So this past Sunday I went with my friend and co-boarder (her mare lives with Vesper) to a dressage/jumper show to play groom for her. I didn’t end up entering myself, because in order to do jumping rounds you also had to ride at least 1 dressage test, and my work schedule lately has resulted in reduced riding time. We can easily bomb around a jumper course with little prep (all I have to do is steer and not fall off on a bad day) but dressage takes a lot more preparation and I didn’t feel confident about riding a test. Yes it was a schooling show, so yes I could have just moosed through it, but I always want to bring my A game to a show, even a bitty schooling one.
It was the first outing for my friend and her mare as a team, and they did a walk-trot test which was a lovely round and exactly what she was hoping for. I was there to play groom, hold things, take video and be generally helpful, because I myself get show anxiety and having someone there to hand me things and talk me off the ledge makes a world of difference. It was kind of enjoyable to not have to do any prep myself, and just appreciate the show ambiance!
Who am I kidding, I was antsy as anything not having a horse to ride myself there 😂. It certainly got me fired up for my own show season. I’ve been pretty chill up until now about planning my summer shows, but all of a sudden I realized that it’s now April (when did this happen) and one of the horse trials I was maybe aiming for is in June. Ha ha ha ha. Yikes. Many of my work days are 14 hours long, which means I don’t ride on those days, so each ride needs to start counting for something if we’re going to be fit enough (and confident enough) for a pre-training event.
Yesterday was a flat day, and since it had been miraculously dry for a few days in a row we rode outside in
China the huge arena as I wanted to get some gallop sets in to start building Vesper’s wind. We started out with some really solid trot work including lengthening, however apparently I accidentally telepathically communicated to her about the gallop sets, so we struggled some with the shortening portions of the ride. Once we picked up the canter, she was right away trying to haul through the bit which is unusual for her – generally the canter starts out pretty lumbering and warms up into something bigger. It has been a while since we rode outside, so maybe she was feeling more spritely than usual. She doesn’t know she’s an old lady.
I had a difficult time maintaining a canter or even a hand gallop as she just really wanted to let loose and run. I severely dislike riding on her mouth, as it took me so long to soften the hard mouth she had when I bought her, but I couldn’t give her even an inch without her trying to take a mile. So I let her blow off some steam for a few laps, and once she realized she’s not Grand National fit, she eased off a bit and we got some much nicer paces in both directions to finish off.
Of course she was now blowing like the senior she is, and I’m hoping she has decided that I may be allowed to set the pace from now on (probably not if we’re being honest). I’m going to slowly incorporate more stamina work, and if the weather stops being so wet, we can start going out to the cross country field where there’s more space and different scenery.
We cooled out along the trails since they were relatively dry. Vesper is getting more chill out there as she realizes that we always come back to the barn. I can tell she enjoys the change of view, but there’s always an element of anxiety involved.
So now it’s time to actually pick a jumper show and pick a horse trial. More and more I’m leaning towards the September/October HT as that will give us extra time to get ourselves prepared. Likely our first jumper show will be no earlier than June, as most weekends in May are already booked with a billion activities. And also, you know, start actually jumping a height we will be competing at.