Coconino Summer 2: Splat

You know that expression “sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield”? On stadium day I was most definitely the bug. I went splat.

Image result for splat gif

I was heading into showjumping in first place, after our clear cross country. We walked the course that morning, and while there were a lot of jumps in a small space, the course wasn’t anything particularly crazy. We’ve jumped A LOT of prelim rounds by now, between schooling shows and jumper rounds and HT’s, and never had much problem. I don’t like stadium, but I tend to not lose sleep over it. I just wanted to stay on and jump the jumps in the right order.

You see where this is going, right?

Anyway, when we were walking the course, the thing I was most concerned about was the footing. It had rained a lot the afternoon before, and I was kind of shocked at how inconsistent the arena felt, and how wet the corners still were. They had sealed the surface, but not dragged it, so big clumps of mud kind of just sat all over the place. Parts of it were fine, but other parts were very squishy.

from our Prelim schooling round a few days before, in a nice dry arena, where we had just one rail.

I assumed that it would dry up quite a bit more in the hour before we went now that the sun was out, and that they’d drag it, so I didn’t worry too much about it. Warmup was fine, and we went up to the gate with one person to go ahead of us. Said person had a very hard time turning, cruising past a few fences before getting eliminated. Hmm. That’s a little concerning from an experienced Prelim pair. That’s when I noticed that they hadn’t dragged the arena.

So I went in, picked up my canter, and immediately did not like how the footing felt in the first turn. My horse doesn’t handle mud very well at all, and you can always feel a change in him as soon as he hits it. But we cantered out of the turn, hit the dryer part in the middle, and all was well again. Henry cantered down to the first single oxer and pinged off the ground fantastically.

I had juuuust enough time to think “wow he’s jumping really well” before we got to the next corner and he started slipping. Slipping, slipping, slipping, as if in slow motion. He caught himself, slipped again, tripped, and basically fishtailed around the corner. Nothing I tried seemed to help. I briefly thought about making a circle but didn’t see anywhere to go that would be any better. He stayed on his feet, but we careened up to the next fence basically sideways and still slipping, and he tried his best to jump it anyway. I went waaaaaay up in the air and then straight into the ground. Just like that – rider fall.

So… that sucked. I got up and walked out with him, but poor Henry was definitely a bit rattled that I had come off. They always escort you to the medic after a fall, and when I walked away, leaving Henry with Hillary and my trainer, he got very concerned about why I was leaving and where I was going. We found the EMT (who was asleep in his backseat), he asked me if I was okay, I said yes I landed on my hip in the mud, and he told me to come back if I started feeling bad. Henry was physically okay, thank god, but it took him a couple hours to return to his normal personality. He was clearly rattled by the whole thing.

The footing in warmup was really nice, at least.

I was disappointed for our show to end that way, mostly because the first two phases were so great. I thought my horse really deserved the completion, and to have something so ridiculous happen was a bummer. However… that’s horse showing. Especially eventing. Sometimes things go your way, and sometimes they don’t. Should they have dragged the arena earlier? Yes. They stopped and dragged after my division, and the footing was much improved. But I know they did what they thought was the right thing at the time (new footing was just put into this arena recently and they really weren’t sure the best thing to do with it when it was wet)… it just didn’t work out in my favor. The horses with a more up and down, slower-legged way of going didn’t have too much problem with it, but the flatter-moving, faster-legged horses seemed to really struggle to find purchase and jump out of it. Mine wasn’t the only one.

While it was disappointing to miss out on the win (although to be fair, no one finished Prelim, soooo), I can’t be too upset. My horse was just so good the whole time, and we learned a lot, and grew our confidence a ton. The pieces are slowly coming together. The way it ended in no way takes away from everything else, and I was still smiling about that XC round. Maybe next year we can go back and seek redemption, but for now, I’m not too worried about it. Coconino was still a major success in my book, and remains one of my favorite shows. We had a great time!

15 thoughts on “Coconino Summer 2: Splat

  1. Oh man, what a bummer to miss out on the completion! But I’m so glad you’re both okay.

    That’s nuts that no one in prelim finished.

    I especially love your mindset despite the disappointment. It’s a really admirable way to handle things when luck doesnt go your way. It is also a good reminder to my brain to let go and not beat myself up over things I have no control over. I know the next similar situation I’m in I’m going to remember this post and hopefully not internalize things too much.


    1. I kept waiting to feel worse about it than I did, but it never happened. It sucked but by that point it was too late, what was done was done, I was just glad that my horse was ok, and still happy with his performance. If I had been there trying to qualify or get a prep in for something, I might have been more upset, but… sometimes shit just happens. Getting mad or upset wasn’t going to change it, and would just take away from everything that HAD gone right. My trainer spoke to the CD (hence the subsequent drag) and I gave my feedback, but… yeah, that was the end of the control I had over it, so at that point how I wanted to feel about it was my choice.


  2. If there’s one thing I’ve learned riding with hunter jumpers, it’s never be afraid to complain about the footing. They will straight up not go in the ring if they feel it needs a drag. I feel like eventers will just take whatever they get – “oh this is on partial gravel and some hot lava? Guess I’ll just avoid the lava” – and try to make the best of it. Prelim fences are no joke, you’re (everyone reading this) allowed to be a diva and demand a drag if you think the footing is unsafe. But also I get hindsight is 20/20. Your XC was so much fun to read and I made an actual happy noise at your dressage score.


    1. There was a bit of an uproar from the trainers after I went, hence the drag afterward. It was just too late by the time I got into it. Unfortunately in eventing if you don’t go in the ring at your ride time, you’re eliminated.


  3. I am so bummed that it ended like this.
    But very glad you didn’t hurt yourself and that Henry calmed down eventually…
    How many were in the Prelim division?


  4. It amazes the change in your attitude about all things horse shows from when I found your blog to now. Not that one way is better over another, but I’m really enjoying your newer way of looking at the overall show experience and not caring so much about numbers, scores and placings. Of course, this comes from a very non competitive, throws away ribbons, type person, but still. Henry deserves to feel like a champion despite the ending and so do you. What a great outing for you both and congrats on every aspect of it from beginning to dirty end.


  5. Dude. You’re a bigger person than me. I would have freaked out after that experience! Granted I wasn’t there but it sounds like it felt unsafe??????????? I don’t care a hoot about winning and am not particularly competitive, but I’m VERY concerned about giving my horse a good experience. I’m glad you and Henry are OK and hopefully the organizers have a better idea of how to deal with the new footing going forward.
    I’m curious though, does that mean they didn’t give out any ribbons in Prelim? Does that happen very often in eventing?


  6. so glad you’re ok. can you say more about Henry’s being rattled? The reason I ask is I came off my horse (first time in the 5 yrs I’ve owned him) and I sensed he was freaked. Not sure if it was purely the airbag noise or something about the fall itself.


  7. Wild that no one in Prelim finished. How many were there in the division? Seems…wrong.
    Anyway – like a lot of others have said, your attitude is so admirable and makes what could’ve been a super bummer into just a kind of bummer that happened, oh well, you’ll go get ’em next time. It’s awesome.


  8. This is where I have to say that I think sometimes you can be TOO good of a sport.

    I would honestly have talked to the show officials. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have dragged the arena and allowed you guys to all go again, considering that nobody was able to complete the course. Idk, you pay a lot of money and travel really far to get there. Having a suck-it-up-buttercup-that’s-just-your-luck attitude from any show organizer when it’s clearly the footing that’s a problem just doesn’t seem right.


    1. I agree!!!!

      That said, Amanda, you have a SUPER attitude. I’m really so glad that you and Henny are both okay, and that you’ve been able to take this disappointment in stride.

      I can also tell you that your change in mindset has made a big impact on me…. all of this writing about introspection and just enjoying the ride, it’s made a difference. I showed for the first time in 15 years last weekend (in “Western English,” which I’ve never done before) and my goals were: just to DO it, have fun, learn a lot and appreciate every minute of saddle time. I did all of those things… plus, it actually was two shows back to back and I improved from Saturday to Sunday. The fact that we picked up a blue on Sunday was the cherry on top. 🙂 But honestly, I would have gone home happy after coming 4th in a class of seven beforehand with riders who were a lot more experienced.

      THANK YOU for sharing all of the ups and downs. I know I’m not the only one for whom you’ve made a difference!


  9. It was a winning experience in any case, not counting the SJ, so there’s that to look back on!

    I am surprised that the show organizers allowed the footing disaster to happen. They know that a footing experience like that could definitely affect the willingness of a lot of entrants to return to the venue. Organizers have had it drilled into them by competitors that footing is a primary entry consideration.


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