Last weekend I had my first “schooling” show of the year with Leo. My barn hosts local association shows a few times a year and I’m always happy to have a low pressure and low cost opportunity to show. It was both Saturday and Sunday, and I wish I could bottle the feeling of pure bliss getting off work that Friday with the sun still shining, heading to the barn for a final lesson and school a bit in the hedge ring. Leo absolutely knew exactly what this meant.
We had an awesome and unusually energetic warm-up. Things that happened during our school: jumped things way bigger than the level we showed at, an exuberant Leo bucking and playing after said big but fun jumps, doing five strides in a long six, my crop broke because it went into my boot upon one wonky landing, a refusal to another big oxer because a bug flew in my eye and Leo knew something was up (good call bud, my eyes were closed). We basically raced around the course like we were planning on winning a jumper class. I would say it was a train-wreck but I was laughing the entire time and Leo felt so good, so how could I not enjoy it? I felt like we got a great school in, but heading home I started to have doubts. What if I can’t hold him together in the ring and he goes around happily bucking and playing? What if I pull him to another refusal like last show?? I put it out of my mind. A glass of wine helped.
My goal for the weekend was to get around the courses without worrying about winning and to have FUN. Needless to say, GOALS MET. Looking back on the weekend, I may have embarrassed myself a bit. Don’t mind the girl at the [schooling] show overdressed with a braided horse happily chipping and laughing about it, with unasked for upward transitions and definitely not using my corners. That’s fine though, Leo was a v. good boy and looked genuinely happy in all the videos and got absolutely showered with treats for being so wonderful. I can’t get over his swivel ears, jump hunting and constantly checking in with, “Okay, where we headed next?” I even heard someone sitting near my husband on one of our videos say, “He just look so happy to do his job!” as we entered the ring. Gonna need a parent signature slip for that feel trip.
Some thoughts about my rounds:
U/S. I sincerely hope the judge Saturday shared my sense of humor. We had two accidental upward transitions and each time I was definitely making eye contact with her. When our trot was finally getting to floaty-status: Surprise Canter. How we didn’t come in last, I’m not sure. And damn, was Leo annoyed that we couldn’t just gallop around. I was laughing around the entire ring.
1. Heading into the ring with our nice trot, the surprise canter transition strikes again. I think this threw me off enough to think that we were really forward, a common fault of mine. Well, we weren’t. I pulled to a trot for our first fence. We did not place. Added in the first line. I still had it in my head that we were GALLOPING. We were not. Pulled to a bad trot/chip stride for the long approach oxer. Chipped into the last line.
2. Enter attempting to keep the trot to the end of the rail, so our trot looks sad and ugly and I still didn’t keep the gait. Still crawling at the canter, chip our first jump. Did NOT get the change, even trying to trot it and picking up the wrong lead again! Obviously did not do well in this class either. We are able to gallop down the lines regardless of what madness I try to pull. Nail the long approach! He’s perfect.
3. The Mini Medal! Super late change after fence 1, and then an awwwful chip, but then our rollback is beautiful. He really gets so powerful and lovely and turn-y with the outside rein and leg combo buttons. Our halts could use some work. Should I have patted him at the halt? Probably not. We also argued about doing a canter step before the trot jump so he takes off from like 10 feet away (Can I stop thrusting my hips forward with the trot jumps? Yuck.).
4. Here’s another huge upward transition mistake! We were supposed to make a trot loop around the arena, like a backwards ‘c’, and then pick up our right lead. We head in across the diagonal and Leo’s like WEEEEE LEFT LEAD. I’m thinking: that gives me two very ugly options, lead change or simple trot change. I went with a very poorly executed lead change. In retrospect, I could have just brought him back to the trot… but at least we had a good pace after our ugly change. Going into the diagonal line you can clearly see that my reins have become a problem (a common fault of mine). He jumps the white and red line suuuper cute, but I need to focus on not letting him get so close to the out jumps of the lines! For some reason I become a coward to the long-approach oxer, which is actually not usually my problem. See a spooky thing outside the arena coming to the last line and then we’re on a roll and take a distance I did not expect… this happens to me occasionally (see: all the time) and my trainer always tells me to “just go with him” and I’m like I would but my brain doesn’t compute. Anyway, it looked like we were out fox hunting or something, so give me a grab strap and some extra points for that lively jump! It is called hunters, right?
5. Me: attempts to keep his trot under control. Leo: no canter? Well, you’re definitely not going to get a nice trot out of me.
First fence was okay! Butchered the long approach again. No spookies at the outside line! Very cute diagonal. I attempt to use my corner, reins get long again. I thought that round went pretty well!
6. Same ugly entrance, good first fence! The bending line was a solid 6.5 strides, and I planned for a slight bulge out for a 7. We still could have stepped up a bit but it rode well. After the bending I completely forgot my course! I was just like, uhhhh well it makes sense for us to end up over here so maybe do this line? And then remembered the trot jump at the last second. It made for a seamless transition, though! I was so impressed that I remembered the trot jump that I wasn’t focusing on the line and turned a bit too soon and without being organized. Chip = rail = points off. Good halt and made easy work of the last line. Almost trotted out of the ring, but even with all the mistakes, still ended up with a second!
All in all, especially after watching the videos and knowing that the mistakes I made are not only common for me, but ones that I have made and also corrected in the past, I feel confident that we can go into our next show and make definite improvements. I’m hoping we’ll be able to focus more on the medals and equitation classes, too!