Weekend In Review: Horse Trial & Paper Chase

Best Pony.
This past weekend was the very best kind of weekend: one filled with fun horsey activities! Unfortunately, I have no pictures of video of any of it, since I didn't have a ground person at the horse trial and I left my phone at home during the paper chase!

On Friday afternoon Sully and I headed out to the horse park for our first horse trial together. I entered us in the Elementary division, which consists of a BN dressage test, and SJ and XC courses with a max fence height of 2'3". We're still getting to know each other, and even though Sullivan is a dreamboat, he's still pretty green when it comes to showing and I didn't want to push the limits of my confidence on XC with him just yet!

Despite being green as a show horse, Sully is an expert at traveling. Our arrival at the park was uneventful, and he and his stablemate chilled out on the trailer and ate hay while the humans got ready to go.

Dressage warmup was LOVELY. I had swapped Sully's french-link loose ring for a single-joint D, and it made all the difference in the world. He was soft, focused, and splatting from trot to canter to trot only minimally. One of the other riders in my division commented that she was delighted to see me riding around with a big smile on my face, and that I looked like I was having a wonderful time. I was!

Sadly, the move from warm up to the show ring rattled Sully's focus a bit, and once we went down center line he spent considerably more time wondering where all the other horses were instead of listening to me. Sigh. Our left lead canter was absolutely atrocious, but the trot work was pretty OK and the free walk was about 75% of the awesome that Sully is capable of in that movement. We earned a 35.5, which was not too bad, and the judge was very encouraging and had some very good, constructive comments for us. 10/10 would ride under her again, she was lovely! Overall, the flatwork needs a lot more forward and a lot more focus! I know we're capable of scoring a 30 or lower, so I was a bit disappointed in the score, but now I understand better the way Sully needs to be ridden in the show ring.

When the judge has second thoughts about your rider score... 
A fair test! 
Walking cross country was confidence-inspiring. We had jumped 90% of the fences in our schooling earlier in the week, and they were all small enough that I felt absolutely zero trepidation about it. Even if Sully decided not to cooperate, I could easily get him around the course. The show jumping course was a bit silly, as they had just re-used the hunter course set in the ring from a show the day before. We'd be fine.

Sully was a bit sticky warming up for jumping, but was generally moving forward when I asked and jumped us out of a couple icky spots when I neglected to move him up to meet the better distance. He's a good boy. When we got in the stadium ring, he picked up the canter promptly and then went wiggly and bug-eyed at the flowers under the jumps.

"Are you SURE we have to jump these?!" he seemed to say! He was very backed off to the fences going away from the in-gate, and seemed to lack some confidence in himself, so I tried my best to be supportive.

I pressed him forward, and despite a couple times where Sully opted for the chip instead of the big-kid spot, the stadium course went just fine! Again, more forward would have smoothed everything out, but it was a fault-free round and I again learned about the ride we needed vs. the ride I gave.

On to the really fun part - cross country! Sully powered out of the start box and while he was coming in crooked to the first fence, a little log, I handily straightened him out and we were over and on our way. Two more logs followed, which we cleared smoothly, followed by a little post-and-rail fence going downhill. I opted to trot the sharp right turn to the next fence, a hanging log, and picked up the canter again once we were on level ground and pointed straight at the jump. I'm still not used to maneuvering Sully's long body around tight turns on terrain! He easily hopped over the hanging log, then we motored up the next hill to the biggest fence on course, a palisade. Up and over, then we trotted around another tight turn to a small log set in the 'trench' of the roller coaster, and set off down a steep hill. I opted to walk this section because of how steep it was, and once we hit the bottom of the hill I kicked Sully back into a trot as we went through a "tunnel" up a hill in the woods towards another log fence. We jumped it and galloped away, and came out of the woods to the trickiest fence on the course - a 90 degree right turn to a coop only a few strides away. Sully balked hard at this 'surprise' jump, but I kicked him over from a walk. The advantages of having a bigger horse! After that it was a short gallop to the last fence on course, the upright logs, which we met on the perfect stride. Sully sailed over easily, and we crossed the finish line.

After all was said and done, we finished in fourth place! I was SO pleased with Sully and with myself. While there are certainly quite a lot of things for us to work on as a team, I am thrilled with our results. Especially considering I only started riding Sully recently, and have schooled him cross country exactly once, I think we did pretty darn well! I'm already looking forward to our next event.

A lovely ribbon for Sully's Mom!
While I was riding Sully in the jumping phases, the thought kept crossing my mind that I could do it better on Dino. It was an exciting realization - to have the idea of eventing my own pony pop into my head like that. Showing Sully definitely renewed my enthusiasm for Dino, which was a great thing since EuroPony got to go to a paper chase on Sunday!

My goal for the paper chase was to have a very fun, zero-pressure, enjoyable outing with my friends. I wanted to show Dino that we could go to the park, do a thing, and HAVE FUN.

Goal: accomplished.

Suspicious of my intentions.
It was interesting to see the change in Dino's demeanor from the time that we arrived at the horse park to partway through the chase. The course began by the main dressage ring, and his whole attitude felt skeptical and closed. "Oh, THIS place," he seemed to say, "Alli's going to make me do things I don't want to do, so I'll have to start a fight with her, and this place is always so STRESSFUL.. why does she keep bringing me here?!" Dino's body and mind felt tight and restricted to me.

But as we followed our trail buddies into the woods, I could feel a change in my WonderPony. His stride opened, his back swung. His ears perked and his neck stretched out. Instead of a closed, defensive attitude, I could feel Dino's whole self opening up. After we had completed about a quarter of the course, Dino surged forward to take the lead. Nose to the ground like a hound dog, smelling the smells, he powered along the trail and led our little group boldly into parts of the park we'd never been to before. (Bonus: we discovered a TON of new jumps to play with on our next schooling adventure!) Dino was doing something new, and exciting, and fun, and he was LOVING it!

He tried to see if there was anything edible in each and every jar containing the trivia questions along the trail, he left our two TB companions in the dust with each bold trot across a field, and my little punk pony JUMPED. Dino blasted over every little log and coop I pointed him at, taking a helpful lead from one of our teammates at times, but SURGING forward to the fences and jumping with his knees to his eyeballs over everything. We had one drive-by where I didn't ride straight or strongly enough, but aside from that Dino was point-and-shoot over everything. And we had so. much. FUN!

I was THRILLED! It felt like we were truly back in action again, working like a team, and I couldn't imagine wanting to be on this adventure with any other horse.

Watch out, Team PONY'TUDE isn't done yet!


  1. Congrats on a great weekend with both ponies!

  2. Sounds like a great time out for you two and your ribbon is lovely!

  3. What a pretty ribbon! I totally want one like that.

  4. What an awesome weekend with great rides on two horses! :D

  5. Sounds like a fantastic weekend! Congrats on BOTH days!


  6. What a happy post! Congrats on the amazing weekend :)

  7. So glad to hear Dino remembered how to have fun, and that you had a good time with Sully.

  8. Awh so good to hear that Dino is back in the game!

  9. What a cool weekend - sounds like the perfect outing for all the ponies!!


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