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Saturday dawned as we were driving down to the PG Equestrian Center for the MSA C show, to make our rated hunter debut.  This is something I’d wanted to do forever, 3′ at a rated show, well before Cally even entered the picture.  I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve.  She seemed relaxed and ready to go as we loaded up and headed out.

It was still pretty quiet at the PGEC when we got there, and I took care of our paperwork and picking up our number.  Then since she’d done well at other shows this year taking a walk around to settle in before we got ready to ride.  She didn’t seem to think things were much of a big deal, and I think she recognized the facility from being there at Ride For Life last year.  So I tacked up quickly and took her into our ring to move around and take a few jumps.  She clocked around like a pro, barely batted an eye at anything, even barking dogs and kids on bikes and bleachers and ponies.  Then I headed back to the trailer to relax, have something cold to drink, and wait for the arrival of WBBF.

He arrived just as I was getting geared up to get on and ready for the Thoroughbred Hunters, which I’d planned to use as a warmup.  We went into the ring first, and the fences were bigger than they’d been in warmup.  I could feel her thinking, “Um, these look big.  Bigger.  Are we sure about this?”  She felt like that most of the way around the course.  It wasn’t a terrible round, but there just wasn’t any confidence there, and she was really asking me to give it to her, and I’m green enough at this that I was struggling with that too.  And it showed in our second round, when I didn’t ride well enough to the in-and-out and we ended up with a stop there, and had to figure out how to get back to the second fence without jumping the first, which was really just super awkward.  But I stayed calm, and she kept listening to me, and we made it around, despite our troubles.  I was even happier about that, that we managed to keep working through things and got around anyway.  We finished up with two thirds in our over fences there, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Then it turns out that the medal classes all filled, so we had a while to wait around until the Adult Amateurs went. We went back to the trailer, let her have a drink and some hay, and I had some cold water. Then I decided maybe a bit of re-warmup would do us good, so we navigated random western horse and tiny pony in the warmup ring and bopped around a bit. She felt a bit tired and unsure of wanting to work again. But once she realized we were going to jump something again, she seemed to perk up. We headed over to the main ring after the THIS medal finished up, and were second in the ring in the combined Children’s/Adult division. WBBF videoed the round, and I am so grateful to have it, because it shows me how far we’ve come, and how much potential is there.

It wasn’t perfect, but it felt significantly better than the first two rounds we did, in that she wasn’t as sticky to things, and was so, so rideable. I took a breather, got some water from WBBF, and headed in for round 2, where she totally nailed everything (except a lead change), and was finally not just asking me for confidence, but starting to feel confident herself, and really starting to get it. I mean, this was our first fence of that round!

Looking totally competent!

And she felt like she was jumping much better the whole way around, too.

We finished with a 5th and a 4th over fences, and a 5th in the hack. Not too shabby for a first time out!

While we definitely have things to improve on, I was beyond thrilled with how this went for a first time out. We just need to work on improving both our confidence to things, and keeping forwards down the lines without getting flat. There were rough spots, but we worked through them, and did just what Kelley told us to do, which was work on the canter. In looking at the video, the canter we had around was so fantastic and easy. So the pieces are there, we just need to figure out how to put them together. And that’s a big part of the fun of the training process. Now I know that we CAN, we just have to polish it into something even better.