To say that I was nervous going into our warm-up round on Saturday would be an understatement. We were at our first A Rated show, the ring was a little sloppy and oh yeah, my horse had never seen the jumps before. Despite lunging in the morning, Miles was very alert and I found myself with just a bit more horse than I would have liked. And even though our first round was rough, I was proud of myself for going in cold and making it around without any major snafus.
Sure, he backed off the first fence, and played (a lot) after our third fence. He missed a few lead changes and we had some really tight spots, but overall he listened and we didn’t have any super scary jumps. For me, that’s a good trip considering the circumstances! Trainer and I decided to stay on a slower pace, and opt for the add-stride the entire day. In hunters, fences are set in lines, with a specific number of feet between the fences, which correlates to a specific number of strides. At my level, adding an extra stride into these lines is typically fine and doesn’t make you significantly less competitive; however it’s important to be consistent. So if you add a stride in the first line, for every subsequent line you need to do the same.
For Miles, the slower pace isn’t difficult, but it does make his lead changes tougher to accomplish… and on Saturday the sloppy rings didn’t help. So even though we missed a few, I was okay with it. I wasn’t working on that, so I didn’t really set him up for them. If he got them, he got them. If he didn’t, we broke down to the trot and changed our lead that way. For me, the big win was seeing my distances and sticking to those decisions; I stretched up stayed confident. Plus, with each round, I improved; I remembered I needed to “whoa” in the lines, especially towards the end of the course and I used my outside aids during turns to help us get straight more quickly. Our first judged Hunter trip:
We earned two thirds over fences on Saturday, which I was really, really pleased with. I know a lot of people don’t practice fences before they have to show, but I always have; and it was nerve-wracking to not have that opportunity this time. But I conquered the challenge and rode well. And at the end of the day, what more can you ask for?