Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WNRDC Pipestave Hill Horse Trials 10/12/14

I'm going to start out with this pic (even though it's a spoiler) because Maggie's expression here so perfectly sums up the day:

3rd overall out of a class of 9 is really not bad, I know, but it's tough cause I feel like we could have done so much better. 

We started the day with what I think is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to equestrians, particularly when you're on your way to a show: the dreaded refusal to get on the trailer. Yes, Maggie the Mule made an appearance. I don't know what got into her, but she wanted NOTHING to do with the trailer that morning. It was the most trouble I've ever had with her getting on the trailer. I'll spare you the nitty-gritty details, but by the time I got her loaded I was sweating, shaking, and had a bit of a sinking feeling in my gut. Apparently Maggie and I were not going to see eye to eye today. Why? I still do not know. Even so, off we went to the show. 

We were running about 25 minutes behind schedule and, wouldn't you know it, the show was running about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Just as I had mounted up and was walking over to the dressage warm-up I heard my name being called over the loudspeaker that I was wanted at dressage check-in. I continued to make my way over and was informed by the steward that I was actually on deck. Nice. Fortunately, they don't force you to go earlier than your scheduled time and I still had around 15-20 minutes left. Not that that made me feel any less pressured to rush the warm-up. 

Now, I'm still trying to figure Maggie out in terms of what she needs for warm-up. I think I'm finding out that it really just depends on the day. We've had times where she was so relaxed that warm-up took only 10 minutes and there have been other times where she's been so tense and high strung that I felt like she could have used a whole hour. This time I was getting an in-between read on her. There was some of the normal tenseness at the start, then she settled down a bit and started to give. 

Getting more relaxed now
So I spent around 10 minutes trying to get her to come forward and soften, all while guiltily glancing at the ring steward every so often. With about 5 minutes until my actual start time I decided she felt ok and told the ring steward I was ready to go in. (The steward was super nice by the way, and didn't make me feel rushed at all, it was just the situation that had me flustered.)
Decent canter
So we trotted around the area until the bell rang and then down the center line we went. I went to track left at C and only then did I really notice how much leg I was using. Like, I was using a LOT of leg. I have never had to use this much leg on Maggie before. She felt like a pluggy old school horse. My gas pedal had suddenly disappeared. This became especially evident when I asked her to pick up a canter and we failed to pick it up between K and embarrassing. And she had been doing SO well with canter transitions lately. Then, to make a crappy canter even crappier, I just couldn't keep her going through the entire circle and she fell back into the trot. How embarrassing...again. We got 5's on the whole trot/canter, canter 20 m, canter/trot series. 

The rest of the rest was more of the same: leg, leg, leg, leg, leg. It was also accentuated at the walk. She usually slows down quite a bit at the walk because she thinks it's break time (something I'm trying to work on with her) and it was even more apparent this time. If you look at the video you can really see me working at it during the free walk. For the right lead canter I was at least prepared for what was coming and was able to get her to pick it up in time and hold it.

The first time I watched this video back my immediate reaction was, "Ok, it's not quite as ugly as I thought." We're not holding contact as steadily as I'd like, but at least she's not running around like a giraffe. The second time I watched it was I noticed just how much I'm visibly kicking her. Like, every. single. stride. When schooling at home I usually ride with a dressage whip. I don't use it often, but it's handy to have for getting a little more responsiveness when I need it. With Maggie, she usually just needs a swift tap of it to say "wake up!" but I've never actually used one at a show. I would have given just about anything to have had my whip in my hand during that test. 

After the dressage, I tied her back up to the trailer to strip her dressage tack and give her a break before jumping. I tried giving her some little peppermint horse treats as a peace offering and she downright refused them. Not gonna lie, I was feeling a little rejected right then. Clearly we were still in a huge fight. Thinking that perhaps a tastier treat would make us friends again, I went to the concession stand in search of something more palatable. Lo and behold NEER North was selling mini cinnamon buns loaded with frosting. How tasty! I bought a couple and proudly offered one up to Maggie. She spit it out. Jerk. I ate one (or more...) myself instead.

As it got closer to stadium jumping and I began tacking her up again, I was getting increasingly nervous that her pluggyness would carry over from dressage and she wouldn't feel like jumping. Fortunately, my fears were alleviated after pointing her towards the warm-up jumps a few times and having her charge them with her ears pricked like normal. Phew. We jumped a nice clean stadium round, much to my relief. I had actually been toying with the idea earlier of scratching if she just didn't seem into the jumping today. Fortunately she was; at least more so than dressage.

Thanks to the friend of a friend for these two stadium pics (that's totally legit photo credit, right?)

So we mozied on down to the XC course next and I started to really get nervous again. After all, I'm still not as confident going XC with her as I'd like to be. I'm always nervous that she'll slam the brakes and I was still doubly nervous since our poor dressage display, even though she was strong in stadium. I popped her over the oxer warm-up fence twice before heading over to the start. When it was our turn to go, I pointed her at he first fence and she went forward fairly readily and cleared it despite giving it a little bit of a hairy eyeball. We blew around the course - me still internally freaking out about life in general - and she gave most fences a good look, but I kept on kicking and you know what? WE JUMPED CLEAR. Good Lord, my legs felt like jelly when we were done. I was seriously relieved and actually quite glad that was over with.

XC course map

Fence 3:

Fence 4:

Fence 5 (she gave this one a really good look):

Fence 9 (I think we cleared it...):

Fence 10:

 Fence 11 (my "wings" make an appearance):

After untacking Maggie, cooling her, and getting her settled back at the trailer I finally ventured over to see what my dressage score was. Normally I would have been curious enough to check it before stadium, but I really had no desire to know at that point. I had gotten a 37.9 which put me in 6th place after dressage. A refusal from someone else during stadium had bumped me up to 5th after that. Checking back later after XC was factored in, I found that we ended up 3rd overall after a few others had refusals in XC. 

So,long story short: despite a crap dressage test I was actually VERY proud of my Maggie for two clear jump rounds. I keep telling myself that I've just got to have more confidence in her. Watching our stadium rounds back, I can really see that she knows what her job is; and since I'm the one that taught her to jump, that makes me incredibly proud. But on the flip side of being the one that taught her to jump, part of me still expects her to spook whenever I point her at something new. That's where learning to have confidence in her is going to come in. Also, keep in mind that this was her second XC run ever - so really, not too shabby at all. 
Sideways ears
"Sideways ears"
D'awwww...can't even handle the cute
This photo by Sophia Bitel, Massachusetts Horse
But despite those insights and lessons learned, this expression still sums up the feeling of the day:



  1. Those ears are too much. Congrats on awesome jumping rounds!

    1. Thanks! I like to think that the ears provide a little lift over the jumps ;)

  2. That sounds pretty successful! Plus she's cute as a button.

    1. Certainly can't deny the cuteness factor! Thank you!