Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Guest Post: Coming over to the dark side...

(from Graduate Riding School blog.

Guest post today! Woohoo! I was emailed this story and it made for such a great start to a dreary Monday that I asked permission to share. Background to this -- it was written by my friend Jael who lives entirely too far away (that'd be the other side of our fine, but rather large, country :). Jael is traditionally a dressage rider, but one who likes the idea of jumping over the odd stick; her coach is qualified to teach both dressage and eventing. (can you see where this is going?) So Jael went and bought a super-nice baby horse of the type I quite enjoy. She's not *technically* a chestnut mare (being rather a bay colour) but she definitely *thinks* she is. And said baby horse has lovely movement and is therefore promising for her dressage career. Or at least she was. Until the day she first went over a fence. Realizing there was more to life than a flat 20x60m ring, Bria then insisted on a change to her contract. So with her coach's qualified assistance and my sideline cheering Jael first went XC schooling and having survived that and seeing her horse clearly loved that game, submitted her entry forms. Here we have the story of her and Bria's first horsetrial. For those who think they could never *possibly* event -- read and reconsider :) For those who've been there, enjoy the memories. I did :) Welcome to the Dark Side Jael. May you never go back :)


Show Report!

Ok, so as I'm sure you gathered, we lived! And yes, this is a novel!

We shipped in Friday night (events here are always 2, sometimes 3 days), and I had instructions to make sure the pony was sufficiently tired to keep her mind on the job... I took her to the back ring to lunge... only catch is that the back ring is next to XC. Which is the same course that she's done most of her schooling on, so she immediately grew to about 18hh. Oiy. We had energy! Think ears up, flying mane, flaring nostrils, fire breathing dragon worthy snorting etc etc. And I had her in side reins, to the whole thing was pretty impressive :P I had little girls stopping to tell me how much they liked my horse. Thankfully she was polite and contained the fire-breathing-dragon routine to a correct 20m circle. Rode her for a bit after, and she was great!

Saturday she was pretty full of herself, and was unamused with the antics in a low-level eventing warm-up. I've had her in dressage warm-ups, but neither one of us had ever warmed up with kids on bolting ponies and horses recently graduated from the track before! We got it done, she was chill and ready to go, we got into the ring and OMG THE JUDGE IS IN A HOUSE. Apparently random tables, cars etc are fine, but a little house on a cart flanked with cedar trees required some thought. We got around without any major issues. Not one of our more stellar efforts, but no major glitches. We went from getting 4s and 8s to 6s and 7s, so getting some consistency at least! We'd been
having arguments practicing the test since Bria thought I was clearly on crack and couldn't possibly only want a canter 1/2 circle. And apparently there is *always* a canter transition between the letters C and H, regardless of what test we're doing, so getting through the entire test without a big discussion on who knew the test better was huge! And we did NOT get the word "submission" underlined for a change :P

We had a few hours to wait, she she got to go back to her stall for a nap. The picture doesn't quite capture it... it was like a little kid who WANTED to stay awake, but just could quite do it...

She was NOT amused when I went to tack up for the jump round, but perked right up when she realized jump tack was going on.

Went to warm up for jumping, and now we had bolting ponies JUMPING. Dear lord. I have jumped in public exactly twice in my life. Once on Betty (babysitter extrordinaire) and once with Bria at an itty-bitty schooling show. Bria held it together so incredibly well... Eleanor and I couldn't believe just how amazingly well she did considering her age and the fact it was her first really busy show. The only time she took over was when a horse bolted and she promptly removed us from the line of fire (good pony! Ok, so she shouldn't take over. But her motives were good.) :D Unfortunately, I hadn't had a chance to watch a few rides go, and I'm a) green, and b) a visual learner. Uh-oh. A barnmate had held Bria while Eleanor and I walked the course... which had a bending line on it. We haven't done bending lines yet. Remember this.

We get in the ring, and Bria was trotting around with her head up looking at all the pretty coloured fences. Totally tuning me out. Not being spooky or bad, but having a really good look around. I couldn't remember how long we had to circle around so I could get her attention, so I made the mistake of just heading for the first jump. Unfortunately, Bria was still looking at all the pretty jumps, and when we got to the first jump she noticed it about the time she was about to trip over it and therefore slammed on the brakes. We came around to do it again, but by now we were now ripping around with her tail on fire. Crap. We peeled around the course (photos are horrendous, I'm catching her in the mouth over every fence because we kept rushing). At about jump 5 we finally get on the same page, had a fantastic jump #6 came around to do the last 2 (7 and 8). Which were in a straight line. Unfortunately I suddenly remembered that HOLY CRAP THERE WAS A BENDING LINE SOMEWHERE ON THIS COURSE. So I bent. And jumped jump #4 backwards instead of #8 which was directly in front of us. Ooops. The bending line was actually jumps #2 and #3, but it was such a long line and I was so busy looking for anything resembling brakes when we blasted through that it didn't sink in that we'd done it. I glanced right and saw the jump with the pretty #8 sign at the base and said a bad word. Thankfully the judge was a long ways away in a tower!

So I was eliminated. Since I hadn't come off or done anything actually dangerous (the jumps were all 2'3" verticals) I got laughed at by the show chairman and told I could go XC. He was allowed to laugh as he was handing me a beer at the same time. I had a couple of people tell me that had it actually been on the course, it would have been a lovely bending line. Awesome. The bright side of getting E'd in stadium was that I didn't have to worry about time on XC... on a course designed for ponies and horses that go slow. Not a 17hh horse that is 16hh of legs. So Eleanor and walked it again with the strategy of using it as an opportunity to school a "comfortable, forward" pace, instead of trying to find places to dawdle.

Came out this morning, and Bria was totally settled. Alert, but completely chill. I get back to the warm-up with bolting ponies and I don't know if it was the galloping ponies, or the slight difference in tack, or she could hear the horses on course galloping, but she was ready to GO. A bit bouncy, but once she got rolling we had this new "keen but chill" Bria that's shown up a few times now (we LIKE this Bria!). Walked out to the start box, and she's on tiptoes, but still totally paying attention. She'd never seen a startbox before, and had no issue with it. On course, we had a few bobbles over the first couple of fences, and one small slip in the wet grass, but once she got cruising... OMG.... wow. Just wow. The bigger jumps (as in, Entry :D ) looked smaller the longer we rolled along. We trotted a couple of the skinny fences to make sure we didn't dive past, and she came back to me no problem. A couple of spots we had to go for the HUGE half-halt, but for the most part she was cruising on a very light contact!!! Then we swung around the end after jump 11 to get to jump 12... and all I could see was the red flag ON THE LEFT. Um, ok. So we stop for a look while I count fences. Hmmmm. It's still exactly where I thought it should be, and the course was super simple, and the jump number was in the right spot. Ok, whatever. We've already been eliminated so it's not like it matters! Bria happily picks up the canter again, cruises over 12, and then 13, and into the vet box. Trotted out on a loose rein, wasn't even breathing hard. I think they held us for a whole 30sec. Possibly until I started breathing. :D

Then we ambled up the road back to the barn, on a loose rein, past the diesel trucks, porta-potties, and through the campsite. No problem whatsoever. She was still a bit up from XC, and I don't think has EVER seen a tent before, and she couldn't have cared less.

So despite the elimination, we ended up having a SUPER weekend! I haven't seen the pics from XC yet since we had to get out ASAP. I did find out after that the videographer caught my XC even though I hadn't signed up for it (really thought our first full XC course ever was probably not something I really wanted to see), so we'll see if I can get my hands on it now that I know how it ends :P


LOL! Thanks Laur :D

For the record, I wanted to event when I was a kid but never had the chance and then didn't ride for 18 years. I think Lauren had the *cough* privilege of teaching me how to tackup as an adult. The detour through dressage was originally accidental, but made me realize how much I like it! And, quite frankly, falling off HURTS as an adult. Bria was to be my dressage horse who could also eventually pack me around a 3' course safely. Talk about the best laid plans... Maybe fate intervening to put me back to where I wanted to be in the first place???

And HUGE thanks to Eleanor, who helped me buy Bria as a 3yo and bring both of us along!


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