Since this was a one day show and currently all of my media is cell phone pics/stills from video, I’m gonna try to shove this all into one post.
This show ran from smaller divisions up, and the highest XC was Training, therefore all my times were quite late – dressage at 1:21, stadium at 4:06, XC at 4:21. It was kind of nice because it meant I didn’t really need to clean all my shit and pack the trailer until Sunday morning, although I wasn’t super pumped about getting home after dark. Still though… later in the day is easier than early. I rolled in around noon, parked, unloaded, and got my packet. Presto did his obligatory HELLO EVERYONE I HAVE ARRIVED screaming routine, and the only answer he received was from a donkey. This perplexed both of us because I couldn’t figure out where the donkey was/why it was there, and Presto couldn’t figure out what kind of animal was answering him.
I got on around 1, which was, coincidentally, right when the polo match started. The polo field is like cattycorner to the dressage rings, so that was… exciting. The commentator for that was very loud, very animated, and made a lot of quite interesting sounds and noises over the loudspeaker. It was a vibe. And then on the other side of dressage was XC, where Presto could easily see horses out there running and jumping. I had to really put a lid on him immediately in warmup and insist that he focus on himself. He did, but you could tell he was just a bit on his toes and tense. Tough life having to do dressage when so many other fun things are happening.
The test was fine. There were no major issues or bobbles, but he just remained a bit on edge and not 100% focused. The best score was an 8 for our entry, and he got 7.5’s for those weird 10m half circles which was cool since we’ve worked on them like 3 times. He started to come slightly off the rails by the second time we cantered, so that lengthening was basically non-existent and the circle was more like 17 meters than 20 meters. He also didn’t have much of a trot lengthening whatsoever. There was… very little to no difference shown lol. I’d lost him too much by then to be able to go for it. But he did try to stay with me despite all the commotion going on around him. We got a 6 for one movement but that was the worst of it. He scored a 29, which still kind of blows my mind that this horse can do what is a very blah test for him, at a new harder level, and still be in the 20’s. We definitely have work to do on the lengthenings but it’s not a bad starting point. I’ll take it.
Once I got him taken care of we went up to walk stadium, and found out that they were running like 40 minutes behind. I was wondering if it might have something to do with the fact that while I was watching they were taking a while between each horse to blow the whistle for the next person to start. Come to find out later that every single person all day long ended up with time penalties in stadium (surely something hadn’t gotten wheeled or calculated correctly, I’m guessing) so I’m not sure if constantly having to calculate and record time penalties was maybe contributing to the delay. I dunno. Either way, they were late enough for me to be feeling a little concerned considering how late my XC ride time already was and how close we’d be pushing it to sunset. Out of my control though, so. Is what it is. We walked stadium during the drag break, and then I went out with Kathleen to walk XC. It was a quick “yup there it is” type walk for the most part, so I was just kind of snapping pics on our way past, but I did get them!
It’s very annoying how much smaller everything looks in pictures than in real life. I shielded my eyes from a couple of the tables because I just didn’t really need to know in my brain how big they are in relation to me. They don’t look big from Presto and that’s all I need to know. Patreon folks – y’all have full videos from all 3 phases on your dashboard, so you can see the terrain questions… I couldn’t really capture them well in photos.
After that I took Presto for a long hand graze up by the showjumping while we waited. They managed to catch up a little bit on time, so it was running about 30 minutes late. I got on when the first horse went in the ring for Training, and I was about 6 trips out. I learned my lesson at Rocking Horse – Presto thinks stadium warmup is for the YeeHaws, so the less time we spend in there, the better. We did a quick warmup, jumped some oxers, and went to the gate before he could instigate Fuckery.
The course was very twisty turny, which I prefer with this horse at this point, he has to pay a little bit more attention and I can use the turns to help me balance his giant enthusiastic self. He did get some slightly big eyeballs in there though, I could feel him going “Mom, these grew!” especially at the combinations, which both had an oxer jumping into them. He was getting lots of air time.
He was jumping well though, and being pretty careful/better with his hind end. Even though he rode greener, the whole way around I was like “yep, this is what he needed, we’ve finally got his attention”. I could ride him up to the base and he was very laser-focused. We did have one rail, just a silly tap behind at an oxer, but I thought he was quite good overall. Oh, and of course we had time penalties too, just like everyone else!
We came out of the ring and slapped his XC boots and my vest on so we could get out to XC post haste. Daylight was quickly diminishing. It made for some very weird shadows and Presto was being a bit spooky about it in the warmup… I don’t think either of us have had to deal with extreme shadows very early/late in the day before.
Once we got out on course, I was the one being spooky about it. Y’all, I COULD NOT SEE the first 3 fences like at all. The sun was directly behind them so I was blind, and all I could see was a massive black shadow that expanded two strides in front of each one. I was cantering down to them like UHHHHHHHHHHH I HOPE YOU CAN SEE THIS, I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE JUMP IS. Which clearly he could, but he was giving them extra room too just in case. It was just a wee bit disconcerting to me. Luckily once we got past those we weren’t going directly into the sun anymore (except at 8, which I also couldn’t see for shit) so the problem worked itself out. I did not love that for me, not at all. That’s part of the game though, just gotta keep on.
Presto was really jumping well though. The first combo was at 4 – up and down a mound, with a rolltop at the bottom. Then we had a couple gallop fences before the next big question – a MIM rail down into a big crater, back up out of the crater, down the edge to a skinny. The crater was deep enough that you couldn’t see the skinny from down inside of it, just the very tippy tops of the flags, so you had to choose your route carefully. That was a legit question. But having more to do and more to look at really suits him, and I could actually keep riding him up to the base. He was coming off the ground with a better shape than he was at Rocking Horse, and I wasn’t having to help him as much. No gappy distances and no heavy-on-the-front-end efforts.
After that we had an oxer (that I couldn’t see in it’s black blob.. seeing the jumps is overrated anyway) to the next combo, a coop with a 90 degree right turn to a corner, in 5 strides. This was also a really legit question at Training, especially for a big young horse. No worries though, Noodle gots it.
Then it was straight to the coffin which was in the tree line, so even more shadows, and he was peeking for sure. Coop, two strides, ditch, two strides, skinny. I had to tap him a bit there to keep his attention focused on forward, but he went. After that I think he felt pretty damn proud of himself and like he could do no wrong. For all his antics Presto is really very smart and learns super fast, so you can always feel him thinking about things and making adjustments as he goes around. By that point I was just letting him roll to the gallop fences with a little “ears up” half halt in front, and he was pinging right over them out of stride. Tremendous improvement from his last run.
Then we came to the water, where I completely biffed the distance in. It was one of those where I whoa’d and kicked at the same time and then was kinda like “lolwhoops, figure it out!” and he did. It wasn’t graceful, but it was safe, and I was proud of him for that. Shit is gonna happen, I’m gonna be wrong sometimes, and to do this job he has to learn how to get us out of it safely. The development of the fabled “fifth leg” that good cross country horses need. Mostly I liked that he was completely undeterred by it and just galloped right on through the water and out over the log on the mound like nothing had happened. That’s worth many many many cookies.
Then we had a chevron, pretty simple, and after that was my least favorite combo on the course. Y’all, I hate upbanks. Like I just do. There aren’t a lot of things I don’t like on XC but that’s my One. So imagine my eyeballs when I saw a corner on an angle to a pretty decent size bank up, bending line out to a skinny in 5 strides. Not a fan. That was a hard question for Training too, I thought. But Steph had been clear on how to ride it, so I brought him down to a coffin canter, jumped the corner straight on, then put a bend in the the line so we could jump up the bank straight, then turn right to the coffin. Bless him, he jumped through it great. I still might have pooped my pants a bit at that one.
Then we were at the last, a basic little log oxer, and through the finish! We were a bit slow, but it was one of those rounds where I thought he grew two sizes from start to finish. He started out feeling a bit green and ended up feeling like The Man. Most of all I think it proved that moving him up was the right choice. He finally had something to do, something to challenge him a little, something to make him think and get his attention. This is the first show where I felt like he really gained some education from it rather than just lopey doping around for funsies. Now we’re learning!
I’m looking forward to spending some time working on what we learned from his first Training outing before the winter season really kicks in here, but super proud of his first effort. We’ve got ourselves a Training horse!