Show Recap: May War Horse Cross Country

After my showjumping round from hell, I dejectedly made my way over to the cross country field. I won’t lie, I was seriously pondering if I should just focus on dressage after embarrassing myself so badly. But putting my pity party aside, I was still going to go run that course- because shamefaced or not, I was not going to give up when I was literally there.

The trainer had told me I needed to put my hands down and get him in front of my leg, even if it meant taking a couple galloping fences in the warm up to get it. So I did- attacking the tiny log in warm up like a dog attacks a bee (that is to say, erratically and awkward to watch) until we were jumping out of stride, he wasn’t getting hollow and he wasn’t tearing away from the fence like an idiot.

A few more efforts in the warmup to confirm that it wasn’t a fluke and we headed out on course. Below is a video of the first 4 fences, and the last 3.

Fence 1 was a max ramp that several folks fell at the show before, which lets you know that the course designer was taking no prisoners today. A little tap from my bat and over he went, before a dog leg turn away from home to 2, wonky bend to 3 and rolling over to 4 which had a downhill descent away from the fence.

Fence 5 was at the base of the hill, then it was a long hill up to 6AB, a pair of stacked log fences on a right angle to each other. Jack was booking it up the hill, and so we didn’t have quite the smaller canter I needed to make the turn well, but thankfully he was honest and though we sliced the hell out of the B element, we made it over.

I had hoped in general that the course would be a more confidence boosting type, but I found myself using my stick more than I’d hoped. In a couple cases he was spooking at insignificant things not related to a fence- a puddle next to fence 10, and ant hill after the last fence, that sort of thing.

Spooking at things mid-gallop is his forte

I ended up through the finish flags having gone clear, but probably not as fast as we normally do thanks to the extra time eyeballing all the things.

Despite all the ugliness and my efforts to sabotage us with shit riding, we finished 2nd out of 13. Since then I’ve had a couple CTJ lessons that have been really helpful- but that’s for another post!

Show Recap: May War Horse Showjumping

I have been absolutely loathing writing this post.

The imposter syndrome is in full swing. Because after dressage, I went into the showjumping ring feeling okay and left feeling like a proper fuck-up.

I did not deserve a clear round. I rode backwards, panicked, with shit distances and rode worse than a monkey strapped to the saddle.

The course wasn’t particularly tough, either. Plenty of people had nice rounds. But Jack went in, spooked hard at fence 1, where I got in his face, and it all unraveled from there.

Fence 2 and 3 were so/so, a basic 3 stride line up the diagonal. 4 to 5 was another diagonal line, and while 4 rode perfect, I have no effing idea what happened at 5. Watching the video (which I’m not sharing- sorry, I do have a little pride) it looks like a total miscommunication on my part. We stuffed a third stride in the 2 stride combo- MY HORSE THE GIANT PUT IN AN EXTRA STRIDE. Because again, idiot pilot aboard, riding backwards at your service.

I got my shit back together for fence 7, only to royally miss at fence 8 and 9. And then leave the arena with my head held in shame.

And I wasn’t the only one embarrassed. My trainer met me at the gate and we discussed battle plans for fixing the wreck that was my jumping. And then told me what I needed to do to fix myself enough to go XC. Which I did.

More on that later.

 

Show Recap: May War Horse Novice Dressage

Lucky me, I was the first ride of the day at 8 am on Sunday, and so didn’t have time to do my typical pre-ride (read: was not willing to wake up even earlier to go ride in the dark), but figured we’d give it our best shot with a slightly longer warm up than usual, and incorporate my 20 min of walk work there.

Honestly, I felt like we won the warm up. He was forward, relaxed, listening, getting beautiful departs in the canter- I was thrilled. But when we walked over to the dressage court, I felt a bit of tension building in Jack. Of course he hadn’t seen the white fencing up close for a while, and though I tried to give him all the pats and options to see it, the judge rang us in before he truly settled.

The first half of the test felt a little electric as a result, and you can see where he gets a bit hollow and against my hand at times. My geometry was also not at its best- one of the faults to being the first rider in is that there are no tracks to go by, and I didn’t realize how much I rely on this at a show (whereas at home I do make myself think about it- will definitely pay attention going forward!).

I don’t think it was our best test ever- in general I like him to be a little more relaxed and swinging through his back, but opted for forward in this test instead. So while the judge was fair and marked us down where appropriate, we apparently still made enough of an impression that we sat just behind Andrew McConnon for 2nd place after the dancing was done.

Lots to improve on, but a decent way to start the day!

Show Photos from Longleaf

… an alternate title for this post could be “Why I should be a Dressage Rider”. Because despite this:

I am great at proving how much of an amateur I am. It’s a talent that gets feature a lot on this blog.

My expression here is hilarious

But already laughing at how not-cool we are

And the show photos from Longleaf show just how squirrelly things can get sometimes.

LOLZ

I’m having this printed.

I already discussed just how spooky the XC was, causing more than one rider to be ejected before even making it to fence 4. For an already spooky horse like Jack, it made for some gritty riding and hollow fences. And a lot of reminders that over/under/through are his only options thanks to Mr. Tappy. (No yellow horses were abused that day, despite the ugliness)

If you were looking for photos of bascule, this ain’t it.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad though, and actually a few parts of the course rode quite well:

Oh look, we jumped in almost looking relaxed, until the B element pictured above

But, lest anyone think that XC is the only place where half-strides and hollow jumps exist, there’s always showjumping.

Beautimous

Oh gawd

WT actual F

I should do some math on my ratio of shit spots vs looking like we have our ish together.

Good lord look how terrified I am, even over the last fence

It just goes to show you that it’s easy to pick and choose what you show on the internet. But to every perfect jump round, a lot of crappy efforts were made along the way. One day we’ll get there.

Show Recap: Longleaf HT Novice XC

Obviously, I told a major porky pie when I said I would get to the cross country part of my recap on Wednesday. Instead, Thursday morning I was emitting many four letter words in attempts to get the actual live feed of LRKY on USEF.org…. Instead, I could only access Sparrow Nio’s dressage test on repeat. It was rather distracting, and left no brain cells left for writing about cross country.

Now that my apology is out of the way, onto XC.

In all honesty, the course was not a difficult one in terms of size or complexity, unless your horse was spooky. What made that the difference were the multiple approaches to fences that required skimming other fences, landscaping, or even maneuvering between other level’s combinations in order to get in a decent jump. But the jumps themselves were fair and if anything, on the smaller side.

What I didn’t realize is that apparently folks were having trouble in between fences from 2-3, which required you to ride from the infield to outside the steeplechase course. This path was lined with white fencing (the kind you see on the perimeter of a steeplechase racetrack), and apparently the wind blowing plants behind it was crushing major problems. Two people got ejected before making it to fence 3.

Jack, for his part, somehow didn’t see what the fuss was about- at least not there. Fences 1-4 rode just fine. 5AB was a nice bending line combination over two log stacks, and while our in was beautiful, we got to the B element on a half stride, and as the photos show, the out was hella ugly. The funky lines for us really started at fence 10, which required getting really close to a training fence on our left in order to line up to a roll top with a downhill descent. Jack did not care for getting up close and personal to the other fence, was distracted by the flowers for it, and was a bit surprised when we got to our allotted obstacle.

 

11 was another tricky place, having to literally weave through an angled training combination to reach it, and 12 was a max skinny that required getting right on top of another fence to get the line correct. I won’t say those were particularly pretty fences either, but we got it done.

 

We got rolling up the hill and had a lovely jump over the max yellow house, up the tiny bank and out over the B element, and then I overshot our line to the boat before the water, but we jumped it and went into the water as planned.

The jump coming out was small, but had a terrifying bush positioned in the center of it that required the rider to choose a side a la a skinny. Jack saw the bush, spooked, then flailed over the center of it anyways. You’ll hear in the video my laughing- he tries, bless his heart, but lord smooth sailing is NOT our MO.

With one more fence on course, we ran through the finish flags more than 30 seconds under time. It was my first time in almost two decades using studs, and I was really pleased with how Jack felt- he wasn’t nearly as out of breath as I had expected, he felt confident and happy despite being spastic just moments before.

Of course the tough part about being first going into showjumping is that it’s yours to lose. I promise not to be so derelict in writing that up soon!

Show Recap: Longleaf HT Novice Dressage

By now I feel fairly confident in Jack’s show routine, and he’s starting to feel a little more confident in it too.

He needs time to get to the venue and take it all in, so Friday we got there nice and early (before the potentially-tornado-holding-storms arrived) and went on a long flat ride. I made myself do a full 20 minutes of work at the walk- which normally means lateral work (shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yield, walk half pass in each direction) until he settles, and then work on stretchy walk and medium walk transitions. When he feels loose, we start doing a baby trot and working in almost-walk and actual walk transitions to get him listening to my half halts. This also so far is exactly what my ‘pre-ride’ looks like the next day.

Eventually I’ll start doing canter transitions and work through a few elements of my test before finding a quiet calm note to end on. Jack was really good and relaxed Friday, and came back mentally very quickly despite the fact that the tent catching the wind like a sail occasionally caused a spook or two.

Saturday, I got him out of his stall and went for a walk around the grounds before tacking him up and doing said pre-ride. We stopped after one canter depart in each direction and a centerline, so that he still had plenty of gas in the tank for our dressage test later.

So by the time we got to our actual dressage warm-up, Jack had seen the rings from a riding point of view twice. He felt relaxed, even a tish lazy, so I was careful not to go too crazy getting him really forward in the warmup and leave nothing for us in the dressage court. A quick glance from the coach to make sure we didn’t look terrible, and we went over to the ring.

Jack being a spooky guy, I made sure to walk him around the perimeter of the arena a couple times and give him lots of scratches next to the judge. I felt pretty confident going down centerline, and was disappointed when we had 2 decent sized spooks mar our test.

The judge practically had to score us down for the one approaching E since it was so obvious, which was unfortunate. Otherwise the test felt obedient and I made sure to show good geometry as much as possible.

I knew I didn’t have the free walk I really wanted, but didn’t want to put too much leg on and break gait, so subsided with getting the reach and swing without having the forward I would have liked. I also overshot centerline slightly, but overall was happy with the quality of the test, despite the couple bobbles.

The judge rewarded us with a 26.4, putting us at the top of the leaderboard going into cross country.

But more on cross country tomorrow!

Show Recap: SPHT Novice XC

Sunday the sun finally came out, and it warmed up enough to make everything feel a bit cheerier. While the footing out on the course was definitely torn up in some places, for the most part it actually helped to churn up the grass in the slickest places.

The warm up ring was a huge improvement over the day before (thank goodness, because I’m not sure I could have survived another), and we had a quick canter and gallop about before tossing in a couple fences and heading to the start box. Holly had me thinking about galloping away from the jump, which admittedly I can forget to do in the excitement of having reached the other side of the fence. Oops.

Overall though, the course was a nice first go back, and featured a couple long gallops between spurts of fences (fences 1-4 were together, then 6-11, then 12-16). Because of the wetness I just let him cruise without pushing down the long stretch after fence 4 (some of which you can see in the video), and brought him to a trot where there were tighter turns to fences since we don’t have studs.

While a couple fences felt a little rusty (he jumped me out of the tack over 1 that we got in deep to, and then hit a big table at the end fairly hard that was at the top of a hill), overall it was a pretty confidence building run. We came in more than 30 seconds under the optimum time and though tired, Jack was convinced he could keep on running. He pranced back to the barn hollering his head off, and looked no worse for wear under strong scrutiny.

Could care less about the ribbon- more interested in wondering where all his friends are going

Thanks to our clear jumping rounds, we finished in second place. The most exciting thing about this is of course that it qualifies us for the AEC’s later this year, which has been a dream of mine since FOREVER.

Now to keep the golden boy in one piece, and get another couple recognized shows in to seal the deal!

Show Recap: SPHT Novice Showjumping

Friday night around 4pm, it started raining.

I walked my XC course in a downpour. Poor souls tried to ride their horses or unload their trailers in the wet, and slowly our showgrounds turned into a city of drowned rats. Where there were puddles, lakes appeared, and the only upside was that the water complexes were looking more and more inviting as our horses desensitized themselves to wet toes.

This was all fine for the moment, as I smugly enjoyed hiding under the overhang cleaning tack, having already ridden and unpacked. And then I realized that we were warming up for showjumping on grass that was getting slicker by the minute.

And though the next day it had stopped raining, it didn’t get any dryer. So this is pretty much how the warmup went:

And of course I shared my SJ warmup with a couple of folks riding horses that were hellbent at killing us all. They went sideways, they went up, there was head tossing and rearing and cursing, and it was so slick that I couldn’t turn fast to get out of the way.

Jack handled it amazingly well- but as for me, well:

all while shooting bullets at people with my eyes

The trainer was wondering what the hell was wrong with me, while my brain was quietly cooking inside my head. I was relieved then when it was time to head over to the ring and leave that hot mess behind us.

Despite all that, our course was actually one of our best to date. Jack is really settling into his role as show horse, and bar a dumb spook turning to the final line, was fairly rideable throughout. For myself, I am finally learning to sit up, but still got a little leany about halfway through, causing Jack to pick up the pace and put in less balanced approaches. #mybad

So, coming in almost 10 seconds under, we survived wrapped up showjumping and then sat in second before cross country.

It’s a miracle!

 

Show Recap: SPHT Novice dressage

It’s been a hell of a week. And at times when I wanted to blog most I had either no time, no brainpower, or no computer handy. #firstworldproblems amirite?!

But onto the show.

For the last couple months, I’d been working though the Novice B test in a committed way- something about those changes of direction from B to E and vice versa give me a certain form of heartburn. Add in that out right lead center depart had been, let’s say, a bit dramatic/erratic, and I was more than a little worried.

As most horse folks know, recognized shows are not exactly cheap. They represent a significant investment monetarily,  and of course also occupy a decent chunk of mental space and hours preparing to boot. They aren’t exactly a throw-away scenario, and I wanted this show to count, as much as possible. Feeling like I hadn’t prepared enough was the scenario I wanted to avoid most.

Anyways, that is all to say that I schooled the hell out of that test. Mostly not all at once but in pieces, because I’ve discovered that this is the best way to avoid serious frustration and make for a better test in the long run.

We arrived at the show Friday just after lunch, and had plenty of time to do a long walk warmup (like 25 min) before running through a test situation. Saturday I did my pre-ride as planned, and though tense at first, felt like Jack settled fairly well.

Our warmup for the actual event was not quite as relaxed, but with a bit of coaching he felt as good as possible and we entered the ring early.

Bar the free walk, I really am quite happy with the test. There were moments when I felt like I could have asked for more impulsion, but at the risk of getting tense, I feel ok with the result. The only part that really fries me is the free walk- normally this is an easy 8 or 9 for us. But as you can hear in the video, our OK-ish free walk was also interrrupted by a big spook in the ring next to us, just out of sight of the camera. Jack looked up understandably, then came back to me like the good boy he is, but in a short arena even that blip was enough to earn us a 6.5.

In the end, we ended up scoring a 27.4, which earned us 3rd place in a pack of 16. I won’t lie that the free walk score sort of sticks in my craw, but luckily some well meaning Instagram folks have been good about giving me a better way of looking at things.

I guess, when you’ve been building up for a return like this, or a show that you’ve been preparing for for months at a time, you let it become this gargantuan goal that it should never be. Horses are animals, and even if yours is perfect, it doesn’t mean that someone else’s isn’t going to be a distraction. That ended up being true for show jumping as well, which I’ll get into tomorrow.

Horses, man. Always a teaching opportunity. Always giving us an opening to become a better, wiser human being. Gosh darn it, we have to love them and hate them for that. Anyways, tomorrow (if I’m lucky), I’ll recap SJ!

Show Recap: Jack’s Novice CT with another pilot

While I was in sunny Florida stalking gorgeous [$$$] ponies, my own pony was trudging through the mud and muck, competing with another rider. Before the show she had taken a jumping lesson on him, and flatted him once on her own. Luckily though, she’s a talented rider (just placed 2nd at Pine Top’s Prelim!) and sensitive enough to absolutely have no problem with my occasionally spastic yellow pony.

Since I wasn’t there, I can’t go into the day in detail, but obviously it didn’t go too shabby. Together they scored a 27.9 in Dressage, which was fourth after a 3-way tie for 1st place (score 27.1 – dang it!). The video shows a test that is accurate with only small moments of tension, and I’m pleased that Jack had a fairly confidence boosting experience.

Then there was showjumping. Jack typically warms up beautifully for showjumping, then goes into the arena and ‘pings’ off all the fences in total sensory overload (the colors! the ferns! the poles! ah!). And you can see that A had a bit of that ride herself, though she implements the gag bit better than I to get his frame in a better shape so we wouldn’t go hollow over the fences.

They did get one rail, as you can see- where he got hollow on the approach and took out the back rail of an oxer. But overall, again, a really nice round that looked more settled than normal. Which is all I wanted!

Fake news

They accidentally recorded an extra rail, but Jack would have placed 5th overall. Since it’s a CT, and I wasn’t riding, I could care less, but it was good to see that overall he did fairly well in a course that looked like it caused lots of rails down.

In general, I’m happy with the experience that this rider gave him. I would say I would have preferred myself to be in the tack, but given the weather conditions, I won’t – Florida was glorious and that show looked wet and miserable. #sorrynotsorry

The next time we hit up the horse park it will be for a recognized show- and there’s a lot to prep between now and then! Thanks A for the great ride 🙂