Wednesday, 14 May 2014

May Daze

In the attempt to keep a positive spin on things (something my therapist is forever telling me to do, since I naturally default to "mild asshole/extreme sarcasm/intense self deprecation" status) I'm going to list the things in my horsey life I'm grateful for.

- ALL OF IT.
To get more specific....

- My amazing, kind, gifted, beautiful, sweet, long-strided, brave, honest horse.
- My incredible trainer. I am pretty sure I'm the luckiest damn person in the entire world to experience this type of extremely high quality, second-to-none training.
- My barn owners, who have gone the extra mile and back on more than one occasion to ensure my happiness and made a lot of things possible.  I am SO lucky to be with this barn, if only because of that!
- The incredible staff at my barn, at least some of whom I consider friends; we are very lucky.
- Butet saddles. Nuff said.
- The sport of showjumping, and its frustrating and ridiculous ability to constantly challenge while being perhaps the most interesting thing I've ever been involved with.
- HORSE SHOWS BECAUSE SQUEE
- Live streaming of Grand Prix. I would probably have expired from envy/withdrawal if these weren't available during the winter season.

OK. So now that's out of the way and I feel all squishy, on to the first day of the horse show!

Technically, it was the second day - we moved in to the show grounds yesterday.  Fortunately for us, they're located just 20 minutes from the farm, which makes the show about 35-40 minutes from my place.  It's the ideal drive, actually - enough time in the morning to wake up, inhale some coffee and rev myself up with "kick some ass" music.  Unfortunately this also usually involves me chowing down about 30 Tums and mentally riding my course 99999 times.  Which is good and bad.

Tuesday, I wandered my way out and had a great flat on Riley.  Trainer helped me out a little, giving me a few tips here and there from the back of whichever equine (they arrived in a steady parade) he happened to be sitting on.  I flatted mainly in our Wee Jumper Ring warmup and then spent some time in Grand Prix land, and even wandered over to visit a few friends hacking around in the Hunter warmup.  By the end, Riley was a tired boy - the goal for the day - and had stopped yanking my arms out.  A great preparation for Wednesday, or so I thought.

Wednesday dawned bright and early. For some reason, the organizers are insistent on putting the tiniest jumper classes at the beginning of the day (which, realistically, makes a lot of sense, but STILL) so my wakeup call was set for 6:30. It's important to note it was set for that time; despite chowing down Ambien the night before, I woke up at 3:30 AM and never did fall back asleep.  Not the ideal start to the day!  

Bearing in mind this is my first show with this trainer, I had no idea how he operated, so I hoofed down at 8:15 to walk my teeny tiny jumper course.  Trainer was loafing around at the gate, and we made our way into the ring to walk the course.

This course walk thing happened way faster than I would have liked.  I am not good at memorizing courses. I'm one of those people who has to stand in the middle after I've walked the entire thing six times and recite it about 40 times, complete with crop waving, before it permeates my memory.  Trainer had me walk all the lines (of which there were a massive total of three) then decided we were done and wandered out.  Unfortunately, this led to him sitting in his golf cart for another 10 minutes waiting for me to finish the hell up while I recited the course the aforementioned 40 times.  Let it be known, I made an Olympian wait on me. If that doesn't give you an ulcer, what will?

After arriving back at the barn, I observed my horse being tacked up more swiftly than I had ever seen by our substitute (and very French) groom, and I hustled to get my boots, helmet, spurs and gloves in order.  Then it was time to hop on my horse and hack down to the ring.

My flat warmup was okay - Riley was veeeeery forward and practically skipping around at mach 12 at the trot, then bounded into an extremely lofty canter once I thought I'd worn him down incrementally at the trot.  (Hint: I didn't.)  Monsieur Trainer took one of his young horses in first and then came back to warm me up.

My jump warmup was... not so great.  The first jump, the world's tiniest vertical, came up long and I, attempting to just go with the flow, said "okay" and went with it.  Which led to Riley landing, throwing his head down, bucking like a fiend and galloping off.  He came fairly close to getting me off, but I managed to yank his head up and carry on.  The next three fences were also fairly terrible distances and I was obviously not able to get my shit together.

"Rheeeeeeethym, paaaaace. You just need to find ze right rheeeeethym! You air too faaaast, zees jump ees tiny."
I managed to pull out my brain and dust it off at that point, and actually started to, you know, ride.  Until we started doing oxers and then I started to suck again.

"Why you are cutting ziss corner? Go into ze corner. Zen come out and make a good turn, even when there is no corner."
I have no idea what I was doing at this point since I am usually The Queen Of The Square Turn.
This also led to me doing absolutely zero to fix it and Trainer walking directly in front of the fence as I was, oh, two strides away, which was very confusing since the Assistant does that sometimes and still wants you to jump it, but since I didn't want to be solely responsible for the murder of the nation's great Olympic hope, I decided to pull up my horse.

"Youuuu are still not going in ze corner, go in ziss corner." Gesticulating toward the, duh, corner.
Me: "Oh, uh, you want me to go in the corner?"
Trainer: *mildly incredulous look* "yeeeeeeeeeesssssss"
Me: *goes to canter off, the long way*
Assistant: Why are you going that far away? Turn here. You're wasting time.
Trainer: "THIS IS FIIIIINE. TAKE YOUR TIME."
Me: "Um, my horse is really fresh... it would be nice to wear him down at least a little."
Me: *muttering under breath, whilst cantering through the stupid corner, some words not fit for retelling*
Me: Finally jumps oxer like not-a-piece-of-shit.
Trainer: "YOU AIRRR RAAAAYDEE!"
Me: *throws up in mouth*

This is where it got kind of interesting, at least from my perspective.  I'm one of those people who gets crippling cases of horse show nerves. So I was all turning green and tight lipped and silent and Trainer got oddly helpful.  I don't even remember exactly what happened but I remember feeling very supported by the time I made my way into the ring, where my horse proceeded to give everything the evil eye.  At Trainer's behest I trotted him through the double, the first scary line, around one of the jumps by the wall next to the scary timer, by the scary flags, by the scary gazebo, etc etc.  Then nearly ran out of time to start my course, ha ha.

I started a touch slow, under the realization that my horse was probably going to morph into an equine freight train as we went along, but this was a mild mistake since the first line was a regular six and he wasn't quite up to speed.  With a touch of leg we came out of the six the slightest bit long, which resulted in a very firm half halt before turning to jump 3 across the center of the ring, which I found a nice forward distance to.  From there it was a dog leg off your eye to a natural oxer, which we jumped absolutely beautifully (probably my favorite jump on the course, for my horse and my equitation - and, I thought, a pretty damn good emulation of Trainer's style, which is perhaps the fangirl in me but was cool to see.)  From there we went around by the timer and rolled back to a two-stride, which I got a lovely quietly forward distance to, which I needed in order to make the striding through the two (as we were still mildly under pace, by my own decision) and I was absolutely thrilled with the result.  From there we bent to a purple oxer in a seven, which Riley jumped the snot out of and which required some serious grappling with the reins on landing.  We got a vaguely tight distance in to a six stride line away from the in-gate, culminating in a one stride oxer-oxer combination.  I was very pleased with this since we were rolling right along and had to do a nice steady in the middle, which I was happy to have noticed and fixed.  From there we rolled back again to a green oxer, which rode nicely (and on the video, Riley jumped over the top of it by about two and a half feet) and then a bending line to a colorful oxer to finish.  Unfortunately I bulged out slightly too much and took his eye off it, and by the time I got it back and sighted a distance we were really tight but it was perfectly doable.  It was the only fence I kind of messed up, which I'm pretty happy with since it wasn't a massive mistake, and I felt confident in my decision to make him wait for the jump instead of going "EKKKK TAKE THE FLYER BUDDY!" and going galloping off into oblivion.

And it was probably the only course where I've come out and got "YOU DID A REALLY GOOD JOB." followed by "well you probably could have been a little more forward in that first six but oh those are your reasons so hey I'm totally happy with that good job thinking about that" and uh... well. Yeah. It was just... you know, really good.  And tomorrow I get to move up 10 centimeters to the not-quite-as-tiny jumpers! Hooray!

I practically cried upon watching my video; it's shocking, amazing and unbelievable to me how much my riding has changed in the past five months.  And I'm the hardest person *in the world* on myself. I can't believe the change and I am so unbelievably grateful for this opportunity I can hardly stand it.

The rest of the day, I slooooowly cleaned some tack, stuffed my horse to the gills with treats, and spent a lot of time gazing at gorgeous horses jumping huge (and not so huge) fences and generally had a wonderful time.

Have I mentioned I love horse showing? And what do you know, I really can't remember the last time I EVER said that.

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