After the completion of our first event earlier in the summer, Trainer convinced my to sign up for our first sanctioned event, Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge. At the time, I was more focused on Morgan Grand Nationals. I was very excited at the prospect of another event, but wanted to take each show as it came.
Once we returned home from Oklahoma, Team Challenge was approaching faster than I anticipated. We knew it would be a fast turnaround, and so I was being careful how we prepared The Mare for an event only a week after being gone for 5 days in OKC with a 13-hour haul on either end of that trip.
The poor kid, as she stepped up the ramp to head to Kentucky had the most wary look on her face, as if to say, “I better not be on this thing all day again, mom”.
By the time we unloaded the horses and got all our stuff settled, we were dodging raindrops to get in a quick hack. I think The Mare was having flashbacks to the 19-horse flat class in Oklahoma as we navigated the warm-up ring. She was peppy, but really good, so we headed back to the barn before an impending downpour.
My trainer’s kid ended up having 3 horses to ride, and since I didn’t ride until late in the afternoon, I tried to help with what they needed earlier in the day, as well as supporting one of the other girls from our barn who was riding in one of the Novice divisions.
Because of the simultaneous dressage times for each team, and an overlapping show jump time with the other girl in the Novice division, Trainer was running back from the show jump arena to try to warm up 3 of us for dressage, in 2 different arenas. Also at this point, my parents were making a mad dash due to a travel delay while driving to make it to the dressage arena to see us ride.
It was cold and windy, The Mare was a little up, but being pretty good despite slopping around in the puddles. Trainer left her husband with me to video our test, and she went to watch her kid on her project horse and the other member of our team on her gelding.
We walked into the dressage arena, and the scribe stopped us to see what our brand was – 2 days before we left, I made the last minute to body-clip The Mare, and since our Team name was Superheroes, I clipped a Batman symbol on her haunch.
Our test was just a bit tense, a bit rushed, a bit quick. But, as we went across the diagonal in the free-walk, I looked up to see my parents on the hill; they had made it to see our test! On our way out, the judge and scribe told me they were very excited that I was in their ring because they’d seen us warming up and thought my mare was the cutest thing (they aren’t wrong).
After dressage, we were in 12th out of 25. Solidly middle-of-the pack. Our comments on our test were what I expected – she needed to be longer in her topline, it was a bit hurried. But there were parts I was excited to see – like some of our highest marks on our canter (giant improvement from our last test), and the remark of ‘cute pair!’ made me smile.
My parents were able to stick around to see us show jump as well. I was struggling to find a distance I was happy with in the warm-up (I was more preoccupied with how many people were buzzing around and trying not to run into any of them…), and ended up almost eating dirt when I crawled up The Mare’s neck. Luckily, the saint she is, she stopped *literally* a stride after the fence, and threw her head up to let me put myself back in the tack.
The Mare went in for show jump and I think she thought we was back in the jumpers – she put in a blazing round; but we found everything on a nice distance and left all the fences up so I wasn’t about to get into an argument with her for her forward pace. Our clear show jump moved us up to 9th.
Once we got back to the barn and put the horses up, we were quickly losing daylight, so Trainer suggested we head over to walk cross-country together. My parents had a 5-hour drive back, so they wished us luck and headed back home. I was really grateful that they were able to come down and see us ride in a different discipline, and The Mare was grateful that my mom baked horse muffins for her.
I hadn’t really been nervous for cross-country until we started walking it. The Mare hadn’t seen so much as a log since our event at the beginning of August. We had 2 water complexes, a longer track, and Trainer was talking about options for schooling the water. All the sudden I was doubting myself and The Mare – she hesitates most at water, would we have issues? Would she think these fences were spooky? Was she even fit enough for this?
I tried to put the doubt aside and concentrate on committing the course to memory.
On Sunday, we wouldn’t have cross-country until late that afternoon, so that gave me the chance to cheer on the girls from our barn, and to put together our cross-country outfit. The Mare and I would be Batman, so I was attaching my cape to my pinny, and tacking the ears of a Batman fly bonnet I was able to borrow from another boarder. I doctored up her woof boots with black and yellow stripes, and she had a Batman saddle pad in addition to the fly bonnet and her clip job.
Schooling, she felt great, and so I was a little more at ease.
She galloped out of the start box, drifted a little right to the first fence, but then seemingly realized what we were about to do – and in that moment, we both started having fun. She trotted through both water complexes, but beyond that, she absolutely ATE up the course. Her fitness? Not an issue; I had to slow her down so we wouldn’t get time faults. She finished the course, clean and clear and ready to go again if I asked her. Our first cross-country course earlier in the year was fun, but it had felt rushed, I had to go to my stick quite a few times when she questioned the jumps, and I had been happy to make it home. This time, we were on the same page, and she went around ears pricked and confident. I was so proud of her, her bravery, her heart, her willingness, her versatility.
Our cross-country success moved us up again, and we finished the weekend on our dressage score to end up 5th of 25 in our first ever recognized event. I have no doubt that as we move forward and shift focus to being 100% eventers, improving and working on our dressage will make us that much more competitive; but I honestly can’t wait to do more events because I am having too much fun.