Our week started well. Riley shipped in early Wednesday morning, and we did the 1.0m schooling class. No 90cm to start for me this week! The course was a little weird for a schooling - a lot of twisty turns and very few lines. There was even a three stride line, which I thought was extremely irritating. I hate three stride lines. They're basically in and outs or two strides in disguise. You still have to get in there pretty perfectly or you're in trouble. The course design all week was a bit screwy, and the designer, Guilherme Jorge, who, if I'm not mistaken is doing Rio 2016, absolutely *adores* his rollbacks. On Thursday, he even threw in a triple combination. IN A SCHOOLING CLASS. What.
Having said that, our 1.0m schooling went really well. Riley jumped his socks off, felt amazing, and I had a pretty good day, saw my distances well, made good decisions etc. No tremendous mistakes. I came out of the combination at jump 4AB with quite a lot of horse under me, so made him add the extra stride in to 5, but that was calculated and not me panicking and pulling to nothing. As it is, it set us up perfectly for the line that followed. We were clear and Trainer said it was the best course I've ridden to date. That was pretty nice!
Course map, click for bigger
Very good pony.
Flat day, gave Riley a wee leg stretch that mostly involved walking around and using him as a couch for the better part of an hour. Then I watched horses jump for about six hours, and it was totally fantastic.
This show is a bit odd in that it's the penultimate show of the year for this series, and is therefore Fancy and awards all kinds of money and makes everything into a Big Deal. There were about five Grand Prix that went, including a World Cup qualifier and lots of money classes, even for us ammies. Anyway, in order to make it More Fancy, they run one single class for each division every day beginning on Friday.
We started out doing a 1.0m Jumpoff class. I was really nervous again, and decided I wouldn't mind getting a rail in the first round so as not to jump off. Well, my wish was granted when I cantered to the first jump, decided I was too fast despite seeing my distance, and decided to slow down the last three strides which put us on a perfect half stride. I went "JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL" and Riley took over, but in the process, knocked down the first jump because he's not used to being left completely to his own devices. So. That was that for the jump-off. Mr. Course Designer decided to make the first THREE jumps rollbacks, which I totally did not appreciate since I prefer to have at least two jumps to get into a decent rhythm. We left pretty far to jump two, but were good to 3AB, then left from West Texas to jump four. After that, I got my shit together and we had a pretty good back half of the round, except when I put five in a six stride line, but it walked VERY short so I didn't really feel that bad. Trainer was just like, "well, you were not very patient, you put too much pressure..." Nothing like going back to old habits!
I felt really badly after that round, since I hadn't ridden so terribly in the ring in quite some time. I had a deep wish to do the 1.10m on Saturday, but after that Trainer didn't even mention it. And he shouldn't have since I had no business doing it, but I just felt horrible and stupid and really angry with myself. Everyone kept saying it wasn't that bad, and that the recovery from the beginning of the course was good, and realistically, they're right, but I was (and am) still disappointed with my performance. I spent a really long time beating myself up about it.
This day held a lovely 1.0m Table C Speed class for us. Table C is faults converted - so if you jump the round in, say, 60.04 seconds and then have one rail, it counts as four seconds, and your time ends up being 64.04. It means you can still do alright even if you have a rail, if you're fast enough. Trainer was in some kind of ~mood~ so didn't really walk the course with us other than saying "OK, jomp one, efficient to jomp two, and you know. Just jump eet, is not hard." So I got to plan my course more or less on my own, and then basically held Trainer captive and informed him of my plan while he nodded along.
I had a great plan for this course and visualized it in my head a few times, so I knew where I was going. (Side note? This works. Really well.)
I had a great warmup, then went in and got started, had a great canter and good rhythm and then I don't really know *what* happened. I hit jump one, and did one of those things where you're on the perfect distance but just don't realize it?... or something? and so my horse jumped and I kind of flailed around and tried to stay on him.
Sorry buddy :(
Of course since it was a speed class, I had to land and turn and run right after that, and kind of managed to do so. The rest of the course was actually pretty decent, just a little herky-jerky. I made all the inside turns I wanted to make, and stayed pretty efficient throughout the whole thing, which I was really happy about - efficiency is not my strong point. It was all very well until the very last line and second-last jump when Riley decided to drag me to an oxer and jump it like a pancake. So we had that rail - but he had a rude awakening when we had to make a speed turn right after that and he was dragging himself along on his front end. Ha ha, Ponycake, who gets the last laugh?
Had we not had the rail, we would have ended up fourth or so, but we were kicked out of the ribbons a few horses later. Once again, I was mad at myself for not riding very well. But less mad, because at least I hadn't ridden quite as badly as the day before, unless we're really counting jump one here... yikes.
Better, except my equitation is horrifying. I HATE MY RIGHT LEG.
But isn't he cuuuute?
Day Five was the penultimate day, and the day I had been thinking about for quite some time. The 1.0m doesn't usually award money - ever - and today, Day Five, included the $2500 1.0m Grand Prix. (Yes, it really is called that. It seems absurd but I can now say I've jumped in a Grand Prix... har.) Anyway, trying to view things optimistically, I decided that today was our day. Back in 2011, which would be the last year I really did any showing, Riley and I did this very same class and had the back rail of the very last jump on course and didn't make the jump-off. At the time this was very sad indeed and I plotted that I would win this class someday. Or, you know. The same class at 1.10m. Or something. But since it worked out that I was doing it this year, I decided I needed to win it, or at least do very well.
Starting last night I basically went into hyperfocus mode around it. I used the super speshul Butet conditioner on my saddle, spent 30 minutes polishing my boots, oiled my bridle lightly, and pulled out my black jacket. I even tried on my whites before realizing they literally look like balloon pants now (the last time I tried to wear them, I was about 30 lbs heavier.) But whites are more than a bit over the top for a 1.0m anything, so it was all good.
I arrived early, as usual, and ended up walking portions of my course - including the jump-off - during the class before mine. There was a pretty crazy inside turn from jump one to jump two in the jump-off and I started plotting.
When the time came to walk, Trainer was in a very jovial mood indeed, and after we went over the first round (fairly straightforward) we got to talking about the jump-off. I've never really spent so much time discussing a course with him, and it was pretty amazing. I told him I wanted to do the inside turn and he looked at me like I had three eyes, and was kind of like, "I do not theenk zis is such a good idea, it very tight... you can do if you really want, but I tink you should go around zis jomp here and just keep coming and you be fine, zen do a good turn when you land, zen you can go inside as much as you want! *wink*" We talked about it a bit more, and he was like, "well, here, let's go over how to ride eet, jost in case you tink you wanna do it" and he showed me how to ride it and what he would do. It was SO COOL. I think I will commandeer him like this at all points in the future. Anyway, the jump-off didn't have too much for inside turns after that, other than landing from jump one, going in between a jump and the "hut" (where the ring crew hangs out) and rolling back sharply to jump two, a maxed out oxer, then another sharp left turn to jump three, which led to a four stride line, then a looooong bending line to the in and out and sharp rollback to the right to the final oxer in the jump-off course. Course designers love to strategically place shit so you either have to go around or inside, and that was no exception - there was an inside turn landing off the in and out inside the finish timers for the first round and pretty much everyone was going outside it since it was TIGHT. Trainer kind of smirked at me and said, "you wanna do inside turn? Go inside ze timer!" I told him I absolutely would and he goes "I believe it when I see it!" since approximately 80% of the time I end up doing the outside turn. But I was in it to win it today.
Here is the course map. The "hut" is depicted by the weird little star thing, and the location of the finish timers on there is actually pretty accurate.
I hopped on Riley and immediately felt he was tired. I was hoping he would wind up when we cantered, since he usually does, but the heat (it was seriously hot this week) and days of showing had taken their toll, and he felt heavy and draggy and was kind of lugging himself around on his front end. We jumped a few jumps and when I felt him have zero pop off the ground over our first oxer I decided to do a little work to try and get him together. Not much choice really - it was either that or have a horse that dragged me around. So we went forward - NOW - and then halted, backed, forward NOW, halt, tiny canter, pirouette (well, as pirouette-y as he can do, which is pretty darn close) to the left, pirouette to the right, halt, trot NOW, halt, canter, and voila I had a much more balanced horse again. It didn't last forever so I did the same thing again before our last set of verticals and got him feeling good and pingy again.
He had a little break before we went in, which I think helped, as we waited for my barnmate to go in front of us. She had an okay round, sadly with a rail, and her super cute green baby was pretty tired and dragging her around a bit. When she was finished, I trotted in, showed Riley the in and out at 4AB which he didn't care about, trotted in between the hut and jump 5 since it's sort of spooky, and then did some more canter, back, canter, pirouette, then they rang me in and off we went.
We hit jump one slightly forward and perfectly, then did seven strides (which walked in an eight or nine, ouf) to jump two, but it was right there and easy. Then we were around efficiently to jump three, nine strides to a slightly short in to the two-stride which I didn't mind at all, then rolled back to jump five, an oxer. Here is the only place I made much of a mistake, and just never really bent forward at all when we jumped it - I think I did this because I knew we were slightly forward and I would need to steady for the skinny coming out in five strides. I tend to ride more upright than most people, basically because of Riley's peculiar jumping style and the fact that you will totally lose your balance and die if you're ahead of him ever (and Trainer also prefers a more upright style), but that was way too much. But we came through it nicely, steadied well and came very slightly forward in the five to the skinny, cleared it and went to six, a single oxer off a right turn. I saw it forward, we hit it great, then rode to the other single oxer on a bending step. We hit this really well, then did a quick turn left to a vertical to oxer in a shortish four strides. We went through this really well, then bent to the one stride vertical-oxer which was off your eye. We did it in a short 10 and I clucked coming out, and felt and heard Riley tap the rail - but I looked back, and all the jumps were still up, and we were well inside the time.
On the video, which maybe only I can hear because I'm totally attuned to his voice at this point, Trainer is providing commentary, mostly in the form of grunts and tense one word utterances, which I find extremely entertaining. But anyway, here's round one:
Up and over jump two!
Next up came the jump-off. I had decided to follow Trainer's sage advice and not do the super-crazy inside turn, but go from jump one in the jump-off in between the hut and jump 5, and try to hit the next jump on a forward stride. The corner was *tight* and it was a serious rollback, and other people kept hitting it super short. I, however, realized I had a lot more stride to play with than a lot of people, and kind of figured if I just really kept flowing through the corner we would be able to catch it easily out of stride. My next plan involved a swift turn left to the four stride line, then turn and bend and catch the one stride vertical-oxer on an angle, then turn inside the timer to finish on the oxer.
So here's what happened in the jump-off. I was super pumped and really excited to be there, but followed my plan, which really was fairly carefully thought out. I approached jump one on a medium canter, and jumped it from left to right, which set up the turn between the hut and jump 5 back to the second jump in the jump-off perfectly. We hit the oxer on a forward stride - exactly how I wanted - but it was a bit of a bigger jump than I wanted and landed us out a hair further than I would have liked. However I quickly got it back together and turned left, straightening out in the very last stride before the vertical in to the four stride line. We were through the four stride absolutely perfectly, then I landed and turned immediately to the one stride. I had to bow out very slightly more a bit later in order to not jump it on a right angle, but hit it in a shortish nine strides, jumped from left to right again (I WAS SO PROUD OF MYSELF FOR THAT) and then turned HARD and went INSIDE THE TIMER and hit the last jump out of the rollback turn on a forward step. Then through the timers and finish - double clear!
I was SO happy when I finished. Trainer was basically ecstatic and actually clapped and whooped, which doesn't happen. Ever. He told me I did a really good job and he was very happy with how I rode, and I got to say, "SEE, I told you I would do the inside turn!" and he went "heh heh, ya, you go fast! Look at you!"
Jump one in the jump-off, I guess he jumped it okay. ;)
Out of the four stride line at the top of the ring, plotting the approach to the in and out!
When the dust finally settled, we got the blue ribbon, along with a truly fabulous amount of prize money. I am still in shock and happy, happy disbelief.
I am so proud of him I could just squeak.
Actually I have been squeaking all afternoon.
It's not even the ribbon - although that's pretty damn awesome, don't get me wrong! It's the fact that I went into it so hyperfocused, into what would undoubtedly be the most pressure-filled class that I've ridden (money on the line!) and was able to make a really great plan, deal with all of it when it wasn't going all that well (tired and draggy horse) and fix it, and then stick to my plan and be incredibly successful. I am really proud of myself for that, and for shaking off the previous crappy two days and riding something close to what I'm actually capable of doing in a pressure situation. I am hopeful that this translates to the future, when things are *really* going to be important, and more people care about whether I win than just me and my trainer.
But for now... you know what, I'm just going to revel in it and enjoy it. :)