.. off to a good start before falling apart!

So from the dressage phase:
Pro’s: 8 on his free walk, which remains consistent, and apparently my sitting trot is passable
Con’s: Too short of a warm-up, tension, and resistance in right canter remains

After dressage was show jumping, which was a good test as it included bending lines, roll backs, and a two stride combination. We had a frantic warm up, not by any fault of our own but apparently by sharing the warm up ring with some crazies. I won’t go into too much detail, but I was the only one yelling inside/outside for passing, and calling my fences, not to mention keeping my horse’s feet on the ground. One woman almost grazed Foster’s flank as she came cantering up behind us, and I has never seen so much bucking, running, and legs flying about as I did in that warm up.

So while Foster behaved (thank goodness) in the warm up, I think I was a bit rattled going into the ring. Enter first-jump syndrome. As soon as I entered the ring I felt the tension in my arms and likewise him become resistant on the bit. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when we had a pretty dirty run out at the first fence. After that though we had a good forward canter through the course. I did get lost from 3 to 4 and lost a bit of momentum, and upon entering 4a and b he ended up chipping in, but I’m not too upset. He left all the poles up and that was that. Here’s the video, which catches us after his run out at fence 1.

Pro’s: Mostly forward canter, clear round that improved as it went on, my leg position and staying up through landing
Con’s: Dirty run-out and allowing my nerves to get the best of me

Cross Country
Thank goodness our cross country warm up was nice. I kept it brief, but took advantage of the quiet and jumped a vertical that had feed bags under it, which we would see on course. He went over everything and we headed to the start box. Out of the start box we had a quiet canter, as I was debating trotting him into the first fence. Because he wasn’t rushing I decided to try cantering it, which ended up being a mistake. Enter more first-jump-syndrome. Another dirty run out left, and we circled back and trotted the fence and went on our way. I brought him back to a trot a couple more times, but he cleared everything just fine. We had a great time on some of the longer canter stretches, and I was able to ask him to move out a bit. I’m not sure that he figured out how to really canter on, or if he just didn’t have gas in his tank, but it was fun anyways.

So we came in with another 20 points for the refusal and 29 time penalties that came from the refusal and trotting some of the fences, but all in all I am OK with his performance on again, a tougher course for the level with several technical and terrain questions.

Pro’s: Improving as the course went on, Making better decisions after fence 1
Con’s: Another dirty run-out, trotting fences and therefore not making time, or even close to it!

So again, it was not quite the weekend I wanted it to be but it was a great lesson in how to approach the next show. I will be sure to give myself more time to warm up for dressage, and trot into the first fences confidently (and with bat in hand) and attempt to nip first-jump-syndrome in the butt! And as always, continue to work on our ‘zen’ and battle tension wherever we can!

11 thoughts on “A show recap: First Jump Syndrome

  1. I have nervous bladder syndrome too haha… it’s the worst!! But I always try to give myself plenty of warm up anyway, at least thirty minutes, for dressage. I don’t warm up much for the jumping phases, but that’s just personal. For dressage, worst case scenario about a long warm up, he’s perfect and you just walk, which helps him loosen up even more. But if they are being bad- then you have plenty of time to get them to relax. That’s so strange about the scores though! Wish there was a video so you could figure out what the judge was seeing.

    And the jumping- he looked really good but your’e right he definitely needs more energy. It looks like you do what I do- you lock your elbows when you’re nervous. At the beginning of the course, your elbows stop moving (although you always have a great follow over the fence!) but towards the end, you can see that your elbows are unlocked and moving with him up and over the fence and the jumps come up a lot better. My favorite visualization is rowing a boat- you really have to focus on moving with them because it feels so silly at first-but it really helps! But I really think your position is quite lovely, and once you get your nerves settled you two are going to be fantastic.

    I’m sorry you’re disappointed, but at least there were a lot of pros to continue building on! You guys are going to be great 🙂

    • So glad I’m not the only one with a nervous bladder! Everyone in the car was laughing at me- it’s so ridiculous! And I like to idea of ‘rowing a boat’, I’m going to keep that in mind next time the nerves hit!

      Appreciate the positive feedback! I’m getting a lot of great advice and looking forward to using it at the next show 🙂

  2. Sorry it didn’t go as well as you wanted but like you said, lots to learn from and hey I am always happy with any ring time at shows!

    Heres to next time being better!

  3. It’s easy to feel disappointed when things don’t go as well as you hope at competition, but as you quite rightly said at least you know where you can improve and you will get better at each show you go to!

    Regarding your dressage scores, that’s overall not a bad test! 6 – 8s are pretty good scores to get! 9s and 10s are very hard to achieve as judges often look for a more established degree of impulsion, straightness and collection for scores that high. So to have 7s and 8s in your test is a great achievement – another silver lining for you. Furthermore, every judge is different as expect different things to each other, you may just have had a super critical judge that day whereas someone else may have graded you higher!


    • Very true regarding the judges- and I had never heard of this judge, so I am not sure what her sticking points typically are, though it appears to be bend and relaxation. My friend had a very relaxed test and got a 29, but with the same ‘more bend’ comments. Either way I will definitely be keeping bend in mind for our next show and hopefully the longer warmup will help with the overall relaxation. Thanks for the nice comments!

  4. * As regards to your jumping, again it’s mostly your elbows and Foster’s engagement of the hindquarters and we discussed before, but you’ll soon improve! Overall, a brilliant post with a brilliant pair, well done to you and Foster and keep at it!

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