Show Recap: Carolina Horse Park – Cross Country

After showjumping, we headed over to the cross country course, where I incorporated a couple small angled fences as directed (admittedly not as extreme as at home, I wussed out a little) and felt out whether or not I would be able to rate Foster in the new bit. I also started to panic that I couldn’t remember all of the fences, since our course walk was interrupted by nightfall, and I hadn’t found a chance to revisit the course that day.

With that as the backdrop of our tale, I invite you to watch the helmet cam:


That’s right. As much as it pains me to say it, I went off course. The offending fence was a dinky little vertical at the top of the hill before the bank, that I flew by without a care in the world:

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Otherwise, we were out there having a blast, and Foster was listening exceptionally well (other than getting distracted by a rider coming home after fence 1), and was coming back to me easily. I was pulled up with 3 fences to go, and I have no doubt that we would have come in double clear had we completed the course.

So, there ends our last show of the season. While of course it is so disappointing to not finish, I am thrilled with Foster and some of the progress we made. While not our best dressage test, we still proved that we were competitive in a large field. We put in a fluid showjumping round and got all of our spots. And we had one erm, 3/4 of the most relaxed and confident cross country courses to date, with Foster feeling as rideable as ever. It’s not the way I wanted to end the season, but it’s another definite learning experience. I thought 3 days later I would be super bummed, but somehow, I’m not. I’m proud of how Foster went and have a lot to look forward to, and that’s all that matters to me.

Show Recap: Carolina Horse Park Horse Trials – Showjumping

As I mentioned yesterday, even though our score was much higher than normal, we were somehow sitting in 2nd place after dressage. These one day events really fly by though, and with under two hours between dressage and the jumping phases, and with tack to attend to and a stadium course to walk, there really wasn’t much time to ruminate on our placing.

Sorry, no photos! Screengrabs instead!

Sorry, no photos! Screengrabs instead!

Foster decided once again he would warm up for stadium half awake, surely in an effort to make sure my calves were in working order. All kidding aside though, I seriously need to find a way to get him revved up for the stadium phase, because these pokey warm-ups just aren’t cutting it. Anybody have any suggestions for getting a horse forward while conserving energy?

Blurry photo is blurry

Blurry photo is blurry

Thankfully he tends to get his motor running in the actual show arena, and I took a big lap around the course so he could see everything and hopefully get excited.

Even with the two poles, I feel like this is one of our better stadium rounds, at least regarding fluidity. I got stiff to fence 2, which he knocked, and I didn’t balance him as I should to fence 5. But there are some positives- I like my turn from 4 to 5 (why did I not ride every turn like that?) and I didn’t get any nasty chippy spots like I tend to do. Also, an actual flying change! But in retrospect, I should have really gotten that simple change faster (ugh), properly balanced before every fence, and not made my turns so sweeping.

Wish I had a photo of this one!

Wish I had a photo of this one!

So with 8 jumping faults and 7 time faults to add to our score, we dropped a bit down the leaderboard. While we really should have done better than that, there were plenty of other victims of flying poles, and I tried not to stress over losing a ribbon. We still had cross country to run!

Show Recap: Carolina Horse Park Horse Trials – Dressage + Course Walk

It would be sufficient to say that this week did not go as planned. Not that I’m terribly upset; all is well and the world isn’t going to end, but if I’m honest it is not the way I wanted to end the season. But before we get to all that, let’s start at the beginning!

Thanks to J for taking the beautiful photos!

Thanks to J for taking the beautiful photos!

Saturday Dressage Schooling
Our schooling Saturday was utter crap. Foster started out nicely but progressively got heavier and heavier in my hands. He bounced between my aids like no one’s business- if he leaned on his right shoulder, I would block it, and he would lean on my left hand, and so on and so forth. Not wanting to get myself or him into a tizzy, I said a few bad words, found a decent note to end on, and called it a day.


The Course walk
We got out on course with just a little daylight to spare. Just like at the last course, which made it clear that it was a recognized course from a maximum height first fence, this course was evident that we were once again at a schooling show. Fence 1 was shared with beginner novice, and the following 3 fences were quite straightforward. Fence 5 was on a downhill slope, then 6A-B was the sunken road where the B element was on the tougher uphill side. Then breeze over 7, attack the scary brush fence (not so scary since we jumped it last time!), and the rest of the course was somewhat nondescript fences from there, with the addition of a bank and a water element. We definitely ran out of daylight about halfway around, and as you can see, it was really tough to spot the last several fences!

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Warming up Sunday for the real deal, he felt not quite as heavy, but I bit stiff in my hands. His jaw was not nearly as supple as it has been, and there was not a hint of foam from my normally-rabid-appearing horse. Sitting him back on his butt and lightening up front was just not happening, so I made the decision to post the test, even though my normal preference is to sit.

Pissy pony with a pretty purple tail

Pissy pony with a pretty purple tail

The test itself felt mediocre at best. I felt like I had him forward, but not at all supple. Because of his wandering haunches, I sat both centerlines, as well as before both canter transitions to try and keep him round through the transition itself. Here is the video of the test itself:

The test definitely looks better than it felt, which was really surprising to me. The judge’s comments are kind of a mixed bag. We got our first 6 on our free walk, two 5’s (wtf?), but a 7 on a canter transition (yay) and an 8 on a canter circle (double yay). Here’s the test in its entirety:

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Our score of 35.7 tied us for 2nd out of 18, which made pretty much every competitor I talked to think that scores were a bit harsher than normal. I definitely wonder how this test may have scored under another judge, but of course, we’ll never know.


Following dressage was a short reprieve, and then it was onto jumping, where the going gets a little more interesting!


Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Day 1

Since I’m suffering from major horse-show-hangover still, my normal one-giant-huge-recap post is going to have to be broken into a few pieces.

I’ll start at the end though. At the end of this show I am so, so proud of my horse. No, we didn’t come home with arms full of ribbons, and we didn’t even go as well as we normally do. But he proved to me how much he is willing to take care of me, and try for me, and that’s something you just don’t find in a lot of horses.

OK, back to the beginning.

My schooling Thursday over the 3’3″ fences ended up being pretty craptastic. There was a ton of traffic around the jumping arena, and pairing that with the fact that I was there by myself, staring at these huge airy 3’3″ oxers meant that I started over-riding things, and we have a couple really ugly jumps. So of course in my efforts to end on a good note (we did), I spent a lot longer riding than the 25 minute ride intended. A lot longer.

No I don't ride this hunched- loosening up my soulders

No I don’t ride this hunched- rolling my shoulders to get loosened up!

Then Friday we get to the show, and I realize that hunters have a very special place in their hearts for fillers. Fillers, and in particular, astro-turf. Astro-turf boxes, astro-turf poles, and of course your run-of-the-mill roll tops were everywhere. These fences looked giant too! So, I hopped on the less than plucky pony (since he’d jumped two days in a row so far), and jumped again. Another super special ugly fence that I thought might give me a black eye, another couple to end on a good note, and we called it a night.

Foster in his hunter get up (i.e, cross country saddle with no pad) and me in the full hunter outfit- FS jods and all!

Foster in his hunter get up (i.e, cross country saddle with no pad) and me in the full hunter outfit- FS jods and all!

So, the Foster I got on Saturday was already super tired from my cocked-up jumping efforts the 3 days previous. This was absolutely not the way I had planned things, but there it is. So I decided to bring everything down a notch. Instead of Adult Amateurs 2’9″, we did Special Hunters 2’6″. Instead of a 3′ and 3’3″ jumper class, we did 2’9″ and 3′. I still wanted to make this a positive experience, and that seemed in the best interest of everyone.

Donning our 'hunter' bridle and new show shirt!

Donning our ‘hunter’ bridle and new show shirt!

Special Hunter 2’6″ was interesting. Considering how tired we were, and that jumper classes were ahead, I was glad to see the expected outside line to diagonal pattern of a hunter course. Since we were still mastering leads over fences, I just did simple changes. Here’s how that went:

Somehow we earned ourselves a 4th place ribbon for that class, even though he jumped over his shoulder almost the entire course.

Then tired pony had to to his first jumper class. We waited around for ages, continuing to expect them to be done and moving on any minute (since when does it take 45 minutes to do 3 rounds in a jumper class? what the what?). Foster proceeded to get even more tired. It was a proper jumper course though, full of roll backs and a few related distances. We went in a little low on gas, and again, Foster jumped over his shoulder and even started bringing down poles (unusual). You’ll see in the video a few simple changes, as well as a few times when I say ‘eff it’, and stay on the wrong lead in order to keep his momentum up.

The last class of the day was our 3′ jumper class. I knew we were running on fumes, and I decided that if he started crashing fences, we would pull up. With all the waiting and not knowing how things worked, I’d been in the saddle for over 4 hours, and we were pretty ready to be done. But I did realize that he would need some more speed (especially since he did the last course at a snail’s pace). No bothering here for simple changes that would slow us down, we were just going to see how it went:

Ha. While we were moving more forward, that’s about all I can say for this video. It took everything I had with my legs to get him going, and he tried so hard to do what I was asking. I still can’t stop laughing at our almost-disastrous attempt over fence 5. Instead of jumping over and across the oxer, my poor boy jumped straight up and landed immediately on the backside of the fence, sending me sky rocketing out of the saddle as a result. Somehow though, we were able to recover and scrape through the rest of the course.

And so ended Day 1 of our hunter/jumper initiation. Foster, while absolutely exhausted by this time, saved my butt all day long. While it was some pretty shitty riding on my part, he piloted me around and did his job with a pretty good attitude. Proud does not even begin to describe how I feel for my horse.

Up next, wishy-washyness and more hunter goodness.