The first show of the season for The Mare and I fell on the holiday weekend, and brought with it a fantastic event.

I was hesitant with this show, as it is a USEF-rated series (we previously competed at a smaller, non-rated venue), and had no idea what I would be competing against. We’d never gone to a multiple-day show, or stabled multiple nights at a show. My goals for the weekend were to remember where I was going, and try to make the entire experience positive for The Mare.  The weekend provided plenty of opportunity to learn, both in and out of the ring.IMG_20160601_215211

Day 1: We trailered in on Thursday, and she settled in nicer than I expected next to my trainer’s gelding. She schooled like a dream, quieter than at home, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy to be at a show, with my horse. We only flatted around for a short while, since she felt so good. We went in first to the hunter ring, and then the jumper ring, and walked all over the show grounds…she looked at nothing, and acted like it was all old hat.

Day 2: Making sure to keep The Mare preoccupied with periodic walks to hand-graze and lots of hay, I spent the day helping and watching my trainer get her horse in and out of the ring. Once she was done showing, The Mare and I went to school in the jumper ring. We had the ring to ourselves (good timing!) and a lovely afternoon to acclimate ourselves to the bright fences.  She schooled beautifully, and a fellow teammate captured some of our schooling rounds. I had entered a 2’6″ Low Schooling Jumper class, just to get us both in the ring. After our schooling, we made the decision to scratch that class, and add a 3’0″ Medium Schooling Jumper instead. I couldn’t wait to show the next day!

Day 3: This is where the balancing act began. Three horses, two different rings, three different schedules. Myself and the other Otterbein student kept our trainer on her toes, running between the hunters and the jumpers (and showing her own horse). We schooled in the morning after our trainer finished in the hunters (again, she felt great) and went back to the barn to wait for the 3 foot division to start.

Lesson #1: You have more time than you think.

I ended up tacking up too early.  Like WAY too early.  Like, 20 trips too early.  There were a lot of entries in the 2’6″, and boy, were they taking their time in the ring.  The Mare was great and we stood outside for a LONG while, without complaint.

Lesson #2: If it looks like it’s going to rain, don’t wait for it to be pouring before you head for the barn.

We watched as dark clouds rolled in towards the show grounds. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘Just in time for me to show.’ Running around in mud was just about the last monkey-wrench I wanted to deal with.  We quickly schooled a few warm-up fences, and returned to our post, waiting for the 2’6″ to end. We commented on the light drizzle, and how the wind picked up. And then, it was pouring. The Mare and I got a refreshing shower as we made a break for the barn. As my trainer stood under a tent by the ring, she told me her only regret was not sending me back to the barn earlier. The Mare and I were both soaked.

Lesson #3: If you are ready to go, get in the ring.

Once the rain passed, I went back out to the arena. We knew there were supposed to be more storms headed our way, so once the jumps were adjusted, we offered to go in the ring. Since they’d opened up all the 3 foot cards, I went in pretty much back-to-back-to-back, and trotted back to the barn JUST before the skies opened up again.

Lesson #4: Sometimes it’s better to scratch than to let something go wrong.

I was entered in the 3’6″ High Schooling Jumpers at the end of the day, and I was really excited to get in the ring to prove we could do it. But as I watched the rain pour down, seconds after getting into the barn, I knew it wouldn’t be fair to The Mare to ask her to jump that big in these conditions, and expect her to be successful. I scratched the class, hoping to save her for the same division on Sunday.

Lesson #5: Be patient.

The ring was running a bit behind with all the rain, so when I left the show grounds, I actually had no idea how we’d placed. Her trips in all three 3’0″ divisions had been so wonderful, that I wasn’t too focused on the results, but I did want to know.  I ended up finding my placings online; one first and two seconds for our first day of showing, and I was ecstatic!

Day 4: After a night of showers, the rings were undoubtedly sloppy on Sunday morning. The day would start with the 3’6″ High Schooling Jumpers, and I was nervous that the footing was going to hinder our debut. The Mare allayed my fears, and I could feel her feet being placed extra carefully as we slopped around the course. We left all the rails up, and walked out of the ring smiling.IMG_20160623_215523

We spent the rest of the day waiting around, checking the status of the ring, walking around, watching the other rings, hand-grazing, chatting, checking the ring again, checking the show office, checking the ring again, and finally tacking up to finish the day in the 3’0″ classes.

“Are you showing in the 3 foot? You are? Oh, darn”

“Why?”

“Oh, I just don’t want her showing against my daughter. That pony has springs…I watched her school in the high jumpers this morning!”

My heart was bursting as we waiting for the ring to begin; so many people were commenting on my little horse and how impressed they were with her.  Since my classes were the last ones before we were packing up for the weekend, both my trainer and I were anxious to get in and out of the ring…especially since the sky was beginning to look ominous once again.

My coach took one last glance at the courses. “Danielle. I swear to God Danielle, if you go off course after we’ve been waiting allllll day….” she trailed off and I quickly recited my courses back to her.

Lesson #6: Don’t psych yourself out, and don’t get cocky.

I walked in the ring first for the division, and pulled a rail. We hadn’t pulled a rail all weekend, even schooling. I walked out of the ring, and our trainer shrugged.  It happens.

Last class of the day, I recited the course and jump-off as I walked in the ring. It was a stakes class, so I was planning on altering my route to one of the jumps to try to cut some time.

Lesson #7: Stick to the plan.

Course was going great, and then, inside turn to shave some time, and BAM! Run out. We haven’t had a run out since…I can’t remember. I was caught so off guard, and as I circled back around, I hated that I’d been over-confident and that I’d let The Mare and my trainer down. I rode the last half of that course so determined to not let anything else happen. I walked out of the ring, upset that I’d be leaving the show on that note. [My video from the trainer has a well-deserved “UGH DANIELLE” on it]

The same lessons I was learning out of the ring, were the same ones I was learning in the ring.

Lesson #1: You have more time than you think

My trainer was quick to stress the fact that I didn’t need to think fast for my courses, but that I needed to be more concerned with the path to the fences.  Yes, it’s about being fast, but having a plan and an accurate distance would keep all the rails up, and ultimately lead to smooth, quick rounds.  Make slick turns when you can, but don’t sacrifice jumping clean to run around the ring.

Lesson #2: Don’t wait for it to rain.

We made sure to stay in the barn until several trips before our class this time. While the rain wasn’t nearly as bad during the day, we saw dark clouds gathering at the end of the day. We moved fast and got the horses on the trailer before the rain…this time, no one ended up soaked.

Lesson #3: If you are ready, go in the ring.

The Mare and I learned our courses, kept the schooling to a minimal, and went in the ring at our leisure (which just happened to be first, just about every time).

Lesson #4: Wait until you are ready.

While I would’ve loved to do the 3’6″ jumpers on Saturday, it wasn’t worth the weather and things potentially going wrong. I am glad we waited and had a successful trip the next day.

Lesson #5: Be patient.

In the ring, out of the ring…with your horse, with the show office, with your horse, with your trainer, with yourself.  Take the time to enjoy the fact that you are at a show.

20160529_192432Lesson #6: Don’t get cocky and Lesson #7, stick to your plan.

I let others’ comments (albeit positive) about my mare throw me off. I would have been better off had I stayed away from the ring until right before the ring started, and done the course like I’d done all day, rather than trying to get sly about it all.  As I left the ring, the trainer commented, “it makes you want to come to another show to redeem yourself, right?”

We left the ring quickly, untacked, linimented and wrapped all three horses and started throwing everything in the trailer as the skies got darker and darker. We loaded the horses, and the skies started to open up.  I ran back to the show office to close my card for the weekend (since the last class was a stakes class, I couldn’t pay until I knew my placings) while the trainer got on the road with the trailer.

I barely looked at our placings until I went to collect my ribbons.  Two seconds and a first on Saturday…two more firsts and a fourth! The rail I pulled put us fourth, I won the 3’6″ class, and even more amazing, my class with the run out…I won! My trainer called en route back to the barn, and she chuckled, “Guess you were the fastest 4-faulter! I think you rode better after that than you did the entire weekend.”

Lesson #8: Keep riding.
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