I think we finally have it.
The Narrows Pony Club Combined Test was just fun, from the beginning to the end. Kip and I have figured out loading and hauling. This show was at Donida, and I am fairly comfortable with the layout, and know I can get the truck and trailer around, and park in a way that I know I will be able to get out, so there is not much anxiety about that.
Showing at a venue I am familiar with has made me much more confident about maneuvering the trailer – I actually backed it around a corner, to make it more convenient for me to load up, when we were leaving. In the past, I would have schlepped my stuff for BLOCKS rather than even think about backing up! Yesterday, it occurred to me I could back around the corner, and get my tack room 20 feet closer, to make loading just a little easier. And I did it. That alone is HUGE.
My dressage ride time was at 11:40. I was riding the USEA Novice A dressage test (again), and then there is a stadium jumping round. The scores of those two rides together combine for your final score. I had also purchased an extra jumping round, because jumping is fun (so fun, omg), and over way too soon.
I arrived at the event way before my ride, so I could settle Kip and check in and look around, without being hurried at all. When the time came, we tacked up and moseyed out to the warm-up arena.
The last time we were here was for the Dressage Rally, and the warm-up was your classic MESS, with people barely (or not at all) in control of horses careening around, or horses that were freaking out, rearing and plunging around the arena. No less than three times, we had horses kick at us as we tried to warm up, and the final one came so close, I felt the hoof brush by my knee. Unsurprisingly, Kip was a wreck in warm up after that for the whole Rally. Our scores reflected that. grr.
I was relieved as we warmed up this time, that Kip did not seem to remember that the last time we were here, the other horses were dangerous – he warmed up nicely, and did not act like all the other horses were going to attack him (poor guy).
Our test was our usual “tense, above the bit, needs to stretch more into contact, abrupt transitions” and full of 6’s, but I did not mind, since he’s been off for two weeks due to a pasture accident, and this was just the third time I had ridden him since getting his stitches out (I forgot to mention that before now). Also, I lose my mind a bit in tests – I forget where I am, and am concentrating so much on what I am doing, I realize at the last minute, that the next movement needs to happen right now! Holy cow, Canter, canter right now! Abrupt transitions, indeed.
After dressage, I went back to the barn to switch tack, and came back to find that Novice jumping would not start until 12:50. So I hopped off Kip, and let him have a little snooze in the sun while I watched the Beginning Novice jumper rounds. It was good, because Novice was the same course, just with the heights raised.
The weather was beautiful, with white puffy clouds – it was supposed to rain, so I was prepared for that. Luckily, I keep a spare white short-sleeved show shirt in my trailer for just such emergencies — but did not bring sunscreen. Today I have sunburned arms, with my left sporting an outline of my medical arm band – a good start for my EventerTan. I just need the helmet line across the forehead, and I will be set.
When it was finally time for the Novice Jumping rounds, I needed to wake Mr. Kip up. He was in full-on snooze, with his muzzle resting on the top rail of the arena, top lip pushed back a little bit to bare his horsey-teeth. His eyes would flutter open a bit occasionally, and then would droop back closed, like a YouTube puppy, sprawled in his food dish. It was adorable, but sleepy-puppy-mode will not get us over what look to be giant fences. At novice, the fence height is 2’11” which does not sound tall, but sure looks it from my vantage point. Some of the obstacles were also oxers, and their max spread is 3’3”. With the exception of the first vertical, this course was max height, with three wide oxers. This can make these jumps look massive, at least to me. My job here was to not let Kip know these were intimidating, and to get his feet moving.
In the warm up arena, there was an X, a max vertical and a big oxer. We jumped the X to get the idea that jumping was happening now, and I asked for a nice rolling canter. The vertical was no problem, so I called heads up on the oxer. Well. On the approach, Kip’s head goes up, and ears prick forward and he gives his best WTF?!? suck back; so I put my leg on – and he started sliding to a stop, but it was too late and sproinged over at the last minute. I had thrown my shoulders forward (it is hard to sit up when this happens) so I landed in a heap on his neck. But he did not touch any part of that oxer. My number gets called immediately.
Apparently that oxer woke him up, because as we cantered into the arena, he was seeking every jump in the place, trying to figure out which one was first. It is a great feeling, to have the horse asking you if he can go to that jump? Or that one? Which is first? I gently steer him away, as he wants to lock on to fence after fence, until we make a left turn and approach fence one, and I let him know, it is this one. Fence one was a natural vertical, not a problem. Fence two had been really sticky all day, with horse after horse taking one look at it and ducking out. I made a wide turn to it, so Kip had plenty of time to scope it out before we got there – it was a faux corner, with the left the pointy end, and the right the wide end, with gates beneath it. Kip didn’t find it scary at all. We took a right to number three, then a loop around to the left to the number four, the first maxed oxer. Kip had landed on the wrong lead after three, so we were counter-cantering to this giant fence, but he was in a great rhythm, and happy to go, so I let him. Swept to the right for number five, a very flat-faced verticle. At this point, Kip was going hell bent for leather, and I needed to get him off the forehand, and rocked back on his haunches. Six and Seven were coming up, a three-stride– and if I let him stay flat, we were going to pull a rail. It is also at this point that I am glad I decided to switch him to his jumping bridle in between phases. Sometimes he is such a lamb, I feel bad for having the slow twist snaffle on my jumping bridle – then there are other times, that I am really glad it is there. He can really take over and just blast around a course, unless I make him slow down. But, he came back nicely, and six and seven were no problem, left to eight, which was a big, blue and yellow striped oxer made entirely of panels. It looked massive. We came around the corner with Kip cross-firing like crazy – he was on the right lead in front, and the left in the back. I tried to pull him up to rebalance and get a correct lead — heck ANY lead, but Crazy beast was having none of it, and the fence was approaching rapidly, so I left him alone and just made sure my heels were down, and I was sitting up. He landed on the right lead, and took us to the last combination, vertical in, two strides and oxer out — we were done.
That was entirely too much fun, and I was glad I would get to go again. I let Kippie catch his breath, and we were back at it. This time through, I was able to concentrate on keeping the rhythm the same, and setting him up way in advance for lead changes. This round was much prettier. But just as fun.
Then we just hung out for another hour or so, waiting for scores. Dressage was a 40.0 (egad, I am getting worse) and jumping was double clear. I never did find out what optimal time was, but I didn’t get any penalties, so it must have been ok, because I got a nice yellow and orange ribbon – third place. I collected the pony, loaded him up, and was home by 5:00. It was a lovely day.