Yes, that’s right. I went to a show. Why didn’t I mention it in a previous blog? Because I wasn’t really planning on going. However, I looked at the show schedule and realized I wanted to do the recognized Galway event in May, and this was really the best schooling opportunity before that. Copper runs a super casual schooling show, where you can either sign up for a Dressage time and do the whole horse trial, or you can just do the jumping phases. Want an extra round? Go right ahead!
We had our lesson on Friday, and Chloe told me we had an extra spot on the trailer. May was AWESOME in our lesson, where we really just worked on me not constantly squeezing my leg around her like a level 5 clingon. The day was a bit chaotic, so we only got to do one course in our lesson. (A lesson my friend actually had scheduled and I just crashed because I am that kind of friend).
As life turns out, if I DON’T clutch with my leg, May doesn’t get quite so fiesty. Go figure. But it also made me realize that I couldn’t go to the show and revert back to chasing my horse over ever fence. I knew that SJ would be pretty soft, so I made it my goal to just ride as soft as I could while still getting the strides. For XC, the goal was just to have a positive and fun round. (apologies in advance for basically zero media).
When we showed up to the show, I was fully convinced I was just doing jumping rounds. So I had only brought my jump tack. Then Chloe told me she had an extra Dressage slot, and I should do the full horse trial. OOOOOK. So I borrowed a snaffle bridle and went to warm up. And I was reminded of why I prefer my egg butt over a loose ring lol.
May was ok but pretty looky in warmup. The dressage warmup was next to part of the XC course, so you could see horses galloping around XC through some trees. May REALLY wanted to get to the XC part, but I managed to get her pretty soft and supple in warmup. However, I was really struggling with the square exercise that had been going so well at home, and that probably should have been my warning sign that things might not be perfect. When we headed over to the actual arena, May got pretty stiff on me again. OH did I mention it’s been a LONG time since I actually ran through a Dressage test? OOps. Putting that on the list of things to do before the recognized in May.
Overall, the test was ok. The first half she felt pretty stiff and uneven in the contact. In the free walk, she went to jig and got a correction, which she thought was REALLY offensive. But it set us up better for the second half where our scores improved slightly. Unfortunately, I had to move my hands around a bit more than I would typically do in a test to get her to release her neck AT ALL, so I got dinged for that. The test was not our best, but respectable for a 34.4.
The test reminded me a lot of the first test we did in 2020, but with slightly better canter transitions. (for context, the below test scored a 38.3).
I had to head back to the trailer to change tack for the jumping phases. I ended up doing SJ in my XC gear so that we wouldn’t have to change AGAIN. Show jumping was an open gate format. So every level had their courses set all day, and you just went in and jumped your level when you were ready. It meant the course was short (only 6 fences), but it was really busy looking.
May was AMAZING in the SJ warmup. Like jumping out of her skin for me, and just felt excellent. So I was actually feeling pretty excited for SJ. Of course, my first SJ outing of 2020 was weird last year, with May being super standoffish and kind of lurching over fences, so I wasn’t sure how she would be in the semi-chaotic environment of that open gate SJ.
When I went back to edit the footage and upload it, I cropped the video to just before the first jump. And I heard me talking to myself… Uhhh wait… what did I say? So I rolled the footage back and just had to include me going “leg off… take your leg off… you don’t need to ride with the gas pedal down.” I had no idea I actually said that… so enjoy. And you know what? It totally worked.
She got a bit past the distance on the first one, but jumped the second fence great. Usually, we would just GUN it to the 3rd fence to make the step, but instead, I asked her to balance up (earning myself a head toss), and then rocked my seat forward. And she not only got the 6 strides, but landed really well balanced for the turn to jump 4. The course finished with a 2 stride combination. We got in well, and skipped through it. She landed well balanced AND on the right lead. So I just circled and suppled to finish my course.
And… I thought I turned my helmet cam off.. I did not. So I ended up recording me walking around XC schooling and then my XC warmup… and not the XC course. Of course, walking the XC course I was like “wow, this is long for a schooling show, but at least, it looks pretty undersized.” Later learned that it was the same course as their recognized show a couple of weeks ago… oops. If you wanna see video of someone doing the course, a bunch of them are under Ride On Video’s youtube, just search: beginner novice Cross Country Copper Meadows March 2021
So 17 flags including an A B combination with a half ditch, 2 waters, and up bank. There was even a fairly skinny fence (for BN), about 3 – 4 strides out of the water. So like… a legit XC course, which I was excited about. And honestly, the only part that May had any hesitation about was a portion where you had to canter through a big rock formation. Something that is fairly common in California, but she has never seen. But I widened my hands, put my leg on, and she went on through it.
We trotted through the first water, because I wanted her to feel confident going through it, and I wanted to get her eye on the jump after the water. Both were a success, and we were able to pick up the canter in the water and jump the little yellow round top on the out. She really wanted to PULL me to the half coffin with a half ditch. (Does that make it a quarter coffin?) So I had to give a pretty substantial half halt. In usual May fashion, we couldn’t have cared less about the half ditch, and she basically clobbered it canter over it. #Classy. The half halt was kind of the turning point where May got softer in between fences. I forget how strong she can be on the first run of the year.
The rest of the course was pretty straight forward including some tables, and open oxer, and a hanging log, The last real question was a small house (probably closer to starter height) before an unflagged water. May had no hesitation, and we cantered over it and through that water. The second to last fence was a fairly vertical wall with a fake ditch in front of it. I wasn’t sure is May had ever seen one of these, but she had 0 hesitation and popped right over it. We finished over a ramped table and through the finish flags! (and not a single moment like the below.)
So a solid schooling trip, and we finished on our Dressage score below a 35. Not bad for our first time out since August, and our 3rd BN horse trial in as many years. Definitely some things to work on, but this morning I renewed my USEA membership and signed up for Galway in May.