I have to beg your forgiveness for not letting you all know that I was going to be taking Gus to his first one day! The last time I was this excited about going to a show was when I tried to take Dandy to the one day at NWEC and we all know how that turned out…
I’ve known for a couple of months now that I was going to sign up for this schooling show but I didn’t really tell anyone. The only people that knew were Eric, my mom, and one really good friend. But I was so freaked out that Gus would pull a 180 just like Dandy and I didn’t want any added pressure. You are all so supportive but I just couldn’t stand to tell you things had gone south.
Luckily, I don’t have to report that.
In case you don’t want to read a long recap, here’s the spoiler alert (highlight to read): Gus was an old pro, didn’t care at all about anything, went double clear, finished on his dressage score, and was fourth!
Okay, the long story:
Poplar Place Farm happens to only be about an hour from my house, but the barn is sadly an hour in the opposite direct so it was a two hour drive from the barn to the show grounds (plus an hour out to the barn from my house). So even with a 10:31 ride time for dressage, my alarm went off at 4:45 in the morning.
But the drive was foggy and uneventful and we arrived with plenty of time to check in and get ready. Gus was a good boy when he stepped out of the trailer. I think he was surprised to be somewhere new, and he did call a few times but after a few minutes, he calmly munched on his hay and stood at the trailer like an old pro.
Once tacked up, the real test was about to start: how was Gus going to be once I got on. Or, really, would he even let me get on?
Yes! Thank God! I got a yes answer and a perfectly behaved baby OTTB. I know that OTTB’s see lots of scary and weird things at the track but Dandy really did a number on me. I wasn’t going to believe that Gus was going to be a good horse until I saw it.
Since I didn’t know if I was going to get a well behaved horse, I gave myself a lot of time to warm up for dressage. This was a good and a bad thing. The good was that I really did get some great warm up. Gus was relaxed, quiet and really willing to work with me. We got some great stretchy trot and some good canter transitions. At first.
I tried to take several breaks so that I wouldn’t wear Gus out but also keep us warmed up enough to have a good test. I think, though, I ended up with too long of a warm up as Gus was just not willing to stay focused by the time we got in to the actual ring.
It started well. We got a 6.0 for our entrance. But things sort of disintegrated as we moved on. We had to ride the Intro C test which is just the WORST. I couldn’t get Gus to accept the right bend so we quickly got a 5.0, a 5.5, a 4.0, and a second 4.0 all to start.
Not our best! The bend also kept us from picking up the right lead canter and we were then super disorganized and I couldn’t bring Gus back to a trot in time.
Thankfully we redeemed ourselves with a 7.0 for the “Change rein, working trot rising” and then 7.0’s again for the trot circle and the stupid left lead canter circle! Then we finished out the test with solid 6.0’s. The judge had nice things to say for our collective marks but thought we needed more work on getting the correct bend (um, duh?).
Gus and I scored a 40.5 which isn’t wonderful but considering how well he was behaving and how it was all my riding that led to that score, I’ll take it. It was enough to have us tied for sixth out of 12.
I was happy to get off after dressage but there is no rest for the weary. Despite the hour and a half I had, I was so busy. I hurried to walk XC and got completely freaked out by the table at fence five (I don’t know what it is, something about those sharp corners and the flat top). Then, Eric ran back to tack Gus up while I walked stadium.
I’m so lucky to have such a sweet horsey husband.
Stadium was a bit of a disaster from start to finish. I have a, probably not unusual, mental issue in that whenever people start watching me jump I sort of freeze up. And the warm up was busy with trainers and other, better riders. My lack of riding led to Gus almost refusing a tiny little cross rail and me almost falling off. Ugh. But after that I sort of got my act together and we managed to take a few good times over the verticals.
I had watched the 18″ rounds, and walked while they were raising the height, but walking in to the actual ring to start stadium I felt like I was looking at jumps that were three feet at least! I think it was that they were rails four rails in each set of standards. I didn’t think anything looked too spooky, the jumps were pretty standard. But I still tried to do a nice wide circle and take in as much of the scenery as possible. Good thing I did because Gus thought everything was scary.
We managed to get over every single fence but it was a very ugly ride. I had to ride Gus hard and we often got right up to the base before he flung himself over it. It didn’t help that he spooked at almost every fence. I think I was probably close to falling at least three times.
I don’t know if it looked better than it felt or if people really just thought I needed the encouragement after such a terrible looking ride but I got applause at the end and a few “good ride!”s from random strangers. Whatever, I’ll take it! And the water that my wonderful finance was there to hand me the minute I came out.
Because I had already done my walk, we had a few hours between stadium and XC. I took it to relax and forced myself to eat something even though I had no appetite.
Finally, it was time to tack back up and get ready for XC. I thought I was going to be sick.
So I focused on the fun stuff, getting all the orange on! Being able to use color, and bright color at that, is one of the little perks I love about eventing. But I still want to be tasteful about it. What do you think? Did I manage to tastefully use orange?
I was so nervous walking down to warm up and then actually in the warm up. They had your normal warm up jumps set but they also had a BN hanging log out as the natural fence. It looked terrifying. But I knew I had to jump it. If I could jump that, I could get over all the jumps on the course.
Well, it wasn’t pretty but we did get over it. My heart in my throat and a death grip on Gus’ mane. They were taking people as they were ready and I was the only one in the warmup. I was as ready as I was ever going to be.
Time to go.
Despite my worry, Gus didn’t care at all about the big hedge around the start box. He stood quietly while we were counted down and then quietly trotted out of the box like we did this all the time.
The first little log was fine. We picked up a canter a few strides before it and calmly popped over it. Then Gus saw all the crazy upper level jumps and scenery surrounding the second log. Holy scary scenery! It was all I could do to get Gus to even go over the jump, he was so busy looking at everything else that we almost ran right past a 12″ log! Thankfully we got over it.
The downhill approach to three was hard. Gus really wanted to bore down and balancing was out of the question. So we came into the coup pretty tight. Four was the natural roll top, five was the Lincon Logs. They both rode fine because I was too worried about what was coming up next to think about it. In fact, I barely remember jumping number five!
Before I knew it, fence six was there in my sight. The scary table. I gave a quick half-halt to get Gus to sit back and put my leg on. Gus flew over it without even blinking. Then, I was so busy praising him, that Gus shied hard at a mushroom jump off to the side. Oh GusGus.
After that, I wasn’t worried about the second table. We calmly popped over another log at seven and then rolled down the hill towards the second coop. Again, we had a lot of trouble balancing down the hill but we got over the jump. The second table should have been the scariest jump on the course as it was a jump we shared with the beginner novice course but it was our best jump. It felt awesome!
I almost missed jump ten. I completely forgot about it and almost rode the turn too wide, but I was just about home free. I had to keep telling myself, ride the last fence, don’t stop riding until you’re past the finish line!
When I did make it across the finish line, I thought I was going to cry from happiness. There were so many feelings running through me. But mostly I was so proud of Gus and so proud of myself. I overcame every fearful thought I had that day and came out on top.
And we came home with a pretty white ribbon to add to our collection.
So what’s up on Gus and I’s plate next? Well, in the schooling department it will be dressage and grid work. I also think that a dressage only show is a must! We both need more practice in the sandbox.
But don’t worry, you’ll see us back out on the XC course soon. Probably at BNov!