Well waking up today (Monday) was rough, and the horse show hangover is real. I feel like I’ll never be able to consume enough caffeine, and all of my muscles are sore. Even my hands hurt from all of the photos I took. But it was still a really great weekend, and well worth the exhaustion!I just maybe forgot a little the difference between a 1-day show and an out of town weekend show. Whew! J’s family even came to watch some of my classes and hang out, and Val has dubbed J’s dad his new favorite cookie/snuggle dispenser.
Friday I worked a weird sort of half day that involved coming in early and not taking a lunch so I could be out of the office before 3 and on the way to the show, without using too much PTO. Man. Being an adult gets complicated when you have horse shows and vacation for which you need to hoard PTO. Anywho. I hitched a ride with a barn buddy who was also going, and with traffic plus a coffee stop (and then inevitably a bathroom sto) we pulled in a little before 6, with just enough time to hop on and school before they closed the arena.
Val came out the quietest he’s been at this venue to date, and I proceeded to loop and serpentine at the walk and trot around as much of the arena as possible. There was a fair bit of leg yielding, and bending, etc. The only thing I was afraid to work on with traffic that I should have done any way was adjustability. But really, who needs brakes and/or a gas pedal? When it was time to jump, trainer set a little cross rail, and of course, because we have a cross rail phobia, we first had to stop and stare. From there things smoothed out and we rocked around over everything set around 2’9-3′ nicely, other than when I forgot how to brain and steer and ran over my driving buddy and her poor baby ottb who was at his first show at the facility when they tried to halt after a single that was parallel to the line we had just done. Oops. Sorry Fuller… Fortunately this particular baby has a good brain and only had a very minor tantrum.
Trainer hiked the jumps up a bit for me and I remembered to keep my shoulders back and wait nicely for a single oxer several times, only to come in with a small canter to a line and then lean so that my horse was buried. I followed up that fabulous choice by chasing my horse down to another deep add to an oxer. Val was a little irritated, but kept his opinions mostly to himself.–we had a grunt and squeal, followed by a small head shake, but otherwise he was very professional. We took a breath and tried again with a bigger canter, only to bury my horse again and then pick down to the chip. Good thing my horse is forgiving I guess. I cantered around a turn from there and finally found the 2-stride nicely, and called it quits on that.
Val got himself a nice long bath that he felt was entirely unnecessary, then he got stuffed with cookies that were absolutely necessary before I finally tucked him in. Then it was time to head home to get all of the grime and grossness off of myself before crashing at J’s parents house, conveniently located only 15-20 minutes away from the show grounds.
Saturday, we got to the show grounds bright and early–8:15 to be exact–to make sure I had a chance to get to see everyone go and get photos of all of our riders. Lucky me, that meant hanging out for about 8 hours before I finally got on my horse. For our warm up trip.
Around 10 or 11, I went to grab Val and let him move around on the longe line to get any stiffness out, but I found him like this, and figured he could sleep for a while longer:
Around 11:30 he decided he could finally get up, and we had a super quiet and relaxed 15 minutes or so on the line. While Val longed himself around me, I took some time to check Facebook and IG, my email, etc. That is seriously the most useful tool my trainer put on this horse before I took over. He is so so easy to longe. I love it.
Finally, finally, I got on my horse for our 3′ trip. The class was labeled as II.b (time first, jump-off) and went back and forth across the ring way too many times. I made a plan in the walk to be efficient, but not crazy, since the class was just meant to get him in the rig over the jumps, and give us a chance to work out any kinks. Too bad I really like satin.
Val warmed up great, if a little up. That’s pretty much his norm at this point so I don’t worry and try to fuss as little as possible. I spent more time flatting than anything to make sure we had no stiffness from being in a stall for four days (two prior to the show thanks to his knee) and we hopped over just a few jumps before I went in the ring.
To take advantage of all the time to explore the ring and make sure my horse is yielding off my leg in each direction, I typically plan to walk in the ring as the current horse is wrapping up their last fence and coming through the timers. I would never be one of those people that marches in half way through the jump-off, but I get as much ring time as I can before they buzz me, just to be safe.
But. Somebody knows his job too well now. When I walk in the ring, suddenly we cannot walk. Trotting is no good either. It’s blasting off into canter or prancing in place. So we maybe won’t be doing that anymore. When the buzzer finally did go off, the little goob thought maybe he should stand up because his mother was too dumb to know it was TIME TO GO. Fortunately he propped a little and put his feet down again before I let him just move on out.
We definitely didn’t have the best quality canter at the beginning of the course, with Val’s little head straight up in the air, but he leveled out as we jumped the jumps. Never once did he peek or try to put on the brakes, and the worst that happened was we ended up with about a 16′ stride by the end of the course. I made mostly good decisions, and Val jumped around well, and clean. Which meant jump-off! As soon as he heard the darn buzzer we were off again.
Remember that plan to just make efficient turns and ride smart. Well. That is for schmucks who don’t want pretty ribbons. We went fast. We took flyers. And man did we have fun. At the very last jump, we got just a little too fast and flat, and just pulled the top rail of a boring brown vertical. This landed us in 4th out of 22 which I was still pretty pleased with since it paid for the class. I would assume that made us the fastest four fault trip.
For whatever reason, there was basically no airflow through the facility all day, and it took me quite a while to cool Val out after this class. When he finally seemed cool enough, I stuck in him back in his stall to veg for a bit while they ran the second 3′ class and a 3’3 class. I moved all of his hay so that it was in front of his fan for good measure, and fortunately he likes to drink so he was all gravy.
After our 3′ class, they reset for the course that would be used for the second 3′, the 3’3 class, and my first 3’6 class, so we squeezed in a quick walk. We made a fairly conservative plan, with the idea that the point was to have a good experience, rather than to ride to win.
When it finally came time to get on for our 3’6 class, it was so late in the day I almost didn’t even feel like horse showing anymore. But I rallied, and tacked back up and hopped on again. Val was definitely very up. Not bad when we were moving, but feeling awfully light on his front end at the walk, and just really wanting to be doing things, especially when we started to jump. I love that he loves his job so much, but there’s a line I do want to make sure that we don’t cross. Something to think about later.
He ended on a couple of pretty big oxers in warm up, with me remembering to keep my eyes ahead and my shoulders back to help him keep his own shoulders up and to make sure he left the ground when I asked rather than patting his feet back down again.
Walking into the ring, my first thought was that the move up I’ve been trying to do for a while now was finally happening, and more than anything, I was so proud of and happy with my horse and the progress we’ve made to get here. It also brought back memories of the last time I jumped 3’6 at a show, over 5 years ago now. I was a little impressed by the oxers, but did my best to get my head in the game for my horse. Really, you guys, he was amazing. I could feel that he was a little backed off, but he never once thought about not jumping, and any time he was worried about a jump, his solution was to jump it extra hard.
By the time we landed from 7ab, I was so happy that the course was almost over, if only because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold on for his massive efforts. I landed in a little bit of a heap, tired from a long day, with my horse a little strung out. I got deeper than I wanted for 8, and instead of really letting my horse move out to make the five, I held too much down to 9ab, getting there on an ugly half stride with a big lean on my part.
Val, being the wonder horse he is, climbed his way over the oxer, and basically trotted out over the vertical. After a beautiful clean round, that was our one rail. Even though we didn’t make it to the jump off, I trotted out beaming and so so proud of my horse, and we were still good enough for 5th out of 6 (Hey, we beat somebody!). After such a great trip, but a pretty big mistake on my part, I opted to scratch our next 3’6 class, and just save my horse for the later 3′ classic, where we could go in and have a trip that felt easy to end on.
There was a whole lot more waiting around, and then the two of us who were doing the classic finally wandered over to find out if there was an order of go/get checked in if not. We signed up for the first two slots, threw tack on, and then ran in for a quick walk, but somehow there were still other people warmed up first so we lucked out and went more toward the middle of the class.
Unlike the previous classes where my plan wasn’t to win, but just to put in a good ride, I wanted this one. I’ve never done better than 4th in a classic, no matter how many people were entered, and I was determined to finish in the top 3. I made a plan to be tight and fast, and I walked each of my turns so I could visualize exactly where I wanted to be. I forgot to get a picture of this course so you’ll just have to try to keep up.
When I walked into the ring (at the last minute–no more bouncing up and down while the last horse leaves the ring) Val felt like he was really ready to go. Not wild like in the first class, or a little impressed like in our 3’6 class, but just really in his element.
For jump one, we had to kind of canter through the middle of the ring which was weird but worked out well enough. Jumps 2 and 3ab were the bending line I botched in the previous class, and I made a much better plan that got me to a nice distance at 2 so I could roll down to the double in five instead of adding the sixth stride. That was great, and then I cantered around to another long one at four. Val was a good boy and left the ground, but I wasn’t sure he’d go and sat on him all the way over. I apologized in the air and thanked him for leaving the vertical up as we rolled back to 5ab, and the rest of the course went quite smoothly.
Since we went clean, it was time for the jump-off! I picked up a bigger, brighter canter, and off we went. There were a few spots where I could have shaved a little space off of the turn, and in a bigger ring, I’d have had a little more room to gallop between some of the fences, but Val was still very handy and so smart with his feet. He moved up where I needed him to out of the turns, and when I needed him to wait to a fence so we could turn in the air he was so good about keeping himself off of the fence. I was so proud, even when I almost fell off after the last fence and then got run away with. You’ll see the falling off, but not the running away part in the video.
I was so happy with my horse that I took him for a super short walk, and then took him right back to the barn to get hosed and the rest of his dinner. He got a ton of cookies and love, and then I headed back out to watch the remainder of the class, with the promise that he was done and I’d leave him alone for the rest of the night. Good thing he probably didn’t understand a word of that?
As we neared the end of the class, someone in our group pointed out that there were a lot of people hanging around, walking their horse in hand, and that we were probably riding for ribbons. I jokingly don’t everyone that I would just do mine bareback and in my rolled up shirt sleeves, because man was I tired. But when I realized I might be in first still, I found the motivation to throw tack on one more time.
Poor Val looked resigned to his fate and like I’d broken his spirit when I went to tack him up for the fourth time that day, but he was pleasant enough about it anyway.
As I was climbing on, my trainer yelled at me to hurry because I was holding up the victory gallop, so we trotted our way over to the ring, and on the way in learned we were 1st (out of 16!). We marched in and got our blue ribbon, and once everyone had their ribbons attached to their boots, we cantered off. For the first time all day, I didn’t hold Val back, and he was so happy to get to really open up a little in the arena.
Fun fact: The girl who put the ribbon on my boot told me she “hoped that would stay, it’s probably fine.” So obviously I was staring down at my ribbon, willing it to stay on for most of the gallop. What can I say, I love blue satin.
When we wrapped up our lap and cantered by all of our barn friends in the stands, I heard several of them yell at me to jump a jump, and I figured, hey, if I get in trouble, at least now I can blame it on my trainer. That cup of wine I had between the class and the gallop probably helped too. Right in front of us was a vertical, but my ribbon was going to be on the wrong side for pictures, and plus a vertical away from home doesn’t make for a stellar effort anyway, so we looped through the middle back to the oxer that was fence 1, and the ribbon girl laughed as we hopped over.
I had the brief thought that it would be super embarrassing if I cantered down to a chip again to our victory lap jump, but fortunately it came up beautifully. My grin says it all I think.
There were definitely some mistakes throughout the day, but Val was stellar, and I really couldn’t have asked him for more. I was so so pleased with my little guy for giving me his whole, big heart, and for moving his legs really really fast. Next up day 2! Spoiler alert: it was just as exciting.