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 :)