Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pony Show!

As alluded to in the previous post, this past week was a horse show.  This one was, rather thankfully, close to home.

We moved in Tuesday, as usual, and I took Riley for a flat in the jumper rings.  He decided he was in quite a mood and snapped at some horses passing by him and bucked and bolted a little bit.  Trainer showed up to observe us flat, which is always sort of entertaining since he seems to attract clingers-on like moths to a flame.  So he's parked in his golf cart well away from the entrance to the ring or any clumps of people, and casually murmuring things to me from time to time, and by the end of it quite literally had a crowd of ten or fifteen people lurking nearby listening to him talk, or actively trying to speak with him. This also meant *I* had ten or fifteen people very studiously observing my every move.  Hashtag celebrity status or something.

Wednesday, it was decided I would do a 90cm (which is 3ft) jumper schooling class to warm up.  I had the distinct feeling that Trainer thought I was slightly broken after the last horse show - not an unfair assessment, particularly given my history, but I was feeling pretty fine, despite the bruises from that ever so enjoyable experience continuing to burn dark purple.  In warm-up, we continued to work on patience, quietness, not galloping around like crazy and just letting the jumps come up.  We warmed up well enough and then toddled in the ring to put in a very good performance with relatively few mistakes and obtained a clear round ribbon.  I came out and we talked about Riley's fairly peculiar jumping style, which can mislead you into thinking you have done something very wrong when in fact you have not, and which Trainer thinks is part of the root of me looking to take the long one a lot of the time.  ("It feel 'ORREEBLE when he jomp like deep like zat, but it does not mean you have given a bad ride, I will tell you if you have, do not worry <grin>. ")

Perfect pony is perfect.

It was decided we'd move up to the 1m schooling the next day and, after some discussion, we decided to show four days in a row, then send Riley home Saturday night instead of doing the Jr/Am division on Sunday, since Trainer has a flight to Europe Sunday afternoon.

The next day, the 1.0m (3'3") schooling went extremely well.  I practiced all the things we worked on, improved upon them and, although I messed up the middle of the course by resorting to old habits and looking for the gallopy one, only did this for two jumps out of 14 efforts and managed to really ride well the rest of the time.  I was super happy with it and started pondering the 1.10m.

Friday, we did another 1m schooling, which went down as the best horse show round I've ever had in my entire life.  We're talking smoothness, patience, ease, professionalism.  I have truly never ridden a course better in my life.  It was everything you'd want in a round and I came out absolutely ecstatic.

Perfect pony in our best round!

I met Trainer when I came out and he reinforced everything I thought it was.  "Zat was excellont, I could not have asked for better.  We do meter-ten tomorrow."

Well you may all remember exactly how I feel about doing 1.10m (3'7") classes.  But damn if I wasn't feeling good about it and prepared and like I could actually RIDE and like I had uncovered some magical key to success when it came to jumping.  So instead of turning white and fainting off the side of my horse I grinned widely and said "absolutely, let's do it."  Which I think mildly surprised Trainer since I pretty much barfed on his boots last time he suggested it, but hey, a girl can change.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling somewhat less than total bravado, and was barely able to choke down an egg and a single sausage for breakfast.  Then off to the horse show.  Thankfully the 1.10m went early in the day, so there wasn't too much waiting around.  The show office elected to make it a Speed round where it had originally been listed as a jump-off class, due to the fact that there were something like 200-odd trips to get through in the ring, which doesn't sound like a lot but at an average of 15-20 trips per hour plus course walks, drags, and course setting, takes a long, long time.  This made me happy since it would result in fewer jumps to jump, and they also traditionally make the Speed classes mildly softer than the jump-off classes.  Though of course that was not the case on Saturday.

Instead, they left it the same as the 3'9" Jumper Medal class that went beforehand.  Thanks a lot, course designers.

I didn't really mind the course, save for two things that stuck out: an ENORMOUS triple bar at fence six off the corner, which I swear they did not set down in height from the 3'9" medal, and was unbelievably imposing and SO tall and wide; it looked like we were going to jump a small house.  The second was a triple combination as the very last effort, though as triple combinations go it was about as kind as it could be - vertical, one stride, oxer, two strides, vertical.  It looked to be riding well, too, so I wasn't panicking too much about it.

After some serious kerfuffle and moving down in the order after one of the hunters in our barn dumped his rider and went on a tour of the showgrounds, causing all the grooms to be tied up for some time, our horses appeared and I hopped on to get ready.  Riley flatted well, if a little behind my leg, but I managed to wake him up by the time we started to jump.  Our jumping went absolutely beautifully.  I had the rhythm, the confidence, and the assertiveness to ride really well.  That is until some jerk decided, while we were cantering down to a 1.10m oxer near the end of our warmup, to start throwing the giant liverpool around that resides in every jumper warmup ring.  Riley freaked out, bolted off toward the jump and, while we managed to survive, it was a bit rattling.  We cantered down to it again and the asshat decided to shake it out really high in the air when we were about five strides away.  This resulted in Riley slamming on the brakes, throwing his head in the air and spinning away in terror.  I just about hopped off him and went over and beat the jerk with my whip but instead, Trainer took care of it, told them to cut it the fuck out and gently swore at them for a moment, which received a muttered apology, and told me to canter down to the jump again.  We did, then jumped it once more for confidence, then a vertical and we were off to the ring.

I felt good going in the ring. I think Trainer instructed them not to buzz me in right away - he can get away with that sort of thing - and I spent some quality time showing Riley all the things that freaked me out - every jump of the triple combination, the Liverpool, the gigantic triple bar, and the in and out along the spooky rail (it has a bunch of flags and a lot of horses go "AHHHHH" when they get over there.)

Then we were buzzed in and got started.

Jump one was an oxer off the in gate about 3/4 of the way up the ring.  I hit this on a forward stride and we were up and over with ease and grace.  Then a right turn with a lengthy run to a vertical, followed by a *short* four strides toward the in gate to an oxer.  I came in on a little bit of a forward one to the vertical, then sat back and choked Riley to get the four, but wasn't quite quick enough and we were quite deep.  However, he managed to get us out of trouble and I gave him a pat on the neck for his efforts.  From there, we cantered along the side of the ring to a vertical off a short corner along the Scary Wall.  I hit this well, a tiny bit quiet which was my plan, since it was six strides to an oxer-vertical in and out that had been riding short.  I landed, took a feel about two strides in, then came very lightly forward the last three strides to meet the oxer absolutely perfectly.  I was really, really proud of how I rode that line and I don't think I could have ridden it any better than I did.

Perfect Pony making piecemeal of the "in" part of the oxer-vertical in and out.

Next up was the vertical coming out of the in and out.  It should be noted that, when Riley starts doing bigger classes, he becomes impressed and starts jumping the snot out of things.  I have a photo which perfectly illustrates this:

Extremely bad quality since it's a video still, but here he is over 1.10m, pretending it's, oh, I don't know, 1.35m or so.

Or this. Yeah, there's also this. 

So while we hadn't quite reached the point in the course (....yet) where he was jumping the standards, I could feel him backing off and getting impressed and going "oh DEAR mom, these are bigger. I think this means I need to yank my knees to my eyeballs and make sure we come out alive. You hang on back there okay?"

He put quite the effort into that oxer, and landed in a little bit of a heap, which made the (totally normal...) distance out of the in and out a little bit long.  He hesitated slightly, I put my leg on and he jumped out but it was a little bit funny and I figured I'd better get him in gear for the rest of the course or we would end up backing off out of the jumps altogether.

Of course, next up was the huge triple bar.  I went wide in the turn, giving us maximum space to find a good distance and ride whatever came up.  From about six strides I saw the lightly forward one, which is, of course, perfect when you are riding a triple bar, since you want some gallop and impulsion to clear the height and width.  So I sent Riley forward and hit the distance perfectly, and Riley proceeded to jump the living snot out of the fence.  Knees above the standards and very serious expression on his face.  Unfortunately it was TOO good and sent me absolutely skyrocketing.  I ended up two feet above the tack, then practically behind my saddle as we landed, then on his ears when the saddle kicked me forward, then grasping around his neck desperately, then flying off the right side and doing a somersault on landing.

Pretty sure this is not correct equitation.

It's going down, I'm yelling Timber.....

Riley's thoughts on the whole thing.

I want you all to know I'm refraining from posting stills of the actual fall itself since it looks... uhhh, kind of graphic and also looks like I broke my neck.  Which I really did think happened for a minute, since I came down hard on my right hip and shoulders, then head, then somersaulted sort of spectacularly.  After most falls I pop up right away and stalk off in irritation but it felt bad enough that I went down and stayed there.  I immediately had the ring crew at my side, telling me not to move, then the medic showed up in about 13 seconds, along with the Barn Manager.  Trainer told us last autumn that if we ever fall off in the ring he absolutely will not come in the ring, and this has sort of become lore within the barn now.  Whenever it's happened to anyone he will sit and quietly observe, even if the medic is out there forever, but his philosophy is, "well, if you're hurt there's nothing I can do about it anyway" so I obviously didn't expect to see him there.  

The medic did a bunch of prodding around and checked for broken everything.  By this time the extreme nausea had dissipated and I had gotten my wind back and was feeling much better, but was still laying on the ground with my eyes closed while he prodded around.  And then I heard something funny in an unmistakable French accent.

My eyes snapped open and I stared in shock and amazement at Trainer, who, for the first time in anyone's memory, had come in the ring to see if I was dead.
Me: "What are you doing here? I thought you said you wouldn't come in the ring if we fell off?"
Trainer: "Well you were taking too long to get up, I thought I would come prod you off ze ground."

By this time I was mostly feeling okay and had started to rise to my feet, which led to a serious wave of dizziness and nausea but quickly went away, still resulting in me stumbling around a little bit.  We all stood there for a moment, chatting, and then I walked out on my own steam.  So, all's well that ends well.  The medic trailed after us for awhile, force fed me Gatorade, then went on his way.  

Some time later, Trainer ferreted me out and spent awhile laughing at me for falling off, whacked me on my (quite sore) still-helmeted head, and told me it was really something I shouldn't worry about and in fact should be really okay with because my horse had jumped really well and I had just made a small mistake and softened too much with my body for the height and width.  He was actually shockingly positive about it, and the conversation was something like this:

Trainer: HAHA you fell off!
Me: UGH I know I'm pissed about it.
Trainer: <loses all traces of laughter immediately> Why?
Me: Because I just didn't ride well enough to stay on and it was going so well and it felt so good and then that happened and UGH I just didn't ride well enough.
Trainer: No no, listen, okay.  Your 'orse, he jumped ze shit out of zat jomp, okay?  Zat hard to sit. You were SO HAPPY you get to ze good distance for zat jomp that you just soften a leeeeettle too much. It not a big deal, you should be okay wiz it, it is not somezing to worry about at all.  You ride zat course exactly like I want you to ride eet.  Zis a huge improvement from that other mater-ten you did, do not get all in your head about zis.
Me: But I really should have ridden it better and been stronger ugh.
Trainer: Well okay how many triple bars you ridden in your life?
Me: I don't know, like, four or five? Or something?
Trainer: Ya okay and never any at zis height. Listen, it gonna be zis way, we challenging here.  You step up good to zis. It gonna be the same ting when you jump ze open water the first time, you not gonna know exactly what to do every single time, zis okay. You can only learn wiz experience you know, you can't just know everyting, it cannot be perfect always. How many time you think I have fallen off?
Me: <scowls> Ugh fine.
Me: When can I jump the open water?

I had planned to go back in the 1.0m class after the fall, but since the ring had some 200 trips in they weren't allowing any adds the day of, so that plan was out.  I opted to send Riley home since I knew I would be sore today and really uninterested in riding, and turns out that's true!  I woke up quite a few times in the night from the pain and am currently feeling very grateful that Canada will let you buy what amounts to Tylenol-3s over the counter.  The concentration of the pain is in my neck - it's very, very sore, and the rest is relegated to my right hip and leg, then both my shoulders, and of course I have a headache.  And for some weird reason, my scalp is KILLING me on the back top of my head.  Like I can't even touch it without basically bursting into tears. 

But the worst part? I just bought a new helmet TWO WEEKS AGO.  Guess what I have to replace! Goodbye money. :(

After this, we're off for quite some time.  The Assistant is taking some horses to a few horse shows coming up, and it's been strongly suggested I go, but... well, for reasons I won't get into here, I'm not overly interested in attending.

Trainer is off now (in fact he's probably boarding a flight as I type this) for Europe for final World Equestrian Games preparations and then competition, and we won't see him for about a month.  I can't begin to tell you how excited I am that he's going to represent at the WEG and am REALLY looking forward to cheering him, and the rest of the Team, on from my living room.  Although I'll probably get an ulcer from the stress, let's be real. FEI TV subscription, here I come!  Or maybe even a last minute trip to Normandy.  Hmmmm....


  1. I will be even more jealous of your awesome life if you can make an impromptu trip to Normandy - tickets were sold out last December...but then again you have an in & could totally be backroom staff for your awesome trainer. I take my initial objections back & hope you do get to go, take loads of pictures to share on here & then visit me on your way home - hah! I'm only like 8-10hours away LOL - i kid I kid...mostly ;-)

    Really sorry to hear you had a fall and have to invest in another helmet again so quickly. R really was jumping the snot out of them fences - the air he's giving them you'll have no bother moving up to 1m40s seeing as he's jumping that height without the poles as is ;-p

    1. Haha my so-called awesome life is not without its own set of problems! But a trip to Normandy would definitely make it awesome-r. Time will tell :)

      I question if he will continue to jump two feet over the top rail if he moves up or if it maxes out eventually... I mean, a horse can only jump so high, right? As ever thanks for your comments, nice to know someone in the world is out there reading! :)

    2. I would hope that as the poles go up he would become less exuberant as he gets used to jumping those heights.
      Oh I don't believe anyone's life is without issues, it is how we tackle them that is impressive. I admire the way you face your saddle fears and issues head on and safely with proper advice from good people. Knowing when to turn to others and trusting those around you is pretty awesome & admirable in my book ☺

    3. PS - love the new layout, such lovely soft colours!

    4. I hope so too... I think the next time we go horse showing, I'm going to have Mr. Trainer spin him around a bigger class. Can't hurt.
      Thank you for your kind words, it's a serious work in progress, and I really can't explain how much things have changed in the past several months. SO much work lol but it's been 100% worth it. You're very sweet and so supportive!

      And thank you for the nice words on the layout! I'm sure one day I'll grow past the Blogger templates but... well, for now it's not too bad.

  2. Eeee, so exciting you did the 3'9" classic!!!! That in itself is a huge accomplishment. I agree with trainer, you have a lot to be happy about! P.S. I want to see the video still of him over jumping that giant thing.

    1. It... was something else, that's for sure. Lots to work on! I'll have to work on that video still; unfortunately the camera angle is not too good and there's a bunch of crap in the way. :(

  3. Way to ride it!! I mean, yeah, the falling off part sucks and the pain sucks but you sound so much happier and more confident and those fences are nothing to sneeze at.

    Pity about the helmet though.

    1. Thank you!! Yes it's easy to have the attitude at least now, we'll see what happens when we're facing the next gigantic triple bar :)

      A serious pity. I am so sad. There isn't even any silver lining this time since it's not even a new oooooh shiny that I didn't have before! As a fellow tack ho, I know you'll understand!

  4. Oh man, ouch! Glad you're [more or less] okay -- and Riley really is jumping the PISS out of those jumps. Jesus!! lol

    1. SEE WHAT I HAVE TO DEAL WITH. :P In reality it could be a lot worse. I just... you know, need to ride better. Or teach him not to overjump things by two feet. Not sure which one comes faster.