When we left off yesterday, I had just finished up the ticketed warmup and changed my goal from “hunter derby domination” to “survive hunter derby with a smile on my face.” Since I was almost at the end of the 2’6″ order of go, I put Simon in the trailer (since he could no longer be tied) and watched some of the horse show for a while.
The course had a few “surprises” since we couldn’t school all the jumps in the ticketed warm-up. The first fence was new to us, but an inviting single I didn’t worry about. Then I had to jump the hay bales from a new direction to oxer options that I hadn’t gone over before turning to the oxer to oxer options bending line I had done in the ticketed warm up. Next was my old friend, outside two stride to bending five stride followed by a tightish turn to the high option wooden plank which was a bending line to the high option “astro turf”… and then we were done!
It wasn’t an easy course by any means, but my horse is pretty awesome at turns and bending lines so that wasn’t my concern. I was concerned about making the strides, and jumping all those biggish oxers.
I watched and talked with friends for a while before I realized that they were moving through this class really quickly, and I should probably get ready. We went back to the trailer to get dressed (Tim had watched videos on how to tie a stock tie the night before… can we officially agree that he’s the best?) and I had lots of help getting Simon tacked up and off the trailer. Still, I didn’t time things well and by the time I got on I heard them call “Something So Right” four trips away. Whoops.
My trainer in her infinite calmness and we-don’t-panic-ever attitude said that the pros just get right on and canter a jump! I barely had time to laughingly remind her how I was so not a pro before I was literally cantering over two warmup jumps and then heading to the derby ring.
I’m sure she gave me really good tips as she helped wipe my boots and the slime off Simon’s constantly drooling mouth, but really I kept repeating to myself to breathe and relax and just go out there and do this to the best of my ability. That it was just a hunter course with a really cool coat to wear.
There were lots of deep breaths when I trotted in the ring and took my time getting a good setup for the canter to my first fence.
Our distance to the first single was close, but not horrible. Luckily, Simon is pretty attractive jumping from a variety of spaces so I’m sure he made the distance look a lot better than it actually was.
As I cantered past the in-gate to the hay bales, I heard my trainer tell me to pick up the pace. A little cluck and some leg and we were moving a bit more… but when I got to the hay bales in what would have been a longish spot I just kinda didn’t do anything and the jump caught us both off guard. Later my trainer said it was if I got to the jump and told Simon that I could take it or leave it… and I think that’s kinda what I did! I just wasn’t riding much, and it wasn’t pretty.
After the crappy hay bale, I literally forgot where I was going. I just cantered to the corner and then two strides later went “Oh shit there are jumps ahead!” and totally zig-zagged to whichever oxer option happened to be in front of me. It was the low (thank goodness) and out distance wasn’t bad but man it was kind of a “toad’s wild ride” getting there haha.
After these mistakes, I knew it was time to kick it in gear a bit and actually ride my horse. We did a nice turn to the oxer, and got a good distance.
In the bending line to the next set of oxer options, I just didn’t commit to doing the strides. I let Simon do his in-between canter and in return we got an in-between distance… and chipped the add. He then landed on the right lead before our left turn. When I asked for the change, he swapped the front and then I half-halted for him to catch up which he did a few strides later. Then I gave a lot of leg because we had our outside line coming up and I did not want to add in the two stride like I had this morning.
A little clucking and maybe a teeny kick made the two stride easy peasy which in turn made the five stride to the oxer easy peasy. I was really pleased with this line, progress!
Finally it was time for our last line of the course. He landed on the right lead, and swapped in the front but counter-cantered the rollback to the high option. I think that situation will get better as I continue to get a better feel for my leads, but with the tight approach to the high option I felt like I didn’t have a lot of time to correct the hind. Therefore our jump to the high plank was a little awkward, but not awful.
The bending line to our green high option was non eventful, and when I landed that jump and did my courtesy circle I had a big grin on my face. Success!
As I exited the ring they announced our score as a 60 with two high options for a total of 62. Honestly I was less concerned with the score, but secretly hoping to score out of the 50’s… so 62 felt really fair to me. After all we had one ugly jump, a late (although good for us) change, a chip and a cross-canter jump. I heard some comments that the judging seemed all over the place, but honestly I felt like a 60 was fair for our trip.
The cut-off score to come back was a 74, so next year we will try to up it by 10 points and do all the high options 😉 Overall I was really pleased with our first derby. I felt like my horse did a great job (per always) of saving me when I got to a bad spot, and I proved that I can do some effective riding and help him out when he needs it. I just need to learn to do that riding earlier than halfway through the course!
All in all, no complaints from this gal. There’s a teeny chance we maybe even do another derby next month but only time will tell…