Show Recap: May WHES Novice HT

This past weekend is admittedly a bit of a blur. I finally started feeling better late Saturday evening. Our XC school that day had gone pretty well, but Jack was definitely being a bit of a spook- not unusual for him after not jumping for a couple weeks. I was struggling with the sudden ~90* temperatures, particularly after being already dehydrated from several days with a stomach flu.

But the show goes on, and we found ourselves doing a short warmup and heading into the dressage.

All in all I’m happy with our effort. A pair of volunteers that decided my entering the ring was the perfect time to move things behind the judge’s truck are to blame for the distraction down centerline (but what can you do, we’re thankful for volunteers no matter what). He tripped in the transition from trot to medium walk. And our right lead canter transition- well that’s still a work in progress. A score of 28.1 put us in 3rd out of 16 after the dressage, and Jack earned himself a snooze before getting ready for the jumping phases.

The Novice SJ course

After walking the SJ course, and visiting the XC course one more time, it was ready to showjump. And quite frankly, I don’t know what to say about SJ. I know that I panicked. I know that my brain was melting out of my ears, and my horse felt tired. I know that I jumped all the jumps in the correct order. And I know that I got 3 poles down. I couldn’t even tell you where. Totally my fault.

Basically a showjumping lollipop

After coming out of my SJ stupor, I realized I probably couldn’t/shouldn’t ride XC like that. So I gathered up the remnants of my brain, stuffed it back in my head, and went out determined to give him a great ride around a fair course with a lot of terrain questions.

And I remembered my GoPro!

The course was so fun. Jack is feeling like a confident Novice horse, and hunting the jumps. Sure, he’s not point and shoot, but he probably never will be. And yet- those ears tell the whole tale.

In the end, my bowling for rails in SJ denied us a top-2 finish… by a long shot. But he’s getting so much more relaxed in all 3 phases, and didn’t lose his marbles when friends left the stable- huge wins for a horse that was a nervous nelly at the same venue less than a year ago. And really, with all the shite that we had to deal with the last couple weeks, getting out and having a positive experience was the biggest win of all.

Show Recap: Longleaf Horse Trials SJ

Having won the tie for third place in the XC phase, I was fairly nervous that I was going to screw things up in the showjumping. Jack came out and warmed up beautifully, and somehow the gears in my head were still working enough to tell me to stay quiet and keep my shoulders back, despite my inner voice screaming “lean at it! Go go go!”.

Our tie-partner went into the ring before us, and I watched them put in a beautiful double clear round. Alright, so the pressure was really on now.

Then Jack and I got on course. We circled an oxer towards the middle of the arena, and after a few steps of his typical “holy sh*t, where am I?!” nonsense, he actually settled and started listening to me.

Fence 1 felt great, but as I got him straight into the approach to an oxer-to-oxer line he started snowballing into the first fence. A hard half halt to remind him that we don’t do that sort of thing and he came back enough for the third fence on course.

Fence 3

Fences 4 and 5 came up fine, and though we were booking we somehow made the rollback turn back to 6. This is where I went wrong- I let the canter get too strung out, and as a result he took out the top rail with his knees. I can tell you, there were a number of four letter words rolling through my head at that point, and after watching the video I’m glad that I didn’t actually say them out loud.

Fence 7B out of the 2 stride combo

The rest of the course rode beautifully, but our unfortunate rail cost us 2 places. Still, as seemed the trend for the rest of the show up to that point, I was just thrilled that Jack felt more relaxed and rideable than he had before. And Novice didn’t feel so big as it seemed back in February at the schooling day.

Fence 8 and a happy poneh

I’m also starting to learn to think and ride in showjumping, which is a big win for me- normally I’m so focused on the order of the fences there’s little room for anything else. We may have wrapped up the weekend a little lower in the standings that I had hoped (my yellow ribbon collection was coming along so nicely), but all in all it was a super debut at a new level for Jack, and he came back a little wiser and a little more confident as a result. For that I’m incredibly thankful.

Show Recap: Longleaf Horse Trials XC

As far as a move up course, this one couldn’t have been better. In many ways it was simply a larger version of the BN course, but with a couple interesting lines/combos thrown in for good measure. It included a drop at 7, then an interesting terrain combination at 9AB, and a 2 stride combination at 15AB.

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Despite my cross country nerves (which I think will never go away), I felt fairly confident that as long as I rode every fence that this would be a good course for Jack. We did get deep spots in a couple places, and he definitely bobbled going into the 9AB combo (lots to look at, including the training ditch right next to our question). BUT overall this was the most locked-on and confident he has felt on XC. How do I know?? The Golden Boy actually started hunting down a skinny Prelim brush coming out of the first water. As you’ll hear me say on camera, “Are you crazy?”

I also got good practice looking at my watch (something I definitely didn’t do last time), since I was tied going into XC and wanted to be close-ish to the optimum time. I still came in 20 seconds under, but was able to make decisions about trotting in a couple places and collecting him to the last fences to try and let the clock run up a bit. Who knew it was possible to think and ride at the same time?!

Maybe you wouldn’t have to jump like that Jack if you opened your eyes?

Seriously though, it was awesome to come off the course feeling like Jack had grown in confidence and experience over the last 5 minutes. And that’s how he officially became a Novice horse!

 

 

Show Recap: Longleaf Horse Trials Dressage

So, the recap of our Novice debut begins!

We arrived at the Carolina Horse Park much later than I originally had hoped for Friday evening after a day of utter chaos, but I was able to eek in our ride, which was 20 minutes free walk-medium walk transitions plus a little trot and canter, before the light ran out.

Saturday morning because of the timing I opted to do Jack’s pre-ride instead of hand walking, because it seems to settle his brain much more to have a job. So we meandered along the track of the warm up ring for a solid 10 minutes, followed by 5 min of free walk – medium walk transitions, then trot-walk transitions and a canter circle in each direction before going back in.

The pre-ride seems key for Jack, and when we went back out to the warmup ring before the actual test he felt much more relaxed. We repeated much of the routine from earlier in the day, with a focus on energy and straightness, and with him feeling ace we headed into the dressage ring.

Overall I’m thrilled with the test. He felt so relaxed that I was finally able to ask for more energy in the trot. This in itself has been a big goal, as we’ve been keeping his trot small and relaxed in the show ring to be a little risk-aversive. If we had pushed for a bigger trot before he was really relaxed, we always had moments of tension, hollowing, or breaking to the canter. This time I could put my leg on and not get an anxious tail swish or hollowing. Eventually I think I can ask for an even more forward trot, but this was a solid milestone for us.

We scored a 31 for our efforts, though I had very much been hoping to break into the 20’s again. But a 31 put us tied for 3rd out of the pack of 14, and so I really shouldn’t complain. Jack was a really good boy and his confidence is just gaining and gaining with every show- and that means so much to me! Besides- we had his first Novice course to consider! Details of that to come tomorrow 🙂

The Move Up

Until I get to walk the course Friday afternoon, my feelings about our move up to Novice are running quite the gambit. Even though I know we have been jumping at that height for some time, occasionally it still happens that I get off Jack and stand next to the fence and go:

Riding both a behemoth of a horse, and never setting the fences myself (since I don’t really jump outside of lessons these days) will do that to you I guess. My trainer believes in me though, and feels like this is totally doable. Hell- we even jumped the ditch (yes, that ditch) in our lesson the other day with minimal drama. That was a major win in and of itself, no matter how this weekend goes.

It was November of 2013 that I last went Novice, and I remember how much fun I was having, right up until I got that TE for missing a fence.

…and there it goes.

So redemption would be pretty awesome. Which is why my only goals for this show are:

  • Jump all the jumps
  • Jump them in the right order
  • Don’t fall off (pleasssse)

Besides that, I just need to remember to breathe.

PS is anyone else stupid excited about the new JP movie? I am.

PLANS ((plans))

After our successful outing at the Southern Pines Horse Trials, I can’t help but turn my attentions to what’s next. Of course everything, and I do mean everything, when it comes to horses has to be written in pencil instead of pen, but still it is good to have goals.

So happy because he thinks we’re galloping back to the barns

Speaking of goals, I realized that my Goals and Results pages have been thoroughly neglected ever since things with Foster fell apart. Expect updates there shortly!
After SPHT, the next big thing on the schedule is another show at the Horse Park, this one April 21-22- the Longleaf Pine HT. Sorry not sorry if you’re bored by how often I go to the Carolina Horse Park. I freaking love that place.

So trainer and I discussed what to sign up for, and she feels confident that Novice should be very doable. So, with that said, one month from now we’ll be eyeing our official move up.

So blasé about this height

Hearing that recommendation from my trainer made for 1 part eye bulge, and another part relief that BN could be a thing of the past. This is where the whole pencil spiel comes in, because who the heck knows what could happen in the next month, so this should all be taken with a heavy does of salt. Because, you know, horses.
So now I’ve got a new test to start memorizing, and prepping to do. Not only does Novice B have another stupid diagonal-centerline combo, but it also has the dumb turns from B to E right across the arena. But even still, I’m tentatively excited to be maybe (maybe maybe maybe) back at Novice next month!

Show Recap: SPHT XC

Sunday morning I did my final walk through of the cross country with the trainer, and got a bit of a knowledge drop on how best to navigate what was a very friendly looking course. We discussed the need to really ride to fence 4, which was giving some people trouble with its spooky grain bags. Likewise to swing wide to fence 7 so the right run-out towards the barns wasn’t so tempting.

Bank to rolltop combination I was worried about

Though we went screaming and prancing all the way out to the course, we actually had a brilliant warmup and I went out to the start box feeling confident that we could execute our plan. Here’s how it went (and please forgive the language about halfway through):

All in all, it was a great run. While he needed a little convincing in the beginning, we eventually found a rhythm. It was a blast letting him go a bit up the big hill after fence 10, and I can feel that Novice speed is going to be nothing for Jack. In fact, we did our course at 375 meters/min which was the marked Novice speed for the event. Hence my wondering about speed faults at the end of our round.

PC: Brant Gamma

Each outing, Jack gets more and more confident, and throwing down a double clear round and became more and more rideable as we went along was an amazing feeling. He still needs support and confidence from me, but we’re feeling more like a team. Because I blazed around the XC, we lost the tie breaker for 2nd, and the yellow pony earned a matching yellow ribbon for his efforts. But to be competitive at his first recognized show is an awesome feeling, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the weekend.

Show Recap: SPHT Stadium

After learning that we were at the top of the charts after dressage, that really put the pressure on to go clear in the jumping phases. And you know what they say… when you’re at the top, the only way to go is down. And you know what comes down? Brightly colored sticks.

The showjumping course- very friendly overall

Our warm up went pretty well, but as we now know, that doesn’t mean that Jack will go in the ring all calm and collected-like. So the plan was to go in the ring and go– forward and packaged and get him thinking straight where possible. We expected 4 to be a little sticky because it was an oxer that appeared to be jumping into the stands, and 9a-9b was giving folks trouble all day because of the astroturf filler, but otherwise thinking positive and moving seemed to provide rewarding rides.

Even though we had a rail down (dammmmmmit), this was still our best round to date in terms of how obedient and relaxed Jack was once we found a rhythm. I did have to growl at him approaching 5 when I felt him back off a bit, but that’s just kind of how Jack is at the moment so I won’t fault him for that.

Our rail bumped us from 1st to tied for 2nd- still in the ribbons heading to XC and a fun course there awaiting us as well! Tomorrow we wrap it up!

Show Recap: Pinehurst Schooling Dressage

Sunday we went to the Pinehurst Harness Track to get some more mileage at Beginner Novice Test B, which is the test for the big recognized doozie this weekend. Instead of doing 2 different tests, I actually chose to do BN-B twice, and save some precious brain cells in the process.

We got to the Harness Track and squeezed into a spot along the rail (thank goodness for my teeny rig), got Jack tacked up and hustled to the warmup. He had gotten Perfect Prep Gold the day before, and PP Supreme before getting on the trailer, and I don’t know if it was that or just happenstance but while alert and looking around, once I was in the tack he gave me the best warm up to date.

Our first test was obedient with moments of tension, namely in the corner at K where he fixated on departing trailers and other new things. We scored a 70.5% (29.5) for this one, and the video is below:

Following that, we had roughly 15 minutes before going back in, and made good use of a warm up area just outside the ring so that we could get his attention focused on me near scary K. It worked, and while test B felt better in many ways, Jack got the idea to start hollering through pieces of it, which apparently the judge didn’t like. We got a 70.25% (29.75) for that one. Nothing like being consistent, eh?

As you can see, the highlights in both tests were the left trot circle, left lead canter, free walk, and final centerline. Everywhere else there are subtle differences, as he was tense in different places between the two tests.

In general, I’m pretty thrilled with the outing. Jack got some more experience in the dressage court, I got to test out Perfect Prep products, and we achieved our goal (albeit barely) of scoring in the 20s. Our dressage trainer got to see him in a show environment and help us formulate a plan for the warm up at the Southern Pines HT. So all in all, despite no blue ribbons, it was a big win-win!

Pipe Opener Recap: Jumping

Expanding on yesterday’s dressage recap, after dressage I was slightly meh about my test, but determined to still give a good go of the showjumping. I paid in advance for an extra round, with the expectation that he would be his normally spooky self in the show arena (which he was) and give him a more confidence building experience the second time round.

Since Jack started out being looky at the lakes puddles that dominated the facility that day, I purposely got his feet wet over and over again in the warmup ring- not hard to do when the “puddles” are almost 20′ wide. This gave me hope that I wouldn’t be swimming once we got into the arena proper, since there was literally no approach from 6B to fence 7 that avoided a splash zone.

After confidently navigating the water, we had a beautiful warmup, thanks to friend C channeling the trainer’s words from Tuesday’s lesson. I actually felt like my leg was under me, and for the most part that my shoulders were back, and Jack felt lovely and supple and relaxed. Where is that horse for dressage??

She helps me tack, warm up, and video- also her hair is fabulous!

But all that relaxation went away as predicted the moment we stepped into the competition ring. Just like all the previous times, he would basically ping off of all the fences while I tried to assure him these were fences of the non-horse-eating variety. Enter again lots of verbal praise to calm the big weenie.

Accurate representation of Jack on course

Beyond that, we had a decent go.

Except for this. Right here. On the last fence, and the last foot over- cost us a rail that moved us from a potential 3rd place to tied for 7th.

Oh well.

We sat around for 20 minutes and came back in for our schooling round, and I was shocked to find Jack more spooky on re-entry than before. I can only figure that he was tired at this point and backed off. So we really didn’t get to smooth anything out until after fence 4. You’ll see in the video that he comes back to a trot, and I think the adrenaline wore off and I actually was able to give him more of a decent ride than before.

Overall, I’m really happy with the big blondie. We got all our leads, and even though we got a couple wonky spots (including a deep one I asked him for- sorry buddy but waiting is a thing), in general it felt way smoother than our last time there in November.

I believe the plan is to shoot for Novice height at the next SJ outing at the end of January. We’ve also got a cross country schooling this weekend if the weather cooperates! All the things!!!