Is he what dreams are made of or is he an absolute menace to society? The answer is both.
On Sunday I took Presto over to Majestic Oaks for a jumper show. I was kind of looking forward to it, because it was going to be his first 3’3″ class – it was time to check our progress. Hillary was also taking Lex, but 1) her classes were a little earlier 2) I really did not want a repeat of his behavior when we went for a lesson with Lex and Presto lost his last shiny little marble. He’s chill and easy alone. He’s completely terrible with friends.
So Hillary left earlier than I did, with Lex in her trailer. I was hoping they just wouldn’t know the other was there. That dream lasted for all of about 30 minutes. And once Presto did figure out that Lex was there, that was the end of us having a fun easy happy day. Much chaos ensued. He spent the next couple hours screaming non-stop, punctuated with periods of flailing his front feet in the air or trying to dig a hole to China.
It was not the most fun I’ve ever had.
I did finally get him to settle a bit as we got closer to the start of our division, mostly by letting root around the tack room of my trailer and make a mess of things, but I was on the last bit of my sanity by that point. I had started the day tired, and he used up every available ounce of my brain power and emotional energy with his theatrics.
Luckily once he has a job to focus on, he’s an entirely different animal.
When I finally got on he was LIT, and jigged his way over to warmup. I immediately starting bending him left and right, getting him to move his rib cage and accept my leg without yeehawing away from it. That plugged his brain in, and after a few laps we were able to get to work like normal. He actually warmed up great, and was less worried about the other horses than he was the last time we were in that ring. Once he jumped his first jump he was game on, mind on the job, and he was the wonderful animal I know and love. I do appreciate that part of him – for all his theatrics, he does do his job like a trooper once you give him one.
We did two classes – a 3′ and a 3’3″. The 3′ was fine… I was a bit of a space cadet and cantered right past the last jump. Everyone was like “ahem… there’s another one”. Oh right. Pick up the canter again, jump the last one. My brain was mega-fried by this point after having a horse screaming in my ear and flailing in my face all morning. My response to that is to just go real dead inside, and perhaps I went a little too dead.
Then we had the 3’3″, which was also fine. By this point he had thoroughly worn himself out, so he was getting a bit behind my leg, which my dead brain was a little too slow to fix, which led to a couple awkward distances. What I do appreciate is that Presto really gives no shits where you get him, he’s gonna jump the jump. Also neither of us were intimidated at all by the increase in height. Nothing we’ve jumped yet looks big on this horse, and he’s still mostly just loping over them. It’s a cool feeling, to have not even come anywhere near to approaching his limit. I think we’ve barely even poked a toe into “trying” territory.
Ideally the perfectionist side of me would have loved to do one more class and smooth things out a bit, but we were both out of quarters at that point. We’d done what we came to do, and despite Presto’s naughtiness all morning, I appreciated that once I got on and said “sir, you have a job” he got down to business and said “yes ma’am, let’s do it”. I love this horse both because of and despite his chaos… some days it just tests my resolve more than others.
I think the best moment of the day was when I saw a bit of a bigger distance into the oxer-to-vertical one stride. The Presto of a couple months ago would have been totally incapable of jumping big into that, compacting himself into the one stride, and jumping up and around the vertical – he’d have just punched that rail right out with his hind feet. I think every rail he had last year was coming out of a combination. But even with me jumping in a bit big, he landed, sat himself on his butt, and jumped the vertical fantastic. When I get little peeks of his true ability like that, it’s kind of exciting. It most definitely is in there. The harder it gets, the better he gets.
So really, mission accomplished? It was an annoying day, with all of his screaming and theatrics, and it’s possible that the hearing in my right ear might never be the same…
But we did get to jump around the 3’3″ and it was no big deal, so… we’ll call it a win?
It’s a bit earlier than I normally start this, but the sales this year have been starting earlier too. Welcome to everyone’s favorite online shopping time of year!
Here we go with the usual spiel: some of these sales are already active, others won’t be live until later in the week. I’ve included date info where I can, but if you’re not seeing the sale yet, just try their page again later. What I’m publishing today (Tuesday) is very much just the tip of the iceberg – I’m tracking dozens of different sales that will be releasing their info later in the week. Keep checking back here, new ones will be posted AT THE BOTTOM BY DATE ADDED so they don’t get lost in the mix. Happy Shopping! Buy me something pretty.
Riding Warehouse – sale starting 11/25 up to 30% off – build your cart now so it’s ready to go on Friday!
Ride iQ – 30% off either the monthly or annual membership (applies to the first payment – this takes $74 off the annual membership!) with code TGIF30 through 11/28. If you’re looking for a great gift for someone, this is my 5-star pick! I can’t even tell you how life-changing this app is.
Struck Breeches – orders under $100 get a $10 Gift Card, $100- $250 get a $25 Gift Card. Buy 50 Series breeches, get a $50 Gift Card, buy 55 Series breeches, get a $55 Gift Card, buy 60 Series get a $60 Gift Card, buy 80 Series get an $80 Gift Card, and purchases Over $400 get a $100 Gift Card. First 50 orders will receive a FREE Struck toque!
When we left off last week, some particular noodle had been an absolute wretch for our jump lesson on Wednesday.
On Friday (aside from being a bit on his toes because it was BRISK out there for Florida) he brought his best kiddo behavior. Well I mean did he jig off the trailer and into the barn? Maybe. Was he a moving target while I tried to put his bridle on? Yes. Did we snort the whole way out to the ring? Indeed. Did a horse get loose and come galloping out towards the ring while I was walking and did I just choose to jump off and hold my spinning noodle until that horse was caught rather than potentially add another loose horse to the mix? Yes. But I mean once the lesson started, he was all business.
It’s been a hot minute since I had a dressage lesson (ok months, it’s been months… jumping took priority) so it was definitely needed. I feel like he’s made a lot of progress as far as getting more adjustable in his gaits (Steph agreed), more consistently into the outside rein (Steph agreed) and his canter has gotten stronger (Steph agreed). But ya know, good professional eyes on the ground with the flatwork are so important, because I can take the homework I’m given and plug away at it pretty well, but I’m not always the best at pushing on to the next step.
So what we did a lot in this lesson was push the boundaries and ask him for more. More trot, starting to play with the medium and get him lifting his front end up more/coming through his knee and shoulder. This is hard for him, he’s lazier in front than he is behind., but he did give us some solid efforts.
We also worked on being able to move his shoulders a bit more, which is kind of a constant with him since he loves to get stuck in the base of his neck/shoulders. And then when we moved to canter she was like ok this definitely looks way stronger/better but now he needs to do it more on his own with less help from you. Turns out I’m helping him every single step, which of course I know that but also at no point did my brain go “maybe it’s time you stop holding his hand and ask him to do more of this on his own”.
So that’s what we did. We’d get the canter forward, get his back swinging, and then I’d slowly stop helping him as much and ask him to do more on his own, letting my leg hang more passive. To the right it wasn’t too bad, he broke once or twice out of confusion (she stopped holding me up, that’s weird) but to the left, his weaker direction, he def wanted to fall apart more as soon as I wasn’t actively holding it together. There is some homework involving all of that, for sure. Which is good… that’s the whole point.
On Saturday I spent all day jump judging at the classic 3-Day here in town. It was such a cool event, with a whole week of various clinics/demos and lots of educational content from top pros. They did a great job with the course design too, everything looked fantastic, with good challenges but also some softer options for the people that needed them. For personal reasons I’d love it if they moved it to a different venue – then I’d 100% put it on my bucket list.
What did blow my mind, as someone from Texas where people do not drive vehicles onto courses and if you’re jump judging you basically just have to walk your happy ass and your lawn chair out to whatever far reaches of the earth you’ve been assigned to, was that we could just drive out to our jumps and stay in our vehicles. When everybody got in their cars and drove right out onto the course my brain exploded a little, I think I amused all the Florida people. Wait, you mean I don’t have to hike 3 miles and sit in a chair in the sun being miserable/cold/hot/wet/sunburned all day? Not that 8 hours in my car is comfortable but it beats the hell out of a lawn chair. That was like a VIP jump judging experience compared to every other I’ve ever had. It was fun watching everyone with the classic format though, I love that they offered Starter through Training.
Yesterday was disgusting by Florida standards: 48 and drizzly rain all day. Hard pass. Hard hard pass. Today it’s sunny and 70 so… I don’t have to suffer thanks. Our barn group went to brunch instead, and then Hillary and I recorded a podcast (the first of hopefully many) with Steph for our Patreon people. I’m pretty excited about this one, she’s so interesting with her teaching philosophy and how she approaches coaching different people/personalities.
I’m also now full throttle into Black Friday mode, getting the first version of the list ready to post (hopefully tomorrow, but if I can’t make that happen, Wednesday for sure). So many places have started their sales early, so it looks like my list will need to start earlier too. My mission this year is new blankets for Presto, since his lil butt is now hanging quite a ways out the back of his old clothes. Which makes me sad, because they’re great. If you see great deals on any fun prints in an 81/82 (I think, I need to measure him today) , send them my way!
I was kind of hoping today would be a fun lesson recap, since I made it over to Steph’s on Wednesday for a jump lesson. And I mean, it can be a bit of a lesson recap I suppose. “Fun” is not the word I would use though.
Presto is… an interesting animal. What I’ve discovered about him over the past few months is that while he’s actually great when he travels solo, he’s a complete idiot when he goes places with friends. He marries them in the trailer, dedicates his entire being to them, and legit cannot focus on anything else once we arrive at our destination. I know this about him. But that doesn’t mean that he can spend the rest of his life going places and doing things alone. It’s not realistic. We slowly but surely have to start chipping away at that particular issue. So when Hillary set up a lesson for Wednesday morning, I was offered the time right after it, and while there was a whole lot of internal groaning on my part, I took it. Can’t avoid the situation forever, and better to do it in a regular lesson environment vs xc schooling or at a horse show.
When I went to get him before the lesson he came galloping up to me like a lunatic, complete with a sliding stop about 2″ away from the gate. Cool cool. Presto with excess enthusiasm rarely bodes well but sure. We got the horses ready, loaded them up, and off we went. Hillary rode first, so while she was putting her bridle on I took Presto away to the other side of the barn where he wouldn’t be able to see Lex leave. That would create an instant meltdown. He wasn’t pleased when I took him away from his favorite hony, but he wasn’t too bad. After Lex was gone I took him back inside to the crossties, but then all the other horse slowly started leaving, and I knew that if we got to the point where he was the only one left in the barn that would be the spark that ignited a real problem. I can only take on so many problems in one day. So I put his bridle on, figuring I’d just go hack him around the back field for a while and then warm up a bit before our lesson.
He was fine walking out, and for the first few minutes, but then he started trying to make a break for it back toward the ring. Naughtiness ensued. Not constant, but enough to where I had to put him to work or else he was going to keep escalating. So we spent 40 minutes trotting, cantering, going back and forth toward and away from the ring, and doing whatever more complicated flatwork was necessary to keep his attention on me – with random bouts of spinning and napping punctuated throughout. He did finally settle, but by then we were both tired and annoyed.
By the time we walked into the ring for our lesson we really had nothing left in the tank, mentally or physically. And well… when we tried to start putting some jump exercises together, it went about as well as you’d imagine. I can say without a doubt that it was the worst jump lesson we’ve had yet. Presto is just a walking temper tantrum of feelings sometimes, and he had all of them that day. By that point he was just mad and told all of us to get fucked.
So ya know… we made an attempt at things. We went through the course a few times until he actually decided to put in some kind (ANY kind) of effort at paying attention and listening, and then we quit with that. There was really no point. He did stop being a turd long enough to make a decent-ish pass through, and some days that’s just the best you’re going to get. He’s not the type of horse you can just keep nagging away at when he’s in that frame of mind. Some days you have to accept any kind of try and let it go at that, because if you pick a fight he will absolutely throw down. If you make it a thing, it will become A Thing. If you make it just a day in the life, then that’s all it’ll be.
So ya know, that was… um… a time. Not a fun time. Or a good time. But such is life with horses. I think what we’re going to do for a while is every time Hillary has a lesson, Presto will come along and just go out to hack by himself while she’s having her lesson. He has to be able to go places with friends and not turn into a raging butthole. And clearly we are not at the point where he can handle doing that for lessons, but if he can just go hack out, do some trot sets, and work through his feelings… hopefully that will help him figure out that he still has to mind his own damn business even when a friend is present.
I have another lesson today (a dressage lesson, which I haven’t had a dressage lesson in months… whoops) that he is attending by himself, so hopefully we can actually do something productive this time.
I always have intentions of Monday posts to recap the previous week. Those posts do not always happen these days.
As already mentioned, last week was spent working in the Luxe EQ trailer at WEC. I forgot how mentally exhausting retail is, even when it’s not busy. It takes all of my little introverted brain cells. These November shows at WEC are pretty small – there’s supposed to be double the number of horses in December – and for that I was kind of grateful. I mean, not the best thing for business, but whew. It’s been years since I did this.
I did have fun perusing everything in the trailer though, and trying on like… dozens of things. I discovered that Samshield clothing seems to fit me like a dream (naturally, because it’s effing expensive) and that no matter how hard I try or how badly I want it, Kask helmets don’t fit my head. Which is probably good for my wallet, because I looooved this one:
On Saturday night I stayed after close and had dinner with some barnmates, and got to snuggle what is now I suppose my emotional support weiner, Olive. She also helped me make a TikTok for the shop, because this is definitely a dog worthy of social media fame.
I was still able to ride Presto during those days, by getting up extra early so I could be done with him by 8am and then jet off to WEC. He has been pretty darn good lately, and is filling out a ton. You can tell that 6yo year is just around the corner – he’s a different horse now than he was in May. We’ve got a jump lesson today and then a dressage lesson on Friday, trying to get in all the prep and tune-ups before we hit all the shows in December. I can’t believe we’re already halfway through November. What the actual heck.
This week I’ve been making videos for clients, prepping the breeding data for the live stream of the PetersonSmith Barnstaple Educational 3 Day Event (I hope y’all have heard about this, it’s SO COOL), and getting a couple breeding consultations prepped. Also Megan is at the Goresbridge sale this week and she’s been sending me some of her favorites to get my thoughts on their pedigrees. I have some peak FOMO about Ireland at the moment.
I did get myself these super glittery spur straps though, which def helped me feel better.
One other thing – massive shoutout to Bobby who absolutely SLAYED at Nationals with Carlson. National Champion 2nd Freestyle AA, Reserve Champion 2nd AA, Reserve Champion 3rd AA, and 3rd place 3rd level Freestyle AA. He’s a pain in the ass but he’s my pain in the ass, and I’m so happy to see him doing well with this horse.
I’ll be back later this week with more updates, when I have a little more time. Hope everyone is having a good week!
Yes it is indeed Friday night when I’m writing this. Or rather, when I’m finishing writing this. It was Wednesday when I started. That’s just kind of how things have gone this week.
On Monday I clipped Henry. Which was not at all my intention for the morning, but he was hot and I did that thing where I was like “I’ll just clip part of him for now” which I don’t know why I tell myself those kinds of lies because that’s never what actually happens. I did everything but the very bottom of his belly, which is currently still hairy because I haven’t had time yet to finish him. It’s a look. He’s much happier though, so that’s all that matters.
I had plans for Wednesday through Sunday, so I had to squeeze a jump lesson in earlier in the week than usual. Luckily Trainer had time on Tuesday, so we went on over. I actually hadn’t jumped Presto since the POP show a week and a half prior, but much credit to this horse – he’s showing more and more maturity lately by just getting right to work and doing the things. It’s very sus sometimes.
But since we have now actually penciled in (very much penciled) a potential move-up, Trainer ain’t playing. A few warm-up jumps and up they went to height (with a few a bit over). Which, the good thing is, my eyeballs are getting used to the jumps being a little bigger again. I have no hesitation about anything looking big. It also helps that Presto is still just absolutely loping over these with minimal effort. I’m not sure at what point he’ll have to start trying, but we haven’t found it yet.
Perhaps the most exciting part about the lesson (to me) was when I absolutely biffed the distance to the Swedish oxer off of the short turn and he just pretzeled himself over it like “weird choice mom but okey dokey”. He is so non-plussed and does not get rattled by mistakes. The natural self-confidence level of this horse is really high. Very different from Henry… I always had to be very aware of keeping him confident and willing to put up with my mistakes, and he can get offended by them sometimes.
Presto on the other hand legit could not care less. He doesn’t really get rattled, he’s not worried about what I do or don’t do or what happened or why… it’s interesting. I mean, yes he might spook at a rock and drop me on my ass at any given moment, but he’s super reliable in other ways. I still keeping learning more and more about this horse of mine, week in and week out. He’s kind of fucking cool, y’all.
So I entered Rocking Horse, which will be our first recognized event and possibly our last Novice. We’ll see how it goes. Apparently their showjumping is known for being tricky, so goal is not dying. Of course, as soon as I entered I remembered that recognized means I have to do things like wear a coat (not so bad, I’ve been looking for a reason to debut my light blue one anyway) and braid my horse. Ugh, BRAIDING. This horse is the actual least fun to braid, 0% looking forward to that. I also only have one pair of white breeches (this is a two day show) and never did buy a white shirt to go under that light blue coat, so… cool. That’s fine. I’ll just… I dunno. Whatever. I can’t brain about it right now.
And then yesterday we had another hurricane pass through. Honestly this one brought more wind and rain to our area than Ian did, even though it was just a weak Cat 1 when it made landfall. It was WINDY. Not really a big deal though luckily, just lots of little branches and limbs down, but no loss of power or anything major. The horses just hung out in their stalls and ate their hay. Rough life for them.
This week/weekend I’m also working at WEC in the Luxe EQ mobile shop. That’s always a fun time for me, although it was perhaps less fun to get everything battened down for a hurricane. It survived though, and I was back out there today. Things are a bit slow, seems like a smaller show, but if you’re around, come say hi! It’s the tan trailer in the vendor area next to the hotel, closest to the patisserie.
I also made the mistake of trying on a bunch of Samshield clothes in there, which might solve my lack of horse show clothes problem, but at the extreme detriment of my wallet. Send help.
In other news, BRC has donated a pedigree report to EN’s 12 days of Christmas giveaways, so make sure you’re following them in preparation for that! I’ve also already started gathering info for Black Friday sales (can’t believe it’s that time again, omg) so if your business is doing something, feel free to drop me a message so I can add you.
Oh and best of luck to Bobbert and Carlson this week at USDF Finals!
I was going to call this “Monday Feels” and then I realized it’s Tuesday. That about sums things up.
Instead I’m going to pivot and talk about goals and plans and expectations… or the lack thereof. Or how my view of all those things has changed so much in the past 5 or so years.
Long-time readers of this blog have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride. First I didn’t compete much, then I did EVERYTHING and went REAL HARD and always had my eye on the next goal. and then now for the past few years I haven’t done a whole lot at all. I’ve talked a lot over the years about my journey with mindset, and how much of a struggle it’s been for me, and how much work I’ve had to put into it. Honestly, I needed the time away from the competitive side of things to help give me more perspective, and let all of that sink in. Time and hindsight are excellent teachers. But sticking my toe back into that world again, and this time doing it in a healthy way… that’s the road I currently find myself standing on.
Trainer is a big ol’ Planner (enneagram 3, if you know you know) which is probably good to counteract me, who dodges commitment and goal-setting with riding stuff like it’s my actual damn job. It’s funny because in other aspects of life I am extremely schedule and plan obsessed. I have an itinerary for literally everything and every day of my life is planned out. But I think I got so wrapped up in competing there for a while with Henry that now I’ve scared myself away from making too many plans thus ending up a) disappointed or b) so consumed by a goal that I don’t enjoy the journey. I have that obsessive, one-track type of brain that makes it really easy to slip into that. In an effort to not make that mistake again, I think I went from one extreme to the other. It’s probably good to have someone like Trainer to add a little balance back into things, otherwise I’d probably still just be trotting circles out in the field with Presto. I know I’m in a much better place mindset-wise with Presto than I was for so many of those years with Henry, but ya know… the process of learning about yourself and how you think/cope/react is never-ending, and I just don’t want to make the same mistakes. I can see now that it has gone so far the other direction that it’s become a bit of a “paralysis by analysis” thing, so… having her to push me back out of that is probably a good thing.
All of this to say that she’s been planning out my fall and winter season. I’m over here like “yeah sure as long as it doesn’t cause mental/financial anguish” because I have to be deliberately casual about it. First and foremost this is supposed to be fun, and no one can suck the fun out of something faster than my brain on Goals.
It does help that it feels different with this horse. I don’t know why it always seemed to me like I had something to prove with Henry but I don’t feel that way with Presto. If anything you’d think it should have been the opposite. Overall healthier mental state now vs then, maybe? It feels easier to enjoy every single little bit of progress with this horse, and be able to appreciate the journey no matter what it looks like. After all, how many times did all of this come precariously close to never happening? I never forget that. Not for a single day.
I also have no end goal in mind. There isn’t a particular level I want to hit, or a competition that is a “must”. I’m just here to enjoy the horse that I made, learn from him, and see what we can do together. If that looks like 10 years of Novice, that’s fine with me. If it looks like something bigger, then ok… we’ll cross that road when we come to it. I just want to get better and have fun with a horse that I already get so much enjoyment from, no matter what that looks like.
But I can also recognize the fact that being TOO nonchalant about that stuff does lead to the paralysis by analysis thing on my part. Taking a few years off from showing means I’ve settled into a bit of a comfort zone that could probably go on forever if I let it. And the truth is that I do actually enjoy competing. I’m not a super competitive person these days, and I don’t want to horse show like all the time (that is exhausting), but I do genuinely like it. Or at least I do now. There for a while I think I really didn’t, and I wasn’t totally sure that I would again.
But what I’m noticing now (that we’ve got a grand total of two shows under our belt… I know, things are getting serious…) is that the horse shows help give me a little bit of push and direction. Both important things if your priority with your horse is the journey. Apparently this new phase of life is going to be learning to actually go Do The Things but also without taking it too far and imploding my brain, because then I’ll just run away again back into my little brain cocoon.
The very loose “plan” is to do a recognized Novice at the beginning of December and, if that goes well, a schooling Training a couple weeks later. The show season here in Florida is really Jan through April, so things are gonna start to kick off hot and heavy in a couple months. How much or how little I want to participate in that will depend on a lot of things, but… I didn’t move all the way to Ocala to hide in the bushes, did I? I didn’t breed and raise my dream horse to not get out there and do the thing I bred him to do, did I?
I trust Trainer’s judgment implicitly, so I’m happy to go along with her whatever her plan is. I don’t have the best track record for plans, after all.
Both of the last two shows have been the best my mindset has ever been in competition so hopefully that’s a sign of growth. They’ve been fun, and no pressure, and I haven’t lain awake at night stressing about shit that’s completely beyond my control. There are a lot of things helping contribute to that, I think. But it does feel fun again, and I do find myself coming home from the shows and looking forward to the next one. It’s a work in progress but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to find the middle ground.
And when I say supervisors I mostly just mean the extremely unhelpful onlookers that tended to just stir the pot even more (ahem Presto).
These guys all thought the weaning process was VERY interesting. To be fair, nothing that interesting ever happens here, so it was the most entertainment they’ve had in a while. Except for the entertainment that Presto produces for himself on a daily basis.
Naturally Gemma was the one who just kind of stood there and watched, whereas all the boys were inserting their assistance in the form of yeehaws.
Her version of standing and watching is VERY vigilant. Like… perhaps borderline stalkery.
And then there was Blue, one of the surrogate mares. She was the least impressed.
This is, unfortunately, the last *planned* Foal Friday that I have for the year. I’m not ruling out anything, because you never know, but… this is it folks. No more bebe’s until spring. Maybe I need to do a post about all the foals expected next year? I don’t think I’ve done that yet…
Alternate title: If You’re Bored Then You’re Boring (spoiler alert, we were both)
When we left off yesterday with our Punk Rock Noodle, we’d put in two delightfully boring phases to be sitting in second. A fact that I did not know, because I was not checking scores. My priority with this horse is to just ride him the way he needs to be ridden in the moment and not worry about what that may or may not mean for the score/placing, so a current placing is irrelevant information that I don’t even need in my brain, really.
Headed to XC warmup he was very well-behaved. We had 30 minutes between SJ and XC, and I deliberately took a little extra time putting on his boots and my vest. I wanted to get to warmup, jump two jumps, and go. If he’s gonna get nappy or worked up, it would be because he hung around in warmup too long doing nothing.
At the start they were just kind of taking people as they came, though, so I still ended up waiting for about 7 horses to start. I kept him walking well away from where the other horses were standing, jumped a couple jumps when we were like 2 out, and continued to keep him off by himself until we were a minute out.
I told Steph I would know by jump 1 whether he was going to be a good nugget or a turd.. either he would come out of the box and be nappy or rude, or he’d just canter to the first jump and we’d be in business. He made a good life choice and just cantered down to the first jump easy peasy.
After that it was yet again an extremely boring performance, in every good possible way. He just kinda… loped over everything. After how rude he’d been when we were schooling the day before, I did ask him to keep a slower pace, rebalanced for the jumps sooner, took longer routes around things, etc. I know for a fact that if I put my leg on and ask him to go faster, he will do it. What I have to be very sure of is that he’ll also always come back and listen. This was a schooling show, he’s 5, it’s Novice, he lost his marbles the day before… we were gonna put in a schooling round.
I don’t have photos of the jumps because I didn’t walk the whole thing, but here’s the map. It was the same course as the recognized show a couple weeks ago.
It was all your fairly standard Novice fare. Hanging log at jump one, a brushy rolltop at 2, then a step, then a table. A lot of single jumps to get you rolling before you get to any combinations. The first one came at 5 and 6, which wasn’t numbered as an AB but still rode as a combo… you jumped the ramp at 5, went downhill into a crater, then back up a steep hill to a skinnyish chevron. That was kinda fun, honestly. I love roller coaster terrain changes like that.
Then there was a little ditch wall, which the ditch was small and faux so I didn’t actually even notice it was a ditch wall until I saw it was called that on the course map. After that there was a wagon and a palisade, more single jumps before the next combination.
10AB was just a straight line on a related distance, table to corner. After that we swung around to the first water, which had a jump a few strides before it and then another one a few strides after. He did pretend to be a bit surprised at the entrance to the water and took his last stride a bit sideways before leaping (and I do mean leaping) into it… by far the most “exciting” part of our whole run.
After that I totally got lost and couldn’t for the life of me remember wtf 13 was. I saw the chase cart (they don’t have jump judges at every fence here, they have someone following you at a safe distance in a gator) cross over behind me to the left and went “OH YEAH” – the half coffin in the tree line. I took the world’s longest approach to that one. Whoops.
Presto popped through that easily and then we were back into the other field, cruising past some of the combined driving obstacles to a shark’s tooth and then a ramp covered with mulch.
Then we hung a right, towards the second water, which was just a jump a few strides before and then a canter through. Then up the hill out of the water, over another table, through another crater, and to the last hanging little table. Somewhere around that mulch table Presto’s antics from the day before finally caught up to him and I felt him getting weary. We crossed the finish line and when I asked him to whoa it was almost reining quality.
Of course the first thing I asked Steph when she got out of the chase cart (SEE – massive benefit to the chase cart is that your trainer and/or friends can ride along to see your whole round and/or get video! I thought it was fantastic that Steph could get a good view of how literally the entire thing went, and Hillary got what is legit the best XC video I’ve ever had) was whether or not I’d jumped all the jumps. This is always my first concern when I finish XC, because I’m paranoid AF that I missed something. Plus I actually wasn’t 100% sure I’d known exactly where I was going. So… whoops. But, yes, I had jumped all the jumps. She thought it was a great round and said he was super, and I agreed.
I did it really slowly though. Like… really slowly. Turns out the time was actually a bit tight to get, people were flying over that last bit of the course to make it, and me with my quiet canter, big turns, and long approaches racked up a lot of time. Like a lot a lot. Like 26 time penalties a lot. LOL. I was annoyed about it for a minute, because it did cost us a 2nd place ribbon, but honestly – I’m glad I rode it the way I did. It was the right choice because Presto and I both needed a quiet, boring, focused round. At this point, still so early in our partnership, we needed a round where he was 100% with me and listening every step of the way. I know it was the right choice for both of us, given how he’d been the day before and given that it was literally our second XC run together. I feel like we put a lot of deposits in each other’s trust banks, and if that isn’t the whole entire point of these schooling shows then I’m not sure what is. Sure, it’s more fun to be able to come on here and say we finished second in the Novice at our second show together, but is that really the long-term goal for this horse? No it isn’t. This is a nice horse, and I want to do whatever is the best thing for him and our partnership, whether that looks like a win or whether it looks like finishing dead fucking last.
Truth be told, he was fantastic the whole day. Never once did he even consider flipping me the bird, and aside from the exuberant leap into the first water it was the most boring XC round I’ve ever ridden in my entire life. Like a school horse popping around a starter. Perfect. He was really unimpressed, which is also exactly what I need from him. He’s an easy horse to wind up and get excited, but getting him bored is the harder task. If he wants to be bored and boring AF cantering around a Novice at a venue like Florida Horse Park, I’m all for it. I think it will set us up well for next time.
When we left off yesterday, Presto had completely and firmly lost his brain when we were schooling because he had friends. I woke up Sunday with a heavy sigh and a “if we could not do THAT again today, that would be great…”.
First order of business was getting the tips of Presto’s mane and tail sprayed pink, to match my mohawk. Priorities. I didn’t have dressage until 10:50 but I did want to get there extra early so that Presto had time to chill at the trailer. So at 8 we loaded up and off we went to Florida Horse Park, with Presto pawing angrily basically the entire way there (the “entire way” being like 35 minutes – FHP is one of the furthest show facilities from me around here, and my Texas self hates my Ocala self a little bit for even daring to think that it’s “far”).
He came off the trailer with a few screams but settled into his hay net pretty quickly. This gave me hope. I figured he’d either devolve completely, or he’d settle down and get over it. Luckily he seemed to choose option B. I got on him for dressage around 10:20 and first headed for the further away, grassy area that only had a couple in it, vs the smaller busy warmup ring. But that grassy area was closer to cross country, and his focus kept drifting into the distance, so I quickly changed tactic and went to the busy ring instead. That worked much better, and he instantly had to focus on me in all the hubbub. Every show I learn a little bit more about this horse and how to handle his brain. In a lot of ways he’s very opposite from Henry… bigger/louder/more is what gets Presto’s attention and settles him.
When it was time for our test, as we were trotting around the outside of the ring waiting for the bell, the judge stopped me and asked if I knew that we were supposed to be doing Novice Test B. As I’d been in the warmup ring I did notice a couple people getting rung for errors, but I guess it had been happening A LOT. I said yes I knew it was supposed to be Test B. She asked me if I knew Test B. Me, who had been 99% certain 5 minutes ago, was now like “Yes. Yes? I think so?”. She seemed skeptical. So was I, now. To be honest I hadn’t even ridden this test one time before… I’d just realized a few days prior that we were doing B, and learned it via the Ride iQ read-along. Now all the sudden I was second-guessing my whole life. This is why dressage is by far the scariest phase.
But on with it we went, and turns out I did in fact know Test B. After how much of a come-apart Presto had had the day before, my whole goal for this show was to have a quiet, boring day. I wanted a quiet, boring test with no yeehaws or screaming, and if that meant that I “went for it” a little bit less, that was fine by me. Let’s dazzle them with mediocrity.
To give Presto credit, he’s now 2 for 2 at being easier to ride at shows than he is during schooling or at home. Also very different from Henry. I think its finally enough of a pressure situation to make him want to pay attention. It was not a fantastic test in any way, but it was very consistent, scoring all 6.5’s and 7’s straight down the sheet. Quiet and boring, achieved. Our score of 32 actually somehow put us in 2nd out of 25 horses. Note to self: it helps to know the test.
After that I had a couple hours before stadium and XC, so I went to learn the stadium course and watch a couple friends go. The arena at FHP is MASSIVE, I was like “why it gotta be so big though, this is just a lot more room for Fuckery…” but the course was very basic and the jumps seemed small. Again I just really wanted a quiet, boring round.
I did learn from the last show that stadium warmup is not a place where Presto thrives (he feeds off chaos, and that is always supreme chaos) so I deliberately got on a bit later. Still had a bit too much extra time, but I was able to keep him occupied. I’m figuring out all these little things about Horse Show Presto, bit by bit. Knowing when to get on and how to warm up is such a big part of the whole strategy.
We went in the ring and took the long way around, so I could trot him past all the banners and spectators on the far side, then picked up the canter. My instructions from Steph were to keep him busy and not use too much of the ring, so I picked up the canter, asked him to be active and connected, and away we went, directly to the first jump. He jumped that first single oxer a little wonky because he was looking off at the warmup ring, but that got his attention, and after that he actually put in a really good round. He paid attention, he did what I asked, he stayed in his rhythm, and he even gave me a couple flying changes. Clear round! Steph called it an equitation round… considering this horse was a flailing hot mess like 3 months ago, I can’t be more pleased about that.
We kept our 2nd place standing (I didn’t even know that at the time because I never look at scores during the day) but really I was just happy that it had been what we set out for – quiet and boring. It felt easy, he stepped up and listened, and we both stayed cool in our heads. This is so new for us as a partnership, that’s really the whole point of doing these shows. Brick by brick laying a foundation that will hopefully serve us well for later.
After that we had a 30 minute gap before XC, which we’ll talk about tomorrow!