Saturday, January 17, 2015

Better Late Than Never, Event Attempt #3

It has been a while since I wrote a new blog post, like….a year and a half.  I never had a chance to write about my last two events before the big move to North Carolina.  Since it has been, well....... a year and a half, here’s what I remember:

MDHT Twilight Eventing

My THIRD event ever and second attempt at Novice.  I had great aspirations for this event, none of which were fulfilled.  Tom was late and Kerry got pulled away to fill in as dressage judge (I remember providing her with an incognito beverage of Mike’s Hard Cherry Lemonade to get through judging,  “its just soda people”).  Tom finally arrived, as did the Dodon Farm crew, who were schooling some greenies.  I remember secretly hoping Steuart Pittman would watch me ride and be all impressed with my improvement.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  I laugh because a) He didn’t watch me (thank god) and b) I fell off.  But more on that later. 

I DO remember considering scratching because the sky looked like it was going to split open and unleash hell any moment.  I didn’t scratch and really really wish I would have.

I DO NOT remember my dressage test.  I do remember Tom criticizing me for my lack of “tan colored” britches (I was wearing a lovely shade of blue).  Apparently “that’s several points off my test.”  I counter with, “Kerry is my dressage judge.  I’m one of her students riding one of her horses.  If she docks me for blue britches at Twilight Eventing, well that’s just plain mean.”  A reprieve.

I don’t remember the specifics of show jumping.  I do remember it being awful.  I couldn’t find a distance to save my life and the Ruckus and I were just not in sync.  The last line was a little dicey, it shaked my confidence and I considered throwing in the towel and skipping cross country.  But cross country is my favorite part, I was already there and ready to go and was trying to convince all parties involved that I’m not a pansy ass.  HAHAHAHAHAHA.  I laugh because I remain a pansy ass to this day.  Before I relate the cross country experience I should briefly mention what Tom and I had been working on in my lessons.  More pace.  We’d been working on getting more of the Ruckus in front of my leg so we could jump with some energy.  I’d been….reluctant with this, despite it being what we needed to improve.  Disclaimer over.  We leave the start box approaching novice fence one at a snail’s pace.  Not what Tom and I had discussed.  I make the fatal decision of trying to increase this pace two strides, well really three strides, from the fence.  Instead of sticking with our established snail canter and getting the approach in an easy and lazy three and then adjusting our pace for fence #2, I decide WE NEED MORE PACE RIGHT NOW.  Ruckus interprets my increased leg and spurring as HolyShitIshouldJumpThisSillyFenceFromHere.  And so that’s what he does.  We put in two strides instead of three, he jumps from a suuuuuper long spot, which for some reason surprises the shit out of me and I get left behind.  Epic-ly left behind.  So I land on his neck.  He’s unimpressed with supporting my 130lbs on his neck, dips his head and I some how land simultaneously on my face and butt.  You figure that one out. 

As I roll on to my side to watch my trusty steed cantering off into the sunset without me, I hear some guy on the sidelines say,  “that’s a good looking horse.”  Indeed he was, in all his rider-less glory galloping up the hill.  Ruckus gets to the top of the hill, realizes that was a lot of work and he has no idea where he’s going so he might as well stop and eat some grass.  Bless him.  I collect my horse, am furious with Tom (because it was his fault) and can’t remember exactly but will give a good guess that I am crying.  For the record Tom, I’m sorry I was mad at you, that was just silly.  I blamed you because you were trying to teach me something I wasn’t quite ready for, but ultimately needed to improve.  I was happy and content with snail pace on cross country, but you can’t jump correctly, improve and move up on snail pace.  I know that now but at the time was upset because my bad decision to increase pace at the last minute stemmed from our recent discussions/lessons that I hadn't whole-heartedly accepted as truth just yet.  Of course you envisioned me starting with a good pace from the box, not the over-compensation disaster that incurred right before the fence.  I'm sure being a trainer has its extremely rewarding moments, but it has its thankless moments too, dealing with irrational, emotional students, who should probably take up golf* or bowling instead. 

I untack my horse, throw him in the trailer, pull a hat close down to cover my face and tears, and sit in my truck waiting for the rest of the MAH crew to finish all while trying to decide if my swelling nose is broken or not.  Of course NOW the Dodon crew finds us, when all I want to do is wallow in the misery that follows falling off at the first fence on cross country.  Tom relays the embarrassing news to Steuart who tries to make me feel better by feeding me bourbon, which in retrospect was a pretty good plan. 

I remember everyone trying to cheer me up with stories of their own falls (none of which made me feel better, only the bourbon), a story of Michelle groping the balls of some statue at the Kentucky Horse Park and my pointing out to Tom that Michelle was also wearing blue-ish gray britches. 

The last thing I remember about this event was Kerry’s reaction to the news that I fell off at the first fence.  “Did he STOP?!?!?!”  Oh no.  He f*#king went.  I didn’t. 

Next blog post: What I remember for Waredaca, event attempt #4. (I can't promise this blog will be completed in a timely manner, sorry Mom)  

*A year and a half later and I actually have tried golf.  It might be the only sport on the face of the planet as equally difficult and frustrating as horseback riding.  Albeit less expensive, less dangerous, and less rewarding.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Newbie Eventer No More!

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, for the two people who read my blog (thanks Mom) I’m sorry to have kept you in such suspense.  The good news is, I’m newbie eventer no more!  We have actually completed FOUR events!  Okay, “completed” is probably too strong a word.  We have attempted FOUR events!  I want to write about all four, but that may be too much for one blog post and I might lose my writing inspiration before finishing.  We’ll see. For simplicity’s sake, I will start with my first event:  The Maryland Horse Trials Starter Trial.  Beginner Novice.  I’m really ExcitedNervousAnxious like I’m doing my first triathlon all over again.  I guess technically I am, just a horse triathlon.  Isn’t that what they call eventing, triathlons for horses?  I have very basic goals for all three stages.

Dressage:  Stay on the horse, remember your test, stay in the dressage ring
Show Jumping:  Stay on the horse, remember your course
Cross Country:  Stay on the horse, remember your course

There’s a theme there, did you catch it?  If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know that I fall off a lot and I forgot the course at my very first jumper show, so there’s a bit of anxiety about remembering a dressage test + stadium course + cross country.  There’s even more anxiety about appropriate show attire.  Of which I have none.  Wait, that’s a lie.  I purchased boots about two days before the show, so they aren’t really broken in, at all, and I’m not comfortable enough to do anything but dressage in them.  I don’t own the dreaded cream britches, and I sure as shit don’t have a show coat.  Come to think of it, I don’t even have a dressage saddle pad.  I scrounge up some greenish/tan britches and some black jacket from the depths of my closet.  I forgo a hair net and just bun the Rapunzel braid and borrow an armband from Kerry.  Oh, my vest is borrowed too.   I think I did actually clean tack before this show, and maybe even my horse.  I do remember washing his tail at the very least.  (He’s a bay okay?  A quick brushing to knock off the obvious dirt and from a distance you won’t even know he didn’t have a bath.)

We load up nice and early on show day annnnnd throw in the longe line, just in case.  The Ruckus didn’t seem too keyed up upon arrival, but we decide to longe him any ways, just to be sure.  Did I mention I was really nervous??  A quick longe in the warm-up ring before anyone else arrives and Ruckus seems fine, and lazy, so we return him to the trailer.  There is so much to remember at a horse show, even an unrecognized one.  Someone else picked up my pinney packet for me, because I think I forgot.  Getting ready for dressage warm-up and you go through a ridiculous list in your head.  Mine is something like this:

Okay, dressage saddle: Check
Bridle: Check
Saddle pad: Check
Half pad: Check
Dressage whip: Check
Boots: check, wait, shit, no, you don’t wear boots for dressage.  Wait, I wear boots, he doesn’t.   Put on your new, shiny, not-so-broken-in tall boots: Check
Spurs:  I brought two different pairs.  I eyeball Ruckus and choose the soft-touch
No vest, no armband, and no pinney number vest thing.  Or breastplate, he doesn’t need his breastplate on. 
GIRTH I need the girth. 
And my helmet, not that helmet, the fuzzy hat one.  Geesh could this be more F**king complicated?  Finally we are mounted and I have to turn around and go back for my bridle number.  And I forgot my gloves altogether.

Dressage warm-up is, well, a clusterfuck.  Its so busy and I’m so nervous, which is translating into a very nervous Ruckus, which makes me MORE nervous and the cycle continues until we’re barely keeping it together.  Thank God its hard to get bucked out of a dressage saddle, because that’s what we’re doing.  I start noticing dressage warm-up isn’t so busy anymore and realize everyone else is giving us a wide berth.  Forward forward, that’s what we need to do.  So we canter.  In place.  It was lovely, I’m sure.   Kerry arrives before all hell breaks loose and we start piecing together some semblance of sanity and almost competent riding.  But I’m stiff as board.  Our warm-up was awful, our transitions are suspect and he’s so under the bit, I thought he was trying to bite his breastplate until I remembered he wasn’t wearing it.  And our dressage test is……stiff.  And slow.  BUT, I remembered the test and we stayed in the ring, so, stiff, slow and a SUCCESS!  And I didn’t even lose a stirrup, which was secretly one of my other goals.

After the test, Ruckus walks off all full of himself and confident, no more nerves for him, like he knows the fun part is next.  And it is. 

We had walked the show jumping course the evening before and couldn’t decide if it was Novice or Beginner Novice.  The verticals looked Beginner Novice-y but some of the oxers looked like Novice.  After eyeballing the course after dressage, what we walked the night before was definitely the Novice course.  And I am proud to say, the Beginner Novice jumps looked….small.  This coming from someone with serious fence anxiety.  Outside of a pole on the ground, I’ve never thought any fence looked small.  We got this.  We changed our gear, no small feat.  You need more shit for the SJ and XC rounds than dressage.  Vests, pinneys, armbands, horse boots, different whip, different helmet, its seriously mind-boggling.  And this is unrecognized.  

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the show jumping round.  Mainly because at this point, it was months ago.  There was nothing particularly horrifying or brilliant, so it was rather unremarkable.  But we went clear.  Frankly it would have been embarrassing if we hadn’t gone clear, because Ruckus is of elephant size and the Beginner Novice fences were about cavalettis to him.  He easily could have stepped over all the jumps.  Most importantly though, it was fun.  And I remembered the course.  On to cross country, even more fun.

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again, cross country is the most fun on a horse, ever.  When you watch the cross country rounds on TV, you’re most likely watching the best of the best blaze around the course at top speed and jumping the moon.  No seriously, the moon. 

Well, for our beginner novice event, there was no blazing and there was no moon, but at the end of our clear round, it might as well have been a four star for me.  All smiles, sound and happy horse.  This was my first taste, and now I’m an addict.  Oh, and next time we’re going Novice.

Novice Next Time

I almost scratched.  Not because I’m a pansy ass, which is completely true, but I embarked on a rather ambitious, and ultimately time-consuming cover design for the Thoroughbreds For All Program cover.  Instead of scratching, I stayed up till about one in the morning working the night before the event.  I cleaned no tack and Ruckus didn’t have a shiny tail, or shiny anything else.  I was praying he wouldn’t be a Claymation horse the next morning.  If you know my horse, he takes his rolling and general dirtiness VERY seriously.  The red clay dirt is difficult to clean off and end up with a show-presentable horse without a full bath.  Miraculously, I arrive to a mostly clean horse.  We load up and I’m a bit punch-drunk from the lack of sleep, but I’m ready to do this.  I even bought some cream-ish britches and a show coat for the occasion.  Naturally, I forgot to actually BRING the coat with me, and it sits, still in the SmartPak box at my office.  I’m too tired to care.  Plus, I go much later than everyone else, so there is a chance I can run and get it. 

I do actually have time to get my coat, but the stress of going to get it and making it back in time to warm-up properly for dressage just increases my general state of exhaustion and sleep deprivation.  Our dressage warm-up lacks the dramatics from the previous event and we score marginally better on our Novice test.  I’m having a hard time staying soft with my seat and hips while keeping the required leg on to keep the Ruckus engine going.  Our right lead canter transition and canter circle are by far our worst movements, but everything else was still a bit under powered and I’m not getting that nice step behind.  I’m riding the front of my horse too much and not engaging the hind end enough for true roundness.  Well, add it to the list.   If you’re wondering what “the list” is, it’s the “Reasons why I suck at riding and am really only doing this to spare myself the trouble of maintaining a savings account” list.

Show jumping.  Okay, seriously, cream britches are flattering to NO ONE, why can’t show clothes be a bit more sympathetic to the fact there’s a Dunkin Donuts close to my house?  And sometimes I need one or 25 of those delicious little donut holes?  ANY OTHER BLACK COLOR WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE. 

Show jumping was…interesting.  As of late, Ruckus and I have had some problems with our leads.  If we land on the wrong lead (which has been our MO recently) there’s a 98% chance he will not give me the flying change to correct it, which means somewhere between keeping my heels down, shoulders back, head up, hands soft and looking where I’m going before I actually get there, I need to break to the trot and correct my lead.  This proves too much for my feeble riding ability and we end up counter cantering half of the course and cross-firing on both leads for the other half.   But we jumped clear!  I’m having a hard time feeling the round was a success, as I did nothing to help my horse get around the course well, besides pointing him at the right fence. 

Cross country was fun, as always, and leads don’t matter so much in the XC phase, so we had a reprieve of our show jumping difficulties.   We did our first up bank in competition, which is slightly less terrifying than a down bank, conquered the ditch and nearly stumbled over a big table (the biggest jump on the novice course) but Ruckus took care of both of us and landed with his feet under him.  Overall, our first novice outing was a success, and the step up from BN was a good decision.  BUT, we still have lots of work to do and lots of improvements to make.  Like picking a lead, any lead.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Shitty Ending - Cross Country Schooling

In preparation for our FIRST event ever, we decide it prudent to take a field trip for some cross country schooling.  None of the horses have been anywhere in a while and with the MDHT Starter Trial looming a week away, this trip is much needed to work on some pre-show confidence.   We arrive at Woodstock Equestrian Park and Ruckus is living up to his namesake and is, um, quite the ruckus indeed.  Its cold, its windy, he’s recently clipped (for the one non-horsey person who reads my blog (thanks, Mom) this means we shaved him), first outing… get the picture.  Tacking up was, well tricky, and a bit touch-and-go, but I managed to get the saddle on somewhat straight.  Before we left the barn, in a moment of sheer fore-thought brilliance, I threw the longe line in Kerry’s trailer.  And we are going to need that, thank you.  We (Kerry) longe him until he starts to resemble a horse again, instead of the orangutan we arrived with. 

I attempt to mount from some sloped cross country jump thing and before I can even get my foot in the stirrup, I slip and topple over onto his neck.  He graciously doesn’t run off with me scrambling to regain my balance and I decide a nice sturdy log is a better mounting block.  I mount and immediately decide we should have longed him longer.  For like an hour.  Kerry, sensing my terror, puts us on a circle for lots of trotting.  At this point, I’m feeling sorry for the other riders who have well-behaved horses and are patiently waiting for the actual XC schooling to begin.  Trotting, trotting, trotting and we are calmer.  Cantering small circles now and we are somewhat under control, not because he’s more relaxed, he’s just more tired.   FINALLY we start over some logs.  Trotting of course, let’s establish some steering and brakes before we unleash the you-are-going-to-get-run-off-with-cantering.  He is still barely paying attention to me, which makes me very tense, and I’m so far in his mouth, I might as well forego the whole reigns business and just grab the bit with my hands.  At one point Kerry says “just try and relax Julie, and I realize its just a small log, but at some point you are going to have to actually get in two-point.”  Oops.  Okay, deep breaths, I’ve been making a lot of progress lately and do actually, kinda sorta sometimes, know how to ride this horse.  Cantering the logs is better, he’s still keyed up, but has a job now and is listening to me and forgiving me for my heavy hands and tense positioning.  And poor timing.  Let’s not forget the poor timing.  Seriously, I’m giving this horse the worst ride of his life. 

We graduate from the logs on the ground and practice over some more substantial cross-country jumps.  The more we jump the better he gets and I start to relax slightly.  Until Kerry has us do a drop.  Oh for f*ck’s sake, I only just started breathing again and now you want us to do the obstacle I’m most terrified of?   Another rider and her pony go first and proceed to launch off the bank superman style.  Now, superman style requires more energy than Rocky is normally willing to put out, so I’m doubting we will follow suit.  And he quietly hops down off the bank and I stay on.  But I hate it.  We do it twice more, and I still hate it.  Of all the gravity and physics-defying feats advanced riders accomplish, staying on a horse down those massive drops is the one I find most mind-boggling.  It is just so easy to get popped out of the saddle off a drop.  How do they NOT end up on the horse’s neck every time???  Clearly we have some mental work to do here.  Beginner Novice does not have any down banks, but Novice does.  And Novice is a goal.  Eventually.  Drops are going to have to be mentally tackled and conquered. 

On to the ditch.  Rocky is not ditchy, I might be, but he isn’t, so I don’t have a lot of concerns about the ditch.  Until I see it.  This is not a friendly ditch.  Its deep and wide.  Superman pony supermans over this too.  And then slides to a stop on the next three attempts, dumping her rider into the ditch on the third one (rider was fine).  Okay, my big Training-level packer, we’re up.  And we slide to a stop once, and twice.  I think he decided if Superman pony ain’t having any of this ditch, then Ruckus ain’t having any either.  I manage to keep my seat, and Kerry calls it quits on the un-friendly, now very scary, ditch. 

Superman-pony-rider and I search out a friendly log to pop over to get our horses’ minds right after the unfortunate ditch experience.  We trot to it, and Rocky RUNS OUT.  I actually laugh.  Seriously Ruckus?  It’s a log.  On the ground.  Kerry yells at me to canter it and we do and its fine and our minds are adjusted, back into forward mode.

On to the water and a small course which ends with a not-so-small oxer.  We do it twice, and its fine.  Definitely not perfect, not even good, but fine.  During this whole outing, I believe we had two, count them TWO jumps, where I wasn’t a completely incompetent nincompoop on horseback.  We are last to finish our little course and the other riders have already started back up the hill to head to the trailer.  And Ruckus is coming apart again.  Normally I would just let him canter up to the other horses, but there are these ridiculously dangerous holes at the base of the hill, kinda everywhere, and I want him to walk through this holey unsafe area.  He is having none of this walking business and we trot, in place for a bit, and then forward to the other horses.  We reach the back end of the group and Ruckus agrees to walk, but is not done expressing his displeasure, and tries to buck me off on the walk back to the trailer.  RUCKUS we are DONE now, just hold it together for TWO MORE minutes!  The other riders stop and wait for us, as my orangutan has returned, and we are now lagging behind as I regain control. 

FINALLY, we make it back to the trailer, in one piece, I might add.  I pretty much rip off his tack, toss on his blanket and throw him on the trailer so he can calm the f*ck down and distract himself with hay.  I’m back at my truck attempting to create some semblance of tack organization in my backseat and I step in horse poop.  An appropriately shitty ending to my shitty riding performance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

First Show EVER!

My first show (ever!) was scheduled for January 5th and we made it!  A very laid back schooling jumper show at Destination Farm Eventing. 

I arrive at the barn early to try and make Rocky presentable, no small feat for a horse who frequently looks like he competes in mud bogging tournaments.  He’s not awful, and its too cold to give him a bath, but I do rinse just his legs and wash his impressive tail, which he was rather non-plussed about.  I throw on his new black sheet, which is miraculously clean because he hasn’t been turned out in it yet.  We don’t mention the fact it’s a Rhino 82 Quarter Horse fit (for broader shoulders).  And of course Rhino has to plaster “Quarter Horse” all over it.  My poor TB is going to have a complex.  You aren’t fat buddy, you’re just big boned. 

We arrive and are lucky enough to be able to unload some of our horses into stalls.  And my boy Rocky is UP.  He hasn’t been anywhere in a while (not since our failed event months ago) so he is dancing around and snorting and then we pass a trailer full of MULES, which he is wholly unimpressed by.  And that’s when I start to get nervous.  Dear God, this horse is going kill me. Okay probably not.  Even his bad is good.  Kerry laughs at me, asking if he’s wound up.  Yup!  He sure is.  “Awwww, Rocky’s so funny when he’s up.” 

Yeah, funny.  Not the description I was thinking. 

We (Kerry) lunge him for a few minutes to take the edge off and I walk him around the indoor and over all the jump poles lying on the ground (I hope that’s not cheating).  And he’s starting to settle.  Now the long, nervous wait until our 2’6” class starts.  I watch most of the rounds and its good fun and one of those mules is GOOD.  Damn, we aren't going to be able to beat the mule.  I even get to watch Tom (Waters) school a horse around the 2’3” class.  Finally Kerry and I do the course walk for course #1 and she gives me some vital information on getting my rather large, elephant-like horse around this very tight course in a narrow indoor. 

And its time for warm-up.  Everyone always says, if you can survive warm-up, then you can survive the actual show round.  They aren’t kidding.  Its quiet when we start our warm-up and we start with the cross-rail.  Which apparently we jumped going in the wrong direction.  Kerry points out the Santa hats on the jump standards are supposed to signify a red flag “red on right.”  And naturally we jumped it red on left.  Oops.  We correct and jump the rest of the fences red on right.  Warm-up is short and sweet and just enough to get our minds right and remind me I can actually do this, stay on a horse over a fence.  By the time we leave the warm-up ring, it’s a zoo and my horse is coming apart.  He’s under the bit, dancing around like a horse about to whirl away from underneath you.  We quietly exit stage left and join the rest of the Miles Ahead Farm crew and miraculously Rocky pulls himself together and goes into “couch” mode.  I call my husband so he can arrive in time to see our second round.  I plan this cleverly, because I am convinced my second round will be better than the first, so hopefully he won’t witness any disaster, which may or may not be our first round.  Kerry comes out to tell us it’s a big 2’6” and the jumps are “looky.”  Dear God, “looky”???  WTF does that mean?  Finally we are on deck and I get my first glimpse at what “looky” means.  There’s shit everywhere.  Barrels, boxes, flowers, brush, planks, psychedelic painted poles, and there are oxers.  Oh my, are there oxers.  There are oxers 3 poles deep.  OMG, why did we not do the 2’3” class first?!?!?!  If Rocky decided to bag this whole thing and back on up outta here, I would not stop him and I would only feign to beat him with my stick and just hit my own leg instead.  But alas, he stood quietly awaiting our turn. 

And #24 is up.  Remember in my previous blog post (The Event That Never Happened) I said Rocky has a game face?  Yeah, well, that was not a joke.  All f*cking business in the ring.  To be fair, I don’t really remember a lot of the specific details from the round.  Its like when something traumatic happens to you and you can only remember the time right before and right after the traumatic event, but not the actual event, even though you were definitely there and apparently coherent.  As far as I remember, our round was pretty good until the very end.  No stops, no poles, I managed to stay with him, pointing him in the right direction and just kinda holding on and hoping for the best.  And then the last line comes.  Two fences with 5 or 6 (maybe even 7 or 8, I don’t know), strides in between.  Just enough distance to get yourself in trouble.  And the last fence had a very scary barrel underneath.  The second-to-last fence was fine (I think) but then we kinda zigzag down to the last fence, and I’m not real sure Rocky was convinced he needed to jump over that barrel, but I somehow straighten us and he doesn’t really have a choice.  And he jumps it huge (and maybe long, I don’t know) and pops me out of the tack a little and I lose my right stirrup AND I yell “SHIT!”…..very loudly..….with lots of little kids around.  Very classy.  I manage to stay on, collect my right stirrup and apologize for my Tourette's.   Apparently my jumping rounds are not kid-approved.  But we SURVIVED!!!  And now I have to do it all again, only a different course, with my husband watching.

After my round Amanda (Tamminga) proceeds to tell me how great I did, and yes, the last line was a bit dicey, but I straightened us, worked it out and held it together.  Tom proceeds to tell me how awful the last line was (yes, it was very bad).  I think I need (and want!) Amanda around all the time to buffer Tom's critiques of my riding. 

AND my husband arrives.  He has watched me ride before, albeit not often, but I have the uncanny ability to ALWAYS fall off when he’s present, thus reaffirming his stance that I’m trying to kill myself via equestrian activities.  I REALLY don’t want to fall off at my first show ever, but I really do want him to watch my round, so its kind of a rock and hard place.  First round was passable, so hopefully we do maybe even a little better for round two.  Kerry is left holding Rockstar for me so I walk, or rather jog the course with Beth and Julie, two other Miles Ahead Farm boarders.  I maybe shoulda spent a little more time walking that course.  It was a little tighter with sharper turns than course one.

And we are off for round two.  My breathing is only slightly less shallow than round one.  I do remember chucking my shoulders horribly at one fence (sorry Rocky) but he still took  the fence for me and I pull it together, until……fence 10.  F*cking fence 10, where the hell are you?  I finish the 9-a-b combo…and get lost.  I haven’t the faintest clue which fence is fence 10.  11 and 12 I know, because it’s the same terrible line I did in the first round.  But fence 10 is….oh there you are fence 10, sharp left turn to natural barrel.  Thank you spectators and Kerry for pointing that out for me.  We circle and finish our last three fences without incident.   Tom proceeds to tell me the fences are in fact NUMBERED and you go in ascending order.  My husband, God love him, wants to know why ALLLLLLL those little kids could remember the course, but I couldn’t.  Ahhhhh, f*cking fence 10.  Apparently remembering two courses within 20 minutes of each other is beyond me, which means my first event is going to be REAL interesting. 

After my round, once my breathing returned to normal, Kerry tells me I did great!  But….I could have used some more pace in round #2.  Then Tom tells me I did great…..aaaaand I could have used some more pace in round #2.  At least there is a trainer consensus.  I wish Steuart Pittman had been there, and then my complete set of trainers could have told me……I needed more pace.  I think it takes at least three times for me to be told something and then it finally reaches the part of my brain that remembers stuff.  (Yes, I have three wonderfully amazing trainers.  When you are as awful as I am, one trainer is just not enough.)  Clearly, we have GOT to work on adjustability at the canter.  And by we, I mean me, because Rocky will do whatever you tell him.  Unfortunately, there was not a whole lot of thinking going on for my part of the two rounds, and pace was very low on my list (pointing Rocky in the right direction and staying on were very high on the list).  But it was  my very FIRST show, so survival mode was really the best I could hope for.  At least I didn’t chicken out (I almost did) or cry (always a strong possibility).  Sooooo, for next time (which just happens to be Feb. 9th!), I’m going to try and be, uh, a little more present in the saddle and maybe think my way through the course a bit more…..with more pace. 

Finally, I climb off Rocky and land on very jello-y legs.  Nerves anyone?  I’m absolutely exhausted returning Rocky to his stall to untack, and Kerry comes over and tells me I got a ribbon for my first round.  Seriously, I laugh.  No we didn’t, I just rode an elephant in an indoor, there’s no way we got a ribbon for time.  But there it is, a pretty pink ribbon.  I’m still skeptical, and seriously, it crossed my mind that maybe they just give ribbons to everyone, like in pony club, so no one gets their feelings hurt.  But, seriously, we got fifth place :)