For reasons outside the barn, this has been the toughest week of my life. I needed a good show, and my nerd horse gave me his whole heart on Saturday. I am so proud.
I felt more confident going into this show than I did last year for my semi-disasterous 2’6″-2’9″ debut. Pace is beginning to be less of a mystery to me, and after 20 years of riding “sit up and go forward” is starting to become more than just a passing thought.
Plus, trainer schooled us the perfect way on Friday afternoon. I decided not to lunge when arriving to the show, and although Simon was super fresh warming up… once he saw the jumps he was all business. Was he a little nervous? Yes, but he also enthusiastically listened to my request to go forward and he took me over a lot of big hunter jumps. My trainer said after the fact that the giant roll top she set up for us was closer to 3′ than 2’9″, which I thought was cause for a margarita celebration.
Saturday came along, and it was a hot one. When I left the house at 9:30 it was already 85, so I did my best to hydrate and stay in the shade during the day. I hand walked Simon, but otherwise kept him cool and stuffed with hay in the hours that led up to our jumper classes.
We were signed up for 3 Intro Jumpers for 2’6″-2’9″. Two jump offs and one timed first round.
Getting on, I was pretty nervous. Simon was uncharacteristically hard to ride on the flat in the open grass arena with the warm up jumps. He was picking up the wrong lead and being stiff as a board. We did some leg yielding, which helped a bit. It just wasn’t a fantastic warm up, but we jumped a few singles and a few oxers before deciding it was time.
The jumps may have been set fairly soft, but I’m really happy to report that they did not look big to me. I actually think we schooled larger the day before, so that took some pressure off for sure.
The first course was identical to the hunter courses that ran previously, and I relaxed with the easy “outside inside outside inside” familiarity. Since it was a jump off class, I took advantage of going deep in my corners. We started off a tad on the slow side, but with my trainer kissing to Simon down the 1st line we quickly got the right pace for the rest of the course.
I was proud that nothing felt loose or out of control. We only added in the first line, and got the one stride with no problem (pictures look long, but that just may be life consequence of Simon’s stride… it didn’t feel long).
We kept all the rails up, and I halted a very excited Simon to pet him and catch my breath before the jump off.
The jump off consisted of a few roll backs and singles, which is something we’re good at… so sometime after the first jump I decided to go for it a little. This was more than just surviving… I wanted to win! So we took a tight first rollback.
He slipped in the footing, and dolphin leaped his way out of trouble without falling or unseating me. His slip also caused a horse in the warmup ring next of us to buck its rider off, and all of this happened about 3 strides from the fence. I sat up and we got over it, but my mind went WINNING IS SCARY MY HORSE IS PROBABLY BLEEDING RIGHT NOW and we took a loooooooooong turn for the next planned rollback.
The pace was still good and Simon was not upset by slipping, but I was just rattled and couldn’t manage another tight immediately after. We went double clear, but the extra long turn caused us in time. We ended up 6th out of more than 6 but I’m not sure exactly how many.
After the class, Simon and I were halfway wiped out. It was so hot and neither one of us is super fit right now. He was breathing harder than he ever has before, but recovered to normal quickly.
We walked and waited for class two, which was timed 1st round. Fastest time wins. I had planned to treat it like a hunter course again, but my trainer pointed out two areas in the course where I could go through jumps and cut my time way down. The turns looked a tad tricky, but doable so I agreed.
This time we had plenty of pace going in, and headed to the coop oxer with an aggressive canter. Even though our pace was good, I was getting tired and riding a bit sloppy. At one point I lost my right rein entirely and kind of pointed at the jump with my left hand while I got my right rein back. My saintly horse was like “That jump? I WILL GALLOP TO IT!” because he was having so much fun and trying so hard for me.
We ended up getting the turns my trainer wanted, and I cut the corner heading into my last line. He zoned in on the line right away, and in the middle I said out loud “Gallop!” and pushed my hands forward to let him know to go for the 6 (a long 6 stride) instead of the short 7 we did earlier. He gave me 110% and clicked his heels together clearing the last jump.
For that class we got a well deserved 2nd, and I was thrilled.
(This is a video of the 2nd half of the course)
However, both Simon and I were huffing and puffing and covered in sweat. With my riding being on the sloppy side for my last course, I mentioned scratching my 3rd class to my trainer. She quickly agreed since Simon had been SO perfect, and we both felt like there was nothing to prove by doing a third. One year I may point chase, but this is not that year. I was so happy we had happy, confident rounds at this height that I could have burst.
Now that his Mommy is riding with some gusto, Simon is officially a jumper. He says there’s no going back and this is the most fun he’s ever had.
It’s probably some of the most fun I’ve ever had as well!