On Sunday I woke up feeling a little bit like I’d been hit by a truck, just from standing, walking, photographing, and riding all day Saturday. With a little Starbucks I was feeling much better, and after watching a couple of friends in the hunters, I went to take my pony for a walk. I opted not to lunge unless he was feeling really fresh simply because I didn’t want to run out of horse again. Fortunately, he was completely fine. (Sorrynotsorry for inundating y’all with photos of the ever adorable Val pony.)
I pulled his wraps, then Val and I explored the entire facility (homeboy loves exploring, and was puffing just from excitement for most of the walk). We had some snuggle time in his stall and some cookies, and then I left him for about 15 minutes to chill out again, before tacking up and warming up.
Poor kid was so tired he was dozing with his nose in his hay, where I assume he was munching until it was too much work. Even still, he was happy to see me, and I groomed and tacked up slowly to spend some time with my horse and get a feel for how Val was feeling that day.
We warmed up with lots of bending and leg yielding at all three gaits, because they had put both of the combinations on the rail, and I wanted to make sure we didn’t have a run out, or miss entirely. We popped over a few fences, and though there was a little squealing here and there, and I was having trouble landing in my heels, we were pretty reasonable.
Our warm up 2’9 course had a couple of bobbles, but was generally really good. Our ugliest moment was going into the first combination, which was the second half of a bending line, where you had to right straight to the rail, and then turn your horse to the combination. Val was busy not wanting to get over to the rail, and dived left once I got straight, so that we hit a weird distance on the in, and were so close to the left side of the out that I hit the standard with my foot and knocked a rail. Otherwise though, it was totally fine, and I remembered to insist that we carry a correct bend, and I remembered to really ride from my inside leg to my outside hand.
As before, Val got to chill out in his still after getting all worked up in his warm up. I tried to time things so we’d have a shorter warm up and then pop right in, but I managed to get on as the were finishing the drag, then they had a course walk, and when the class finally started, we were 11 trips out. Oh well.
We walked for a while, then finally jumped some jumps and went in. This course was better than the first, but we had two rails, one because I picked a weird distance, and fussed all the way to it, and the other because we were fighting so hard down a bending line, that he pulled the front rail of an oxer. This meant we didn’t make it to the speed phase, but it was still good enough for 8th, which earned us my first brown ribbon ever (after 19 years of showing, that seems weird right?).
Our last class was just speed, and by the time my turn came around (I was near the end of the class), there had only been 1 clean trip, so I decided to be efficient, but not crazy so that I could put in a clean trip. The only clean trip had gone wide around everything, so we just needed to shave a little here and there.
We put in a beautiful round, that was clean, and handy. I forgot one turn I had meant to make, but made the next best turn, and still sliced the next fence pretty hard. We finished the class jumping in long to a one stride, and then galloped to the final oxer, with a big whoa a few strides out to rock him back on his butt, and we sailed over wonderfully. I was so proud I let out a “whoop” and gave my pony a million pats and kisses on our way out of the arena, while he jigged as he does.
That course was exactly how I had hoped to end the show: my horse was brave, I made generally good decisions, and when I didn’t, my horse made up for the mistake without getting upset or offended. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the table, and the class was run with faults converted to time, so even though we were the fastest clean round, there were two 1 fault trips that were faster even with the 4 seconds added, and we ended up with third.
But really, my horse was so fabulous, and compared to how these shows have gone for us in the past, my horse was way more relaxed and happy from start to finish. Most of the issues were simply due to being rusty, and not having done many long courses at home before going to the show.
Now that we’ve been back in the ring, it’s time to work on being competitive again, and not being afraid to make tight turns. Not once did my horse slip or feel like he was having and trouble staying upright, and I know we can turn on a dime. We’ll slow things down just a little, and I think we have a dressage lesson in the works, but the next time we hit the ring, we’ll be ready to rock and roll.