Chatt Hills Schooling Show 6.10.17

If there’s one take away from the Chatt Hills Schooling Show this weekend, it’s that I am a lot better at this whole eventing thing than I sometimes believe. And I’m not talking about coming home with blue ribbons or even ribbons at all (though I did) but rather the fact that even though I looked at the XC course and thought “shit, those look big,” once I was out there, it didn’t phase me a  bit. In fact, I’m sort of wondering when I can start thinking about moving up again.

But that’s a different topic for a different day.

I did not take any time off from work on Friday which unfortunately meant that I was leaving for Chatt right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Luckily though, it only added 15 minutes to our trip. I love that Chatt Hills is so close to the farm! But with the heat and late hour it seemed like we really had to rush to get a quick ride in and then walk the XC course. Neither seemed to go great. Gus was acting like a lunatic and spooking at everything and I couldn’t stop thinking about one very big and very wide table on XC. Lovely way to end the night.

But, miracle of miracles, when I got on Gus the next morning to warm up for dressage, he was so so lovely. Even tempo, connected in the outside rein, soft flexion in his pole. He’s never warmed up quite like that before! Unfortunately, it didn’t last to the ring. We still had a nice lovely tempo and our canter transitions and circles were quite nice if I do say so myself. The bend, however, was gone and I fought for every single step of that test.

The judge was quite generous though and gave us nothing but 6/7s the whole way around. And we even got a 7 for our halt which included a big stumble. Oh Gus.

It didn’t show really in the scores but I do think that our dressage is improving. Now I am able to hold him together for a decent test despite his greenness. The next step is for him to actually stay relaxed when we go into the sandbox. We’ll get there.

Both of my jumping phases were right in the middle of the early afternoon when the sun is high and the humidity is at its worst and I was really feeling it. All I could think about in stadium warm up was how hot I was and how badly I wanted to just get in the ring and get my round over with. All because I was dying in this heat! Warm up, however, went really really well.

Usually at Chatt Hills I have done stadium in the entire big ring but this weekend they had it roped down to a smaller arena. This made things much more manageable. LT’s goal was to have us ride the whole thing with no chips. Forward. Forward. Forward. And that’s what we did. Okay, we did have one little chip to fence 3 but otherwise it was foot perfect. Even with a rail on fence 6 I think that’s the best course we’ve ridden. I was feeling really good going into XC.

There was not enough time to completely untack Gus between stadium and XC so I loosened the girth, stuck him in front of the fan and did everything I could to keep us both comfortable for the ten minutes before we had to walk the long path down to XC. I was exhausted and I thought for sure Gus would be too. Nope! I quickly found that I had absolutely no breaks and had to switch his reins down a hole on the elevator. Good thing I did not put the loose ring back on like I had intended! Once I had breaks, though, we flew through warm up and were ready to go.

So here’s the one thing that ticked me off this weekend. They were running ahead and taking people as they were ready. So I went up to the volunteers and said “I’m ready!” and they told me I could go after 251. There was one other person before 251 so we would be third up. That was okay. Perfect timing to just be done with my warm up and give us both a breather.

But then, when 251 went in, 244 said they were ready to go and since I was 245, I was told to wait. Well that was a little frustrating but alright. Then, just as 244 was leaving the start box and I headed over to get ready, they told me 243 was ready and I would have to wait again! When I protested they told me “It’s only 4 minutes” That’s when I got angry, I had already been waiting 12. If you are letting people go out of order and ahead of time, you don’t tell them they’re up next and then keep pushing them back. Even LT got a little miffed and told them that this was not fair to me.

Look, I know volunteering is a thankless task. Usually I am always there with a smile and a thank you for everyone I meet at an event whether you’re a volunteer or a fellow competitor (maybe not always if you are my ever suffering husband, sorry babe!). But this time they were actually hurting my chances. I had warmed up and done everything I was suppose to in checking in and getting in the order of go. I was miffed and, while I didn’t raise my voice, you better believe I berated them as I was waiting my next turn. I don’t even feel bad about it. We plan our warm ups carefully so that both rider and horse are ready to go when our turn comes. I don’t like this hunter hurry up and wait shit.

LT asked if I wanted to warm up again but I didn’t. I was running out of strength and I knew I’d need it on the course. So I walked away from the gate keepers and ignored their “try to have a good ride” wishes. You better believe I was going to have a good ride.

And then I let it go. I had a horse to ride and a XC course to conquer!

And if you watched the video… you’ll see that we did!

Like stadium, our goal for this outing was to go forward and jump the fences out of stride. While we had a few wonky steps we didn’t have any real chips so I am counting this as major progress. The wide table I was worried about? Not a problem for Gus Gus! We could have gotten it out of stride if I had put on the gas a bit more but by then I was exhausted.

Gus was also very hesitant about that bridge and once we were on it, he freaked out over the water. This was all very silly to me since we went over a bridge like this at Foxberry ALL THE TIME but that’s horses for you. We actually had to walk over it. Walking! On XC! I’m sure that will never happen again.

Due to the rail in stadium we dropped down to fifth but I was so thrilled with Gus and his willingness to just go for it all. He is really starting to grow up and I can tell he loves his job. This was exactly the prep I needed for Stable View H.T. in two weeks.

Bring it on!

Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 3

The great thing about this being a schooling show was that we were able to school XC the day before. And not just school XC, but actually school and put together the jumps that were on our course. And it was a weird, windy, and open course. Instead of the 20 minutes it should have taken me to walk the course, it took me an HOUR. Yes, an hour. And, okay, I did walk it without a map since they weren’t out yet but this was BN, it shouldn’t have been that difficult. But it was and I was not a happy camper when I finally realized there were only 12 fences.




I digress.


I successfully schooled every single fence I was going to be expected to go over for the show (including the scary Mushroom fence that Gus had spooked at riding past in our very first show at Poplar) and even got to go over a couple of N questions, the best being a bench into the water and then out over another log thing. I was feeling very successful and Gus was locking onto fences like an old pro.



Unfortunately I was also feeling very very sick. Hacking up a lung, fuzzy brain, weak all over, the works. Apparently this all led to me riding better than my trainer had ever seen before. I think I was just too sick to micromanage my ride. All I could manage was sit back, leg on and once fence at a time.


There really might be some truth to that, however. I didn’t have a single refusal or even real thought of refusal from Gus the entire weekend. There were definitely some bad spots (see the mushroom fence below) but we managed to get though them. I just have to keep riding to the base: keep the leg on and sit back.



The only thing we had a slight issue with was the first water. Knowing that Gus was probably going to be a little bit of an idiot about it and not wanting a refusal over a water crossing, I slowed to a trot before the water so that it wouldn’t sneak up on him. He still hesitated! So for the second water crossing, I gave him a little love tap. That did the trick and we had no issue. To be fair, the entrance was a lot nicer into the second water but this is something he’s going to have to get over.


But remember how in Part 1 I mentioned that “not feeling it” was going to be a recurring theme for this show? Well, I almost decided that I was just not going to XC. I had already schooled everything and I was sick and, dammit, I just didn’t want to do it. No joke, I literally sulked in Gus’ stall for ten minutes before pulling my shit together and getting out to warm up.


In the end, I’m glad I didn’t skip out. XC really is the best part of eventing after all and we had a really great ride. I think Gus and learned a bunch from this weekend and I’m excited to get to our first recognized event. Hopefully we’ll finish on our dressage score again!


Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 2

The time to tack up and get ready for stadium came way to soon. We had walked the course the night before but my memory really wasn’t all that great and it had been such a sweeping big course that I wasn’t feeling confident about getting every fence. I had to watch a few people ride it to really get it down and I’ll admit that, on course, I had a couple of panic moments where I just kept riding around the rail hoping the fence would come up.


The one positive that I am really holding on to is that when we walked down to the arena and saw the fences, I was convinced that they were still running the Tadpole division and that they hadn’t moved the fences up. It’s not that they look particularly small but they didn’t look huge. Actually, they really didn’t look that big at all. It was amazing.



And then when I went in there to ride my test, Gus didn’t look at a single fence. We didn’t get all the correct distances of course, but I kept my leg strong and my elbows soft and rode the hell out of that course. New Trainer was super pleased and thought that was my best stadium to date. Of course, she hasn’t seem some of the really disastrous ones but it still meant a lot.

Gus was still a tiny bit spooky as we rode past the judge’s tent which was right next to a two stride line but that will come with more rides in different places. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get him through the line, obviously, but it did lead to a less than pleasant second fence.


But even with the spook and one disastrous approach to fence 9, we rode a great course, had no rails down and came in under time. Another double clear for Gus and I. I like going double clear, makes me feel good even at a schooling show.


Double clear aside, the thing I really can’t leave alone is just how confident I felt the whole time. Even with being sick, even not being sure I knew the whole course, even back talking to New Trainer in warm-up (um, blame that on being sick?), I didn’t fear that course. This is HUGE for me.

Last year I was still nervous about getting around the Tadpole stadium course and now I’m thinking the BN course doesn’t look big enough. While I’m not ready for Novice yet, this is the first time in a long time I’ve stepped out of the stadium ring and thought that I might be by the end of the year.


I  could have ended my day here and been totally happy with how well everything had gone. Gus was on point and I was managing to hold it together. Win – Win. But we still had XC up and I was going to have to dig deep to find the energy for that!

Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 1

Since the agility trial the previous weekend, I have been battling an unrelenting sinus infection. Trouble breathing, sore throats, and a nasty hack are not what you really want going into a horse show, especially not when you’re going to be camping. But it’s what I had.

Partially due to being sick and partially due to the fact that one day shows are just a mess, nothing quite seemed to line up perfectly this weekend. I felt like I was left constantly rushing from one second to the other and not making good use of my time. For example, I could have been giving Gus a bath and actually making him look presentable (i.e. NOT like a wooly mammoth) but instead I wasted time walking XC without a map.

But I’ll share that story later.

Suffice it to say, when I tacked Gus up for dressage, the only thing I was happy with was my shiny new bridle. And if it weren’t for Hillary helping me out, I highly doubt I would have made it into the ring at all.

But thankfully I did. And I even managed to remember my dressage test which I had only rememorized earlier that morning.


I was not in the best state of mind going into the warm up. I was running late, which always makes me cranky, and just not feeling the whole day. This will be a recurring theme for this show. New Trainer put me to work trying to control where Gus’ rib cage was at all times but in my head I was thinking “this is a lost cause today. Let me just ride my test and get this over with.”

Not the best attitude right?


I know, I’m miserable when I’m sick and horse show stress was not helpful.


However, thanks to having that warm up and these many months of consistent lessons with New Trainer, Gus and I marched down that center line and laid down the best test we’ve ever had. The connection was steadier than it has ever been, our canter transitions were lovely, and, even though I was unbalanced through the final turn and off the centerline, Gus still gave me a nice square halt.


We earned a lot of 6.5s for this test and even a handful of 7s. Not a single score below 6 which was extremely pleased about. The judge did want more steady connection and better accuracy  through my corners but hey, I’m sick, cut me some slack. That’s what I’m going to chalk it up to anyway.

I’m even happy with my posture which is a lot more up and lot less hunter lean these days. I still have to figure out how to stop slipping my reins though since I don’t even realize I’m doing it until someone yells at me or I see pictures. Jesh, it’s amazing I have any connection sometimes.


Our final score was a 34.75 which I thought was pretty fair. It put us in fourth place, right in the middle of the pack and that was good enough for me. I was thrilled with how Gus kept it together and how I managed to ride a fairly competent test even with being sick. Biggest accomplishment for me, though? I managed to remember to smile for almost the entirety of the test and didn’t ruin all of my photos.


Next up: Stadium!

Chatt Hills Schooling Show 7.30.16

Since it has been quite some time since I actually rode in this show… let’s just sum of the day.


This was by far and away my worst dressage test. Not so far as the numbers went but because nothing was going right. New trainer thought Gus looked off in his left hind but we managed to work out of that until we got into the ring where I completely threw him away and rode miserably. This was entirely my fault but I do have an excuse.


You see, as we were marching down the middle, all confident after a wonderful warm-up, the judge stood up as if she expected me to halt. We were riding BN A, there is no halt. Or is there? She suddenly had me wondering if I had memorized the wrong test! So, with basically no preparation, I came to a halt. It was a terrible halt.


And yes, there is no halt in BN A. Or BN B. But honestly, I think the judge forgot! Because I did not get a technical error the halt and, in fact, the comments actually sound like she firmly believe there is a halt in that test.


But either way, it threw me off for the rest of the test and it was mediocre at  best.


No surprise, the NQRness that new trainer had seen during dressage warm up (and the test) was amazingly gone when it was time for jumping. GusGus just doesn’t want to prance around in the sandbox. Warm up went really well and we had some nice fences.


I was really excited to get in the arena to actually do our course though I knew there would be some scary to Gus fences. Chatt Hill’s arena is HUGE and beautiful. And not boiling hot because it uses white sand instead of the black footing that Poplar does. Ugh.


But anyway, going in I did my best to trot around all the scary jumps. Sure enough, Gus spooked at the flowers under fence two. Made the mental note to ride that one all the way through. So what did I do? Oh yeah, gave up a half stride out and, sure enough, had a stop.


We got over it and continued on our course. I had a few really pony club up moments. Over or thru. There is no stopping.


So after that, I sent the  boy up to add Gus’ XC gear and while I hurridly walked the course. It was so hot and humid, I was ’bout dying three fences in. There were a few things I was worried about, namely the bank and the arc jump. The  bank because, while I love them, Gus has never seen one this big and we had a second jump only three strides after it. The arc because it was the same fence we ran out of at the Stephen Bradley clinic.



And of course a storm started rolling in.


I am so thankful to have a trainer to warm me up now. It helped tremendously. The first two fences were beautiful. The third fence was a run out. It was not one I had been worried about. Just a hanging log on top of a box. I guess I just let Gus look a little and didn’t put enough leg on. The rest of the course rode fine though I did let him get a little strong to the arc. He flew up the bank fine, though, and rode past a very spooky group of fences.


While it wasn’t our best ever outing, I think we both learned a lot from this course. Now though we are taking a break while I get through the next two weeks.