The short version is that I was a little rusty, but over all we both came to play and it paid off. Val has definitely redeemed himself after Labor Day’s weirdness.
Now the long(ish) version:
We hauled over on Friday and got stalls, even though this was only a 1-day because nobody actually likes standing tied to a trailer all day. Val was well-behaved but a little worried and uptight in schooling. Nothing crazy, just not super rateable to the fences. I got halfway left behind at one fence I thought he was peeking at, and then promptly buried him to the next in an effort to not go long again. We mostly smoothed things out though, and pretty much just jumped everything once or twice and called it a day. Since the plan was to do no warm up trip and dive right into the Opens at 3’3′, we made sure to jump at least a few things a little on the bigger side. I honestly have no clue how high anything actually was, because this farm uses breakaway cups and I don’t know how those compare. But a few were definitely on the larger side of what we school at home, and Val didn’t bat an eye.
Saturday, J and I got there bright and early to make sure we got photos of everyone, and so I had time to take Val out of his stall for a nice stroll around the property. And of course right about the time I got to the barn to get him out, and huge cold front hit, bringing with it a ton of wind and rain. Oy. Right about then, we were all soo glad for stalls.
They put the show on pause for about 15 minutes, but once it went down to just a light rain, they started things back up again, and we were off on our walk. Val was pretty quiet and relaxed, and very happy to be out and about. As much as he worries, this horse really does love exploring new places. He gets so excited any time he sees a trailer pull around at home.
Even though we don’t typically show until 5 or 6 at this venue, thanks to low turn out I was getting on my horse by about 1:30 or 2 (I think? I don’t keep track of time well at shows. So far gone in my own little world and all.). We had a nice slow warm up since he was just a tiny bit stocked up from being in a stall, and trainer was busy running between all 3 rings for other clients. I’m so glad I asked her to hold my phone, because she got all of my steps in for me that I normally track while I’m riding.
In warm up, Val felt amazing. A little hot like always, but very responsive to whatever I asked for, and so in tune with me. He was much more rateable than on Friday, and he was bending nicely and yielding off my leg well in either direction.
When trainer finally made her way over, we jumped maybe 6 or 7 times total and headed over to the ring. For most of our warm up efforts, I turned off of the rail right next to our jump rather than going the long way around, and it really made a big difference. I picked a good distance every time, and it kept Val rocked back on his haunches and paying attention as well.
Since we only did the Opens (the lower division we used to use for schooling is now a point division so we aren’t allowed to do both) we only had 3 classes. And even those are a bit of a blur; there were only 3 of us, so I had almost no time to process between trips and I forgot to ask someone to video, so I don’t even remember the courses anymore.
The first course was a time first, jump off trip.
I was the only one to make the jump off, but I did it for the practice and rode it competitively anyway. Correction (like I siad, all a blur): we were one of two in the jump-off, but the other rider had a rail, and we rode really fast and fairly tight anyway for the practice. There were a few turns I could have made much tighter, but with the slightly damp footing I was cautious. If I’d remembered to bring my body back and sit more for the turns, we’d have had more traction but I’m going to stick that in the lessons learned pile and not worry about it. In the first trip, I was a little handsy all the way from the corner down to each jump, and it got my horse a little fussy. I remembered to fuss less and let my horse carry me to the jump a bit better in the jump off, and no matter what I did, Val was great He made up for a few of my mistakes, and went in feeling brave and ready to do his job.
The second class was just a speed class, and so I picked up a slightly bigger canter to start. Which worked out great and gave us a win, but oops, I did 4 in a 5-stride line. I usually keep track of where we are in a line pretty well, but for some reason I was already really confused about how many strides there were in which lines, and I didn’t even realize what was happening until I counted to three and realized there was no way we were going to get 2 more strides in. So instead we just flew over the oxer, and I tried to balance up a bit for our next line, which was a 6 to a 1, with a vertical on the in of the combo. Val tried to do the line in 6, but I was feeling like trying to bounce the one and dying, so I made him put his feet down again. It was ugly, but it allowed us to just flow right on out of the combo and leave everything up, so I rolled with it. From there we had a nice long gallop and slice to our final fence, which Val did beautifully. We won this class too, although they announced us as second and I had to trade ribbons when I checked out.
Our final class was also a time first, jump off class. By the time we walked in and I picked up a canter, I could feel that Val was getting a little tired. It was pretty hot and muggy after the rain, and he hadn’t had much time to recover between classes. I held too long down to the first fence, thinking I wanted a quieter canter since he was sleepy, and I got a really hard rub for my efforts. Turning to the next jump, I peeked out of the corner of my eye and was surprised to see that the jump was still up. After that wake-up though, we both did better at staying off of the jumps. I remembered to keep my chest back and up better, and Val rocked back nicely over everything, snapping his knees up and out of the way. This course too was great despite a few minor mistakes on my part, and we put in another stellar jump off. This time, we were only good enough for 2nd, but with two 1sts, that still gave us Champion for the division.
There was so much good from this day, and Val was amazing. He really came out to play, and I was so proud of him for no peeking once. The jumps were mostly set soft, or maybe we schooled higher that I thought on Friday, but either way my horse was brave and smart and was right with me every time I asked for a tight turn or a slice or forgot to ask him to put his feet down again.
I however, have a few things to sharpen up before we show again this weekend. I need to be more of an active rider. I didn’t get to actually walk the courses like I usually do, so I had little to know plan other than where I would save some time. It showed in my riding and the fact that I was pretty reactive rather than proactive. I also for some reason, started laying on my horses neck over the jumps on Saturday. While my lower leg is mostly good, I relied too much on that and not enough on using my inner thigh and core to hold myself in position over the jumps. This is mostly something to just be aware of. It should go away with some conscious effort. I also need to sit up better for my turns. The moment I remembered to sit down, I could feel Val get better traction and our turn improved immediately.
I was pretty happy with how I let my horse really carry some pace this time, for the most part. There were a few moments when I picked, but over all I let my horse flow and take me to the jumps, rather than holding and shortening all the way there and making his job harder.
We’ve got one flat tomorrow, then a jump school with a lot of singles to reinstall basics on Wednesday, Thursday he gets the day off, and then Friday it’s off to the show in San Antonio. After this weekend, I cannot wait for our 3’6 debut in SA. This show was exactly the confidence boost we needed. This was by far the best show we have ever had, and it gives me a lot of hope for our future. Have I ever mentioned that I am absolutely, 110% in love with my little Val? I didn’t even know my heart could hold so much love until he came along.