Success! Our 2 jumper shows for the year are complete, and we will be shelving show season until our horse trial in September. I didn’t mean to end up with 2 shows on back to back weekends, but due to her recent fetlock strain I wanted to start with a really light weight show, give her a week to rest and then try something a little more difficult to allow her time to let me know if anything was off. She had hind shoes applied this past week too, which has made her a lot more comfortable on our hard, dry footing.
If you want to see last show’s review, check it out here.
I was infinitely delighted that husband promised to help me this week, and the venue was only a 15 minute drive, so I was expecting a bit of an easy day. I received my approximate start times a few days in advance and was stoked that I could sleep in. I always pack the trailer the night before so that I reduce my show day stress level by about 300%. However, we had a killer heat wave blast through the day before, and temperatures were expected to be up in the low 30s (that’s Celsius, folks) on show day. Our summers rarely hit 30°C and when it happens, we mostly just lock ourselves indoors with the A/C on high. Not crazy little me! Nope, I’m going to a horse show!
I brought an extra water bucket to serve as the “dunk bucket” – hats, bandanas, shirts, fly sheet, fly bonnet all got dunked many times throughout the day, and I didn’t give a hoot how gross I may have looked with water running down my whole face. It was a wonderful way to keep V cool(er) though, as she was stuck in the sun at the trailer. I just re-soaked her Kool Coat every time it dried out, and kept her drinking water filled and cold. She got 2 squirts of cough medicine through the day as she has mild COPD and the heat/humidity makes it harder for her to come down after intense physical exertion.
We arranged the coolers and chairs in the horse part of the trailer to stay out of the sun (poor husband is fair and burns way too easily – he’s not even a ginger), and my mom showed up bearing the most delicious San Pellegrinos I’ve ever tasted. I may not have eaten between 9:30am and 5:30pm (too many nerves and adrenaline to eat), but I drank 2 SPs and about a lake-ful of water.
Now, once we had settled in, I went over to check in and check out the course. They were running a bit ahead of schedule, which was wonderful, but I still had an almost 2 hours gap between my Entry (2’9) class and my Pre Training (3′) warm up class. After that it would be a very short time until my Pre Training timed class and my Training (3’3) warm up class.
Now, I peeked at the arena itself and it looked both beautiful and intimidating. It was a derby show, which means about half of the fences are cross country fences mixed in with the stadium jumps. There’s also no jump off in a derby class, which I deeply appreciate. Memorizing one course round is enough for me, thanks. Vesper is a beast in XC, but I wasn’t 100% sure how she would feel about them condensed into an arena instead of out on the big field. My casual attitude started to break down a bit at this point.
THEN I checked out my first course on paper and the rest of my confidence melted in the hot sun. I do not exaggerate when I say: every single jump that was not part of a combination (of which there were 2) was part of a roll back. That’s 9 roll backs.
Guess what I’ve been telling myself to practice but somehow never do. Roll backs. Guess what we are really weak at because Vesper banks like an airplane and my outside aids aren’t great. Roll backs. Oye.
I had never ridden such a technical course before – they had a 2 stride bending line, that was practically a roll back, from a XC fence to another XC fence! – and I developed this weird pain in my abdomen that I was semi sure was me having a heart attack. I went from feeling pretty confident like last week, to feeling the most nervous I ever have for a show, which includes the 1 dressage test I’ve ridden. But we’re here, we’ve paid, and it’s got to be done!
Warm up was about 2 laps of trot, 1 flying change and 3 jumps – Vesper knocked down the entire first one, what an encouraging start. Good thing I know my horse really well – because it was disgustingly hot and she just knows her job so well. I check our brakes, steering and aids, and that’s about all that’s necessary.
I went in pretty quickly to my Entry class, which is awesome because I can’t sit and stew while others jump – my anxiety can’t take it. I’ll happily go first or second so I don’t have to wait too long.
I carried a whip for the first time since I bought her as I wasn’t sure what to expect with some of those XC fences. She’s never once given me a refusal, but she has bobbled in the past at jumps that look really weird. However, my perfect mare didn’t hesitate once – at the fences that looked funky, she simply backed herself off a bit so she could get a better idea of the obstacle and how to manage it. Gosh this horse is worth more than her weight in gold. We managed a lovely forward round with only a couple of not-so-pretty distances, which is a huge improvement from me chipping us in to every fence like in the past. Take a watch below on YouTube:
We came away with a 4th place in this, which was pretty great as I never expect us to place in our jumper shows – usually we’re competing against ponies that blitz around like demons, or those crazy riders who take every short turn and make it look easy. I like our rounds to be effective and clean, so speed isn’t my preference. I’m perfectly happy with that! So getting a ribbon (and a fun pair of socks!) was a neat little bonus.
Then the long break between classes. I was feeling way more settled after riding a successful and strong round, so the Pre Training class wasn’t worrying me any longer. I just knew I would need to ride even more forward, and Vesper would probably need a bit more encouragement as the hot day wore on and she got bored and lazy standing around.
We hung out in the cool(ish) trailer, watched a class called Gambler’s Choice where each jump has a point value and the rider with the most points in 1 minute wins money: jumps can be ridden either direction as many times as you like. It was slightly insane but entertaining. I’m glad I didn’t enter as I have a hard enough time stressing about a set course, let alone trying to make up my own, with the added pressure of a money prize.
When it came time for my 3′ warm up round, I went in planning to really attack those jumps. A couple of them looked intimidating, but since we had jumped them all in our Entry round (albeit a.aller versions), I was feeling confident. Things went well until the second fence in the second combination, a flowery oxer, when Vesper refused for the first time since I have known her. I was planning to sit quiet and let the 2 strides happen naturally as they had in the previous class, but something threw her off and she bobbled, tried to chip in and ended up doing a sliding stop almost under the jump. I was totally shocked, but we circled around and came at it by itself and she went over it without much encouragement. I think I tapped her shoulder with the whip as I could feel she wanted to go around it. Obviously her confidence was a bit rattled. It was extraordinarily strange for my maximum-brave horse to be thrown off by a stadium oxer, even one with a few flowers. I chalk it up to us not coming in to the first fence strong enough, so she didn’t have the impulsion she needed to make the bigger fence in the 2 strides comfortably. This being a warm up class, we could do whatever we wanted so we finished up the fences I would be jumping in the timed event and nothing else fazed her.
Our timed round came shortly after as I didn’t want to sit and dwell on what went wrong. I went in with a really determined plan to push for a big gallop, which only worked some of the time because old habits die hard. I fiddled too much again going into that 2 stride combo, and I could tell her confidence was weak, so she bobbled again, but did actually go over it this time – unfortunately we knocked the whole thing down and I lost my stirrup, but she got big praise and pats while I desperately tried to recover my balance. I reclaimed my stirrup and we rode the rest of it clean and strong, which resulted in a 6th place.
Due to the 2 issues at the same fence, I decided to scratch from our Training round. I could have gone in and just played a few of the Training jumps, since it wasn’t a judged class and was just a warm up round, but we were both knackered and I wanted to end on a strong, confident note.
Most people had left already as the heat was brutal, and my mare gave me so much that she deserved to go home and rest. When we got back to the trailer and I was rubbing down her legs with liniment, I found this:
This was from when she hit the brakes and basically sat down under the jump. My poor girl, her super thick tail was hiding them or else I wouldn’t have ridden our 3′ timed round. She wasn’t at all sore, and was a great sport as I cleaned them, applied diaper rash cream (my ultimate favourite first aid item) and wrapped them to keep clean. They looked a lot less angry after being washed:
Vesper got tucked away back home with a big hay net and dinnertime grain, and k took a shower in the wash rack under the hose held by husband. Ghetto? Probably, but I had to go straight out to theatre rehearsal from the barn and I smelled like an old gym bag full of horse hair. Ugh. It was actually very effective though, I just wore a bathing suit and flip flops and scrubbed down with shampoo. 1/1 would recommend.
It turns out that I also won braiding pearls (hoooo my inner dressage queen is squeeing!) and a hoof pick from a “name the stuffed pony” draw they were doing. Except for the one teensy problem that my horse has a roached mane and may never get to wear braids again if her mane doesn’t grow back*cue loud sobbing*.
So that’s that until Sept 1-3 when we compete in my first horse trial at Pre Training. These past 2 weekends really boosted my confidence and trust in my horse, and showed me what we need to work on between now and then. I rode with no fear in any of my classes, which is the greatest accomplishment for my riding goals, and I am going to really drill my distances as that’s something I need to fine-tune. I had so much fun, and left wanting more, which is exactly how I want to feel after every show!