Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Rabbit Hole Gets Deeper!

As we walked/rode the course the day before the schooling show, I asked Coach exactly where my course was… As she looked around, she replied, “Well, I’m really not sure. Because that’s a starter fence there… And that’s another one over there…” They were buried in grass taller than the jumps themselves. I decided not to eat until after I finished showing.

When we arrived Sunday morning, the starter jumps had been mowed around, but the path had not been mowed. Nine out of the twelve jumps would be approached out of belly-deep grass. I started feeling a little nauseous…

Coach walked the course with me. She told me how each fence was going to ride, and she was spot-on. For some reason, I was having a miniature heart attack…

Dressage was straightforward. She was consistent and obedient, but she was against my hand more than usual for the halts. We entered an extra test at Training-3 just to see what we need to focus on to get to the next level. I about jumped out of my skin to discover that we had scored a 7 on our free walk loop!!

Understand, our free walk was scoring 5’s last time, and she wasn’t inclined to stretch much further this time… And free walk straight? Not a chance! Free walk a loop? Why would we even try it? I threw my reins away and went for it anyway. What a good girl!

I didn’t get a chance to walk my stadium course. The combination was going to be sticky, but Coach and I didn’t even discuss it. She was throwing enough other stuff at me, all super basic, that I couldn’t have processed it anyway. I headed in with her telling me, “Just go jump the them!”

Remember. This is the mare’s very first horse trial. This is not the manicured hunter ring that we showed in last time. This is a grassy field that got rained on the day before and is still wet. It just happens to have some fences thrown up. And the first fence is an oxer!
Carousel Pony in the manicured Hunter ring
I put my leg on, threw my heart over, and prayed! She was over! I was so excited to get her over, I forgot to ride my course for a stride. Oops! Oh, there’s my next fence! Let’s go!

By fence 3, we were rockin’ and rollin’ and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m not riding straight lines… I’m weaving like a drunk, and asking her to jump these fences off of anything except a straight line. She generously played along. I finally started getting it together heading into the combination, but I allowed her to drift to the right. Without that lovely, perfectly straight approach, she didn’t stand a chance. She ran out at the second fence. It was totally my fault, and I knew it. I trotted my circle and took the combination again. I almost left out the cross-rail after that, but remembered at the last second, and I’m speaking a running commentary the entire time. Finally, we sighted in our last fence. I aimed for the middle and launched over it at what felt like warp speed. I’m sure we finally reached a nice jumping stride. Now that the course was over, I wanted to puke. I knew what was next…
What rockin' and rollin' felt like at the last show!

I knew I hadn’t breathed over the entire stadium course, so I just needed a few moments to catch my breath before heading cross-country. I walked into the start box and just stood. And breathed. I closed my eyes, swallowed, and tried to push my anxiety back down to my navel. OK. I was as ready as I was going to get. It was go time, or I needed to walk away. So, I went!

As I approached the first fence, I now understood why Coach had me jump the next level right off the bat. I trotted up to it, she zeroed in and cantered, and we cleared it with nonchalance. Three strides after, we turned for the coop. She told me this was for the birds, that we didn’t take these right after each other… I pushed her into a frame and brought her to a trot. She zeroed in again, got wiggly, I framed her a little stronger, and she stepped up to canter it. I took out a braid while I hung on for my life. I didn’t breathe again until we were halfway to the next fence.

We cantered all the way to the little roll top and had our rhythm all the way to the other side. That’s when I remembered we had to cut through the grass. It’s belly high, so I trot through it and look for the rails hiding somewhere out there… She hopped it like it was nothing, but I grabbed mane again just to make sure I didn’t apply any sort of contact until we were firmly landed on the other side. Into the grass again while I look for the red half-roll… She sees it and starts to canter around it. Coach had said she would do that. We wiggled and trotted and launched over it from a short spot. I pulled a couple more braids out and watched one of the rubber bands float to the side and land in the grass. I felt soothed by that sight, for some reason.

Now, we’re headed across the mowed path to the bench… Another one we hadn’t seen or jumped yet… she sucked back further and further… I could tell it was a reaction to me, even though I thought this one looked smaller than the rest… I started clucking with every trot step and pulsing my calves… She stopped sucking back and maintained. Again, we took the crazy short spot. But we went over it! And cantered out the other side!

I didn’t have time to feel sick, now. I was too busy riding my horse and looking for the next jump! Another set of timbers in the grass, and she didn’t even glance at them… Some little ascending rails, and she thought nothing of those, as well. They all just looked like variations of logs.

We cantered down into a dip (oh, holy cow! Breathe!) and up out of it right to the first log rail of a bending line. Over it we go, and headed straight to the second one. Just like Coach said, we rode it straight, she wiggled on her way, and it set us up for a straight approach to the second one, and over that one, too!

Finally, I’m convinced in my head (not quite in my heart, yet) that if I just push with my legs and kiss, she will, indeed, go over whatever I point her at. Now, we’re approaching the cabin. I nearly had a meltdown at this one when we walked it. The width just makes it look so big! I know it’s tiny. I would have laughed as I jumped it with the Old Man, but alas he wasn’t here to do it with me, and I need to ride the horse I’m on.

I pulled myself together and pretended that I was certain we had this in hand. Psycho Mare believed my act, and it was the easiest jump on the course! Only one more set of log rails that looks like a wall of logs… She didn’t like the line we had, so she sidestepped to the right about 10 inches, called it good, and lunged over the last jump on our course! She clipped it with a hind hoof, but neither of us paid it any mind as we cantered out the other side. I suddenly remembered that we were, in fact, being timed, so I lengthened our canter up to a hand gallop until we crossed the finish line. I brought her down slowly… Then trotted… Then walked… And suddenly realized I was still alive! I was still on my horse! We were done, and we finished with a number!!

All told, we finished with a score of 44 and took fourth place.

First-ever horse trial - Pre-Beginner Novice - been under saddle for 7 months

Despite my sudden mental instability, I was still in the game!  I wanted to cry, but I was too focused on breathing.
I'm thinking that the Psycho Mare just might be turning into the Super Mare!
I was so keyed up about the cross-country course, I completely forgot to pick up my blue ribbon for Training-3 Dressage!


  1. That's a great score to finish on! Congrats!

  2. Thanks guys! I am so beyond thrilled with her performance!

    I just realized this morning that:
    1 - she has only been ridden for 7 months
    2 - this is only her 3rd show ever
    3 - this is only her second show over fences

    She is just so talented that I forget how green she is... until I leave the property!
    If I just ride her with more conviction, she could take the Beginner Novice course without batting an eye.

  3. Awesome!!! And good for you for remembering to breathe and just going with it. Also, I probably would have ripped out most of my pony's braids in my quest to grab mane for sure!

  4. Belly deep grass? Whoa! That would make me feel pukey too :)



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