Well, it’s finally here: our first show of 2017! In fact now that I think about it, this may be our first show since the end of 2015… I don’t think we went to any in 2016. If I recall correctly, I opted to spend the show budget on a drag hunting clinic and hunt (super worth it, PS) last year.
Super budget rider = few shows and only local cheap ones. Which I’m totally fine with, as I already feel pressure and performance anxiety at local schooling shows – there’s no way I could handle a rated show. I have no desire to spend my show day in the first aid tent hyperventilating, thanks!
The plan is to drive to Maple Ridge Equi-Sport Centre this coming Sunday June 18 for a H/J schooling show and hit up some low-level classes to get us tuned up a bit (sub 3′ jumper classes). We have barely jumped in the last 2 months because of the set back that was Vesper’s fetlock strain, so I don’t have any particularly high expectations for this show: I just want to do a couple of clean rounds that leave us (basically me) feeling confident. I’m the type of person who mentally struggles to jump anything larger than 2’9 at home, but when I arrive at a show, I suddenly seem to think everything looks tiny and have this surge of confidence that only lasts while I’m on the show grounds. So the plan is to enter anything 2’6-2’9 and then just see how it goes. I may have stuck in one 3′ class too, but we’ll see how the week plays out and how I feel on the day of. I’d be happy to walk away with some solid 2’6-2’9 rounds that went really well (aka brakes and steering all fully functional).
The following Sunday, June 25 is a local derby show which we have also entered, and is more The Show for me than at MREC. It gives us an extra week of prep, and somehow while I was filling out the entry form I must have blacked out because I entered us into a Training level jumper warm up class (3’3). The warm up classes are not judged so way less pressure, but still… Gulp. I’m getting twisty-tummy just thinking about it.
Since my Big Deal Show of the year in September is a 3 phase horse trial at Pre-training, I told myself to stop being a pansy and try a Training class. That’s the “protocol”, right? Show at the level under what you’re schooling at home? I seem to be the opposite… It must be show day adrenaline or something.
I had enough heads up to be able to start bringing Vesper back into shape with the goal of showing on the 18th, and everything has been coming along swimmingly. Her leasor flats/dressages her 2 days per week, which conveniently allows me to spend many our rides working on over fence stuff without feeling guilty for not putting in enough flat rides between. I’ve been keeping the fences really low and focusing on technical work instead of height – it’s me who needs practice and confidence on the height, but both of us need help in the technical side, so I’ve opted to put in our time there.
I set up something that allowed us to work on areas of weakness: turns and lines. Wait, isn’t that basically the entirety of jumping? Oops. The hardest thing for me is sitting and waiting and finding our distance in a straight line, so I made a single vertical with tons of space in either direction (and a pole mimicking the same thing) and a 4 stride line. Having no fence along the arena has actually forced us to improve our turns and outside aids, because we will literally fall out of the arena if they are crap – which has already happened. I never realized that I was totally cheating and using arena fences as outside aids until we moved to this barn!
Our first day of schooling this involved only cross rails as I didn’t want to cheat – I really wanted to nail some accuracy. Vesper generally poo-poos anything smaller than 2’6 but she was a pretty good sport the last few days. She was actually really polite and didn’t haul me around like usual. The 4 stride line is still anywhere between 3.5 (only when she hauled me through) and 5, but someday I’ll get it maybe. Thank goodness jumpers and eventers don’t care how many strides you put in between fences… I could probably fit 11 into a 5 stride line if left to my own devices.
For the first time since I was probably 9, I rode in bit roundings, or converters, yesterday. Vesper jumps and goes xc in a French link pelham which we both love – it’s a soft, communicative mouthpiece with the curb chain as an e-brake when she gets excited and ignores me. I always ride using 2 reins for correct control of each part of the bit, and in general I am a firm believer that this bit should be ridden with 2 reins. However, when I ran my first xc back in September, I found having 2 sets of reins to be very cumbersome, and fumbled them more than once when I was trying to stay out of her way (at the drop bank was the worst, I definitely nailed her in the mouth by accident). After much research and consideration, I decided that I would try the roundings for xc and see if the bit was still effective. Having roundings actually changes the dynamic of the bit and doesn’t work it as it is meant to be used, so this would be very experimental…
For safety’s sake, I decided to try the roundings at home during a jump school as opposed to straight out onto the xc field when brakes are super important. Since the fences would be 2’9 and lower, I didn’t expect to need to use our e-brake much or at all, but wanted to play around with it and see how Vesper felt.
It turned out to be one of the best jump schools we’ve had in a very long time – but I can’t tell you if the roundings played a role at all! She certainly respected the bit when she did choose to plow through my body one time into our line, and came right back to me very politely when I engaged the pelham. I was able to be quite light in my hands the whole ride. After the jumping we went for a gallop around the track, and she settled onto the bit in perfect racehorse fashion and she really hit some speed. I could tell she was really comfortable and happy. Now, there are a few factors that could have contributed to such a good ride: we often break things up by going out on the track to keep her brain from frying, the weather was perfect, she’s back in regular work, etc. So the jury is still out on this one.
I am going back to 2 reins for the jumper shows this month, but the xc field down the road opens up near the end of June so I’m going to test out the roundings again when we go there and see how we like it. I would be stoked if I didn’t have to fumble with 2 reins during xc and also be able to keep our bit set up.
Now it’s a case of cleaning tack (and finding another set of curb reins because I dropped mine on the track and can’t find them, how embarassing), keeping pony fit, and remaining mentally cool until Sunday. Recap will happen on the other side!