Here there be dragons...

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Chelsea and Rowan's 1st HT

So much fun today.

Took two girls and their ponies to their first EVER horse trial.   Which is, pretty much, my favourite part of coaching :)

So we had a very civilized load time of 7am.  The girls were both over Friday night to ride and prep their horses and so at 7 they were *almost* ready to go.  hahaha Both horses loaded perfectly and we were off.

The weather was perfect and we snagged parking under the treeline -- shade.  Sweet.  DJ and Bryn had to go park the cars a million miles away *g*   Laura and I went and got packages while Kirby helped get the girls tacked up.  Soon enough everybody was in dressage warm-up, tack-checked, and ready to go!

Jack had been an absolute superstar the night before and seemed to be still in that mindset as he handled the busy warm-up like an old pro.  Then into the ring they went...  And STAYED IN!  Woohoo!  hahaha it was a really civilized test.  He was high at times - the ring was the farthest from the warm-up which is always exciting but Rowan kept him calm and kept him going and the world was good :)

Chelsea and Lissy were next.  They warmed up well and she was less-stressed about being away from the rest of the world.  Chelsea rode a really nice, relaxed test.  Alas, it was not actually the test as written on the paper and sadly creativity is frowned upon in dressage.  hahaha ah well - the judge was awesome and very politely redirected her :)  Ah well - if you're going to go off-course, dressage is definitely the place to do it!

After dressage the ponies were untacked and left in the shade while the girls, Sasha and I went to walk the courses.  Luckily stadium hadn't started yet so we were able to walk that course; when the girls were confident with that we headed out to walk xc.  The course looked like a lot of fun and they had at least *some* idea where they were going :)  Having never done it before, I'm sure the girls would've liked to walk the course again on their own, but times were tight so that wasn't an option so we headed back to tack up for stadium.

Now I'm sure the girls were at least a little nervous *g* -- but they totally rode like pros!  Warm-ups were beautiful and BOTH riders jumped clear!  Woohoo!   Jack got a little strong towards home and Rowan steadied him easily.  Lissy took her confidence from Chelsea who got out there and said "Let's go!" and they went :)    We could've gone home then and I still would've been SO proud of both girls.  Beautiful.

But it wasn't time to go home yet.  Still one phase to go :)   And let's be honest - xc is WHY we event.   Anybody who prefers stadium or dressage -- those are sports on their own that they can go compete in.  Eventers are there for the challenge of 3 in 1 and, most importantly, cross-country!   We were actually quite early for xc, so the girls had a change to relax for a bit before heading out.  Didn't need a long warm-up; I just had the girls get their horses going a little more forward again and jumping and then into their first start box they went.  Rowan was first; Chelsea a few riders later.

And I'll tell ya - the high that comes off the end of a cross-country run is directly proportional to the drama of the butterflies fighting it out in your stomach during that 15 seconds in the start box.  Longest. 15. Seconds. Ever.   And your FIRST time in the start box?  An hour in a second.

Now people new to eventing or observing it from the outside think of an insane mad gallop over MASSIVE obstacles.  What they don't realize is that done right, you don't jump big or fast until you can first do small and under control.  Rowan was a total pro about this and left the start box at mad... walk :)   And got him through the scary trees and pointed at the first fence before she asked him to trot.  Then when he looked at the tiny pile of logs and said "Really?   Wouldn't you rather just go around and head back to the trailer?"  She rode determinedly and hopped over on the first try and under control.

And I couldn't see the rest -- my job was to go back and get Chelsea ready although I admit I listened to the announcer for the "177 clear over fence 2."   And a little while later: "177 clear over fence 3."  77 being Rowan's lucky number, was not a bad one for her to ride under :)   Chelsea's warm-up went as smoothly as Rowan's and it was soon her chance to whip those butterflies into formation.

And just as she was heading out for fence one, Rowan and Jack crested the hill coming back for fence nine! hahaha I'll admit I held my breath for a second that the two horses wouldn't decide they needed to be together, but the girls had them totally focused on their own jobs and the world was good :)   So, knowing I couldn't see the rest of Chelsea's course from where I was, I booked it to the end to see Rowan finish!

She came through the finish line beaming.  I'm still grinning from the grin on her face :)   And knowing the answer already but wanting to hear it from her - the all important end of xc question: "how'd it go?"   Ever run xc?   The next best thing is reliving the run thirty seconds after you finish it :)   So she gave me the play by play as she hopped off and loosened Jack's girth.  He was quite hot so she left to take care of her boy while I waited for Chelsea to come across the line.   Sadly the finish-line timer's radio wasn't working so I couldn't even eavesdrop on how she was doing.

For the record - it is WAY harder waiting for the rider than *being* the rider!  hahaha especially when they're MY kids *g*  (and yes, I realize their parents may officially have first dibs, but in this world - for a few hours a week - they're mine :)  And even more when they're riding my horses.

So HOURS later (and by hours I mean like three minutes -- I'd only just started to make friends with the finish-line timer) Chelsea crossed the finish line.  And I could tell from the moment she came into sight how it had gone.  She and Lis FLEW over the last fence like it wasn't even there -- both super happy and super proud of themselves.  And rightfully so!  So she told me about her awesome round while we led Lissy back.

Then I was very impressed by our excellent horsewomen who were soooo excited and really wanted to compare notes, but put it on hold till they were done taking care of their horses.  Which should be a given, but often at a rider's first show they need to be reminded through the excitement and the adrenaline, but these girls were awesome.   I was as proud of that as the double-clear round :)

So yeah, it was an *amazing* first horse trial.  The girls have worked so hard to get here and it totally showed today.  Huge thanks to friends and family who came out to support us (and the food and waters!  Oh so spoiled! :) and to Kirby who was our supergroom and photographer of the day :)

Can't wait for the next one!


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