With the new-found success and adrenaline rush of showing, my trainer convinced The Mare and I to go to the next hunter/jumper show in our local series, kind of at the last minute.
My trainer took our entries over the Wednesday before to check out the new show grounds and get us checked in. I got a steady stream of texts from her, including that the lady in the show office remembered myself and The Mare. I told her I hoped it was a good thing! In response, I got a picture of a back number — 235 — I was a little confused, and then got “#goodnumber.” I asked who it was for, and she said, “You, silly. For the show you are doing. In 2 days.”
We packed up the trailer after a week of teaching pony camp, and headed out to school on Friday night. The facility is going to be absolutely gorgeous once it is finished, but right now is at the bare minimum for functionality; there is no grass anywhere, and the stalls were being built as they were requested. My trainer, another student and I split a stall (since our trainer was doing the hunters, her horse went home when mine came to the show).
The Mare came off the trailer and paid no heed to the new environment or the heavy-duty construction equipment surrounding her. She schooled like a dream, not really paying attention to any of these brand-spanking-new jumper jumps. She spent the night at the new facility, we took the trainer’s horse home, and prepared to bring the other horse competing with us in the morning.
As we headed back to the barn, I patted The Mare, and so did my trainer.
“Good pony…you’ve got a good one”.
“I lucked out,” I said, “I really have such a good horse.”
“You know, it’s really cool that you have been able to turn her into what you have in two years or so…All those warmbloods out there galloping around, putting in so much effort, and she’s just zipping around making it look easy”.
We were ready to show.
By the time we actually got to the show grounds the next morning, it was already after 8. The Mare was quite upset that we’d spent so much time forgetting about her breakfast (clearly we’d left her to starve), and while she ate breakfast, the other mare competing with us took a walk around the grounds. The Mare then spent the majority of the day quick-release knotted to the stall front with a hay net in front of her. She was a fantastic sport about just hanging out all day. We did spend some time in the stall when the other horse was not in it, but she was super cool about the whole situation, and as long as she had food she was happy.
As we were moving things around and unpacking, I realized I’d forgotten my show coat. I told my trainer with a sinking stomach, and she waved her hands. “You won’t need it, they’ll waive coats today anyways…it’ll be too hot.”
Once we got around to tacking up and making moving noises towards the jumper ring to school, we noticed a few things:
1) They had announced they would start the jumper ring two hours early the previous evening, probably in an effort to get the ring running before the day got too hot (the high was around 90 degrees). However, that meant schooling in the actual ring ends early as well. By the time we got down there (even though *technically* the ring was still open for schooling) they had sent everyone out and were setting jumps. My trainer negotiated with the stewards, and I got to go in and jump a singular fence.
2) They had also set up a schooling ring within the jumper ring itself. It was three jumps wide, with just enough room to squeak by the standard on either side. MAYBE two horses could be in it at the same time, certainly only one horse jumping at any given time. It was separated from the ring with a single row of straw bales (which someone jumped out of), and it significantly cut into the arena, making them have to change the course from what it was set up (and what I’d schooled) the night prior.
For whatever reason, The Mare felt odd to me. She’d pulled a few rails in the schooling ring (which she rarely does). Maybe it was me being psyched out starting with forgetting my coat…who knows.
The other horse with us was competing in some of the first divisions, so The Mare went back to the stall for a while until the 3’0″ started.
Watching the course, we realized that in moving the course around, the lines were set quite long. My trainer and I developed a plan…The Mare has a big step for how small she is, but she IS only 14.3hh.
We got ready for our first class (grateful for the lack of my show coat, it was sweltering by the time the 3’0″ started) and headed towards the ring. We jumped one jump and walked in. A pretty good class, but an unfortunate rail in one of the lines left me out of the ribbons completely. I realized I’d have to re-evaluate the lines for the next class.
I had to take a minute and recite my next course about 10 times because my brain was fried in the heat. “Go drink some Gatorade” became the mantra of the afternoon, and after taking that advice and a minute to myself, I walked back in the ring. We ran around the ring (at what felt like a disastrous and messy speed), but when I came out of the ring my trainer complimented me actually riding and doing something.
We decided to scratch the 3’6″ class, partially because of how she felt to me — still just odd…she was making me really push for everything instead of her usual game-ness for everything — and because the lines were set so long, I didn’t have total confidence that we would be able to get around at that height successfully. My goal with her is always to have a positive experience. It wasn’t worth it.
We packed up the other mare (who was just there to show for the day), let my Mare settle in the stall for the evening, and headed to the show office. Turns out I won the second 3’0″ class out of 11 riders. We also checked out the photographers’ photos and to my dismay, there were no pictures from Day 1 (he had also not gotten any pictures of me from the previous show). I was determined to make friends with him for Day 2.
The second day promised to be super low-key, with just myself and The Mare showing. My trainer convinced me to renew my USEF and USHJA memberships so that I could compete in the ‘real’ jumper classes (rather than the schooling classes I’ve been doing). I scratched one of the 3’0″ classes, and added two 3’3″ Child/Adult jumper classes.
We made it in time this morning to school in the ring, and they had removed the problematic schooling ring, and set a new course. Walking over, two girls on their very nice warmbloods stopped me when they saw They Mare. “Your pony is SO cool; we watched her jump yesterday.”…”Yea, she just jumps the hell outta everything.” I thanked them both and continued to the schooling ring with my heart ready to burst.
I shared the compliment with my trainer, who said that the favorite one she’d heard so far was someone who watched The Mare and quipped, “That pony must be part superhero!”
These lines walked a little better in favor of The Mare, and after some course adjustments, they were getting ready to start the ring. I was supposed to be the first class: 3’6″ High Schooling Jumpers. After I’d walked the course (with the fences at the height we had just schooled…3’6″) they started adjusting fences. Suddenly, they looked *HUGE*. Concerned, I turned to my trainer, “Those don’t look 3’6″. Those look enormous.” She replied, “I think it’s just because we are standing in a ditch right now. They are just maxing everything out. That looks right.” I gave her a side-eye, and she sent me to tack up. We were going to make sure the ring started on time today.
As I am tacking up, I get a text from the trainer. “They thought they were starting with the 3’11”-4’3″ class.” Good lord, I knew those were too big. She came back to the barn and sheepishly admitted, “I thought they looked big too, but I didn’t want to say that in front of you, but I did ask.” We were ready at 10 a.m. when the ring was supposed to start, but ended up not walking in until about 40 minutes later. Our class went great and we waited (and waited and waited) for the 3’0″ to start.
We went to check on show photos (still nothing). He promised to be at the ring for my last classes of the day.
We were trying to time it so we could be in the last part of the 3 foot, and stay out until the 3’3″ (the last classes of the day). My roommate and friend came out to see us, and someone came back to the barn saying, ‘the jumper ring is ready for you.’ We hurriedly tacked up and got out there, only to find out they were still like 20 trips out from being done. I did my trip (it went great…the lines were set so much better for her), and we ended up untacking once more.
One last time tacking up. In between, we packed up the majority of the trailer and had it waiting at the end of the aisleway for her. The ring was moving so slow, that it was after 7 p.m. and I still hadn’t finished showing. We made our way back to the ring, when I realized everyone had coats on. (It was over 90 and humid, so I had assumed the coats were waived). “Do I have to wear it since it’s a ‘real’ class?” I asked. My trainer got my coat and I put it on. There were a few people without them, but I was feeling alright with it on. And then we had to wait. And wait. And wait. And all of a sudden, I didn’t feel so hot. “Think about how great your pictures will be!” My trainer pleaded as I started to shimmy out of my jacket. (All I could think was, yea, there’ll be a *great* shot of me passing out off the side of my horse). “More Gatorade?” I shook my head no; I think I’d drank too much of the sugary liquid, and it was all catching up to me. She asked repeatedly if I was okay to go in the ring, that it was fine either way if I did or didn’t.
After waiting ALL FREAKING DAY, I was not about to leave without these last two trips. I took my jacket off, took my gloves off and took a lap. I ended up being the very last two trips (back-to-back) in the jumper ring, but I did it. The first round was great, but by the second we had both reached our limit and I pulled two rails (definitely my rails…also, bless my horse, who patiently stood and walked and went back in the ring without schooling again).
I walked back to the barn, happy to have gotten in the ring. We took care of The Mare, packed up what else we could, and went over to the show office (which at this point was a mad house). We waited around, looked at show photos (he’d finally gotten some!), my trainer closed her bill, went back to the barn…waited for class results.
After a misplaced placings sheet, I was finally able to check out for the weekend. Two firsts, two seconds and a fifth. And, even though we only did three 3’0″ classes (and only placed in two of them), she was Reserve Champion for the 3’0″ division for the weekend.
Biggest lesson? When your horse wins, you get things. I had happily picked up my ribbons at the last show, not realizing that there were prizes in each class for first place, and not even thinking about the fact that she was Champion in the 3’0″ at the last show. This show, a steward was there and helped me pick out my first place prizes. I think the coolest part of the weekend was hearing our names over the loudspeaker at the show grounds. When I heard it, I looked at my trainer and said, “That is what makes it all worth it.”
Of course, it couldn’t all be perfect. We went back to the stall to load her up…and she wouldn’t get on. Not frightened, not scared. Just planted her feet and wouldn’t do it. It took a half hour or so of pushing and smacking and backing and pushing some more to get her on (she’s loaded perfectly for the last three years). I guess that’s my payback for making her stand tied to a stall front the day before. We drove home (9 p.m. at this point…) STRAIGHT into a huge thunderstorm, and unloaded in a downpour.
Looking ahead, my trainer wants us to do the 3’6″ High Child/Adult jumpers at the next show. Partially because we can do the height, and partially because it means we’ll be done by noon on Sunday. I am in total agreement.