We Came, We Evented, We Lived
|We're badass and we know it.|
Well folks, Dino and I survived our very first horse trial!
We completed all 3 phases, and while we didn't take home a ribbon, it was an awesome experience and I can't wait to do it again!
I've been converted. Officially. What a great sport.
I had a whole posse with me this time, even my parents and Aunt Shelly came! They literally have not been to a horse show in years, and have never seen me show Dino, so it was pretty cool to have them there. Dino also loved the extra attention. Michael and Rachel were along for the ride, and I was grateful to have them, as always!
I also can't say enough about the quality of the competition. The courses were thoughtful and inviting for those just starting out in eventing, the dressage judging was fair, everything was impeccably organized, and the whole day went very smoothly. I also did not see one horse there that was in poor condition. At the local hunter/jumper schooling shows in my area, there is always a handful of scraggly, poorly-groomed, underweight horses with overgrown feet that someone has decided need to be in a show ring for some strange reason. At the horse trial this weekend, every single horse was in good weight, fit enough to do their job, and groomed to the nines. I don't know if it's because the event was sponsored by a local Pony Club and thus drew a more educated crowd, or if it was a reflection of eventing as a sport, but it was great to see regardless.
Dino always knows when it's a horse show morning. He's got an extra little spark in his eye and seems to ask, "Where are we going today?!" as I'm getting ready to load him up. On Sunday morning he all but charged onto the trailer all by himself!
We got to the horse park about 2 hours before my dressage test; more than enough time to walk both of my courses and get ready to compete. After walking both stadium and cross country, I was actually feeling pretty confident. The stadium course was very well thought out, cross country was very straightforward without any complex questions, and I could hop over most of the jumps on foot.
In stark contrast to our last show, I gave myself about 20 minutes to warm up for dressage. I let Dino have his stretchy time, working for most of a time on a loose rein so he could get all the kinks out and start working over his back, only really asking him to go on the bit for the last minute or so. It ended up being the PERFECT warm up - my pony was relaxed, forward, loose, and listening without having been over-schooled. I was really pleased with how he felt. I topped it off with a little bit of haunches-in at the trot while waiting for the previous rider to do her test, and BAM, there he was, on my aids. Awesome.
|Love those listening ears!|
|Down centerline! Love that feeling.|
We took a short break to catch our breaths and change our wardrobe for SJ and XC.
Stadium warm up was also just right. I just got Dino moving and grooving a little at the trot and canter, and then Rachel schooled us over a handful of jumps. He was jumping AWESOME - Dino felt great in his body and so, so confident. We ended by jumping a 2'6" oxer a few times, totally killed it, and then headed over to the stadium ring.
Dino LAUNCHED into the arena like a beast, ready to rock and roll! If you've seen us at shows, you know that getting my pony in the in-gate can sometimes be an exercise in patience. "Yes, Dino, you have to go in. I'm not kidding. Seriously. Go. Now we pick up the canter. Canter. Canter now. Please. You're giving me an ulcer, just GO!" Not this time. EuroPony trotted in boldly all on his own, and picked up an energetic canter at just a swing of my seat. I was grinning. Dino was ready. The course was pretty good, but I let my nerves get the best of me at times and pulled to a chip instead of adding leg. The one funny turn on course was interesting... Dino was pretty sure we were going straight, and made a beeline for the rail while I emphatically impressed upon him that we were TURNING. NOW. DEAR SWEET LORD PLEASE JUMP THIS OXER. Rockstar that he is, he popped over it after only having about 2 strides to look at it, and finished the rest of the course in style.
|And here you see the awkwardness that was fence 3...|
|Turn 'n burn, baby|
|SO MANY SMILES!|
Another water break, then on to cross country!
Dino was still fresh as a daisy after the first two phases, and gleefully galloped around the XC schooling area and launched himself over a crossrail. Clearly, he didn't really need any tuning up for the next phase.
The first three fences were awesome! I was holding it together, Dino was really focused, and we were having fun galloping around jumping tiny logs. Then we approached fence 4, and the change of terrain where we had to canter over a stone dust road really threw him off. I felt his hesitation, and instead of encouraging him and adding leg, I shut down and stopped riding, so my pony stopped at the jump. I regrouped, circled around, came at it again, and jumped it just fine. The next few fences were great, too, even if Dino did start to get a bit strong galloping down the wide open field. He was really enjoying himself. I trotted fence 8, a weird little split-rail fence thing, and made a sharp turn to the log at fence 9. We jumped that great, and then headed towards fence 10, which was a big slanty thing and the largest jump on course, and on a slight downhill. I freaked. Dino freaked. I pulled and pulled and pulled to find a distance and abandoned ship at the last second and turned my pony away from the jump. I came at it again... same thing. Our lack of confidence was showing big time! On the third approach we got over it, then trotted down a big hill to the last fence, a small coop going uphill. Dino jumped it from a nice little trot, and we cantered through the flags. WE DID IT! And my pony was hardly even breathing hard. Dude is amazing.
|Fence 4, Do-Over!|
I had so much fun during our first eventing experience, and I think we've found where we belong. I'm determined to build more experience and confidence cross country so that we won't feel quite so overwhelmed the next time. The terrain changes affected Dino much more than I thought they would, as well as my own lack of focus. I think having to do 11 XC fences in a row without being able to stop and re-group was also kind of a shock to both of us! The hunter derby next weekend will be great practice for eventing.
So, there you have it. We've officially crossed over to the dark side, and I kind of love it. Huge thanks to everyone who encouraged us along the way!