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.

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.

Show Recap: Novice @ Carolina Horse Park – Course Walk

Ahh, that wonderful horse show hangover feeling you get. You know the one- you’ve spent an entire weekend on your feet, shoveling poo, hanging water buckets that inevitably splash all down your pants, walking courses, doing all sorts of math (optimum times, penalty times, time faults, dressage scores… yikes), and maybe doing a bit of riding, before you get back home, exhausted but pleased, and thoroughly brain dead.

So since my brain is not quite up to the task of rehashing all the gory details from the actual competition, let’s just talk about the course.

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Pretty much from the first fence I knew this was going to be tougher than our last visit to the Horse Park. Generally fence 1 is smaller- Training jumps a Novice fence, Novice jumps a Beginner Novice fence, and so on. Not this time- fence 1 was a maximum height roll top, inviting, but still big enough. It turns out they were re-using the course from the previous recognized show. As it went on, this became more and more clear.

Fence 3 was the giant table that was at the end of my course in May. So right away, the pace needed to be forward and your horse in front of your leg.

Remember this guy? Fence 3, baby!

Remember this guy? Fence 3, baby!

Fence 5 took you through the new Stonehenge complex, which has caused spookiness issues even at the upper levels of competition. Then down and over the massive brush that has made me want to wet my pants. Another fence before hanging a sharp left turn down a hill, then a 90 degree angle turn into a bending line combination. Yikes.

Stonehenge Complex at Carolina International, PC: Everything Eventing

Stonehenge Complex at Carolina International, PC: Everything Eventing

No break after the bending line, because you’ve got to get going again to make it over the huge red bench going up the hill. Followed by collecting again and sitting back into the sunken road at 10 A and B. Then over the trakehner that has made me want to puke ever since I moved up to Novice. Luckily after schooling the trakehner at Running Start, this guy didn’t look quite as intimidating as I remembered. Though I didn’t forget that I could easily sit in that ditch (which I did when I dropped my phone into it in May).

Then up the hill, catch our breath over the up bank down the slope to a rolltop, through the water complex, over one more fence and home free!


Tomorrow, a proper recap, and a helmet cam!

Lesson Recap: Dressage

You know that feeling when you just had a really good lesson? To me, a really great lesson is a mixture of mistakes, so you can obtain the advice that makes the lesson worthwhile, and success. Too much success (not an often occurence!) and you wonder why you paid for the lesson. Too many mistakes, and you get disheartened.

To start with, Eliza hopped on and really loosened Foster up at the base of the neck, which is what we have been striving for over the last few weeks. Lots of changes in direction, and upward and downward transitions insisting that he stay soft and balanced. I was glad to hear (and see) that he was already improving from her training ride, which means I am able to replicate the concept on my own with some success.

Looking snazzy for his lesson in all black

Looking snazzy for his lesson in all black

Then I hopped on and we worked on transitions with the soft neck and balanced connection. Lots of very small releases kept him from getting on the forehand or becoming stiff in the trot and canter work.

Afterwards we headed to the covered arena (mirrors!) to run through the Novice B test. For the most part I was able to keep the quality of work the same, though it was a lot harder in the small arena- transitions come up very fast! I even got to watch a video of it all afterwards, which was super helpful in seeing exactly what she was telling us. I’ve got a game plan for every movement, and if I can replicate that ride at the show, I will be very, very, pleased!

Novice B test

Novice B test

As usual, for my own benefit, here are the main points to remember (yeah, there’s a lot):

  • Warmup: Get him loose in the neck (changes in direction), then collect/balance (transitions between/within gaits), then push forward into the show frame
  • Rider issues: Engage my core to keep him balanced (and at the walk- I let my hips swing too much!), and elbows by my side! No need to look like a durn duck. Keep the reins short.
  • Think shoulder-fore down centerline to keep him straight
  • Miniscule releases to keep him balanced (at canter too!)
  • Following hand in the free walk
  • Push more forward in the 20 meter trot circles to show a bit more brilliance
  • Prepare for every. transition. (Including turns!)
  • Sit into the canter to trot transition, even if it feels like crap
  • Stay a hair off the rail in the free walk to medium walk transition, leg yield to wall, using outside rein to keep him together
  • Leg on in the final halt, don’t let him go splat!

Phew! That’s a lot to remember! (Un)Luckily, our lesson with Doug for tonight was cancelled, so I’ll be practicing the above work instead to really cement it in our brains. Then another jump school tomorrow, light dressage Thursday, and off to the show we go!