On Saturday we went to Rainbow Meadow Farm for a USEA Derby. We were entered in Novice like usual.  I was looking forward to this show, because we had recently schooled XC there, and our dressage scores have been getting so much better lately.

Here is a link to our dressage and jumping rounds.

It was a very windy day, and RMF is a very visually busy place. Whirly gigs, rainbows, planters, wind chimes – just decorations and stuff everywhere you look.  There are also a lot of different farm animals—goats, donkeys, sheep llama –things Kipling can use to be terrified. Strait off the trailer he was an eye-rolling snorting beast.

I put him in a stall and found a course map (why can’t there just be a course map in the packet?) and went to walk the course. It was all new. We had not schooled 75% of the jumps. As I walked, I knew #5 was going to be tough.  Early in the course, it was a ramp in a fence line, into a field with a fence on the right and a 15’pine tree to the left, really pinching the line of sight. It felt close and very trappy.  I knew we were going to have to ride to it defensively.  Then further along, I didn’t like the looks of #9 or #12 for that matter, either. More on that later.

Walk done, it was time to warm up for dressage. I had forgotten my watch, so was going to have to rely on the ring steward to get me in on time. Arriving at warm up, I was informed there was no steward at the arena. Great. Warm up was tough, Kip kept calling, and was super distracted – the wind had most of the horses keyed way up. I was not the only one on an upside-down, bellowing idiot. By constantly asking random people what time it was, I arrived at the dressage ring on time.  There were no other horses around, just the one in the ring doing his test. Kip didn’t like this and started the squealy-whinny. I usually put him to work when he does this, but there was nowhere to do that. It was time for my test.  We had a promising start, and the scores reflected that – we started with 7s, and a 7.5, but then Kip just dissolved, and spent the entire second half of the test counter-bent looking out of the arena, giraffe-fashion. A bunch of 5s and even some comments on obedience. Crap.

After a short rest and tack change we go into the warmup for XC. There is only one other horse there. I hear from some spectators that they are running quite late.  I hack around, putting him to work when he starts to call. It is very windy and starts to rain. Word comes down that Novice won’t start before 3:45.  At this point, I notice the other rider taking her horse across the road to the jumping field.  Introducing horses to the field before your round is strictly taboo. I can’t imagine what she is doing.  But she goes to the start box, trots in and out a couple of times and proceeds to hack around the field.  As I watch, I see she even presents her horse to some of the jumps, touching his nose to the fence to see that it is not scary. I am amazed.  By this time other people are in the warmup, and I ask them about being in the jumping field before your round. They all see the rider out there, too – is she in a class? Our class? No one knows what she’s doing in the field.  Maybe she is not showing today, just schooling? She has on her number, though, and looks like a competitor. She finally wanders out of the field, and I am busy warming up, and lose track of her.

Finally it is time to go, I was first.  Out of the start box, Kip is giving the first show jump a look. I give him a good hard boot, and we get over it.  Fence two is next to a pen of goats. I am not even kidding. Again, a hard kick gets us over.  Number three is a log drop, and we go over sidways-ish. Four, I don’t even remember, because next is five. It is a long approach; lots of time to get really upset by it. It feels even more trappy than I feared, and even with my leg on, and sitting up for all I am worth, he is pronging to a halt. I thought about a big smack behind my leg with my whip, but for some reason circled him around, and re-presented, and he went over.  One refusal; I would have to live with it.  He was completely dinged out now, though.  The wind was whipping through and it was spitting rain. I ran him at #6, a brush box that he didn’t like one bit, jumped very flat and landed running hard.  I gave him a big half-halt, smacked him twice behind my leg to get his hinds under him and took a sweeping turn to #6, a half-round.  #7 was a straightforward table, but again, all these fences are flyers.  #8 was the water and #9 was across the rough, up a tall-weedy incline and over a lone stone wall.  Kip noped the fuck out and had a runout. A RUNOUT.  Now I was mad, and Kip was too. #10 was a molehill, 11 a downbank, a right hand switchback and a long gallop to a steeplechase fence.  Another pronk approach.  This one was a kick and a cuss, and a four-footed boink over.  Then number 13 was a canoe next to a boat, with a skidded stop. There was all kinds of junk around; an inflated shark, the boat, the water was next to the fence, there were a bunch of other non-related jumps scattered around- really, I don’t know what was scary about this fence, the whole of RMF is covered in bric-a-brack, decorations and stuff. This bit was no different.  Then the last five fences were fine, we actually rolled on pretty good for the end.  I was happy to end on a good note.

As I watched I saw that nearly every rider had at least a tough approach to #5, the trappy-looking fence, and #12, the steeplechase – if not full on stops or runouts.  It was a tough go for every single rider. Except one.  I didn’t even notice until one person said “hey, great ride, I think you were the only team to go clean” I looked up, and sure enough, it was the rider who had hacked the course.  Before I knew it I blurted out, “Of course she had a clean round, she hacked the course beforehand”. The show organizer was standing there and asked me if she had heard correctly, and I and another rider confirmed that yes, she had been out on the course before the round. Before my mouth had taken over, I had decided I was not going to worry about that other rider, and her unsportsmanlike behavior – although really, this is such a huge infraction she should have been eliminated.

Kip and I took a schooling round of this tough course right after this. He went around with no problem whatsoever. So, even having just seen these fences once and having such a hard time, the second time he was perfect.

In the end, the show organizer said she would “Have a talk” with this rider.   When I checked the scores, I saw that she had won the class.

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