My weekend of showing has come and gone. I’m sitting at home with a light sunburn, a mild headache and a lot of feels. Then again, when don’t I have a lot of feelings? When I came back from the San Antonio show in February, I was exploding with happiness and hope. My feelings as I write this blog post tonight are quite a bit more complicated and a lot less positive.
I’ve decided to break up this show report into two phases. First, what happened. Second, how I feel about it. In case you readers are bracing yourself for oh so exciting tales of drama and danger, I can tell you that it mostly boils down to lead changes. I’ve talked lead changes to death on this blog, and they still aren’t exciting. Anyway, on to the objective report of what happened in my 2.5 days at the show.
On Friday afternoon in the schooling ring, I hit the dirt.
I’d like to say this was surprising, but I fell in the exact same way I have fallen in the past. Turns out that when you ask for a lead change, zig-zagging is not the way to go. I know, I know… y’all are shocked. Simon actually warmed up beautifully. I was able to trot him around the crowded ring on the buckle without him being a giraffe. For a moment, I had a thought similar to, “I’m finally getting to feel what it’s like to have my nice relaxed show hunter!”
Of course 20 minutes later I got to feel what it was like to have arena dirt in my butt crack. Spoiler alert – not awesome.
My fall was as minor as a fall can be. Simon completed the change I was asking for as I flew through the air and onto my large butt. I immediately knew I wasn’t hurt, and sighed before yelling out “I’m okay!” to my trainer who was jogging over. Simon stood next to be extremely bewildered that he did a clean lead change, but somehow lost his rider. For those of you who may be confused as to how I fell doing what is now considered my trademark move, we were cantering straight towards the rail on the right lead. I needed to do a change to the left, but instead of asking him to go straight I let Simon drift right as if he were turning before jerking him to the left. When I kicked left, he dropped his shoulder and cut like a cow horse. Lead change did happen, but I wasn’t a part of it.
I figured I would not be any kind of equestrian if I couldn’t get right back on and keep schooling, so that’s what I did. The first couple of fences Simon was cautious because he didn’t want to lose mom again, but we ended fine and I felt fairly optimistic for the next morning.
My first class was a 2’6″ warmup. Like we tend to do, I took full advantage of the warmup being a practice round. We ugly chipped out of each line and didn’t have much consistency to the round.
Second class was a 2’6″ hunter round. We blew this class from the start by race trotting across the ring and picking up the wrong lead first thing, mostly pilot error on my part. Everything else wasn’t terrible. This time our pace was much more smooth, and we didn’t add in any of the lines. Simon offered one clean change with very little effort on my part, but the other time only changed the front and would never catch up behind (this is going to become a pattern for the weekend). We were also pretty wiggly into the outside line.
The third and final class was a 2’6″-2’9″ hunter round. This was by far my favorite trip, with a good pace and few wiggles in the lines. My distances were also much better, but Simon would not fix his leads. Since my clean lead changes are almost non-existent, we have taught him to trot a half step and catch up in the hind – a skip change. At home we do this all the time, but despite doing a full change the course prior Simon flipped me the bird on lead changes this course.
With 16 people in the 2’6″ (Modified) and 24 in the 2’9″ (YNP) we were not even close to pinning, even when they double pinned the larger class.
The next morning I headed to the show grounds before the sun rose so I could school in the outside ring for the 2’6″ equitation medal. The minute I sat on Simon, he was electric. That horse has not been so wild at a horse show since the first one I took him to back in 2012. Trainer and I decided he needed lunging, and after I let him canter the willies out he schooled like a gentleman for me in the outdoor ring.
The 2’6″ Medal is one of my favorite classes, because they always have a super hard course for it. Trainer and I discussed doing two inside turns that most people were not going to do, and in our actual round Simon pulled those off very well. Unfortunately we had some bigger issues to contend with. I gave him a weak ride to the first fence, and on the only line of the course I thought I had all the pace we needed… but he just didn’t get there. Another ugly chip. The one time I needed a change he eventually caught up the hind, but it wasn’t pretty.
We were to finish our show weekend back inside, but the wait took forever. After five hours, I got back on my horse for a leisurely warmup. Since Simon had been a bit of a turd about skip changes the day before, trainer decided we needed to school several in the warmup ring to reinforce the issue. We did, and he got three with no drama.
The first inside class on Sunday was a 2’6″ Modified equitation trip. I was happy with the first half of our course. Though it took him several strides to catch up the hind, he did offer me a skip change. When it was time for another change, Simon again ignored me and blew through my aids. This lead to a really ugly line with zig-zagging and adding, and we finished the course pretty zoomy.
For my next class, Modified 2’6″ Hunter II, my trainer said to ask for my changes earlier. That way I would have longer in the corners to get him to get the hind. This was a good plan, and when Simon was nice and straight about two strides after my first fence I asked for the change.
I kicked him, and he swapped the front and then ignored me as he blasted the rest of the way to the fence. In the next corner he immediately changed the front, but every time I slowed him down (what I do at home) to trot-step catch the hind, he acted like he was going to and then didn’t. Repeat after pretty much every fence. Despite schooling this issue at home (successfully) for almost a year plus now, and having success previously that weekend he totally flipped me the bird and said, “Nope I’m not doing a lead change. Not now. Not ever, and you can’t make me.”
So that was that. I scratched my last class.
Those are the blunt facts of my show this weekend. Tomorrow, what’s in-between the lines.