Back to back horse shows are stressful and difficult as an adult, and things like laundry and grocery shopping tend to get put on the back burner. This particular week was rough since our show schedule was all changed around due to attending a wedding on Sunday… which meant we hauled the horses up to the show on Thursday and showed Friday and Saturday. Despite the change in routine, it turned out to be even better as it allowed us to show in some classes I wouldn’t normally compete in. It’s a nice challenge at this point in the season, and really drives home the idea of focusing on personal victories rather than ribbons.
I took a half day off work on Thursday and was able to help load and unload horses with Trainer, who had to make two trips to bring up all the ponies. It worked out really well though because we actually kept our same stalls from the previous weekend and left fans, buckets and the tack stall completely setup. So while I did have to fill water and throw hay after the horses arrived, that was it. The weather was cooler than it had been, so I made sure to lunge Miles and he definitely needed it! He let out a few fairly impressive bucks and leaps on the line before settling down after about 20 minutes.
On schooling day I’m always a little bit nervous, which presents itself as me being very antsy. It’s hard for me to sit still or wait around, so when Trainer offered to let me school by myself before the younger girls showed up, I was very grateful. I hopped aboard and we went straight to Ring 2, which is where I’ve shown all season at this venue. Miles marched around like a champ and we pretty much jumped everything once before moving over to Ring 1. At this show, Ring 2 is the smaller ring where all of the 2′ classes are held and Ring 1 is the bigger ring for the 3’+ classes. When I showed in 2′ Limit Hunters I dreamed about moving up to 2’6″ so I could show in Ring 1 with the “big kids.” With all of my setbacks earlier this year, I’ve stuck to Ring 2 for the safety and comfort of a smaller, less intimidating ring. But now that Miles and I are going around well, it seemed like a good time to step up and try the big ring.
Since moving to the new venue, I’ve not shown in Ring 1 at all, so I was a bit nervous about how Miles would handle the new arena and the new jumps. We spent some time just walking around so we both could relax, and when it was time to jump, it was all easy peasy. Miles didn’t bat an eye at any of the jumps, we made our strides in the bigger ring (where they’re set to standard, not shortened like they are in Ring 2). I came out beaming from ear to ear! Schooling was a huge success and I was excited to horse show.
Because this was only a B rated show, there weren’t a ton of options for me to show in on Friday. Luckily though, I was able to get in four trips over fences, starting with two first thing in the morning in the 2’3″-2’6″ Special Hunter division. This division is basically a catch-all for anyone and everyone who wants to show in a 2’6″ hunter class — it has absolutely no restrictions, so I showed against some really good professionals on really nice horses. Our first round started out a bit sticky with a rough lead change after the first fence and a chip out of the first line, but then I got rolling and things smoothed out. I loved our second round, I just had an unfortunate rail at the second fence which kept us out of the ribbons. BUT all in all, I was really happy with our performance. Miles went around and did his job, and I stayed confident in my plan to get the strides. I recovered really well from mistakes on course and didn’t let them affect my next jump.
After the Special Hunter division we had a long break where I actually went home and ran some errands. This was huge for me, as I get anxious when I’m away from the horse show and still have classes left to do, but it was important for me to take a break and not just wait around for hours on end. When I came back in the afternoon I showed in two more over fence classes: a 2’6″ schooling class and 2’6″ Intermediate Adult Equitation. I total flubbed my schooling round and did the wrong course… which I realized after I jumped the first fence. But the judge never excused me, which also caused me some panic, and I basically made up my own course as I went around. WHOOPS. But I guess it all worked out in the end, because I got to school the fences and make sure the gas pedal was working (which it was) before going in for my judged trip.
It was a fun course with two rollbacks, although both times I opted to take the long route so the turns weren’t very tight (at all). But I remembered my course this time, and rode pretty smartly except for one tight chip in the middle of the course. We ended up 6th of 8, which I was thrilled with. I know my equitation is still a work in progress, and so any time I snag a ribbon in that class makes me happy!
Saturday morning we showed bright and early again, this time back in Ring 2 for the 2’6″ Thoroughbred division. All three of my rounds were very consistent. I made one larger mistake in each round, but recovered quickly and made all the strides without question. I came out really, really happy with my rounds. They were the best and most consistent I’ve been all year, and I’m finally passed the point of just trying to get the strides and make it over all the jumps. I can really start to concentrate on other things to make my rounds smooth and pretty! This time around the placings didn’t reflect my efforts — we got 7ths across the board in the over fences and the under saddle — but that’s horse showing. Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn, and I definitely learned a lot!
Just like the day before we had a big break after our morning classes and then came back in the afternoon to show in the 2’6″ Intermediate Adult Hunters in Ring 1. Neither Miles or I had much energy left, so we kept our warm-up short… although Trainer did throw us a bit of a curve ball and had us jump a 2’9″ oxer (eeek!) before heading into the show ring to sharpen us both up. Our first round was a schooling, which started out a bit rocky. I chipped the first fence (a single), and then chipped the second fence (the first in a line). I galloped out of the line, but didn’t quite believe we’d make it… but Miles did and went a little long which I was slightly unprepared for. But then I got my act together and we finished the course really well. I was proud of both Miles and myself in this round because Miles helped me out when I needed it and didn’t even think about playing on the other side of the fence when I got a little bit left behind. Then after that I recovered and rode hard to make the second half of the course the best it could be.
For my first judged trip I went in with a lot of determination. I wanted another shot at riding a better round, and I was focused on making some better decisions on course. Trainer told me to do two things that I think really helped make this trip our best to date. First, she said to allow this particular course to help me: the round started with two singles, so she said to continue to ask for more pace and impulsion, but remember that you have two fences to build it up before your first line. Secondly, she said to not fuss over the turns and corners quite as much: Miles tends to fall in, and when I try to balance him up too much, we lose impulsion. With those things in my mind, and my confidence securely in place, we went in and NAILED IT.
This round was fucking beautiful and the best trip I’ve ever had on this horse. Our pace was right there and I didn’t have any trouble finding good distances — in fact, we didn’t chip hard once in the entire round. I came out with tears in my eyes, knowing that for us that was the pinnacle of success. I was so happy with both of us, I scratched my final over fences round because it just wasn’t going to get any better than that. We came, we showed in Ring I and we conquered. Out of 19 riders in the class, we placed 5th and I cried again. Maybe it’s a bit sappy, but dreams really do come true if you work hard enough <3