Me, a little "green", on the way back to the trailer after XC. Summer looks good!

This year, I am showing my mare Summer in Beginner Novice Eventing. With the high aspiration of qualifying for the American Eventing Championships, I have not only registered her and myself with the United States Eventing Association, but also locally with our Colorado chapter in hopes to get any kind of year end award; just in case things might go okay. Rebelling against goals the first part of my life, with age came wisdom and for me, goals are important to have and striving to achieve goals often works! My husband calls it “Heather and Summer’s 2012 Campaign”…

Preparing for weeks for my first schooling combined test on April 21, which will be the same venue for our first recognized event in mid-May, Friday and the day of the 3-6 pm course walk arrived. My ever horse-supportive husband was prepared to cut his work day short so we could go with our two boys to see what the course looked like for the girls tomorrow. About 2 pm, the stomach flu overtook me. I couldn’t get out of bed. I had been sore all over for a few days, but marked it up to all of the extra currying, riding and packing. Here I was, aching and all of the other things you can imagine go with the flu. I couldn’t even manage to feed the horses dinner (yes, they did eat).

All night I looked at my clock, marking the hours and hoping for a different and better feeling to creep into my body. I imagined cantering around the course and falling off from dehydration and lack of sustenance. Not to mention the distance to the bathroom. At 7 am, the time I had planned to leave, I knew it was not wise to go… yet. Back to bed. 9:30 am rolled around. I thought if I could have some more Sprite, I could hold it together for my 3:30 minutes of dressage and 6 minutes of cross-country… I slunk down to my husband’s closet and announced that I thought I could still make it to my 12:38pm Dressage test and 1:51pm cross-country, if we left by 10:30am. He said something like, “nothing can rally my Honey like going to a horse show.”

It was a schooling show after all – I didn’t have to braid. The trailer was packed. Summer was clean. We threw some Sprite in the cooler and we were on our way. Not a lot of time, or energy for that matter to warm-up, but I did remember our Dressage test. Cross-country was another story. I very quickly learned that no matter how many times you look at a course on paper, they are not to scale and only two dimensional. A true perfectionist at heart, I knew I was on borrowed strength just to be there.

The first part of the course that I could see pretty well as a spectator wasn’t bad. Summer loves jumping and happily carried me around. Then when I started to get to the area that I couldn’t see before, I started to try to remember what number I was on. That worked a little until I remembered that my jumps were the ones with the red sign and white numbers. I think there was a blue sign in there somewhere. Then we came over the hill and I was lost. I think I trotted a bit and tried to remember where we were; what number we were on. I found a jump that was at least in the sequence somewhere… I headed to a recognizable set of jumps at the end of the course on the other side of the hillside and made it to the finish.

One of the organizers ran up to me and asked if I was just schooling. Well, I didn’t intend it that way. She looked at her sheet and told me the ones I had missed or added. I looked at all of the marks as she apologized that I had been eliminated. I thanked her for the show and told her I missed the course walk. Honestly, I was just thankful I had made it through both parts, still in the saddle! Summer seemed to enjoy it and had a chance to see the set up and jumps. Plus, I did get some good feedback from my Dressage test.

I dropped the boys off at the house and took Summer back to our barn. I looked forward to getting back home to pour myself into a chair for the rest of the day. Although, life does not always go as planned. When I returned, I found that my older son was the next flu victim. I spent the next few hours caring for him, washing linens, clothes and scrubbing orange soda, Cheetos and chicken nuggets out of the carpet – eeeeww. Oh well – I still made it to the show!

Heather McWilliams