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Not As Planned

It’s official: our first show of the season is in the books! Overall, it was an awesome weekend. I had so much fun with my barnmates and everyone rode really, really well. Sometimes the first show of the year is a crap shoot — horses haven’t been off the property in six months, nerves are a little high and we’re not quite in the horse show groove yet.

The Plan

Going into the show, my plan with Miles was to school in both show rings on Friday, in preparation for showing in the 2′ Limit Hunter division in Ring 2, and the special 2’3″ Pam Graham Memorial Hunter Team Classic Saturday night in Ring 1. Miles arrived at the show happily and settled in well.

Nichole and Miles

Going Downhill

Friday afternoon, my best friend N and I got on to school. As we were walking to the warm-up ring, Miles started jigging. His head was straight up in the air, and he was huffing and puffing. Looking back, I think he had no idea up until this point that he was at a horse show. When he turned that corner and saw all the horses and all the rings, I think he was honestly shocked.

When he got to the warm-up ring, a horse in front of Miles had a small freak-out, which sent my horse over the edge. He tried to rear, but settled for jumping straight up in the air with all four feet off the ground. He did a few more crow-hops, before I got him settled enough to walk on. Accomplishment #1: Staying Mounted

N saw the entire fiasco, and asked if I wanted to get off. In true weenie adult amateur fashion, I said yes. But I didn’t — I stayed on and we walked around the ring together, which helped Miles relax. I was able to get a little but of trot and canter in without dying, so I guess that’s Accomplishment #2: Not giving up.

Miles and Tracy

Where the Wheels Fall Off

Trainer came down to check on us, and determined that I should go flat in Ring 2, while N jumped around Ring 1. Miles did not enjoy this, and spent the entire 20 minutes crying for his new favorite mare friend. He relaxed when she returned, and I was finally able to do some w/t/c, and jumping. The jumps were small, and totally unintimidating, which I guess is Accomplishment #3: 2′ is finally not cause for anxiety. Despite my new-found confidence, our jump school did not start out well. Miles was brave to the jumps, but afterwards was a nightmare. He dropped his head and bucked and played after every. single. fence. We spent probably the better part of 45 minutes stopping after fences, circling and breathing. It was hard, really hard work, but we got through it. Accomplishment #4: Schooling my own horse. 

Total Train Wreck

After getting our minds right in Ring 2, we stuck to the plan and headed for Ring I. The fences were set low, 18″-2′ tops. I walked around the ring once, and then set my sights on a small diagonal single. Miles jumped it well… and then turned into a bucking bronco. It was all I could do to stay on, and stop him by dragging his face into the fence. We regrouped, and tried another small diagonal single… which went even worse. He bucked so hard afterwards I was sure I was going to eat dirt. Somehow I stayed on… but I did almost crash into three other horses and another fence. We called it quits just as I felt tears brimming in my eyes.

I am an emotional person… so sometimes I just can’t help it. I was so embarrassed that I almost ran into other people. I looked like a total jackass, but more importantly, I made my trainer look bad by riding poorly.

But Miles was so amped up that after the fences, he would buck, buck, buck. So went slow, kept the fences down and worked through it — which we did. Then we went to Ring 1 to see how things would ride in there. Unfortunately, Miles lost his mind… again. He was a rodeo horse after every fence, bucking so hard I couldn’t even steer. After two fences where I nearly fell off and ran into every other horse in the arena, we called it quits. Accomplishment #4: Trying new things… even though it didn’t work out.

My trainer calmed me down, assuring me that she wasn’t upset. Miles just wasn’t playing nice today, but I was riding as well as I could. We went back to Ring 2, where things were immediately better. Miles and I were just much more comfortable in that ring, and after a few jumps where we didn’t die on the landing, I hopped off.

Miles warm-up trot

The New Plan

So after schooling, Trainer and I decided to scratch the Saturday evening Classic. I was really disappointed; but safety is always the number one priority. Plus, my goal for the weekend was to have fun, and looking like a jackass in Ring 1 didn’t sound fun at all. All Friday evening, I was pretty upset… upset that I didn’t ride better, upset that Miles’ reaction took me by surprise and upset that things were not going according to plan.

So it took me a while to remember that this is only my second show ever with Miles. He’d never been to this particular venue before, and he hasn’t been off the farm in six months. He’s still young — only seven or eight, and we’re still figuring him out. In the end, I decided to make having fun my priority, ensuring that Miles and I have a positive showing experience. Accomplishment #5: Not staying angry and changing my plan.

Foto Friday: Show Prep

Last night I went up to the show grounds to set up stalls and drop off a few of my things. The good news is that the shoe is only about 20 minutes from my house, so it’s no big deal to drive back and forth a few times. The bad news is that I have so much stuff, there is no way for it to fit into my car in just one trip. Oops.

Car loaded with for bear, with half of my accouterments 

 

Home away from home for the weekend

 

Not quite the Four Seasons, but it will do

 

Ring I, where the Hunt Team Classic will be held

 

Ring II, where the Limit Hunter Division is held

Wish us luck!

nervous woman

Nerves & Tough Decisions

It’s Monday, and I’m already nervous about the horse show this weekend. I know it’s because I want to try to move up to the 2’6″ division, and I just don’t quite feel ready. But I also know that I will never feel 100 percent prepared. I bought a horse that can easily show 2’6″, is athletic enough to take care of me and forgiving of my mistakes… but I still have butterflies in my stomach.

My decision has been further complicated by two things: (1) USEF and (2) a slight change in the show’s schedule. The first is entirely my own fault… see I thought it was a brilliant idea to not renew my USEF/USHJA membership until I knew I was moving up to 2’6″. Our show circuits are kind of weird around here, and even though they are technically “B” rated, some divisions are not rated at all, and do not require memberships. Our 2′ Limit divisions do not require membership, 2’6″ does. So I waited until last week to go online and renew. My memberships were easy enough, but it turns out that changing Miles’s ownership was not so simple. I ended up having to submit a notarized “Ownership Affidavit” to USEF, and am still waiting to hear whether or not it’s going to be approved.

Stupid, stupid, stupid me for waiting!

crossrail girl

The second complication is actually a good thing… but it’s still not making my decision any easier. At this particular show series they always host a special night class. Usually it’s the same one at each show every year, and typically in May it’s an Equitation Medal. Each special night class always has three fence heights: 2’3″, 2’6″ and 3′. The fence height you show in is determined by the height of your regular hunter division. I have no desire to show in an equitation medal, so I really wasn’t factoring in the special night class at all.

However, last night I got an email from show management that they changed the special night class in May from the Equitation Medal to the 1st Annual “Heels Down, Eyes Up” Pam Graham Memorial Hunter Team Classic.

And I really, really want to show in it. Not only because I feel like it’s something I can do about this terrible tragedy (50% of entry fees are going into her son’s trust), but because I want to show support to my barnmates, and to the local equestrian community as a whole.

Aside from that though, the class sounds like tons of fun: teams of two horses/riders complete a two-round hunter course, with all scores combined for the final placings. I know Miles and I couldn’t totally show in the 2’3″ section, and it would be super fun to team up with my best friend N, who is showing our trainer’s horse, Diamond.

What to do, what to do?

2013 ribbon pie chart

2013 Show Season Wrap-Up

Well, the show this past weekend didn’t quite go as I had hoped. So instead of dwelling on how terribly I rode my wonderful horse, I’m moving straight into a season recap. With my third and final home schooling show under my belt, my 2013 show season is officially over. It’s been one helluva ride, and I thought it would be interesting to do an overview:

Statistics

  • 8 Shows
  • 17 Ribbons 
  • 3 Horses Shown
My season started out an epic failure: I had planned to show my trainer’s horse, Diamond, in the 2’6” divisions but I just wasn’t ready. So I went back to riding Vinnie, and back to the 2’ division, which felt like a colossal failure in and of itself. This feeling continued through my first few shows with Vinnie, which were pretty terrible: we just weren’t getting along and we weren’t placing nearly as well as we had just the year before… at the same fence height.

It was tough to feel like not only had I not accomplished my goal of moving up, but that I was actually riding more poorly. But here is where hindsight really helps me out: it’s not that I didn’t improve my riding, I just had farther to go than I realized. And as for placings, I showed against 12+ this year, instead of 2-3 like last year. I was consistently the highest placing rider without a lead change, so that tells me that I was doing well, I just wasn’t competitive.
At our last show together, Vinnie and I finally worked out our differences and we placed in Equitation Over Fences, which I don’t normally even attempt to show in. The judge personally took time to compliment my riding to my trainer, and I went home feeling like at least I back on track.
All of the tough times this year really put my goals into perspective: each time I got a taste of success, I just wanted more. And as the summer rolled on, that goal of being more competitive became more and more of a priority… which led me to purchase Miles.
Hugging Miles
Buying Miles was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding experiences of my life. And I am so damn glad I did it.
In the end, I got to finish out my show season on my very own horse (they even announced my name as owner/rider over the loud speaker!) – I never dreamed my 2013 show season would end so well. And for our first outing, Miles was absolutely fantastic; packing me around, doing a great job of ho-humming at 2’ and we were competitive.
All in all? 2013 was a pretty crazy year, but I am so lucky and proud to say that it ended way better than it started. And the best part is how bright my future with Miles is: I’m looking forward to what the 2014 show season has in store for us!

First Show with Miles: Day 2

Sunday was much better weather (thank goodness) but a much longer day. We got to the barn at 6:30 am to feed, grabbed some breakfast at Bob Evans and then waited around until about 3 pm for my last two classes:
  • Limit Hunter Over Fences 3
  •  Limit Hunter – Handy Round
 Remember, this is the show that does this crazy handy hunter class as part of all the hunter divisions. In essence, it’s a hunter class on steroids in which I do not get to do single, diagonal, line, diagonal and actually have to spend time not only memorizing a course, but figuring out where to go. For my little hunter pea-brain it’s quite a stretch.
Third Round
Once it was (FINALLY) time to ride, Miles got 10 minutes of warm-up (because apparently he is a horse show veteran) and we went in for our third trip. Unfortunately my phone died and I have no video evidence, but I trumped yesterday’s rounds and LAID IT DOWN for literally the best ride ever. It was just one of those rides where everything worked and it was (mostly) effortless. I nailed my distances, made all my strides look even and Miles took care of the lead changes.
I swear, it’s the most gratifying feeling to see all your hard work pay off; it’s like all the tough rides I had on Vinny and all of the struggle over the summer finally made a difference and I rode that course just like I do at home: with confidence and poise. It was absolutely fabulous.
Handy Round
Our last class was the handy round, in which my goal was to stay on course, complete all of the elements and not fall off. There were a few options for turns, but I opted for all of the long approaches since I haven’t practiced turns at ALL with Miles yet. Overall, it was a solid round for us. We could have been more polished in our transition to the trot, and I wish I could have done it a little bit later, but I felt Miles gearing up for a lead change, which I didn’t want. So I’m happy I recognized that, but wish I could have made the transition more smoothly. Our “rollback” to the gray diagonal basically sucked, but Miles was a saint and went over it anyways. We then cross-cantered for four strides before getting a skip change, which was my fault for not stretching up and pushing him forward; he had no momentum to get the change. Our diagonal line was good, except for my TERRIBLE right leg that couldn’t push him out and made it look like we were about to crash into the end jump. And then I almost forgot we didn’t need a circle but still had to walk out. Oops.
After a grand total of 20 minutes ringside, Miles went back to his stall, ate treats and then loaded onto the trailer to head home 30 minutes later. Sam and I waited around for about an hour for the rest of my division to finish to see if we got any more ribbons. And I’m so glad we waited!
WE GOT A THIRD!!!!!
Miles and I took THIRD in Limit Hunter Over Fences 3 and 8th in the Handy Hunter (no ribbon for that, but they announced my name so I’m counting it!) Sam and I both screamed and jumped up and down when they announced my 3rd place and everyone stared – but I was so overwhelmingly excited! To have ridden this horse for a month and half, jumping probably only 8 times EVER and to get two 5ths and 3rd out of 12 is so remarkable. I never thought I would feel comfortable enough to show a horse over fences so soon, much less ride the way I did.
I am so blessed and lucky to have found Miles and have him in my life!