BCHP Schooling HT: Jumping All The Jumps
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Yesterday Dino and I competed in our second-ever horse trial, and had a freakin' amazing day! We ended up finishing on our dressage score (DOUBLE-CLEAR, BABY!) and were fourth out of 11. I am over-the-moon thrilled with how we did, and can't wait for our next event!
It was a skeleton crew of just Michael and I for the day, and he was his usual super-awesome horse husband self. He gave me a great pep talk on the way to the horse park, reminding me to take the day one phase at a time. He didn't let me even start to think about jumping until after our dressage test. He also took a break from being Mr. Photographer since he's been shooting weddings every single weekend for the past month and a half, so I have no cool pictures for you.
About that dressage test...
It kind of sucked, to be honest! Both Dino and I were so, SO tense. He was giving me a lot of 'tude in the warm-up ring about my spur, and was just holding his body so tightly. I wasn't helping at all - I was feeling a bit anxious and wasn't focusing as well as I could have. And instead of maintaining his bend while using my newly-rediscovered outside rein, I let him counter-flex all over the place. I was also SO focused on going deep into my corners that I was basically riding my pony STRAIGHT towards the rail instead of, you know, bending. We really got nailed on almost every movement, receiving mostly 6's and a couple 5's here and there. Yuck. Though we DID get a 7 on our free walk, which is always the savior of our score. We ended up with a rather embarrassing 48... which we will not speak of again. Thank goodness I have a lesson tomorrow!
After dressage, I had a couple hours of downtime before the jumping phases. I used the time to walk cross country, which curiously was the exact same course we rode in July. During the walk, I planned our track - especially to the fences that we had stops at last time. Amazingly, fence 10, the 'scary' palisade, didn't look intimidating to me AT ALL this time around. I commented to Michael, "Why on earth was I ever worried about that?!" Mental growth!
We hung out at the trailer for a bit, chatted with a friend who was also at the park competing, and soon enough it was time to get ready for stadium. And then the string on my ear bonnet snapped off, and the zipper on one of my tall boots split open. YAY. Thankfully my boot was only split down the top few inches, but I had no duct tape or vet wrap on hand, so I just rode with it the way it was.
Dino warmed up great for stadium, even though the schooling ring was really wet and sloppy and there were horses all over the place passing close to him, which makes him grouchy. I focused on setting up his canter in the corner and then leaving him alone to the fences, and every distance was right there. I only had to jump 3 or 4 fences in warm up to know that my pony was ready to rock. I had walked the course earlier in the morning and planned my track, and was feeling very confident about it.
When it was our time to go, my pony marched in the ring like the little badass he is, ready to eat some stadium jumps for breakfast. He has come such a long way from when I first started showing him and we had to argue about going through the in-gate every time! Again, I used my "set him up and leave him alone" strategy with great success - Dino jumped everything fabulously and I felt tight in the tack and in sync with him over the whole course. We had one awkward jump when Dino's eye didn't get on the fence until about a stride away, but he was a good boy and jumped it anyway. Clear round! I was very, very happy with my pony.
A short break, and then his favorite part: cross country!
I didn't even bother to pop Dino over any of the warm up jumps prior to XC - he was feeling great and so game, and I knew he was more than ready to tackle the course.
Unlike at our first event, I was feeling really confident about XC and was excited to get out there. Dino burst out of the start box like a pro, and I set-him-up-and-left-him-alone to the first jump, creating a great rhythm. After the first couple fences, I was riding around with a big stupid smile on my face... I think I'm starting to "get" cross-country now. A couple times, Dino got wiggly and unsure about where do go next, but I was able to put my leg on and ride forward, letting him know what the plan was. A far cry from "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING". I was able to gallop in between fences, and then sit down and put my canter together about 7-8 strides out, then land and gallop on again. I did trot down a couple of the downhill sections just to regain our balance and composure, but we cantered/galloped EVERY jump, beautifully out of stride, and the bogey palisade rode like a dream. I galloped through the finish flags yelling "GOOD BOY!"
I have NEVER had so much fun on XC before! Dino was an absolute rock star, I was RIDING, I was THINKING, and it was SO MUCH FREAKIN' FUN! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face after that run. And the beautiful 4th place ribbon - despite our yicky dressage score - was just the icing on the cake. I love my pony, and I love eventing!
Overall, I was really, really pleased with both jumping phases. There was a vast improvement in the quality of our rides since the July horse trial, and we went double-clear and jumped well. The dressage left a lot to be desired, and I want to make it my goal to work hard on our flatwork this winter and be able to get a 30 or lower at our next competition. And get ready to move up to Beginner Novice sometime next year!