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
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.