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.