Hunting, Show recap, Uncategorized

Most expensive week EVER.

Last week was a ton of fun and absolutely filled to the brim with horse things – which we all know is equestrian-speak for “my wallet weeps.” But we also all know that it is 107% worth it every time.

It started out with an invitation from my co-worker to audit the local Ingrid Klimke clinic that was happening last Saturday and Sunday about 10 minutes from my house. Co-worker’s barn manager’s daughter won a ringside table of 5 for the clinic at a dressage competition, and they gave him 2 of the seats to join them – he offered me one of the tickets and I just about expired from jubilation. My first ever clinic, and it’s with Kween Klimke?! Somebody grab the defibrillator.

I don’t attend clinics because, as you may have noted while reading through my blog, I am hella cheap and when I basically get to choose between boarding my horse or auditing a clinic, I can’t justify the money towards a clinic. Love the idea of them, but just not my financial gig. So when offered the opportunity to audit one of the greatest riders of all time FOR FREE at the RING-SIDE with a CATERED LUNCH (and excellent company, thank you co-worker), I immediately cleared my schedule and basically bounced up and down like I was headed to my first ever riding lesson. Kween. Klimke. *Heart eyes*

She was 2 tables down at lunch and I wanted to touch her coat as I walked by in hopes of being blessed…

The short of it is, she’s just as amazing as you think. The Saturday was dressage focused and the Sunday started with dressage and cavaletti and finished with jumping. I thought that I would benefit more from the jumping day, but I actually took the most notes from the dressage and cavaletti lessons. Now I need to spend even MORE money on cavalletti, blast.

Now, although I did not have to pay for the clinic itself, of course I bought one of her books. (Cha ching). I was very good and did not purchase anything from the tack booths… However Greenhawk chose to have a big anniversary sale that weekend and I really wanted some Woofwear XC boots, so naturally I popped to Greenhawk during the lunch break and dropped some cash on their very pretty Smart Event boots because my mare is the Queen and also practically a senior citizen at 18 and packs me around like the empress she is, so she deserves quality leg protection. Yes. (Cha ching).

Pretties

Now, all of these beautiful horses riding in the clinic were clipped so wonderfully – shiny, with no visible lines, clean limbs… nothing that I am familiar with because at most I can pull together a very poor trace clip that isn’t even and shows every line I make with the clippers. My vanity was stirred. I had the last hunt of the season coming up the next Saturday, and conveniently my friend/dressage coach clips professionally… You can see where this ended up. Gorgeous full nekkid body clip for Vesper to look like a magnificent show horse instead of her usual “I just came off the plough” vibe. (Cha ching).

It looked like a massacre
But lookit how gorgeous! 😍

Oh, and she’s due for her hoof trim, and since we’re hunting and the weather should be drying up any time now, we should put front shoes on for the spring/summer season! (Cha ching).

I also took this week to sign up for a session with my bestie who is a newly-minted personal trainer at her special discount rate – she kicked my butt in the best way (I paid her back for it when she came with me to the hunt!). (Not horse related, but still: Cha ching).

This all led up to the final drag hunt of the season, which is more Cha Ching but seriously I would spend more than that – it is the most fun you can have on horseback if you like eventing in any way. My personal training bestie also got to come along as they had a couple of horses for rent, which was her first time hunting and her first time jumping in over a year. She was so badass – I mean who meets a horse for the first time and then moments later takes it galloping and jumping in a herd of horses following hounds?! She might kill me for mentioning that she fell off at a fence, BUT she got right back on, and we’re both so sore 2 days later that she couldn’t fight me if she tried. Love you Rachel!

We rode together for basically the first time ever, in a group of like 15, and managed to not get any photos together except a selfie. Knobs.
She fit right in

We got super lucky with the weather, as the rain held off right until we got back to the trailers. I must say that Vesper and I probably looked the best turned out thanks to her BOMB body clip – we received so many compliments from the other riders and I think I could have upped my bra sized based on how puffed my chest was from being proud mamma. I could barely walk the next day (not exaggerating), but it was 1000% worth it. Seriously, hunting is the most fun I can imagine with horses.

Now, because apparently I just can’t seem to cap this, I have booked a vet appointment for the beginning of April for teeth float and vaccines. (Cha Cha Ching). I mean, it had to happen anyway, but seriously this is getting out of hand… Horses, expensive?!

I also need a haircut but maybe I’ll just call my friend and see if she’ll clip me too for super cheap. 😂 It’s that or the husband’s beard trimmer I think.

It’s a good thing that my entire May and June will be consumed with theatre – my bank account can finally take a breather.

Quality #mareglare
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Uncategorized

Happy birthday Vesper!

If you’re following me on social media, you may have noticed that today is Vesper’s birthday!

She certainly doesn’t look…

Or act!

Like she’s 18 today.

Being a unicorn can be tough sometimes.

She’s the Queen of my heart, and taken me to places I never imagined possible.

Love you forever, V. ❤️

Show recap, Uncategorized

Riding to Hounds

Things have been quiet on here due to the lack of riding that occured over this winter – between gross weather and a theatre play I’ve been in, I wasn’t in the saddle a whole lot since about November.

Bless you microscopic arena for allowing even a modicum of riding

There was some ground freezing, and a crazy ice storm that lasted for about a week, but otherwise we didn’t have the snow dump that we had last year, for which I am very grateful. The times that I could go out to the barn, at least I could get in a decent hack.

The entire city looked like this. Beautiful, but a death trap

I recently found a leasor to ride Vesper once a week, which has definitely relieved a bit of the strain of trying to keep her fit while juggling a full time day job, a theatre production, a different theatre company, a husband, family, friends… Overloaded? Me? Never. Thankfully I’ve managed to be more regular with our rides, so she gets more like 2-3 days off a week instead of 5.

This was a massive blessing when our local drag hunt (no foxes) posted on their FB page that the next hunt would be on a Saturday instead of the usual Sunday (which I can’t attend right now due to theatre) – I had a week’s notice and scrambled to cancel all of my plans (sorry wonderful dressage coach/friend) and get insurance on the trailer to be able to join the hunt. I knew it could very possibly be the only one I attend this year.

Forecast called for snow and very chilly temperatures, but the morning of dawned as clear as you can imagine and about as warm as my freezer. I poured myself ungracefully into as many layers as I could safely ride in, packed the show coat and tall boots and buzzed off to the barn early, knowing that my trailer tires badly needed a fill up.

I may have never felt so adult in my life

Thankfully Vesper wasn’t much of an idiot getting on the trailer, so we left the barn right on schedule. 95% of the drive was on our big (interstate) highway, which made the trip easy once I became accustomed to towing at 110km/h. I inevitably couldn’t figure out where the property entrance was once I arrived, but made a friend in a gal who was also looking for the right spot. She and I eventually found the group.

Perfect weather is perfect

Vesper of course needed to look AT EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE but after 3 years of this, I am quite accustomed to tacking up a moving target. It was a small group, only about 9 of us this time, and only 2 hounds left. They recently went through a restructure and rehomed the pack – Leopard and Oliver are the only 2 left for now.

I was secretly thrilled that Leopard begged for pets – he seemed happy to just stay for scratches and forget the hunt!

Once I mounted up, Vesper didn’t take long to settle down, bless her. She’s a unicorn in disguise, I’m convinced. Milling horses, monstrously loud farm equipment, a train blowing by us: none of it fazed her. She may not enjoy standing still just about ever, which is super annoying, but I would not trade her for anything.

We had to wait for about 20 minutes for the scent to be laid and for a couple more riders to arrive and join us, and some of the horses weren’t comfortable going near the passing train, but eventually we kicked off onto the massive property.

Helmet cam footage:

We crossed a running river 3 or so times to begin with, which Vesper wanted to stop and play in very inconveniently, and we took it very easy to start as I didn’t want to burn her out. We partnered up with the gal I met at the beginning, who was attending her first hunt, and our mares got along great in tandem.

Galloping over fields, through water, through woods and across roads is my absolute favourite way to ride. It can be super technical and also utterly freeing. The conditions were sublime: firm ground without being too hard, sunshine to reduce the chill of the day but not too cold or too hot for a 2 hour hunt.

Unfortunately I only got the first half on my helmet cam. We took part in 6 “runs” total, with about 10-15 minute breaks after each one. Vesper wasn’t nearly as unfit as I worried she might be, and even going unshod she didn’t come up sore at all this time (last time we left with a stone bruise). I loved dressing up in show attire and taking part in such a traditional event. Vesper is utterly in her element while hunting – the only thing that needs work is her brakes.

We didn’t jump much, as I barely did any jumping this winter and I wasn’t feeling confident to hit some of the prepared fences. In the second half, I did take all the fences offered once we’d had a chance to warm up. Vesper sort of deked out at the first one as I didn’t set her up correctly and basically didn’t ride her to it at all, but after that it was smooth sailing.

In tandem with Kaitlin and Sun

At one point, I had to close my eyes and drop my head into her neck and pray that she wouldn’t crash into the horses ahead of us as we barrelled through some very grasping branches; I would probably have lost an eye. One of them even cracked the screen protector on my phone that was tucked into my arm holster! I won’t make that mistake next time.

Another adventure resulted in me losing a stirrup as we bounded up a very sketchy, loose-footing hill into the trees. It’s moments like that that I want to feed my horse all of the carrots in the world and make sure she knows how absolutely epic she is. I couldn’t tell what was coming up, only that we had to follow the leaders, so I had to just add leg, hang on and trust my steed. One of the things I absolutely love about the hunt is that there isn’t really time for worry or hesitation; you often have to just trust your horse and “kick on” to get through a messy patch. I have long been an anxious rider, so this has been an excellent exercise to boost my confidence and build the trust between Vesper and I. Hunting is the reason I felt eventually confident enough to try eventing.

The spectacular location along the Fraser River
I pansied out and took the smaller fences this time. I’m calling it wisdom and sticking to that story

We were in the saddle for 2 hours, and unfortunately I had to skip the brunch afterwards as it was a 45 min drive back home, plus the inevitable cleaning up and replacing the trailer which feels like it takes decades. I had a theatre performance to get to that evening so time was not on my side.

All in all, it was a thrill and a challenge, and it is my solemn goal to attend the final hunt of the season at the end of March – since that’s the next time I’ll be available!

Show recap, Uncategorized

Day 2: XC recap

Let’s get to the really fun part!

Saturday afternoon post-stadium was the course walk, which was quite enjoyable as I had the run of the field almost to myself. I took a brief detour on my route to have my photo taken with the jump I played over a couple of weeks ago (see below video) – turns out it’s a prelim one! I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time.

It did not look this big from horseback. Someone lock me away for my own safety

My own (much more reasonably-sized) course consisted of lovely ramps, barns and logs that were inviting with just a hint of a challenge.

#6 was one of the more intimidating ones as it was wider to the left than on the right side, and we both drift left

Now, I had a bit of a brain fart when I came to jump #16:

What I didn’t notice was that it was labeled on the other side as Training’s #14 (I discovered this 2 days later, derp) – all I saw at the time was this absurd reverse-angled ramp that made no sense, with the world’s biggest ditch on what would have been the landing side for me. Thanks to this jump, I spent the rest of the evening rather stressed, worrying that we wouldn’t have enough stamina to navigate this one so deep into our course, not to mention the expected rain all evening and on Sunday. I went to bed with the decision that, as we were sitting at 12th place, I would have a nice safe XC ride and just enjoy it at a bit of a slower pace. I figured that, even if we nailed our optimum time (4:33), we’d never come anywhere near a ribbon, so I made my peace with that.

Sunday dawned without the dreaded rain. In fact, the sun slid in and out of the clouds as I loaded Vesper up after a nice sleep in, and I felt a little more hopeful for our day. Unfortunately, I slept in a little too long, and arrived with only 40 minutes until my ride; and, inevitably, they were running ahead of schedule. Nothing stresses me out quite like being strapped for time.

My mom showed up to cheer me on, and I feel awful because I was in such a rush to tack up and get warmed up that she definitely didn’t receive a lot of welcome from me (I’m really sorry Mom, you’re the best <3). I literally stepped into the warm up ring, got called over for tack check, they recommended I head to the starting gate ASAP and I got 1 lap of canter and 1 jump each direction. 0/10 recommend doing it this way. Did I mention unicorn? She knows her job; she knows how to XC better than the pros; I just steer.

I had exactly zero seconds of prep before they counted down from 15 and we were off!

The first thing I noticed was that Vesper was really responsive – I wouldn’t quite use the word “quiet”, but she’s never been so easy to rate on the XC field before. I expected her to launch out and grab the bit which is sort of her usual state of affairs, but this time I actually had to ask her to step out in her stride a bit, as I wanted to attack the first log. After that, I tested my brakes a bit and she came back to me immediately. She was shockingly easy to rate, and so from that point on we settled into a nice, light gallop that was easy to adjust as needed. None of this “dang where did I put that e-brake” like we usually have. Either she has way more confidence in my abilities these days, or she was tired from day 1.

It was a delight to go forward to our jumps and I felt like we were really meshed as a team. Each fence was confident and almost (dare I say it) easy. The mildly-worrisome #6 came nicely in stride, resulting in another boost of confidence. The grass was not as slick as I was concerned about, and around jump #5 the sun came out completely! I’m pretty sure I really started grinning then.

#7 lead us over the dyke (and past a very large, very random, very dead fish – you’ll hear me exclaim about it in the video if your sound is up!) and down a sandy track which I planned to trot through; it would give Vesper a breather and reduce our slipping hazard on such a sharp turn and descent. We probably eased back a bit too much at this point, but the ground was mucky and I don’t regret playing it safe.

A couple more jumps to a fun little up/down combo, a long angled line to a big log which lead us almost straight into the water splash. Vesper loves the water and plows right in. Except this time, apparently! They chemically treat the water to make it a striking blue/green colour, and I think it threw her a bit, because she hit the brakes pretty hard and almost unseated me before she took her sweet time at jogging through the giant puddle. I was embarrassed on her behalf.

Up over the dyke we had to go again, and the dreaded jump #16 was on the other side. I was gritting my teeth, gathering all my bravery as we crested the dyke, ready to kick forward to that monster fence that didn’t belong in my division… I glanced over to check my line, and lo and behold! They had removed the ramp. Jump #16 was now: simply a ditch. Talk about deflated balloon. I wanted to laugh but I was too busy trying to keep breathing. Guess who hit the pause button again at the ditch. Guess who never pauses at ditches. Guess who almost fell off because she was in jumper seat, not eventer seat. That would have been embarrassing on my behalf.

After overcoming such a letdown of a fence, the rest of the course was peanuts. #17 was a basic drop bank, bending line to the last 2 fences. We hit our OT (4:33) between the last 2 jumps, so I knew we would get time penalties, but I was so happy with our safe and successful ride that I didn’t even mind. Even playing it super safe with way more trotting than I ever planned, we clocked in at about 5 seconds over OT. Vesper was barely puffed, which was awesome and means that all our recent conditioning paid off.

2 of my best friends had shown up right as I was starting the course, so I had another little cheering squad for the day. Vesper got all the pats, treats and hay and I tried not to collapse while wrapping her legs. I did lie down on the grass for a minute when I was finished, my legs felt like jello. 5 minute wall squat on a running, jumping animal, yo.


I wanted to grab my dressage breakdown from the office and see if any final results were available, so we wandered over to take a look. Based on the results sheet, they had listed my time at 5:38. Hold up. That’s an entire minute slower than what I clocked myself at. It had me at 26 time penalties and second-from-last place. Nuh-uh. I mentioned it to the girls at the desk, who agreed that for a clear round it was way off, unless I had been trotting the entire thing. They told me to check back once they had a chance to confer with the time marshals on the field.

We hung out for a bit, and came back in time to see the office manager posting new results for my division: my updated time was 4:38, a much more appropriate 2 time penalties and 8th place! That was quite a jump from 12th. I was fairly certain that ribbons only went up to 6th, but when I checked, the office manager corrected me that ribbons were given up to 8th place! Insert many exclamation marks. I was floored. I may have almost cried. Almost.

Look at this massive beautiful rosette
What a poser

Placing at my very first full event was really the cherry on the top for the weekend. Part of me wished I had pushed our XC time a bit more, but overall I’m really glad I chose the safe route. I know now for the future about how V handles that type of footing, and I’ll be better prepared for our next one.

Queen of my heart

Just like last year, I came out of this event ready for more. In fact, I gave the Training level jumps a solid side-eye, and I am fairly certain that we could have a go at those next season… 😉

“COOKIES. NOW.”
Show recap, Uncategorized

Day 1: Dressage & stadium recap

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

At about 5:45am on the day of the show, I decided it would be prudent to double check that I’d learned my dressage test correctly. It’s a good thing I did, because it turns out I had missed an entire 20m circle when I learned and practiced it this past week. Who does that? Ah well, we can shove a circle in there no problemo. We aren’t going to be winning on our dressage score anyway, am I right?

Circles, shmircles.

Now, Vesper’s mane has been growing back since February or March when I roached it, and it is just long enough to braid now – however, I came within inches of roaching it all off again Saturday morning as I struggled to create adequate button braids. I had put in the basic braids Friday night to get most of it done, because I do not enjoy stressing over details like braids on the day of a show, but left the buttons to Saturday morning because sleep is important to me. However, Vesper still has a permanent bald patch which makes half of her braids very thin and the other half draft-thick. Gross. I gave up after putting like 6 elastics in each one, and accepted that they would look far less than adequate – they only had to survive the afternoon.

This photo embarasses me deeply

I had forgotten how much I hate braiding. I had nice dreams of pretty button braids with my pearl charms, but there’s a solid chance I’ll just roach it off again and invest in a neck strap for XC instead. With a mane like hers, I’m fairly certain nice braids are a fairytale.

I was up extraordinarily early on Saturday to tidy her up and prepare for what the forecast had promised was rain and potentially thunder storms (goody). Vesper caught my buzz so she was super antsy. I fed her extra grain for breakfast to give her some bonus calories, as she would be working hard this weekend and I didn’t want her fading from hunger. She basically mugged me when she was done and then threw a small tantrum about getting on the trailer, but I always win those arguments so she knows not to push it too far these days.

It was a half an hour drive to MREC, during which I re-ran my (now correct) dressage test in my head and tried not to think about jumping a 3′ course later in the day; one thing at a time and all that. I felt pretty nonchalant about the dressage – like many eventers I’ve encountered, the dressage part is just a necessary Thing so that we can get to the XC. Not to say I don’t (sort of) enjoy dressage, but it sure pales in comparison to all of the other stuff.

The weather had threatened rain all weekend, with a side helping of thunder storms, but the reality was a semi-cloudy day with no rain and the perfect temperature of Cool Enough to Wear a Show Jacket. Trailer parking was tight when I arrived, so I found a nice spot in the very back next to the XC field with all the campers that offered lots of space to maneuver. We had about an hour and a half until my dressage test, so I went and browsed the rings to make sure I knew where to go.

Dressage moose

Warm up was pretty ‘meh’ – as per usual, I am not firm enough about asking her to use her back and work correctly from hind to front, and she was a bit spacey. We worked the transitions mostly to prevent her from anticipating and blowing through my cues, and once I felt like we were pretty solid there, we wandered over to the ring. Husband showed up around this point, as he was pretty sick and only came because he’s my contracted videographer for shows.

I definitely dig the white/black in dressage. So clean and pretty.

I was planning to watch 1 or 2 other riders ride the test to make sure I was doing it correctly, but when I arrived, the ladies at the gate asked if I was ready to just go straight in because they were running ahead of schedule. I panicked and said I could use a bit more of a warm up (white lie), and grabbed husband to get him to Google my test again to really really really ensure that I was doing the right one. Yes, actually. #backyardhack. This is what I get for not investing in a coach.

Once I had determined that I could probably ride the test with some semblance of accuracy, I returned to the ring and put on my best “I love dressage” attitude. You can watch the test below.

Vesper was really good; pretty attentive and it was very clear she knew that we were riding a test. She gets super focused; I adore her work ethic.

Dressage giraffe

Did she round for me? No, but have I spent the appropriate amount of time working on that in training? No. I was happy to just kind of do our thing without stressing about it. We did put that circle in the right spot, but it turned out as more of a ~13.7m circle than a 20m one, and I almost forgot to transition back to a trot from our last canter. MEH. I sort of had fun doing it, which was the goal at the end of the day. We’ll practice more for the next one, because she won’t be endlessly lame months in advance. And hey, I rode the whole thing in sitting trot! I definitely deserve bonus points for that, considering I had the option to post. I have been learning something from dressage apparently, because sitting trot is way easier for me to communicate with her these days.

The one time we actually looked nice

I did actually pick up my results this time, however I have since misplaced them before I was able to take a photo. We scored 52.9 – exactly 0.4 higher than our last dressage test. With pretty much the same comments, haha. Not round enough, not quite straight down our centreline, etc. But “nice pair” came up again. Overall I was fine with the result. We tied for 9th place out of the 18 riders in the PT division which isn’t devastating, considering how little prep went into this whole thing for both of us!

Now that the boring stuff was all done (dang do dressage pairs look fine, though), I was able to begin the stressfest of stadium. I hadn’t jumped a full course in… months? Good thing my horse is actually a unicorn. Some friends and family arrived to cheer me on, which was a lovely way to pass the time so that I wouldn’t be sitting and sweating about the jumping.

Guess who was not stressed? And why does she look like a moose in every photo? I swear she’s actually really pretty in person
My adorable nephew provided delightful distractions to all

We watched a couple of the bigger rounds in the grass derby ring, and I tried to reconcile my jump course with the next door sand arena, which just wouldn’t quite make sense. Suddenly, I realized that there was a distinct (and concerning) possibility that my round could be happening on the grass as well. Concerning because I have never ridden a stadium course on grass, my horse does not wear hind shoes, and the weather had definitely offered some rain the night before. Cue ulcer. It turns out everything below PT gets to play in the sand ring – I am now apparently in the big leagues and have to ride accordingly. Gulp.

Wearing a custom bonnet always makes your round go better right!

Despite all of this, I was actually feeling pretty stoked about our stadium round. I was going to ride forward, stay off her face and let her take me to the fences. I really felt that, if I could stay out of her way, we had a solid shot of actually placing pretty high at this event, because unicorn. For the first time I was not afraid of the jumps – sure they looked sizable during the course walk, but my horse handles Prelim XC without a sweat. We went into the ring confident and forward.

I challenged the first fence very aggressively for me, but unfortunately Vesper had been napping prior to the stadium round and was still not totally jazzed like I was expecting – we pulled a rail over our first fence. From that point on, it wasn’t nearly as excellent as I was hoping; she slipped multiple times in her back end, and I could tell she didn’t have the energy I was expecting and hoping for. I actually chased her into the 2 stride combo a bit, because she was backing herself off a bit and I was nervous that she would come in too quietly (I never imagined I would say that of Vesper the Mighty Freight Train). We pulled another rail going into the last line, and then I goofed our distance to the final fence which popped me out of the tack and left us with an ugly last jump, which wasn’t my favourite way to end the ride. I was really disappointed, to be honest. We could have absolutely killed it, but it ended up being sort of an average ride for us. We came away with 8 faults which pushed us into 12th place.

That being said, it was the most confident, forward round I’ve ever ridden and I did not have even a smidge of anxiety, even when our distance was off. That in itself is probably my greatest accomplishment of the entire weekend! It didn’t feel like much of a challenge, when a few months ago 3′ was like Puissance height to me. Somehow, somewhere, I have overcome a barrier that has limited me for as long as I can remember, and I finally feel like I am moving forward and achieving what I’ve always wanted to in my riding. I’m going to give Vesper most of the props for that, and my first horse Chester gets some too. Vesper has developed me into a confident rider despite all of my shortcomings, and I feel like the sky is the limit with this mare.

#baybae

After taking care of Vesper, I walked my XC course so that I wouldn’t have to arrive at the crack of dawn on Sunday. I’ll save that for the next post.

I packed up and took Vesper home, spending most of the drive fighting sleep. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that tired. I napped like a boulder once I got home and went to bed ridiculously early so as to be semi-refreshed for XC on Sunday. I spent much of the evening stressing about the footing (it was raining a bit and more was expected for XC day) and how Vesper had been slipping on the mostly-dry grass of the stadium – as well as jump #16 which you’ll get to see shortly. I decided that, even if we killed it in XC, we’d never come close to placing, so I would just enjoy a nice, safe ride without aiming for a ribbon. We’d take it easy and I would just have a good time.

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Hunter pace

With a week to go until The Event, I’ve been in very short shrift of jumps for far too long – a couple of months, in fact. We had lots of jumps at the last barn, but couldn’t use the arena due to the footing – and Vesper was coming back into work with slow conditioning, which made jumping more difficult than usual. Since moving barns, we have an abundance of poles, but no jump standards to hold them (yet – it’s a work in progress).

Poles for days

When the local hunt club posted on FB that they would be holding a hunter pace at the local XC park, I cleared my schedule because “XC practice and gallop conditioning!” I rode Vesper in a drag hunt with the club last year and absolutely loved it (non spoiler: so did she), and I’ve never participated in a pace before, so I was stoked.

Also clearly stoked

I was expecting it to be very busy, and was running behind in the morning, but as they had an hour between registration time and the posted start time, I figured we’d be fine. We arrived 10 min behind schedule (hours late in my reckoning) to only find about 4 other riders there, and they were still getting​ the registration papers organized. 

It was a super casual atmosphere, and the team running it is very friendly. More riders trickled in to swell our ranks to about 21 by my last count, and there were many first timers at either a pace or a hunt event in general. 

A smidge of our XC park

For those who are unfamiliar with a pace, it (or this one specifically) is set up similarly to a XC event: natural obstacles and a course are laid out, and an optimum time posted. The rider closest to the optimum time (either over or under) is the winner. This one had no obstacles over 0.9m which was perfect for me, as I’ll be competing at Pre Training in a week, which has fences up to 0.91m. They were almost exclusively logs of varying sizes, with one bank drop, a water question and an optional coop. Nothing new to us, except the bank had some larger options that I hadn’t ridden before.
We had the option to either ride the course as an individual or as a team of 2 or 3, but I chose to ride individually as I didn’t want to deal with my Dragon also trying to win a race against a teammate.

The whole group began with riding the course at a walk/trot (no obstacles yet) so we wouldn’t get lost on course. The horses were having a field day (ha) working in a group – it’s amazing to be in the middle of a herd of snorting, prancing horses eager to let loose and run, working as something of a team. Lots of nostalgia for when I galloped TBs at school. It’s marvelous to see them enjoying themselves so much. Inevitably, Vesper got excited and wanted to gallop the whole thing – halfway through the “course walk” my arms were exhausted from her pulling on me, she was huffing and sweaty already. I wasn’t sure if I would survive our actual run. She’s so excellent in a group, though, I was infinitely proud of her – no biting, no ear pinning, no kicking… Probably because she was so busy focusing on trying to run away from me.

“What is she talking about I was sleeping the whole time”

The first division was “novice” for riders who wanted the obstacles to be optional and a slower pace. Their OT was 12:00. We chilled for about 45 min before they were all finished and our “advanced” division started (jumps not optional, OT of 10:00). When I heard our OT, I almost laughed out loud. We would have to jog most of the course to come in around that time, as Vesper has a huge, ground-eating stride even at a casual lope. Still, I wasn’t particularly fussed about placing, I just wanted to have fun.
I went near the end of the individual riders in our division – I got the impression that there were 10-15 riders in the advanced group? It was hard to say though, as many of them came back to ride in a team. I let Vesper warm up into a canter and quickly allowed her to stretch out into a nice gallop, because going forward has long been my biggest weakness and I am slowly overcoming it. For the first time, I had not an iota of anxiety about it, either!

Jumps 1-3 were on the first hill, which is a bit screwy for seeing my distances, but facilitates a nice forward pace and as they were simple log verticals that probably maxed out at 2’6, I wasn’t concerned (um, that in itself is a big deal). #3 had an option of a weird line to an optional coop which we’ve jumped before, so I definitely took that one for fun. Then followed a looonnggg gallop down and around the perimeter of the xc field, looping up and down a few times. Vesper was surprisingly easy to rate, possibly because she was getting tired as we came back up the long incline. I also didn’t maintain a choke hold on her either, but let her motor along a bit because somehow I have developed trust in my unicorn and I’m no longer anxious about losing control. Next was a couple of smallish logs, and the bank drop. We trotted in as cool as can be, I slipped my reins like a pro and we took the second biggest option because I was feeling like a boss. Next time I’ll brave the bigger one, which has a small vertical on the edge of the drop. I wasn’t 100% confident yet in my ability to sit that kind of impact.

By this point, we were only about 5:00 in and were about 3/4 done. I don’t math, but I knew we would be coming in around 6-7min if I didn’t drop us down to a jog. I considered continuing on at a gallop just for the enjoyment, but my competitive side had kicked in and I wanted to win (they had saddle pads as 1st place prize). So I brought V down to a trot and we finished the course thus. A couple of small ramps, a ditch and the water splash were all that was left, and we finished at 8:26 walking across the finish line, hah. Vesper was puffed, but I felt great and had no knee problems, which has been a distinct concern recently.

It turns out that we came in 3rd place, but the winner was disqualified for missing some jumps, which bumped us up to 2nd place – and we won a scarf!

I love winning stuff, and I REALLY love scarves. Especially adorable horsey ones. ❤

A cherry on the top of a fun, confidence-boosting day. I came away totally stoked for my horse trial this coming weekend, feeling like I am finally a capable rider to partner with this amazing, kick-ass horse. I am so hooked on this eventing stuff (we’ll include hunting in that category), farewell to thee, hunter ring! Give me an open field and absurd obstacles any day. Riding a horse who loves it dearly is such a gift.

I may or may not have run out of gas on the drive home… We’ll leave that one for another time 😉

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This is happening, yo

Ah, the sweet burn of excitement and anxiety as it curdles in my stomach.

Past the point of no return

A friend invited me out to MREC to jump around on Saturday, as their facility is huge and beautiful and, as it’s where I will be competing in the 3 phase in T-14 days (gulp), I definitely wanted to get a look at their XC field.

MREC xc
I forgot to take photos so here’s one from Google of one of the *many* fabulous jumps

We had to stop at our old barn (which we left only a week ago, ha) to pick up Vesper’s best frenemy and my friend who leases her. Bobbi is the only horse that Vesper allows to show her any kind of sass. Bobbi is older and grumpier than Vesper, and pins her ears when Vesper goes to visit, but deep down they really like each other. Old ladies. I’m pretty sure Vesper was like ??? when we pulled into her old home and loaded up with her bestie; I probably should have given her more time to settle into her new home before screwing around with her brain like that, but I wasn’t charitable enough apparently.

Pretending to hate each other

You may recall that we played around at MREC in June at one of their H/J schooling shows, although I’ve never been there just to school on a warm-up day. I was curious to see how many people would be there, and felt a bit anxious about having to deal with “warm up ring” chaos – however I was very pleasantly surprised to find that, other than a group of 3, we were the only riders on the entire (massive) property. Talk about jackpot!
Typical Vesper couldn’t have been more chill once we started warming up… Does anyone else’s horse act more relaxed at a show or off property than at home? We should start entering some hunter classes. We played around in the jumper ring where the fences were set to around 2’3″, and when the other group came in to have a lesson, we wandered out to the XC field – it was that or the hunter ring, which was a pretty clear choice for the both of us!

They have so. many. jumps. It is eventer heaven out there. The water splash is treated to make it this absurdly blue/green that looks straight out of the Caribbean, or an aquarium, and is the prettiest thing to gallop through. They had bank jumps down into the water, log jumps of all sizes, along with every other XC question you could imagine out in the rest of the field. I zeroed in on a ramp with a brush along the top, as I’ve always wanted to jump something with brush (I once dreamed of being a steeplechase jockey, no lie) – it was inevitably bigger than anything I’ve ever jumped, but my friend basically told me to do it and she’d cheer from the sidelines, so I handed her my phone to film it and had at ‘er.

This was one of those life choices that I pondered the wisdom of as I executed it. However, my horse is basically Pegasus, and I managed not to get in her way, and she cruised over it NBD. My estimate is that it was about 3’6″? I was trembling with adrenaline after, but it was so worth it. Overcoming these huge mental obstacles is becoming a little easier every time!

After that, we basically played around over ramps, tables, weird logs and both up and down banks. I tried jumps I’ve never experienced before, because I trust Vesper infinitely out there. I have never encountered such a confident horse; she is utterly in her element on the XC field. Ears up, locked on to whatever fence I line us up to. She got us out of a couple of small mishaps where I accidentally didn’t set us up well, and I’m starting to let her pick the pace more and more.

We finished the day with a couple of 2’9″ fences back in the jumper ring. I definitely reconsidered entering PT, and dropping back down to Entry like we did last year, as I can very casually storm around Entry level stuff. However, I ended up sending in my forms putting us in PT, because I know Vesper is more than capable and I just need to trust her. I wanted a bit of a challenge, and I’m going to see it through.

Skip the small stuff

Now where did I put that ulcer medication…