I mean, ya know… how many years have we been waiting for this? How many different things have happened along the way that made us (at least me) think the day might never come? It has been a whole entire journey just to get the beginning of this journey. Breed another horse, they said. It’ll be fun they said. Ok “they” was me. And I was right. Mostly. But boy, if we go back to when I actually chose the stallion and planned the breeding, I have 7 years invested in this horse. I love him and he’s everything I wanted (um… most days…), thank goodness, but whew.
Anyway. Our debut show together was in the Novice at Majestic Oaks. We’ve schooled there a few times, it’s close (still blows my mind that multiple whole-ass horse shows are a mere 15mins away)… it made sense. For the sake of my no-longer-working-in-corporate-America budget, I want to stick to schooling shows for a while. Here they’re at the same venues as recognized, over the same questions, so… why not save some money while we’re getting to know each other and establishing a partnership.
A little backstory: Presto was not particularly good last week. For as good as he was in our showjump lesson the Friday before, on Monday (our last lesson before the show) he was awful. Like… awful. So full of demons and tantrums that at one point he spooked at a pole, leaped up in the air like a Lippazaner, and whacked me directly in the nose with his poll. I bled all over the place. Profusely. Poor Steph had to make two trips to retrieve enough paper towels to stem the flow.
The rest of the week wasn’t as bad, but he wasn’t great either. By the time Friday rolled around I was like “welp, hope I don’t die tomorrow, haha. ha. haaaaa. halp.”.
But ya know, such is the way with young horses sometimes, and you just gotta get on with it. So I trimmed up his mane a bit, banged his tail, gave him a bath (he still hates baths, if anyone is wondering, that hasn’t changed in his entire 5 years), cleaned all my shit, and packed my trailer.
On Saturday morning we pulled into the showgrounds around 10 minutes after 7, and I tied Presto to the side of the trailer with a bucket and a haynet. He just isn’t the type that you can leave standing in the trailer all day by himself, he feels like he’s missing something and then tries to climb out. Hard nope for me, dawg. He’s better off, and considerably more relaxed, if he’s out where he can see things and move around a little. He was wired when I first unloaded him, so I got on him a little earlier than planned so that he could walk around and check stuff out. I think once he got to warmup he realized what was happening, and immediately took a breath. He hasn’t been to that many events (he did 4 last year I think?) but I guess that was enough for him to get it. He’s never done a one-day though, so this format was new for him.
It’s funny… the footing in warmup felt great. A little dew on the grass but it’s so sandy underneath that I have never (literally ever) had an issue with horses slipping here. My trainer went a few horses ahead of me and when she came out she warned me that our grass arena felt slick. Duly noted, I’ll keep it in mind. So ya know, woe was me when we trotted up centerline, turned left, and Presto immediately almost fell on his ass. Like… he barely saved himself. I think we both went “oh… fuck…”.
Bless hims little heart though, he kept on trying for me. He didn’t spook at the tent, he didn’t get distracted by the other rings, he just put his little (ok big) head down and did what I asked. Granted, after that he was really protecting himself and hesitant to move out the way he normally would. I was also scared to ask for as much as I normally would. It was not our best effort. He slipped pretty badly one more time, and after that his canter more resembled a pogo stick because he was just trying his best to keep himself on his feet.
It was not our best work. I mean, all credit to Presto, he really gave it his best. But a big baby horse in small very very slippery grass ring just was not working in our favor. Lesson learned, I will absolutely stud him from now on anytime we have dressage on grass. Better safe than sorry.
Unfortunately every time he slipped we got a 5 for the movement, and his canter circles were quite stilted and not entirely circular. He still managed a 34 though, so ya know… if we could do a dressage test instead of Icecapades I think there’s potential there for a good score.
I was quite pleased with him really, considering. He did what I asked with no shenanigans, so I couldn’t be unhappy with that. Truth be told he was more rideable in the ring than he usually is at home.
After that we had a few hours until SJ. At this show they did SJ and then 15 minutes later you did XC. My plan was to showjump, come out, put his XC boots and my vest on, and then go to XC warmup. This facility is nicely laid out to where everything is quite close together, so I pretty much passed right by my trailer on the way to XC anyway.
While we were waiting we walked the stadium course… I didn’t take a pic of the course map but did my absolute best artwork for y’all below. That’s a lie, this is terrible and definitely not totally correct in it’s scale or placement but whatever you get the idea.
Sadly I have no stadium video. There weren’t many of us there in our group and my priority was on not dying rather than recruiting someone, so ya know. Hopefully the photographer got something… I didn’t notice if she was standing over there or not. We’ll see. Sorry.
Anyway, Presto was decent in warmup. Got a little spun up a couple times when horses were buzzing past him, but nothing bad. We jumped a couple, walked for a bit, jumped a couple more, then went to the ring. He was so freaking spooky and naughty the last time we were in that ring, I was more concerned about the corners than I was about the jumps. Really though, he was pretty good. I felt his eyeballs wander a little bit a couple times, but he kept going forward and jumped everything fine. The only issue we had is that I got him a bit deep into the in and out and didn’t support him well enough to that distance, and he ticked the rail there. I’ll take the responsibility for that one.
After that it was back to the trailer to put on his boots and my vest, and then over to XC warmup.
Again I am a media failure because I didn’t take pics of the jumps. To be honest, I only walked like half the course. Everything there is mostly in one big field, and only a few things had moved, so… we just walked enough to make sure we knew where everything was, and walk the related distances. And I was too busy listening/focusing to stop and take pictures along the way. Clearly I need a horse show assistant.
It was your pretty basic Novice though. Friendly ramped first fence, stacked log thingy, table, ramp, ditch to hanging log half coffin, another table, house, water, bank up out of water, 5 bending strides to a sharks tooth thingy, then a corner, some tires, a house, a down bank 4 strides to a house, a skinny log, a trakehner, and a rolltop brush.
When I first picked up the canter in warmup he was like YEAAAAAH ZOOOOMIIEEESSS. Which, like, ok dude thanks for the forward-thinking enthusiasm, and I’m glad you remember and like your job, but… brakes are cool too. We went forward and back a few times, threw some 20m circles in there, jumped a couple jumps, and then he was golden. I still had a few horses in front of me so we just walked and let him settle more. Then over the startbox and before you know it I was hearing something I haven’t heard in a very long time… “3, 2, 1, have a great ride!”. My favorite words in all of sports.
I honestly had no idea what to expect of him out there. Sometimes when we’re schooling he wants to pretend to be nappy, or pretend to be spooky, and in those cases he’s kinda hard to ride because you’re never sure if he’s gonna take off or stop dead. I figured I’d know his frame of mind by the time we got to jump 3, since that one turned directly away from all the other horses and went off into the Nether.
He popped easily over 1 and 2, we turned to 3, and he was just game on. Big ol dopey boy ears were happily looking for the next jump, listening to me and keeping his good steady canter rhythm. Everything just… came right on up. 3 and 4 were easy, we turned back to half coffin and hopped through there (I did get him to the ditch on a not so great distance, I just sat up and put my leg on and went “please don’t fall in that hole” and he figured it out), down the hill into the water, then up out of the water (ok he jumped up that bank in the most awkward way, like… literally all 4 feet at once. I dunno what that was.) and the bending line over the sharks tooth. They had a big bunch of flowers right in the middle of the corner which he flicked an ear at, and then I did give him a little tap on the way to the tires just to make sure he stayed in front of my leg there.
The rest was just basically coasting on autopilot. I pointed him at it, and he jumped it. It was easy. I didn’t have to do a whole lot besides keep him balanced and straight. I did kind of forget that Novice speed is slow and you don’t have to ride routes that save ground, so we were almost too fast (errybody be out there circling LOL) but just squeaked in there for a double clear. I had not worn a watch because I didn’t want a distraction.
At the beginning of the day Presto had wanted to roll in the sand pit in the trailer parking area and I told him that if he was good I would let him do it at the end. I keep my word, which led to the best photo series.
We did manage to snag an 8th place ribbon, which is nice, but mostly I’m just really happy with him. We left plenty of points on the table for sure – there is a lot of room for improvement – but for our very first run together I couldn’t have asked for more from him. He showed up, kept the Fuckery to a minimum, and did his job. Gold star for the kiddo. He hasn’t been out since last August, and I haven’t done an actual honest to god 3 phases in THREE YEARS. Can you even believe that?
It feels good to be back, and to take my baby kiddo around our first Novice. I got a glimpse of what he can be – what we will be – and it was really fun. Moments like that are why we do all of this stuff day in and day out, after all.