Today, something interesting happened: I woke up and actually felt hungry.
Usually, my pre-show routine goes something like:
- Wake up.
- Consider vomiting for an extended period of time.
- Very quickly consume Extra Strength Pepcid.
- Lay back in bed, attempt to sleep for another 15 minutes, fail because riding my course 99999 times in head.
- Begin sweating.
- Briefly contemplate throwing up again.
- Decide to wake up and start morning routine, despite painful, because ANYTHING HAS TO BE BETTER THAN THIS MENTAL AND GASTROINTESTINAL ANGUISH.
But today, I woke up, leisurely contemplated my breakfast options, and even fell back asleep for about five minutes.
Today was Schooling Day, which is slightly more srs than it sounds. Basically it's a regular jumping class except there's no jump-off. The courses are (usually) slightly easier, and sometimes the course designers are even nice enough to not totally max out the height and width of the jumps. If one goes clear with no jumping faults or time faults, one receives a red ribbon for a clear round.
Per discussion with Trainer and Assistant, I was signed up to do the 90cm schooling and the 1.0 meter schooling after. 90cm because it's been three weeks since we showed, and Trainer hasn't been around much. I was really rather pleased with this, since the smaller the class, the less the stress.
I arrived early - the crack of 9 am - to watch my friend show her horse for the first time. Her horse is a lovely fellow, and has been doing the modified Grand Prixs for some time. But he's always been hot, more than a bit unpredictable and extremely sensitive, and even Trainer calls him "an immensely complicated horse." But my friend rode her guts out and even moved up a division - huge success for her! She is beside herself and also concerned about the fact that she has no show clothes and must outfit herself by Saturday morning.
My 90cm class took forever to start, as per usual, and I finally tacked up and hopped on around noon. Riley was mildly sluggish, and I re-thought my decision to lower my spurs so they wouldn't be quite so authoratative in the ring. After fixing this and (quite gently) applying the stick I had a much more forward, willing horse who wasn't constantly falling behind my leg. It doesn't take much with him, but it does take something! Trainer hopped on one of the green horses, and we both warmed up together, with him murmuring various tips and directions as we rode side by side and eventually over fences.
Our over fences warmup was kind of amusing - in the past, we've jumped somewhat smaller than the actual size of the fences in the ring, but we were doing a solid 1.0m and finished on about a 3'6" vertical. Needless to say I felt pretty ready stepping in the ring, and Riley immediately puffed into Show Ring Riley and strutted importantly, ears perked to the max. I showed him an in-and-out where a lot of horses were stopping and a liverpool, which he never cares very much about.
Jump 1 was a vertical coming off the left lead toward the in gate, and I got a short distance, which I was quite okay with. Riley landed and did his usual "OH.MY.GOD.WE'RE JUMPING. AT A HORSE SHOW. RIGHT NOW. THIS IS HAPPENING. I AM SO EXCITED. I LITERALLY JUST. I CAN'T. I CAN'T EVEN. OH MY GOD." and flailed around with some crowhopping, then we turned back to jump 2, a natural oxer, and did a nice bending six to a vertical toward the end of the ring. From there we turned right, jumped the scary in and out (which he did not care about) and I choked him in order to get the seven strides to the liverpool. He jumped it well, then we cantered along for a bit, turned right and jumped down a seven stride line that I found a really lovely forward distance to. Then we turned left, jumped an oxer and bending six to another oxer, then did some kind of blind turn to jump 10.
I was pretty happy with our round. We were clear, inside the time, and Riley jumped like a star. My distances were pretty decent as well, and he actually kind of listened. Sometimes.
After this I proceeded to sit around for 900 years waiting for the 1.0m class to go. This wasn't all bad, since Trainer was riding a bunch in the 1.15, then the 1.25, so there was plenty to do. A few of my friends and I got lunch and enjoyed the view from the pavilion.
The 1.0m finally walked, as a very similar course to the 90cm save for a few different lines. As I was walking in, Barn Owner skipped up from nearby and walked the course with me. Trainer doesn't always show up for these course walks - something I'm still getting used to. So it's nice to have someone else to walk with.
As we went along, she kept stopping by the oxers and going "oh my GOD, these are huge. I mean this is a REAL meter. They're enormous." Very helpful stuff for the already dubious me!
After that, I went back and watched more of the 1.25, since Trainer had some in that he wanted to get done prior to coaching me. My horse finally appeared at the ring, along with aforementioned green horse Trainer was riding in the 90cm who also moved up to 1.0m. We proceeded to warm up quite quickly on the flat, then started to jump.
If I thought the warm-up we had before was amusing, things were infinitely more so during this warm-up. It's one of those jumping sessions I don't think I'll soon forget. The jumps went up, and then they went up again. Then they went up AGAIN. Trainer kept calling "TALLER, WIDER" and this eventually led to the both of us jumping a 1.15m oxer and finishing out on a 1.15 or 1.20m vertical. According to Barn Manager: "He just kept saying UP! I was wondering if you were going to faint but you just kept bopping right along and nailing everything."
This session, perhaps needless to say? went extremely well. I found every distance, despite having plenty of variety in getting to them (the forward one, the quiet one, the "let's go a little sideways to make some room here" one) and honestly just felt amazing. I couldn't stop smiling and patting Riley and genuinely considered calling it a day, then and there, since he had just jumped his face off.
I was feeling some sort of bravado waiting to go in the ring, and when the time came I had my plan set and was ready to go.
Jump 1 was a natural oxer heading toward the in-gate, with a normal bending five stride line to a vertical. I jumped in a little slow, then had to move a little to make the five. Of course this led to Riley landing and playing a bit, but I quickly found his attention and turned to jump 3, another natural oxer. I found the quite forward one to this jump which led to landing on the way to jump 4 and going "well, this six isn't going to happen" and turning it into a nice five stride line. Riley's stride is so tremendously adjustable that these types of things are rather easily possible. He landed after jump 4 and really took off bucking - I dragged his head up, informed him he could really stand to stop being an ass, tugged him around the corner to the right and jumped through the "scary" in and out previously mentioned from the 90cm. Another seven strides to the liverpool - which somehow rode better this time - and then a longish gallop and right turn to a green oxer and seven stride line. This rode extremely well for me, and Trainer's commentary on the video is something like "ZAT WAS GOOOOOD" and "SUPAIRRRRR" for pretty much every jump. Guess I can't fault him for positivity! Anyway, after landing, we turned left, had another lengthy gallop where I took the opportunity to SLOW HIM DOWN and then jumped an oxer out of the corner, did a fairly forward six strides to another in and out, and cantered through the finish markers.
I was actually pretty happy with this round. Despite Riley dragging me around a bit, I was pleased with the decisions I made and the way I rode. Today, I felt exceptionally sticky in the tack, strong, and like I could actually ride. I wasn't thrilled with the mistakes, which were mainly my stupid habit of shoving my feet forward coming back to haunt me. Assistant Coach vows it is improving but I'm not so sure.
After this I went down and watched Trainer win the 1.35m, then watched the rest of the class during which time he popped up, sat down and said "HELLO!!! You are doing ze 1.10m tomorrow."
At this time I gave him what had to be an obscenely terrified look and said, "are... you sure...?"
Him: <observing with mild disgust, let's all just bear in mind he almost won a 1.60m Grand Prix on Sunday> "Yas I am sure. Why not? Zis mater (translation: meter), it is no challenge for you now. We must challenge."
Me: <muttering darkly to self about how the 1m is still *PLENTY* of challenge> "Uh. Well. I might die..."
Him: <gives extremely dirty look> "Non. Even if all you are doing is jumping two jumps in zis class tomorrow, I do not care. We must challenge."
Him: <proceeds to ignore strangled sounds emanating from my throat>
So I guess I'm entered in the 1.10m tomorrow.
And all I am contractually bound to do is jump two jumps.
When I made it back to the stabling area, all the girls (the staff, of which there are three working, plus Assistant coach) were all hush-hush and giving me rather furtive, gleeful looks. (For what it's worth, they all know about my 1.10m ~thing~ and that it's a Big Fucking Deal for me right now.) Finally, Barn Manager, whom I probably know best, blurts out "SO DID ASSISTANT TELL YOU."
BM: "ABOUT THE..." <furtive look> <whisper> "meter ten."
At this rather quiet proclamation all activity has ceased and the other two girls are observing me with bated breath. Unfortunately they were all rather unamused when I told them that Trainer had already dropped that bomb.
This eventually led to much ribbing and encouragement. We have the best staff, we really do.
So! My goals for tomorrow are small, but mighty:
- Stay on.
- Make it around the course and FINISH.
- No stops.*
* If Riley lands after some fucking massive oxer and takes off bucking I reserve the right to circle.
Deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out. There are real issues in the world, and me jumping 1.10m is not one of them.
That said, tonight is not going to be a drug-free night. I'm pretty sure there will definitively be no sleeping whatsoever without the aid of Ambien. Ouf.