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.
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.
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.
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.
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.