We went to the horse show at the Rose Palace this weekend. It was my first show in six years, and it was also my first outing with Bob. Heading into the horse show, I had some really great lessons, and I was feeling confident in my new approach to my riding. I wasn’t over-worrying about distances. I wasn’t being a weeny about fence height. I was trying to ride confidently, and I was trying to ride nicely to give my horse a chance at success. So far, it was absolutely working. Then came the dreaded warm-up day.
Friday, we had a great school to start out with. I was riding great, hitting my strides in the lines, and I wasn’t nervous at all, despite the growing zoo that the ring was becoming. Then my trainer told me to come down a smaller two stride. Heading into the two stride, I was trying not to be concerned, but I felt that old fear creeping into my gut. We got in short and I went to move up, then before I knew it, I looked down, pulled back, and we crashed through the end oxer. Poor Bob’s nose went to the ground, and I law darted right off the side of him. Now, I am only twenty-four years old in muggle years, but I am pretty old in horse-lady years, and I have my fair share of body problems that comes from 21 years of riding, law darting, and god knows what else. So, falling is not as easy as it once was anymore. However, I jumped right back up, stood for a moment, and then I took a leg up to try again. We went back down the outside line just fine, and then my trainer had me try the two stride again.. Same thing, only this time I stayed on somehow (which is magical as it happened multiple times this weekend). Eventually, we made it down the line without me trying to attempt both of our suicides.
Saturday, my trainer told me she added me into a 2’3″ warm up to get the jitters out of the way. It was a pretty ugly course. There weren’t many moments of brilliance. The first jump we added a step instead of going forward and we got a rail. Then we went around at a molasses pace towards the dreaded two stride, set as I crashed through it yesterday, on the outside rail of the area. We jumped in pretty sort and instead of moving up, I did two and a chip and my horse had to climb out. However, we made it out alive. The rest of the round was pretty ugly, including chocolate chipping into a one stride and only a few decent jumps out of the rest. We finished with four faults and a time penalty. Our second course was 2’6″. I went in thinking “this two stride will not eat me, and I will gallop”. Honestly, I thought mostly about just getting it over with, because I knew I had one more course to go.
I had a pretty decent break before that class, and I spent it just sitting in a chair with my eyes closed. Amazingly, we warmed up well, and I went in with a good attitude and some pace. My second round was much more fluid. We added a stride here and there, but they were decisions made early not at the last minute. When I landed off jump 8, I never expected to be in the jump off. However, we were blown to continue to the JO and off we went. I never expected to make it that far, and my whole jump off plan went out the window, so I forgot to make the tighter turns, but we made it through clear and got a second. I was pretty much Beezie Madden. After another short break, I went into my second 2’6″ round after a course walk and course change. I went in with a plan, but I was hurting from Friday and both my horse and I were pretty spent.. So this happened:
Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the same pace and I took my leg off at the first fence, therefore we had an ugly pop-chip and rail. I lost both stirrups and thought about continuing down the bending line, but then I thought “If I don’t have stirrups, no horse, and do that again at the second fence.. I’m going to fall off.” So I regathered my stirrups, circled, and went back towards jump 2, an oxer. It was a nice jump and we had a bending line to the third. I put in a last minute add instead of taking the long one, and instead of committing to the forward five to the dreaded two stride, I sucked back, raised my hands, took off the leg, and we added an ugly chip into the two.
That oxer came crashing down into the two stride, and I put my hand up to excuse ourselves out of the class before they buzzed me. Of course, they ugly buzzed me anyway, but I was just done for the day. So, I gave him a long walk outside, a bath, and then I let him graze while apologizing profusely to him for my awful riding. Horse shows are fun right? I needed a cold beer and pain meds after the epic first day of ups and downs.
Sunday, I slept a little better and woke up with a different attitude going in. I put on my favorite breeches for good luck, and I told myself that today was going to be the best day. After all, I had one class to prove myself in today. I wanted to end on a good note! I got to the barn, gave Bob some cookies, and once again apologized for my lack of riding yesterday. We entered into another 2’3″ class for warm up before my division class, and I went to go look at the course. Of course, it was a 2C. I hate 2C’s. I don’t have a good memory, and I have not having a few seconds to physically point out my jump off (if I make it that far).
Warm up was great, and I had a lot of confidence going into the 2’3. We were rushed with time, so I didn’t get to course walk, but despite not totally remembering my course until I was on my way to the fences, the 2’3″ didn’t go awfully. There was a lot of things I wish I would have smoothed out, but we actually got to continue and do the whole course. No ugly buzzer here! We wound up taking a 6th in that class, and I was totally okay. After all, I’m not here for ribbons or the money back (though both are nice). I was here to have fun… BECAUSE HORSE SHOWS ARE FUN.
I actually had time to course walk while they set for the 2’6″. I wanted to go into 2’6″ with a plan, with strides, and with a better idea of what in the hell I was going to do. We decided the path I was taking, and I was feeling really great about it all. So great, I decided to go ahead and go in first! Heading to the first jump, I felt like we had a good pace, but I knew that both Bob and I were pretty tired. He began to suck back a bit at the first jump, and I let him rather than moving him forward. So we added a step and then landed short. I heard my trainer yell “GALLOP”, so I moved him forward with so many great intentions of having a gorgeous line and getting in at just the right pace to jump #2, an oxer that was a bending five to a four stride line. However, I felt my horse start to suck back again, and I didn’t keep the leg on. Instead, I went into a sort of hail mary – fetal position, and we pop chipped and pogo sticked over the oxer. I flew out of the saddle and as I landed halfway hanging off my horse, all I could think about is that I am not going out like this, damn it.
Somehow I climbed back into the saddle and didn’t eat dirt. So I took a circle, regained my composure, and then I was a determined cookie. I knew I wasn’t going to be in any JO, ribbons, or time; but I wanted to finish, and I wasn’t finishing like that. So, I went down to the 4A-4B line, and I decided to add the stride to get five down the line instead of going for the forward four. I didn’t want to crash anymore, honestly, and I didn’t trust myself at this point. I then turned to the one stride, and I wrapped my leg around him and dropped my hands, so we had a beautiful jump in and out (it’s amazing what happens when you do what your trainer tells you). The rest of the course wasn’t our best because I put in adds, but we finished on those 8 faults, and I came out with a smile. I hated that I ended my last course with a jump like that, but I was proud that we finished the rest and that it went okay… because horse shows are fun, D A M N I T!
Over all, I know that every mistake that was made was absolutely and 100% my fault. The keywords of the show were pace, leg, and drop your freaking hands! However, I am glad we did it, and we came out with two ribbons and $26 added back into our entry fees. My trainer was a saint through out it all, and I couldn’t have asked for a better barn team to tell me it was all okay, and that finishing the weekend was a success. I also couldn’t have asked for a better lease mom. Bob’s real mom was such a rock through the whole thing, and she kept sending me motivational messages even after I told her I was practically ruining her horse. She is such a wonderful person, and I wish everyone had as wonderful of a support team as me. It wasn’t the week that I had imagined or planned on having, but it was a weekend of experiences and minor successes. Hopefully, we won’t disappoint next time, and I will come much better prepared with frosty beverages and a horse show back pack flask (that I forgot to pack last minute).
Photo Credits: Mara Martinez, Jordan Lunney, and Amy Metz.