Rocking Horse Winter 3 HT recap

I do actually have a lot of pics from this show and could break it up into two posts, but 1) don’t wanna 2) I have no actual dressage media so. Jump phases, yes?

This is probably where I should fess up and say that I had an epic meltdown a couple days before the show. We went for a couple jumper rounds and it was one of those days where I just felt like I was riding like total shit. I got very frustrated with myself, decided I was probably ruining my horse, and legit thought I should just quit. Hardest of spirals. There were tears. I’m generally not a super emotive person, meltdowns are rare from me, but when they happen they are epic. Trainer legit had to talk me down out of a panic attack. That was… humiliating.

So ya know… I wasn’t exactly in the best headspace going into this show.

I entered Training Horse again at this one so I could go Fri/Sat instead of Sat/Sun. It’s just my preference with my schedule… the pro divisions always go earlier. On Friday we only had dressage, which was blah. I believe my exact words were “shit sandwich”. The footing was extremely deep and churned up in the corners and Presto picked up a cross canter (legit don’t think he’s ever picked up a cross canter from the trot before) going to the left, so I had to trot again to fix it, which just made him mad for the lengthening. We lost a lot of points there on those movements. And then in the halt he took a step backwards, so ouch for that 4. The rest was ok… there were some good moments but nothing outstanding or anywhere near what we’re capable of. It scored a 33, which doesn’t get you very high up the board in Ocala in a pro division. I’m starting to get annoyed with my inability to put together an entire good test.

I was not the most excited for showjumping, after our little jumper show fiasco. (Ok it was my fiasco. Presto did nothing wrong and didn’t give a shit about any of it, I was the one in crisis). So basically before SJ I was like weeeelllll let’s just try not to fuck this up too badly I guess? The course was a little weird too… the ring at Rocking Horse is small so it always is a bit more challenging but the first few jumps all had an odd placement too. I’d watched a lot of rounds the day before and it was causing a fair amount of problems. Cool cool. And then what felt like every single person I know was like “oh we’re gonna come watch your showjumping!”. Great. Awesome. Please bring low expectations and severe short term memory loss. Blindness maybe?

What do you know, we went in and put down what was probably the best round we’ve had yet. I rode, Presto listened, it flowed great… nice clear easy peasy round. I am not questioning the showjumping gods for doing me a solid on that one. I think the weirder the course is, the better it is for my lizard brain.

No touchie first jump

We went straight to XC from showjumping, which is a format I’ve come to prefer. It’s easier and gives me less time to malfunction.

For the most part I thought this course was pretty friendly. The first fence could potentially be a bit tricky because it was located at an immediate 90 degree angle to the start box and right next to warmup. You’d have to come out of the box and really get them locked on to their job post haste. The first 5 were just simple jumps though, all with inviting profiles. The first combo came at 6 and was two ramps on an angle, same question we had a couple shows ago. I thought this walked a bit off, like if you jumped in slow or deep or were on a short-strided horse it would be a 4 but if you jumped in a bit more bold or were on a big-strided horse it could also be a 3.

Then there were a couple more friendly jumps before you got to the crater, which was a REALLY interesting question with how they placed the Training jumps. There was a rolltop just a couple strides before a very steep downhill slide, then back up an equally steep mound, and a corner set a few strides out from the top on an angle. BUT – the mounds weren’t flagged, just the jumps, so technically you could take a lot of different paths. Trainer and I walked a few different options – straight through up and over both, or jumping the rolltop on an angle and going around the mounds entirely, OR (my preference) jumping the rolltop, trotting down the slide, diverting right of the second mound to go up a smaller/less steep hill, then turning left to jump the corner straight-on. I thought that was the most fair option for a young horse, so that was my plan.

After the crater was the big MIM oxer, then a simple rolltop, then we were at the water. This was the one I had the most concern for with my horse, because they had us passing through a dark, murky, hard to see, tippy tip of the water. I thought Presto might honestly try to jump over the whole damn thing. We had a rolltop just before the water and then another one a few strides out of the water up on a mound, so… there was no room for that kind of fuckery.

After that it was a simple steeplechase fence, another table, and then to the next combo, although it technically wasn’t flagged as an A/B. 15 was a trakehner, and then 7 or 8 strides bending left to a skinny house at 16. That trakehner was decently wide and deep, the real deal.

After that we had a sharks tooth, and then to our last combo on course, which was probably the beefiest one. Big skinny brush wedge, 6 or 7 bending strides (depending on how brave you were about being slightly off center vs very center to center) to another skinny brush wedge. Yeehaw y’all. Presto is fairly new to the skinny brush wedge questions but he’s been very honest to all the ones he’s seen, so I was excited to tackle this question… it felt like something that really builds them up as prep for the next level.

Then there was just another table at the last.

Aside from the water, where I figured I might just have to be a little extra proactive, the rest seemed like a fun time.

After SJ we came out of the ring, slapped his XC boots and my vest on, and off to XC warmup I went. They were running early and taking people as they came, so it was nice and quiet. We hopped over a couple jumps, then did one on an angle a couple times, and then headed to the start box. Trainer bid us adieu and good luck and then walked out to get a good viewing spot while we circled the box.

Which is when I realized that I had not a damn clue what optimum time was. lolz why am I like this? But meh – I didn’t think it really mattered either. I have a good idea now of what 450-475mpm feels like on him, and I knew where we could hustle more vs where we’d have to go slower.

I left the box with intention, sliding through on an angle from left to right so there wasn’t as much of a sharp turn to the first jump. We trotted out, picked up the canter, I tapped him lightly behind my leg with the stick as reinforcement of the fact that it was time to focus on his job, and he hopped over the first one great. Where the first couple jumps were located is an area of their XC course he hasn’t been in yet, so I could feel him just kind of looking around a bit. Since the first few jumps were just simple gallopy fences, I opted to send him more forward here and set the tone immediately that we were here to do the runny jumpies, not to spectate or look for demons in the bushes. He got to work and popped over 2 and 3 super.

After 3 we came out into the big field and he looked over to the right to watch another horse going through the crater in the distance. I was like “hi hello excuse me, we’re busy here” and he was like “oh yeah right”, and put his head back down. We popped over 4, then 5. He feels zero percent impressed by any of those anymore, he’s just loping over.

Then we made the turn back to 6AB, the first combo. Presto was rolling along nicely in balance so I just lined up the flowers middle to middle let him keep coming there. We landed and I immediately knew that 4 strides weren’t happening without a massive pull, so I just closed my leg and he opened up for the 3.

a bit long, but there def wasn’t a 4th one there

7 and 8 were delightfully boring, and then before you knew it we were at the crater. Trainer advised to try to get him a little bit quieter/deeper to 8 so that coming back for a nice quiet jump into the crater was easier, and we did that. I lined him up to the rolltop and he locked right on, no hesitation but he was definitely paying attention to what was coming up after.

eyes on the slide

I was super proud of him here, he was so clever and rideable. I had him back down to trot within a couple strides, he picked his way down the slope, I veered right and asked him to canter again and he went politely back up the next hill, turned left, and popped over the corner like it was the most boring exercise in the world. Kid has come a long way in the last few months.

this kiddo out here looking like a pro, my heart can’t take it

That question caught a lot of people out, but he could not possibly have given less of a shit.

After that we had a couple more gallop fences, the MIM oxer (which looks so big in person and so tiny in photos, it’s infuriating) and a rolltop on the way to the water.

he is the least impressed

Trainer advised that I land from the blue rolltop and give him a little tap behind the leg as a “hey, listen up here buddy, pay attention and go forward” before we got close to the water. I did that and he went up nicely into my hand, and I was able to close my leg and ride him forward to the water. He didn’t see it until he was in the air over the rolltop in…

the most interested he looked about anything the entire time

and he did put his head and neck down to peek at the water as he went in, but he didn’t slow down. A little hop into the edge, and then we were through it and out the other side, up the mound to pop over the other rolltop.

ears on the out

Then it was an easy gallop over the steeplechase, straight ahead to jump the cutout table on a bit of an angle just to save a bit of ground. I honestly wasn’t sure what he’d make of the trakehner at 15, it was a much deeper and bigger ditch under it than he’s seen at one so far, and while he did make more effort over it, he again never slowed his momentum. We popped over that, immediately got his eye on the hut, and it rode super.

The arrowhead was also easy, and then we were at the wedges. Trainer had advised that if he was feeling good to maybe aim ever so slightly off-center (aka aim at the 1 on the number instead of the 8) and ride them straighter in the 6 rather than more bending in the 7. We did that and the 6 came up perfect. He locked on to both of them as soon as he saw them and was very pro through that question (another one that caught a lot of people out). I think those were his best two jumps of the whole round.


After that it was just a quick pop over the last table and through the flags! We crossed the line in 5:06, and the OT was 5:22, so I was pleased with that.

As I was walking away from the finish line back towards the trailers, the person sitting in the SUV past the finish rolled down their window and yelled my name. I walked over and saw that it was Peter Gray, who was there as president of the ground jury. I’ve met and talked to Peter several times over the years but haven’t seen him in quite a while. He asked me how my round was (I said “great, he’s feeling much less green”) and Peter said that our ride through the skinny brushes was the best he’d seen so far. High praise from Peter… I’ll take it! In turn I told him that his dressage test read throughs on Ride iQ are my favorite (which is 100% true, I listen to them on the way to shows!).

Overall we finished on our dressage score which moved us up to 5th. I’ll take that too. Mostly though I was very pleased that this round felt very easy and confident – Presto isn’t seeming surprised by how fast things come up anymore. He just hunted the flags and went to them. Signs of maturity, dare we say?

14 thoughts on “Rocking Horse Winter 3 HT recap

  1. This kind of choked me up (I’m a hot mess this week, see my social media) bc it was about this time of year 6 years ago when you had no idea if THIS kind of post would ever happen with Presto. He clearly is loving his job and it’s great to see you having so much fun with him. Congrats!


  2. You rode that crater like an equitation round. Absolutely lovely. So much to be proud of. You guys are such a nice team and you are doing a GREAT job with this young horse.

    Also, the moments of self-doubt are really relatable.


  3. What a memory to hang on to forever … amazing SJ followed by amazing XC. 🙂

    This has been fun to follow for ___ many years !!! The Henry experience, the Presto experience … As someone said above, what a road it has been … but here you both are, and it is only the beginning.

    Thanks for continuing to take us along for the ride !!!


  4. I love watching your journey. You guys are a great team! Presto is a rock star (fuckery and all). I think it’s a big testament to your riding that you brought Henry along and now you’re bringing Presto. Great Job!!


  5. Wow! Y’all look amazing! I can relate to the mental struggle of riding. Not that I will ever be at your level but it’s definitely easy to doubt and let anxiety take over. It sounds like your trainer is a great person to have on your team!

    Also, you look so sharp but I’m curious about the switch from navy to black? As a fellow navy lover I noticed the change in one of your last show reports! Not at all a criticism, because you and Presto look amazing, just wondering!


  6. I so love living vicariously through the two of you. I’ll probably never even make a Starter event, but it’s so much fun to watch you!


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