After our heartbreak this weekend, I felt the need to go do something I knew we are good at this week. I’d been debating a little local weeknight schooling show; if R4L had done well, we probably wouldn’t have done it, but I definitely needed a confidence builder. And we’re really long overdue for making a move up over fences. This seemed like the perfect low-key opportunity to give it a go.
So we packed up and headed over for a 6PM show start time, me very grateful for the “polo shirt” attire in the prizelist and not even bothering to take the (buckle-end!) rubber reins off the bridle. Turns out I could have left her bell boots on, too, but it didn’t seem worth the hack back out to the trailer. The jumps weren’t fancy, and there wasn’t much fill/decoration, and there were quite a few folks on very green horses in the 2′ section, but everyone was very friendly and the courses were straightforward and well-set. The judge, from what I saw of the undersaddle results, seemed to have a preference for a more TB-loopy-reined way of going than the big packaged-WB look.
I opted to do our first round at 2’6″ just to see how she was feeling, and get a feel of how the lines/course rode. Turns out they rode perfectly. I could not have asked for a nicer round–easy striding, got all her leads, didn’t look at a thing, and only got a smidge rushy in the last line down the outside. It was maybe the nicest round she’s ever jumped. We got a second for that behind the horse who did it all, just a smidge quieter, and I cannot be happier with that. So I said yes, we’re definitely going to do our second round, and the Classic, at 3′.
GULP. They put up the fences after the rest of the 2’6″ trips finished, and boy did they look big. Two fences, including the first fence on course, that had previously been simple rails now had “brick” boxes under them; I wracked my brain trying to remember the last time she jumped anything like that. Everyone in the 2’6″ section had come to that first vertical off the left lead, at a bit of an angle around one of the diagonal lines. I didn’t want to angle the first fence, and wanted her to have plenty of time to see where we were going and lock on, so I opted to come off the right and cut between two fences; it might not have worked if there was more decoration on the standards, but in this case, it was a perfect long, straight approach. About 4 strides out I could feel her go “hey, this is looking a little solid here” and just touched her on the shoulder, and on she went. It was a hair sticky, but the second fence, an single oxer on the outside, felt amazing, and I remembered why we were moving up–because she feels fantastic when she actually has to jump, and feels so happy doing it. The next line was a pair of “natural” fences that had faded to a sort of brownish-grey that unfortunately blended in very well with the stonedust/sand footing, and in the dimming light, I think she just couldn’t get a read on the top rail, so we had that down with her front feet, a real rarity for her. She was mad about that and well overjumped the out of the line, so I know it wasn’t her being lazy or casual, as that usually causes a rail with her hind feet. I can’t fault her for not being able to get a read on a fence in poor lighting, and the lights seemed to get turned on after our round was over. She jumped the rest of the course beautifully, so I was grinning like a lunatic coming out of our very first ever 3′ course.
I got some water from the very helpful secretary, caught my breath, and gave Cally massive praise for her round. Then I read over the Classic course again, watched a few trips, and debated our track. With a deep breath, we went in, with a plan to do a somewhat more jumper-ish track at hopefully something of a more equitation-y pace. I chose not to do the inside turn from 1 to 2, just because I know we’re not so confident at this height yet, and it was another brick wall, so I wanted her to have a really good look at it under the lights. She did the turn beautifully, and the rollback to the diagonal where we’d had the rail down before wasn’t misjudged this time–she was taking no chances and not hitting anything! She was a bit confused by the trot fence at 5–it was very tiny, under a foot–but on we went and were purposefully going down to the big outside oxer like a champ. Then I had to try and get all fancy and angle the vertical at 7 to try and get a better inside rollback to 8, and forgot that we’re not quite as handy at this height yet, and sliced it a little too hard and had the rail down, again. All on me, that one. She did the turn and jumped perfectly over the last fence, totally having a blast with it.
It felt great to go into a ring and do something the horse was totally game with, and was having fun with. She also feels so much more rideable and adjustable to somewhat bigger fences, because she has to actually jump them, and knows she can’t run at them. We end up with much better rounds. We ended up 5th in both the second over fences and Classic rounds, and while I know I could have ridden them a little better, for a first outing it was a great experience and I know we’ll definitely be getting out and doing more rounds, and maybe even try doing the Adults a time or two over the winter if budget allows.
For anyone in the central MD area looking for a good schooling experience, I have to highly recommend the PRITS shows. It wasn’t fancy, but it was well-run, well-built, and super laid back, which made it a great outing for moving up or trying something new, or even getting a youngster out and about. I’m looking at my calender trying to figure out how to fit a few of them into my summer plans!