Cobblestone Revel Run HT August 2021

The weekend of my birthday, seven of us (well seven riders, eight horses, one mom, one barn mate along for the adventure) headed up to Michigan for Cobblestone HT at their new Revel Run facility. RR was formerly a golf course turned into an eventing venue, meaning it’s every equestrian’s dream come true. It was about a 4 hour drive for us, which honestly wasn’t bad at all.

The majority of the barn was running Modified, Training and Novice, who did dressage and SJ on Friday and XC Saturday, but the two of us running BN and Starter went up together since we did Dressage and XC Saturday and show jumped Sunday.

Friday was full of watching everyone show jump, walking courses and unloading. The facility is still new, so they have temp stalls and it required some toting of things around. Everyone had great rides, Archie got a bath, off to dinner we went.

I forgot appropriate horse bath shoes…

Saturday my dressage ride time wasn’t until almost 11am, but we were there bright and early to watch the earlier XC rides and braid. First time officially braiding my own horse for a show and I was downright pleased with how they came out. Magic combo of Spot On braiding wax and Quick Knots for the win. I’m still slow AF because my horse has more hair than any other in the barn, but at least this helped.

We eventually headed down to dressage warm up and rings and Kristen actually came to watch and met us over there! She was super helpful making sure I looked presentable too – I need to find a horse show mom I can hire apparently. Archie was a little inconsistent to start in warm up, but my coach came down between XC rides to help warm us up before she had to hurry back and by the time she left, he felt great.

Our test was fine – nothing to be unhappy about, but I definitely let some nerves creep in and pulled and pulled and pulled. It’s my go-to subconscious nervous move to slow my horse WAY down (something Archie never argues with) and it’s totally apparent in the video later. We were moving in practically slow motion and that had us sitting 7th out of 15 after dressage on a 39.8.

We didn’t run XC until LATE Saturday – like after 5pm late. By the time we got out there, we’d been able to see most everyone else ride and I was feeling great. We got into the warm up and any forward I’d had just.. evaporated. My coach worked with me and got us to a point where we were easily jumping all the fences in warm up, but it should have been a warning flag.

So slow

A warning for what? Well, leaving in startbox in ABSOLUTELY NO HURRY WHATSOEVER. We were fine over jumps 1 and 2, despite our absolutely lackadaisical pace, but when we got to 3 (a really straightforward log stack), Archie was so behind my leg, he just opted out. I represented and he jumped it easily and really tried to get him up before 4 without screwing with the balance. Four went fine and then we came around a semi-sharp corner to five, a small but bright blue house with cutouts. He was behind my leg and I just… gave up going to it and we had a stop. I let myself get flustered and chose an absolutely horrendous track for representation and Archie (rightfully) said no again. Finally, I took a deep breath, circled around, got the horse in front of my leg and over and off we went. Six and seven were two of the bigger fences on course, but posed absolutely no problems.

Then came the water – it was unflagged for Starter, but he needed the experience of going in. We walked up confidently and… he said, “no thanks.” A small disagreement ensued because, um, no sir, that’s not an acceptable answer. Once we were in, he was fine and I was finally (!) fired up. I just wanted to get through the flags and home at this point: we WERE finishing. Apparently this was the ride he’d needed all weekend, and the last four fences rode beautifully. We were both sweaty messes, honestly embarrassingly so for Starter, but we’d finally conquered that demon. Thank God for sweet Kristen who grabbed Archie to keep him walking so I could catch my breath and not pass out.

Sunday, both my barnmate in the BN and I rode fairly early so we could get out of there. My coach had left already, but left me (and the third barnmate who stayed to support) strict instructions. I decided to walk over to the ring a little early (it was about a 10 minute walk from the barns) by myself – and a pump up playlist of Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Saweetie. Apologies to the children/families who walked by.. oops.

It worked and by the time I was over near warm up, we had game faces on and were here to get some shit done. The next step of the plan was, before we did any other warm ups, to go for a short gallop. Not a stadium canter. A GALLOP. This worked well at Cobblestone, where warm up for stadium was actually set on the XC course (since they’d all run the day before). When Archie and I came back to warm up, he was in front of my leg, moving forward and doing a much better pace than the day before. I jumped a handful of warm up fences and… waited. The ring that had been running 15 minutes ahead when I walked up had now somehow gone to 10 behind? We waited until I was in the hole, at which point I jumped my oxer and vertical each once again and off we went.

As soon as we got in and the bell rang, I went and did a BIG canter loop around the ring, really making sure he was in front of my leg. Once we headed to the first fence, I felt totally ready – we had this. And we did. I gave him one awful distance to the out of a five stride line across the diagonal, but he jumped it cleanly and we finished double clear.

While the score is nothing to brag about (um triple digits), the fact that it’s a number, not a letter and there was absolute improvement from our last time out meant I was so pleased with the trip. It’s an absolutely gorgeous facility, the footing was PERFECT the entire weekend, the people were wonderful and it gave us a chance to go do the thing somewhere new. We’ll definitely be back!

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Father’s Day Schooling HT: June 2021

Yeah, I’m behind seeing as this happened um. Two three months ago.

In my defense, I was hoping to get some photos so I waited and then photos never materialized and then I forgot and… well, here we are. Still writing it down to have to look back on.

Instead you get… this

My barn puts on two schooling HT per year and the spring/summer one is always Father’s Day weekend. We’d had our less than ideal outing to IEA, but had redeemed ourselves in the spring Tim Bourke clinic, so I felt ready (and determined) to go in and get it done.

Spoiler alert: we got it done.

Hi friends, bye friends!

I won’t bore you with the details of riding BN A because it’s just… not interesting, but it was major improvement from previous schooling shows and IEA and we were sitting on a 32.2 to lead Starter (out of 8) after dressage. I’d love to tell you all about our stadium round, but I remember next to none of it. I do know I buried the poor horse at the in to a line and he somehow jumped from essentially underneath but left it up.

The owls are where I try to murder us

I was feeling great going into XC – we were at home, we’d been schooling BN, there was nothing out there he couldn’t pop over easily. We left the startbox and fence 1 (a tiny log) was RIGHTTHERE. I think we actually trotted it because it was so close. Totally fine and then we were cruising. We did the first big loop without any issues, around the back (where Archie was CONVINCED he was jumping the ditch and I actually had to pull him off of it), down the bank, into the water jump field and back towards startbox. Around fence 4, things seemed to ‘click’ and suddenly I could feel him looking for the flags, searching for the next fence. It was an awesome feeling and one I’ve been waiting on from him.

The moment it all clicked.. and he took off on me LOL

I later actually joked I’m the one person who is THRILLED when my horse tries to run away with me on XC. We came through the finish flags having jumped clear and since I didn’t wear a watch, I could only hope, without any time. Sure enough, there it was – Archie’s first win (my first event win!) and my first FODS at a HT. Did I actually tear up? Maybe.

Arch wasn’t too excited to pose with his blue ribbon (it was dinnertime by now), but he got lots of cookies and scratches. It solidified that he’s here to stay and felt like finally, FINALLY some of our work was really paying off.

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IEA HT 2021: XC Day

Behind again, so let’s knock out IEA HT XC (aka the last day of the longest horse show ever). I was something like the seventh to last ride of the weekend. If you ever needed motivation to get your shit together and move up to BN, going XC at 4pm on Sunday will do it.

Hard to tell, but Sunday he was literally using the door to hold up his head

Despite having LITERALLY ALL DAY to get ready, I somehow ended up running short on time. Luckily there were still a few of the juniors around who were done and they helped get me put together to head on over to warm up. I was feeling super ready after the day before and honestly in hindsight, a little cocky. With the number of eliminations in stadium the day before, I was already thinking about ribbons and BN move ups and just being generally a mental asshole.

On my way I had no fewer than three people stop and tell me things like, “OMG everyone is falling off at 5!” or “Sooo many eliminations already! 5 is super spooky!” which honestly was… not helpful. I know everyone was trying to be helpful, but all it did was make me question my plan and my ride.

We got over to warm up, I’ve got 20+ minutes until my ride time, I pick up a trot and not three strides later, they’re yelling asking if I’m ready to go. Uh, NO?! I try to mentally put myself back, but now I’m questioning AND a little frazzled. Trainer tells me to snap out of it and go jump around. Archie proceeds to warm up quite lovely. He’s a little sticky/behind my leg to the BN rolltop the first time, but jumps it lovely the second (this should have been a warning flag, but instead I was like, “Oh he was perfect the second time!”) During this time, start has asked me twice more if I’m ready to go (keep in mind: still 5-10 minutes out from my time). Finally, I answer that yes, I’m ready to go.

Into the startbox and out to the first fence we go. Pick up a canter and feel like I’m riding forward, but in hindsight, he was sticky leaving his new BFFs in warm up and needed a healthy tap or two. Instead, I ride up like I’m out for a Sunday hack and surprise, surprise, Archie stops. Deep breath. Regroup. Reapproach, tap him, up and over we go. “Alright,” I think, “we’ve got that out of the way. Now we’re away from everyone and going.”

Well, we make it another 100 meters where there’s a super gentle slope and some sand on the ground. Archie says, “NOPE. Not doing that. I’m done. This is STUPID, you are STUPID, I am GOING HOME.”

We proceed to have a fight ON THE FLAT about trotting forward. Now I’m just annoyed. Fence two comes up and it’s the world’s tiniest log. Archie skids to a sort-of halt at it, I say, “THE FUCK YOU ARE,” smack him and he pops over it. Jumping from a standstill/sortof walk: not recommended, but this thing was like 20″ tall so I DON’T EVEN CARE. Forget annoyed, now I’m pissed.

Around the corner to three. We knew he’d probably try to run out left here (there’s a BN jump to our right) so I’ve got my stick in my left hand and… he runs out right. Basically INTO the BN fence. I turn him, give him approximately two stride lengths and tell him to get his ass over it, to which he willingly pops over. From there, we go through a fairly narrow path in a grove of trees to a hanging log at the edge. He finally feels like maybe he’s understanding this game and it jumps without a problem. Five was the Fence Everyone Was Talking About. It was set with the water to your left and warm up to your right and was naturally a slightly spookier looking fence.

Am I now 400lbs? Apparently.

I ride like hell to it until like.. two strides out and I don’t know if it’s nerves, mental state, exhaustion, frustration… I just turn into a puddle and stop riding. Surprise, surprise, Archie stops and ta-da, my weekend is over. In hindsight, if I’d just ridden to that fence, he would have jumped it.

From last year, but same fence

I was definitely disappointed leaving the course, but more in myself for letting my emotional brain take over my logistical/rational side. By the time I got back to the barns, a friend handed me a drink (God bless eventers), I untacked, cooled off (literally cooled off, it was so hot) and started trying to get packed up. My very sweet barnmate had waited for us to haul us home so I’m hustling trying to get everything together.

Archie then decides that, nahhh, he doesn’t load anymore.

I strongly consider leaving him at the Horse Park at this point. “Free to any marginally acceptable home.” Maybe just set him free.

A local trainer works some magic with the tiny terrorist and gets him on the godforsaken trailer and we’re finally, FINALLY headed home.

It takes me two days to even go to the barn again. I’m frustrated, ready to sell the stupid horse, wondering why I do this sport. Luckily, time is a good filter and within a few days, I can tell that’s not the answer. The answer is the horse is still green XC, he went to a huge offsite show, it was day 4, and his rider mentally checked out. My trainer reassures me if I’d just ridden to 5, he was starting to get the hang of it and probably would have at least jumped around a few more and that we’ve made considerable progress over the last few months.

Haven’t set him free yet

And that’s the wrap up of IEA weekend. It didn’t end how I would have liked it to, but when I look back, I’m still thrilled with Saturday, had a great time and learned a lot. Archie held himself together at his first HT for the most part, he was never bothered by the 10 billion cicadas and I didn’t fall off a single time. We made it around a hard stadium course and looking back, the XC course was kind of a mess for all the Starter divisions. In the end, of those of us who made it to the startbox, there were 5 rider falls, 10 eliminations and 3 retirements.

The last 10 months with Archie have been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced with a horse, but I’m not ready to give up on him yet. That XC course exposed he’s still green and needs miles – particularly miles off the property. We’ve formulated a plan for the next few months and since then, I’ve buckled down to get it done. It’s already paying off (more on that soon!) and I’m happy to say, I have not left him on the side of any roads or set him free.

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IEA HT 2021: Dressage & Stadium

Saturday we finally showed – at almost 4pm. I spent the morning helping in the dressage rings (there were three running simultaneously which was… chaotic) before heading back to the barn to start getting ready. Much of my barn had already ridden dressage and a fair number had already show jumped or were getting ready for it. Fun stuff being the solo Starter pair in the group. It was hot and I didn’t want to take too much out of already-inclined-to-be-lazy Archie (especially knowing we had to SJ after), but I also needed to remind him (as I do daily) that he is not made up of 2x4s and is, in fact, capable of bending. Of course I rode dressage at nearly the exact time we had three BN riders show jumping so I was flying solo here. We’d known this was more than likely to happen and had talked through my warm up game plan already, so it wasn’t particularly panic-inducing.

Dressage ring in gate-ing with my friend Carl Cicada

In fact, warming up Archie felt fantastic. I had enough horse, he was mostly bending and his canter felt great. Years and years ago showing breed show stuff my trainer was all about “Don’t try to fix or change anything in the warm up. You’ve done the work at home, you can’t change it now,” which I think is still great advice and one I take to heart. It pains me a little to see people trying to get the work done in the warm up – that’s not the place.

As we headed to our ring (ring 2 aka the ring in the middle of two others), I couldn’t wipe the stupid smile off my face. After five recognized scratches, three horses and five years of work, I was finally, FINALLY riding down centerline. On my very own horse.

ALL THE FEELS

Our test was… our test? I don’t know what all to say about it honestly. We did the right things in the right places at more or less the right speed with some type of connection more or less, which was all I could ask for. I’m not Michael Jung, my horse isn’t Valegro and it’s BN A which is an extremely boring test. Not saying I’m great at it, but I can suck and still objectively say it’s boring.

WE MADE IT MA

We had two or three moments that stand out, mainly one in our free walk where we were coming across the diagonal and a horse happened to be warming up right outside our ring (there was a very small amount of space between rings). Archie, who had been stretching nicely, went HELLO WHO ARE YOU WHY ARE YOU IN MY SPACE GTFO. Lovely. The other moment was pure rider error. With three rings going, rings 1 and 3 had bells and I had a whistle. In the middle of my test, I hear a bell. And proceed to completely fucking panic for about 3 seconds trying to figure out what I’d done wrong until my sane brain kicked in and remembered that wasn’t my ring. Needless to say, Archie felt me go WTFWTFWTFWTF OMG OMG WTF up there and lost his own focus and connection. Sorry dude.

In the end, we finished with a 37.5. Not great, but for my admittedly non-dressaging halter bred QH at his very first HT in the middle of an absolutely chaotic space? It might as well have been a 27.

No dressage pics so you get stadium (xpressfoto)

I went back to the barn to chill and take my time to change tack and headed to stadium warmup. This time (thank God), my trainer was around. About six horses out, we jumped a little and feeling great, went on in.

xpressfoto

Plenty of people were having issues with this course (I’d later find out 30% of my division was eliminated in stadium…), but Archie’s strongest phase right now is stadium so I was determined to have a good ride. The first fence was straight across the short side of the ring and enough people had stops at it I rode the hell out of it which was probably slightly ridiculous looking at 2’3″ish. Two rode well and was a bending line to three, set right on the rail where everyone was sitting/standing. A combination of not having Archie’s shoulders straight (hi rider error) and him not seeing everyone until the last stride or two and going WHO DOSE PEOPLE meant we had a runout right.

Fence of distraction (xpressfoto)

I circled around, swapped my crop to the right (you know… where it should have been the whole time) and rode him growling, “JUMP THE FUCKING JUMP OR DIE.” And pretty much the rest of the course like that too.

Xpressfoto

We finished the rest clear and I was so proud of this little horse. It was not an easy course for starter and it was late enough in the day that there were plenty of people watching and horses hand grazing.

Crying with happiness for real (xpressfoto)

That was a wrap for the night, showing wise. I was absolutely beaming. Party pony had handled day 1 like a champ and now it was party-Holly time. By which I mean, stuff my face with all the food at our DIY competitor’s party, drink a single drink, laugh until way too late and pass the f out until 6am. That’s a good day to me.

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Catching Up & IEA HT 2021: The Beginning

Yesterday evening I realized I’ve done something horsey (and time consuming) every single weekend for going on seven weeks in a row. Oh. No wonder I’m exhausted, my life is in semi-shambles and I’m living out of laundry baskets (clean… I… think?). How do people do this all the time?!

How I feel rn

Needless to say, there’s a lot to catch up on here. The highlights are on Instagram, but I love having the longer form posts to look back on, so there may be some retroactive out of date things coming up. Since we left off, I’ve taken some lessons, schooled XC, rode CobJockey’s Connor, acquired a bike (thanks Jen!), went to Archie’s first sanctioned HT and ended up in a last minute Tim Bourke clinic. I… think that’s everything? Honestly, who knows.

Our lessons and schooling leading up to IEA HT were great. Super progress, Archie was basically loping around like, “I got this mom!” I conquered the stupid starter slatted table at home that I’ve had a mental block over for like, 8 months. We dressaged. Off to the Horse Park we went on Thursday morning (in the rain), despite my not showing until late Saturday.

Cannot be bothered with this log anymore I guess?

It was so much fun to have so many of the barn there – between all of us, we had something like 17 horses across the regular HT divisions and the Classic 3 Days. Archie got settled, we watched everyone jog for the three day and I went off to Jen’s to spend the night, with a pit stop to ride Connor!

Also adorable and v good at posing

He is so much fun and Jen has done a great job with him. She asked if I wanted to get on and I wasn’t about to turn down a ride. Bareback and new pony makes me sound a lot braver than I am, but the truth is Connor is so well behaved and trained (and the damn Brockamp pad is so comfortable) it wasn’t nerve inducing one bit. I didn’t want to do too much on him, seeing as it was already getting later and I was his third rider of the evening, but once I was told to shorten my reins like 4′ we were off. Some trot, a little canter, played with a tiny bit of his lateral work – man, I felt spoiled riding such a confirmed dressage pony! Also, very jealous when hacking my very not-confirmed pony 24 hours later.

Mexican food and margaritas followed (aka my love language all in one, ponies and mexican food) although we rode bikes to dinner which was slightly questionable at a few moments seeing as I hadn’t been on a bike in… twelve? years. Only ran into one wall though, so there’s a win, and apparently ride/steer better post-margarita, which is an interesting data point to think about for my dressage…

The three of us spent basically the entire evening discussing ponies and tech stuff (so, like, my only two interests in life?) before I finally sent myself to bed knowing I had an early alarm clock. I’m so grateful for their generosity (did I mention they also gave me said bike after I mentioned I’ve been trying to buy one for a year?) and it was basically a perfect way to kick off a horse show weekend.

Settled in and looking adorable

Since I had the World’s Worst Ride Times (Dressage Saturday at 3:53pm, SJ Saturday at 6:18pm and XC Sunday at 4:10pm…) and a barnmate was the volunteer coordinator, I ended up helping out with Steeplechase practice Friday for the 3 Day competitors. It ran like a mini-clinic with Dorothy Crowell and I learned so much. It was a ton of fun too and I got to hear lots of fun stories from Dorothy and I mean, talk about being starstruck. I finally snuck out around 3pm to go ride my own horse (who at this point was thinking horse trials were GREAT, hang out and eat all day?!)

Greatest compliment of my life

Archie was a little distracted and slightly up (completely understandable) so we hacked over to the indoor to school and put all our marbles back in. Within just a few minutes, he realized what this game was and was such a grown up I could not have been prouder. I figured we’d go hack for a bit to cool off, semi-forgetting this was Cicada Country. Back on the roads & tracks there were places they were so loud it felt like a jet was overhead. One of the wildest things I’ve ever experienced. By day two, we were used to just throwing them off of us and (mostly) no longer did the cicada dance every time one landed on us. (Fun fact: they make a fun scream when you grab their wings…)

Spotted on our way to coursewalk

We finished the evening doing some course walks and having dinner with barn mates. We got super lucky and all of our campers/trailers ended up being grouped so we spent a considerable amount of time eating, drinking and generally being merry.

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May 2021 Schooling Show Recap

My barn does nearly monthly schooling shows throughout show season. They’re super useful because my trainer sets legit courses and brings in “R” and “r” judges who also regularly judge at recognized USEA events in our area. Add in they’re at home (no hauling!) and extremely affordable – it’s a great way to get some atmosphere and school before heading to recognized events.

This might be my new favorite photo of Archie, where he does not want to wear his bonnet and gives me a look of absolute murder.

Our second of the season was Saturday, so I signed up to do a Green as Grass (18″/crossrails) round and another at Starter. We’ve consistently been jumping Starter height at home (or even BN!), but I knew with some additional atmosphere, Archie could be a little worked up and figured a quick jaunt around the small stuff would be confidence building for both of us.

He did greet my car Saturday morning like this and I almost cried not gonna lie

We had early ride times and he was definitely a little ‘up’ (…for Archie. Being up means we walked around really fast snorting for like a solid 3 minutes before realizing that was a lot of work) so I tried to give him a nice, relaxed warmup and went for a long walk around the farm away from the busyness as much as possible. By the time we went down centerline, he was about as relaxed as I felt I was going to get him that morning. He held it together for 97% of the test and it was definitely one of the best we’ve had (of a sample size of like 4 but whatever).

He had one sassy moment in our first canter circle where he “bucked” (nobody tell him he can’t actually buck very well), I trotted too soon after the walk work (brain fart) and he got a little antsy in our second trot circle with a few strides where he broke to the canter, but other than those, I was honestly so proud and happy of the little guy. Our trot work was worlds better than the last time we did this test and almost as good as its been in lessons, our canter work was some of the absolute best canter we’ve had and he even *drumroll* had his ears up for most of my test. Showoff wants an audience apparently.

Can you spot the “buck”?

I was absolutely gleeful with a 35 (a 65% for you dressage people). A 35 with two big mistakes that are easy to resolve? I’ll take that all day. Those are easy points to pick back up, plus some smaller ones (ahem, where did that nice square halt disappear to Archie?) and for a horse who has been doing dressage really only since January.

Our stadium rounds were great (minus the moment he decided to jump a crossrail like it was 2’6″… wtf dude and deciding to start our Starter round on the wrong lead despite having auto changes) – double clears and the one at Starter he was absolutely fantastic. Even when I didn’t see a distance and shoved an extra stride in down the outside line, oops. There was a really tight rollback and he said, “game on” and got it done like it was a piece of cake.

I shoved an extra stride in here and made my horse jump straight up but he’s a saint so

We took our nice jaunt around the 18″ division XC fences and he was great, although I expected nothing less seeing as we walk over most of those jumps multiple times a week on hacks. (We ended up 2nd so we did bring home a pretty ribbon) Our Starter round started fine – popped over a little log we schooled a few weeks ago, we were coming to a little slatted table and all of a sudden… the front of my horse disappeared out from under me. Somehow Arch had tripped (?) and he fell hard – my trainer happened to be almost right there jump judging and she said his face was practically on the ground. I slid off right over his head and landed basically sitting down. It was an incredibly slow motion, gentle fall and I landed still holding his reins. Archie stared at me in confusion for a minute, wondering what the hell I was doing down there. I was (and am) completely fine – I’ve fallen harder tripping over stuff on my own feet, but wanted to make sure he was okay. He had grass on his legs, but seemed to be no worse for wear. Honestly nobody knows how he did it – the ground wasn’t slick, he doesn’t wear shoes, nobody could find a hole or anything, so we’ve just chalked it up to a freak ‘forgot I had four legs’ kinda thing. I got back on (schooling shows woohoo) and jumped around a few fences in warmup and then between divisions, popped over a few small XC fences just to end on a positive note.

I went out and checked him yesterday and he’s totally fine, not a bump or bruise, so it doesn’t seem to have done any damage. We went for a nice long walk/trot hack before he got rinsed off and stuffed with more cookies.

It wasn’t the ending I really wanted, but that’s horses and life – and I’m glad it happened at home vs at a bigger (more expensive) venue. This upcoming weekend we’ll head to the Hoosier Horse Park to school XC (and peek in on Jen and Karen showing at the IDS show!), the weekend after Sharon White will be here for a clinic and then a few weeks later, we’re entered to go down to show at IEA Horse Trials! Kicking off a busy summer and I’m excited to see how everything goes with the PartyPony!

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Ditches don’t have hot tamales (June Schooling HT XC)

After my genius moves out on the stadium course, I was bound and freaking determined I was NOT GOING TO GET LOST on XC. Like, that was my goal. What’s that saying, “aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll be in the stars” – this is something like “aim for making it to your gd space shuttle, even if you miss, you might make it to Target.”

Spoiler alert: I didn’t get lost! WOOHOO!

I did, however, do the following:

  • Talk through my entire course (I really need to get a Cambox if only for the audio recording)
  • Sit up and ride at the first (big) ditch, getting over it beautifully, only to completely not ride to the second (not even real) ditch and have a stop
  • Convince Iggy that, yes, there was a rollback in this XC course and yes, he was going to do it
  • Gallop the last two jumps completely out of stride because I am a minor adrenaline junkie, I love my pony and it was SO MUCH FUN
So much fun
Image by Grace Waggoner

Essentially, that sums it up. The stop was dumb-dumb-dumb, but entirely my not riding. It was a half coffin, ditch to coop and others had issues there, mostly with the coop, but Iggy could have cared less about that. I honestly think he likes to look in ditches to check for hidden treasure. Like, “Oh, a ditch, I wonder if someone hid some hot tamales in here for me!”

Needless to say, I will be riding every single stride to every single ditch forever now. He can have hot tamales after the finish flags.

Even with my dumb 20, we easily finished inside the time (honestly, without the penalties, we would have been cutting it a little close on speed faults, OOPS) and it was a fantastic experience. Overall, my goal for the weekend was to finish on a number, and that we did! We ended up 11th out of 15, but honestly I could seriously care less about it. It was about getting our first completion together under our belt and that we did!

Next up is camp (!!!) the 6th-10th of July and then off to IEA, assuming we get in. I sent entries in on opening day, so fingers crossed.

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Lost human: between jump 4 and 5, reward offered

Our barn holds a schooling HT every June and with all of COVID going on, it was unsure if it would be a go for a while, but it ended up happening two weekends ago.

It’s a one day HT on Sunday, so we run some little mini derbies on Saturday evening which is a fun way to stretch legs and get some saddle time before Sunday. We went out and just did the BN derby and had a blast.

Our course had three stadium jumps to start, five XC jumps and back to the arena over two SJ jumps. Iggs felt awesome going in and while there were some jumps we hadn’t jumped out there, I wasn’t over concerned about anything; mostly just so excited to finally get out there with him! We had a great, albeit slowwwww, round. He thought realllllly hard about stopping at the same ditch he had in our lesson with Tim just a few days earlier, but I had predicted that and with a tap and a cluck he realized it was just easier to do as I asked. Good pon. We took some really long routes because I wasn’t concerned with ribbons (it was closest to OT), mostly just wanted a good, confident run before the next day. Mission accomplished, he was lovely and it was the perfect setup.

Dis my pony he cute

Sunday morning was literally… chilly. Like, we had jackets on. It was so bizarre, but then again it’s 2020 so I honestly shouldn’t have been surprised if it had snowed or something. We had great ride times so we had a nice, relaxing morning before our dressage test.

LOOK WHERE MY LEG IS! NOT SOCIALLY DISTANCING ITSELF FROM MY BODY!

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from our test – I had no real baseline with Iggy. We’ve taken some lessons, but we hadn’t actually run through the entirety of BN B except for the Wednesday before (which was an actual rodeo when two horses got loose and Iggy immediately said “F DRESSAGE, THEY ARE RUNNING WHY ARE THEY RUNNING SHOULD I BE RUNNING I THINK I SHOULD BE RUNNING TOO IS IT GOING TO EAT ME I JUST KNOW I’D BE AN APPETIZER OMG”). Fun times. Luckily, Sunday we had our brains between our ears (mostly) and were feeling good. Our test was certainly not my best, but also wasn’t my worst. We ended up with a 35.3 with a test that scored consistently at 6.5. Essentially, it came down to an unsteady connection which was no real surprise because I haven’t entirely figured out how to maintain it. I can get it, sure, but then I lose it, get it back, lose it… Rinse, repeat. All in all, I was happy to get through without any major mistakes and with something that had good feedback to build off the rest of the season.

Video still, better than nothing

Our stadium round was absolutely lovely and beautiful and smooth until it, uh, wasn’t.

“Iggy, please come to the front of the store to retrieve your lost mom.”

But hey, I finally got a decent stadium pic?

We came off four and were supposed to come around and jump five which was across the short end of the arena and I just… cantered very nicely right on by it. Until I spotted the jump I was going to was six and thought, “Waaaait. I know I can count to 5 and that’s six and I’ve only jumped five jumps so….” Cue loud exclamation of, “Oh SHIT.” (Apologies to underage ears in warmup) We proceeded to do a lovely 30m circle and jump five and the rest of our course beautifully. And so, my should-have-been clear round had 6.4 time penalties because I CAN’T STAY ON COURSE THIS IS A PROBLEM.

Can someone install GPS on my horse?

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Fall Harvest HT: Baby Shark goes XC

What I didn’t mention is that Saturday the farm hosting the HT also held a derby. In order to get out on the XC course and jump some things, we did the starter (2’3″) and BN derbies the day before. This ended up being a great idea because by the time XC rolled around on Sunday, I was totally feeling game and ready to go vs being a hot mess of nerves.

The course was set up so you had quite a few places to gallop and settle in, which I really liked. I was a little nervous that Doc was going to tune me out and do his best racehorse impression, but after two good derby runs the day before and a good stadium course where he was super tuned in, I started to think maybe we’d be able to really go for it and have some fun gallops.

Warm up consisted mainly of being told to put my hands down and shoulders back – which apparently my body can’t do at the same time. I always thought I was cool because I could pat my head and rub by stomach, but the real world application has failed me. I can have hands down and shoulders leaning forward or I can have hands up and shoulders back, but both at the same time is a mental struggle.

Oh, and the person who started singing Baby Shark in warmup. Thanks for that one.

We left the startbox (to the tune of do-do-do-do-do-do) and had a short little cruise into the next field for our first jump, a red stairstep we jumped a few times at camp this summer I felt good about.

1 - Stairstep

He was a little behind my leg until he locked onto the jump and went, “OOHHH doing jumpies, OK” and then it was like, game on.

Two, you came around through the field to the fence line to a red coop, set really nicely to just gallop out of stride and he did just that. I did make sure to have my inside leg on so someone didn’t opt to take the lazy way out, but he just cruised on over.

2 - Red coop

Around the end of the field and back out to three which was on the slightest bit of an angle, but still just a fun galloping pheasant feeder.

3 - Pheasant feeder
Slight angle because you turned left at the end of that fence

Coming into 4 was the first time I really let him out and was going to find out if he’d come back easily or if this was going to be a fight – it was going back towards home and you came right next to warmup and where everyone was hanging out.

4 - Hanging rail
Hanging rail at 4

Needn’t have worried – half-halt, shoulders back, about five strides out, and he just came up perfectly – the way Trainer K described our feel for the course was ‘bounce the ball’ – like the horse was a basketball underneath you with power. It was as we came over this jump and past everyone in the warmup area (to cheers because Indiana eventing is chock full of the Greatest People) I settled in and went, “OMG we are doing the thing and it’s fun.” It is also where everyone on course heard me talking hilariously enough, because when I talk, I breathe. So I talk through my entire course. To Doc, to myself, to the jumps, to the world.. I’m chatty Cathy up there. Add in galloping and breathing and I’m also… loud.

Through the gate to the next field and over the lincoln logs at 5 (which we’d jumped the day before) and then a sharpish right hand turn to the ditch at 6.

5 - Lincoln logs

6 - Ditch option

Per usual, Best Horse Ever didn’t bat an eye at anything and gave the ditch the most half-hearted jump effort ever. I have felt bigger strides out of this horse over ground poles. At this point, I’m audibly laughing because this is holyOMGfun.

We came around the corner, downhill and then back up to jump the trojan horse at the top of the hill. Fun fact: this jump was set on a different hill at camp and it is the jump I got run away with to… about 6 times in front of Leslie Law. So when I walked it, my mind was like, “UGHHHH Y” Literally everyone else doesn’t like 8, I’ll jump 8 anyday. I hate this stupid jump. It looks big and dark to me and I don’t like it.

7 - Trojan horse

Well, guess I should say didn’t like it, because I just half halted at the bottom of the hill, remembered to keep my damn shoulders back and rode a little deeper like K suggested and it came up basically perfect. Jokes on me.

Around to the left to 8 which is a table nobody else likes, but I think is a badass fun fence (as badass as anything at BN can be…) that was set on a slight downhill.

8 - Slatted table

It’s amazing how when you listen to smart people and remember how to ride, things work. From 8 we cruised downhill to the bank at 9 – half of the sunken road we jumped through this summer at camp. Doc had a split second he thought that jumping up this thing was dumb when he could just go to the right and around it, but some leg and a little tap nixed that idea.

If there was going to be a fence anyone had problems with on course, it was going to be at 10. You had to come through a gate at the end of the field and make an L to the tires at 10. Well, no worries here. It’s at this point I’m realizing we’re on the second half of the course and it’s going better than I could have ever imagined.

10 - Tires

Through those two gates ahead, to a small ditch at 11 to a rollback left to the distillery, which is also one we jumped at camp.

11 - Ditch

 

12 - Distillery
I love this jump because it’s a distillery

From 12, we came back through that gate to the adjustable bench which when I walked looked stupid big. Luckily since it was set as 13 and we’d had 12 basically perfect jumps up to it, I just went, “Welp, here we go bud,” and quietly jumped it out of stride.

13 - Adjustable bench

Hah. More like I yelled myself over that damn thing. Literally was like a damn high school cheerleader psyching up an entire football team. He jumped big over it, but instead of going, “Oh shit,” and being unseated, it was this moment of, “Oh my GOD that was fun, I want to do that AGAIN!” Like.. there was air time. And I landed off it and galloped on and was like YEAH REAL EVENTERS.

Reserved and quiet, I am not.

Between 13 and 14 we cut through the arena to to the end of the course. 14 was this new jump – a big cut out table that had freaked me out the day before, but Doc didn’t blink at. On Saturday, I pulled to it, he added and we chipped which is a super fun feeling to a big ass table. Knowing that, I consciously added leg and Did. Not. Pull.

And of course, Perfect Horse jumped it Perfectly.

 

From the table around the back of the water to the left and a few strides to the last jump on course, a blue table we jumped at camp and the day before.

I came through the water on the line to the last table and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I remember just sitting up and telling Doc, “let’s go buddy!” and we just galloped for that jump.

This was basically the happiest moment ever and my favorite photo ever

I was giggling like a little kid as we came over that last jump and through the finish. Cheering like I’d just finished a freaking 4 star. I was almost in tears I was so happy, as embarrassing as that is to admit.

That smile

We ended up being double clear XC (I didn’t wear a watch so I had no idea what our time was like – turns out we were spot on at 5:21 with OT being 5:41 and speed faults being 4:51. It was enough to move us to finish in 11th despite our other, uh… mishaps, but I could care less about that ribbon.

I don’t have words to describe the feeling of finishing that course. It was the most fun I think I’ve ever, EVER had on a horse. I’m pretty sure running XC is a drug because I’m addicted.

Only… five months? until next show season.

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Fall Harvest HT: Jumping colored sticks

 

After a… less than desirable dressage test, I untacked and let Doc chill in his stall for a bit while I walked over to watch the Training riders ride SJ. The trainer I was working with this weekend (Trainer C was out of town) and her daughter (who is like 12 and a better rider than I will ever hope to be) both had horses in the Training division I wanted to see go and I wanted to see how the course was riding.

Super thrilled to go do things

I don’t have a photo of the course, but it was bending line 1 to 2, left rollback to a vertical at 3, 5 strides to an oxer, right to 5 on the outside, around the end to a tight bending line from 6 to 7, left to a two stride on the outside set as 8A and B. The first four jumps were the same as the derby course we rode the day before, so I felt good about them. The rest of the course seemed to be riding well, save one exception – that line from 6 to 7.

In watching the Training riders go, I watched multiple people have misses or near misses at 7. No problem, I figured, my jumps are a lot smaller, I’ll just really ride for 7. Famous last words.

Think we went on this

I got him tacked up and we got warmed up – popped over the jumps in warmup a few times until I had a great one at the oxer and we went on that. He felt really good as we got into the arena and the bell rang and I was feeling great about the course.

Vertical at 4 and my leg somewhere around three strides behind us

The first four went beautifully – the distances were just coming up perfectly, he was in front of my leg and responsive, I remembered not to pull and things felt great. Down five felt good, he started to get a little tuned out, but having two corners at the end gave me exactly what I needed to get him back and set up for 6. So I thought.

No touchy 5. Photo from J. Nelson Photography

We went to head for 6-7 and I got so damn focused on Not Missing 7, that… we missed 6. Yup. Just completely went right of it. I can’t blame it as a runout or a refusal, literally my horse was going where I was aiming him. That just happened to be… at the standard.

Cool.

Second time’s the charm? Photo from J. Nelson Photography

Circled around, actually like, remembered to ride 6 and keep my outside leg on and whatcha know, it worked and the line rode great, as did the last combo at 8.

I promise I will tailor my coat before next season. Photo from J. Nelson Photography

Even with that dumb rider error, it was EASILY our best SJ round to date. We ended up with 9 time penalties so I think we would have been close to double clear if not for my dumb miss. I can’t be too mad though because it was just a fantastic round otherwise. Every jump just came up and felt perfect. It was like the culmination of everything we worked on all summer and fall and camp and everything else. In other words, it was the perfect setup to go XC off of because I finally felt the nerves settle and realized that we could totally do this.

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