I guess its fitting on some level that this post took me a week, since this show was exhausting! Nothing like riding all day in 95+ degree, 50%+ humidity conditions. Long post, but lots of information and pictures 🙂
We decided to leave fairly late: 6:15 am. We got to the barn and loaded up, then stopped for some breakfast tacos and ice before driving down. We ended up being about 30 minutes behind the ideal schedule, but that was mostly ok. It just meant we got to speed walk the beginner novice xc course.
I’ve been dreaming of moving up to novice soon, and one of the things holding me back is the introduction of combinations on cross country. Imagine my surprise when I found a four-stride bending line out in the back of the property… I had a mini-panic moment, and resolved to ride actively later. After some drama llama-ing. And then more llamas.
After check in and walking the course, it was time to jump into my dressage gear and get Knots ready to go.
Knots warmed up really well. We worked on some serpentines and transititions. He was quiet in the canter and just really relaxed. I had planned for a 30-40 minute warmup, but he was happy with less. I walked him around until the steward mentioned we were next. Then I started up the serpentines again, and serpentined right into the arena. He is much better working into the arena, instead of standing around and then coming back into work.
I didn’t get the scores until later, but 40!!!!! This is a personal best for us. Our other scores on this test are 46.8 and 49.5. Progress!
After dressage, it was time to cool out and go walk the stadium course. Stadium at Pine Hill is always inviting, usually without combinations. Whomp. An average two-stride line and a long five, short six stride line. Theme of the day. I decided we would get six and that I needed to ride forward for the two.
Our stadium warmup was hot and cold. Knots didn’t really want to ride forward into the bridle and I kept getting jumped around. I think there was something going on with my choice of pants and underwear, but maybe I just forgot how to sit. This was the beginning of my massive fail at bitting my horse properly. (See, I told you I would talk about the good, the bad, AND the ugly in my training diaries.)
As you can see, a bit frantic. Sucking back from the bridle, miscommunications. Penalties. Six strides on the related distance and three in the combination. It was ugly. Especially since we’ve been riding so well at home… Somehow the still photos looked incrementally better. Troy Roane takes excellent photos. Number 17 is actually a lovely photo of cross country, on my list to buy sometime.
As you might guess, I was very disappointed in this round. And clearly the bit was too much, but what about cross country? I had the full cheek snaffle in the box, but last time cross country was where I really needed brakes. Why take the brakes off right before you needed them? I didn’t have a lot of time to think about these problems, because it was time to ride Vinny’s dressage round. Robert was a champ and helped me take care of Knots, and then it was onto the next pony with a clear mind.
Vinny was strong in warm up. He didn’t want to slow down, and he wanted to lean hard on the bit. We practiced some ugly halt transitions from the trot, trying to maintain some level of flexion. The steward was a little confused and tried to tell us we needed to ride the test 20 minutes early, but after he checked his watch he was good to go. I think its always key to remember the people running the show are volunteers, and there is honestly never a reason to be rude.
We eventually had some semblance of a half halt in the trot and tried out the canter. No right lead, but I think he just doesn’t really understand the cue very well. Time will improve that. Anyways, our test:
It looked a lot better than it felt. There are only a couple of moments when you can see me struggling hard. We stayed in the arena and even picked up the correct right lead on the second try! Vinny pulled down a 42.5, which I was very happy with, considering he was evading contact as much as he could throughout the test and I was practically hanging on his face #dramallama. Funnily enough, the judge was very pleased to see a draft cross with some energy.
After our dressage round, we had about an hour before the stadium round. Lunch time. Vinny’s owner cooled him down and gave him another round of snacks, and we grabbed some concession stand food. I only ate about a half of a BBQ sandwich; when its that hot its hard to eat. I did drink about 10 gatorade/waters during the day though.
Vinny’s stadium course was the same as Knots, except the two stride line was gone. There were some suspicious potted plants in front of the standards though… Our warm up went really well and we tried to find some shade to stand in as we waited our turn.
This was the part of the day that was really starting to be hot. Luckily there was a very solid breeze blowing.
Vinny was lovely. We didn’t canter much, I wanted to be sure he didn’t try any funny business. And we haven’t been cantering all the jumps at home, perform like you practice or something. He was a really good boy. He looked at the plants on the standards, but went right over.
His professional photographs are very nice. Number 12 shows the uncertainty at the plants. Number 21 is a nice XC photo. Number 6 shows his best form, although questionably too much effort for such a small jump.
After Vinny’s stadium, there was another big break before Knots’ cross country. I tried to hydrate some more and eat something. Eating didn’t really work out. My fearless leader and I walked the XC course for Vinny.
Then it was time for warmup. No more coat and off for the fun part. Except the bitting. We were riding in a slow twist, which I have ridden Knots in before to success. Remember High Point Schooling in January? Rode in a slow twist and it was perfect. I think I forgot to consider how much consistent riding has happened between then and now. He generally slows down, and hes actually getting to the base of the jump now, things he didn’t do when the bit was first used. And so cross country in July…
Honestly, it was awful. And all my fault did I mention? We came out of the box good, then off to the first jump. He looked at it and would have refused if I wasn’t game on. Very un-Knots. Then he charged to the second jump, much like last time. This is the part of the course I brought this bit for, and it didn’t do anything. I still didn’t have brakes, because now he was scared of my leg and the bit. Bad words happened here.
He really tried to stop at the second jump. I got him over and we charged off again. He hesitated before the uphill mushroom about four strides out, and I pushed on. And then he charged off again. I couldn’t get the line to the next jump, the uphill log, from the charge. I said more bad words and we turned a circle. Knots listened a little bit, and then we went up the hill. As we were coming down the hill, he finally started to relax, slow down, and pay attention.
This was important because that nasty combination was coming up. We rode it like a champ. He hit the first one with his hoof, and the second one was great. We had a little galloping stretch to think about where we were in life. I planned my huge releases.
The next few jumps went well, 7, 8, 9, 10. I put my leg on, he jumped, I stayed far out of his face. We came around over the mini brush jump and up to the water. He actually hesitated coming in. Rob got a great video. Knots doesn’t actually like jumping down into water, and we’ve only schooled it a few times. Since there wasn’t water up to the edge, I didn’t think about it being a stopping issue on the course walk. I got a little forward, but we quickly regrouped.
At this point I was starting to be tired, three jumps left, but we had really worked to get around. The rest of the course was uphill, first the train coop, then a step up, then the teal roll top.
As we came up to the hill to the train coop, I didn’t put my leg on. Knots ran out. Maggie got a video, you can see I’m moving about as slow as molasses. Here is where eating more food would have been helpful. We circled back around and I rode more aggressively, getting jumped out of the tack in the process. #ugly
The last two jumps were uneventful, and I was just happy to get Knots home without further trouble. I jumped off Knots, loosened the girth and started cooling Knots out and telling him about all the cookies he was going to eat. I’ve never felt so crappy after a cross country round.
After taking care of Knots, we had some time before Vinny’s round. I was canvasing people for light snack foods, and one of the student’s dad let me annihilate his tupperware of strawberries and blueberries. After a recharge, I was ready for Vinny’s trek around the field.
We warmed up, nothing too wild, and then headed to the startbox. He was very looky, not too sure where we were going. Out and over the first jump, no big deal. Just a little wiggly. Second jump, third jump, boring. Although there may have been a tiger beside that awful tree stump.
The fourth jump was next to the water, and he was concerned.
Vinny was a little sideways at the water, but once he realized we were going around he was better. Then he saw the sand. We actually walked a little bit. I probably could have trotted him, in retrospect, but I really just wanted him to have a fun round. Slowing down seemed like the best way to not make it a thing. And a horse that slows down when scared seems safer long term than a horse that runs away from danger. Just need to install the buttons.
We went up the hill to jump up the little log/step up. I thought this would be the scary jump, but he didn’t mind at all. Over the box and then over some sand (!) and beside the ditches (!!!) to jump over the big box. We cantered up to the finish line.
He was such a good boy. His owner was at the top of the hill to help pull off his boots and we put some cold water on him. He wasn’t even that winded, go fit pony trotting around the field! I think he would have been a little winded if we cantered up the whole thing, but who knows. Maybe he has more arabian than percheron.
All in all, it wasn’t a total wash of a day. Knots and I had a great dressage test, stadium and cross country were learning experiences for me.
This end of the day picture seems to appropriately sum up how we felt:
Vinny had a great first competition. I think this was a great confidence building round. He even earned a ribbon!
Shamelessly stolen from Vinny’s owner. He’s so handsome!!