Dino Has A "Day" - Flora Lea Starter HT

SJ Superstar! 

Some day, I will get all three phases right on the same day. Sunday was not that day.

Our last horse trial of the season didn't exactly go the way I wanted it to, but luckily there were some positive experiences to be had nevertheless!

Logistically, this show went very well. Michael came along to drive the trailer and provide moral support, and I had more than enough time to do everything I needed to before getting ready to ride. As far as timing and organization goes, I felt cool and collected. Win #1 for the Brain.

Dino took his customary nap by the trailer while I did my first XC course walk, and then we got ready for dressage.

"I iz cute, feed me snax!"
He warmed up BEAUTIFULLY - I got some of the nicest canter I've ever gotten from him at a show, and he was so wonderfully forward! Of course, as soon as we got in the ring some of that focus and on-the-aids awesomeness went out the window, but I was happy that our canter departs at least happened where I wanted them to, even if they weren't pretty. We scored a solidly respectable 38.4 - not too bad! The free walk and canter work could have been waaaayyy better, but we did get a couple 8's here and there - for our first centerline and our medium walk. The judge (who happened to be a friend that knows Dino and I outside of the show ring!) commented that we were a 'perfect' pair and that the pony needs to be more reactive to the aids. Duly noted. After watching the video again, I'm pleased with the test and confirmed in my opinion that the judge was not giving away ANY points! Knowing that we can still pull off a score under 40 with a tough judge (who knows we can do better) is something to be happy about.

Here's the video!

I had at least an hour before I needed to be ready for stadium, so I took the opportunity to walk XC one more time. The course was stout - height and width wise, the fences were nearly all built to the max specs. There weren't many terrain questions, but the sheer size of the jumps was making me nervous - especially a BIG table-to-log combination in the first half of the course. (Since when are they allowed to build combinations at BN?!) This was the first combination I'd ever seen on a cross country course, and definitely one of the most 'solid' courses I'd seen to date - turns out it was the same course they used for the recognized event the week prior. My plan was to keep kicking and let Dino find the distances - his scope could take care of us and I just had to trust him and ride positively.

GIANT TABLE OF DOOM. I swear that thing was bigger than 2'7"!!
The stadium course was also, admittedly, a little intimidating to walk! It was the first stadium course I'd ridden that was actually built to 2'7 with wider oxers, plus there was a 2-stride combination and 2 rollbacks. Plus, the standards were only 4' tall, so everything looked HUGE! Dino and I would have to be in Full-On Jumper Mode to get it done.

Fence 1, NO TOUCHY!
And Full-On Jumper Mode was ENGAGED! We stepped into the warm-up area and no sooner did I ask Dino to pop into a loose trot to cruise around a bit, than he bounced into his glorious Show Jumper Canter and said, "I'M READY!!! LET'S GO!!!" I had a HUGE grin on my face - Dino was so pumped to go jump and it felt like riding a heat-seeking, over-jumping missile to the fences. Any anxiety I had about the stadium course was gone, and I was so excited to get to ride such an enthusiastic partner! Dino launched into the ring like a total pro and ate up the entire course. He found every single distance, spun on a dime for the rollbacks, and even saved our butts and managed to clear the final fence after slipping hard around a tight turn. I was beaming from ear-to-ear after that round! Double clear, baby!

Allergic to Wood!!
And a video:

I took a breather and then popped Dino over a warm-up XC fence before heading out to the start box. He jumped the brush fence absolutely perfectly, and I was feeling super confident that we were going to have an awesome ride.

One of our biggest issues on XC has been Dino feeling backed off (or outright refusing) the first jump on course. I planned to give him a STRONG ride to the cabin at Fence 1 to avoid this!

My pony launched out of the start box like a proper event horse and I RODE THE SNOT OUT OF THAT FIRST FENCE. Leg, stick, "GET UP!!"... there were no mixed messages happening that day! Dino took a gappy distance and sailed over the cabin, whereafter I screamed, "GOOD BOY!!!" and almost started crying with joy. We did it! We got over the first jump! This was going to be amazing! Today was our day!

No First-Fence-Itis here!
Coming around the turn to Fence 2, a bright white produce stand, there was some cross-cantering going on, but Dino eventually sorted his legs out. I picked a spot at the top of the jump to lock my eye on, got back in my "preparation zone" position, put my leg on, and Dino came to what has to be the most dramatic stop he's ever done. He was legitimately TERRIFIED of that fence for some reason, and it shows in the video. This wasn't just a typical unsure/'no thanks' stop... this was an extreme reaction.

It was all downhill from there.

While I never gave up (Brain Win!) and kept re-presenting to the fence, Dino was not having any of it. After the fourth failed attempt, the jump judge yelled out for me to skip it and go on. At that point we were eliminated, but I was going to make the best of it if it killed me.

When I allowed Dino to move on from the Killer Produce Stand, he TOOK OFF. I felt like I had absolutely no brakes, he was running frantically across the field, and it was not fun to ride. I tried in vain to pull his face off the ground before Fence 3, a jump I thought would ride super well, and got no response. Another stop. Thankfully he jumped this one when I tried again, but then RAN away from the backside and stopped again at Fence 4 - a log preceded by a gravel road that I had expected Dino to take pause at. We got over it on the second try, and I aimed him at the scariest fence on course, the table. I figured if we could jump that, the second element of the combination wouldn't be a problem.

Wonder of wonders, Dino jumped the table without hesitation, and then stopped at the small log.

Turn around, try again, jump the log. Are you seeing a pattern, here?

I made an attempt to school the water since we had nothing to lose at this point, but Dino was having no part of it. We scooted around the water (it was flagged generously and we actually didn't rack up a refusal here!) and on to Fence 7, a BIG rolltop with brush that scared the crap out of me.

Dino jumped it flawlessly out of stride, as well as Fence 8, an upright brush fence at the top of a very steep hill. Two in a row! We were on a roll!

Upright brush? No problemo. 
There was a nice long gallop to Fence 9, a hanging log that I thought would be a nice straightforward fence. Instead, Dino responded with his overly-dramatic "DEATH IS NEAR" sliding stop, and it took a few tries to get over the jump, with me nearly falling off in the process, his stops were so sudden. Fence 10 was a ditch - no problems there. 11 was a bench with a nice long approach, but Dino feared that this one would kill him as well, and I ended up skipping it after several refusals and moving on to blessedly jump Fence 12, a smallish table.

Friendly hanging log? We gon' die. 
So, while immensely disappointing, I'm chalking up this shit-show of a cross country run to my pony just having a "day". Something about the second fence made him lose his ever-loving mind, and I just couldn't get it back. Maybe he tweaked something when he slipped in stadium, maybe he was just not feeling confident for whatever reason. Who knows. In all honesty his behavior reminded me of our Worst Jumper Show ever, during which he was a freakin' nutcase for no apparent reason. The out-of-control running, the over-dramatic stopping even though the distances were RIGHT. THERE... we had it all. At least I stayed on and finished the course!

I am, however, REALLY proud of myself for not giving up. I didn't let his behavior rattle me, and while I'm sure I didn't give him an absolutely perfect ride, I kept riding. I sent the message that no matter what Dino does, we are going on and finishing the course. If nothing else, the experience taught me that I can have a really terrible run and not totally lose it mentally. While it sucked, it was a great confidence-building lesson for me. I want to try and go schooling once more this season to end things on a more positive note, and then we are foxhunting to get Dino's confidence back on XC!


  1. Man, that was a hell of a sliding stop!

  2. He's not joking when he stops. Stadium looks amazing though. He was jumping the ever loving snot out of those!

  3. Wow, those ARE some stout BN jumps! Congrats on the great SJ! The tough days are indeed very challenging (very expensively challenging), but I think we also learn the most from those, both about ourselves & our partnerships. Things happen in split seconds, we have to learn to make so many plans, but days like that teach us so much about when to push, when to call it a day, where our holes are (uh, I usually "learn" all of those at once, LOL), etc. The good part is that they ALWAYS mean the next one will be better!!

  4. Dino is just practicing to be the world's first German Reining Pony!

    Seriously, you are a badass for making the best of your XC- it's tough to stay optimistic when you're having a bad round. Way to have a good attitude and a GREAT show jumping round!

  5. there is so much to love and be proud of in your dressage and stadium rounds - major congrats on those rides! and even more congrats on sticking with the xc and schooling him through it even tho he... just... didn't wanna. c'mon Dino - we all know you have an xc machine lurking just beneath the surface - we wanna seeeeee it!!!!

  6. Bummer about the stop, but WAY TO GO keeping your leg on for the rest of the fences. I get how seeing the SCARY PRODUCE STAND could shake Dino's confidence, so I think it's especially awesome that you got through the rest of the course and showed him that not everything is scary. Live and learn!

  7. That was a lovely dressage test and a wonderful stadium round, Lots to still be proud of with this outing! I know that boy can conquer a xc course and good on you for sticking it out. And staying on those impressive stops!

  8. Oooo nasty! Good on you for keeping a good attitude and getting him through the course, even if it wasn't so beautiful. Maybe he'll realize that if he jumps all the fences on the first try, it will get more fun! Glad that show jumping and dressage were good though, and foxhunting sounds soooo fun.

  9. Hey, found your blog through the LOWER FB group! This was pretty much identical to mine and my guy's first HT together last month, except our (his) nemesis was jump 4. Great job on dressage and stadium and for not quitting on xc! And you know he'll make one heck of a reining horse if you ever wanted to switch careers.

  10. That's why schooling shows are worth their weight in gold. I'm glad you were able to stay in a good mindset and keep him going over most of the rest of the jumps. Hopefully fox hunting kicks his love for xc into overdrive for next year!

  11. Kudos to YOU for turning his day into a mental success for you. Way to go! You didn't quite and you didn't let up. You deserve all the gold stars.


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