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I guess it really shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been a long-time reader of this blog or follower of Cally and my adventures that our initial attempt at a big show started off on a kind of disastrous note (see also: Ride For Life, Recognized Waredaca Event, Trying to Qualify for All Breeds).  It felt like we warmed up great for the Ariat Medal on Friday, with the plan of going in the ring and galloping to the first fence, making nice wide huntery turns, keeping leg on through the in-and-out, and getting all our leads or changes.  So naturally I got in and found this hunter hack class lopey canter, and underrode to the first fence, where of course, Cally (politely) said No, Thanks.  Around we came again, with slightly more canter, but still not enough, and NOPE again.  Finally got over it, got the lead change, and around to fence 2, which was a sort of a disaster of a weak distance…and then totally forgot where I was going in the blind panic of starting things off so badly, and cantered right on around the end of the ring, past the fence I was supposed to be jumping, and was on the back side of it muttering “where the hell am I going” at the point at which I was rung out.  Politely, because the announcer is super fancy.  Le sigh.

Trainer wasn’t even waiting for me at the gate.  She was halfway up the ramp, and the only thing she said to my teary “I just totally went blank after 2” was “we’re going to the warmup ring and you’re going to gallop fences.”  So we did.  And it went well, and I softened and allowed and we made the plan to have Holly hop on her in the morning for a school to get her ingrained with FORWARD in a way that the Ammy couldn’t screw up too badly.

And that worked, for the most part.  I mean, they schooled great, and we decided I needed to use Holly’s bigger spurs, which are the nice roller-ball type as opposed to my itty bitty Prince of Wales nubbins, because I need to be telling the horse to GO even if my brain isn’t straight on that message.  We swapped out tack, I got dressed and her forelock got braided, and we went back to warmup and GALLOPED.  Lots of forward, lots of leg, and some really fabulous fences.  And Holly made me repeat my course to her 1039874908376 times.  So I went in the ring and knew where I was going for sure.

We went in, and I asked for a hand gallop, and meant it.  I could feel her locking on to fence one this time, and off we went.  The distance wasn’t perfect, but it was good, and it was forward, and we were going.  We kept going around to fence 2, an oxer, which rode well, and around to an outside 2-stride, which we’ve been jumping great in lessons, but I rebalanced to much in the corner and didn’t gallop it, and we did this terribly chippy 3, and then I was all discombobulated and rode terribly through the corner to 5, so of course we ended up with a stop there, and then came back around to a really weak in to the line that needed to be a galloping 5, and got out weak too.  But I managed to redeem it with the last line, a forward bending 6 to what looked like the World’s Biggest Oxer.  I could feel her getting in weak and I actually had the thought that I needed to put leg on or we were going to crash through the fence, and I ACTUALLY PUT LEG ON AND CLOSED THE GAP!!  It was long, but we did it and she jumped the snot out of it.  I really hope there’s a picture of that.  So not a perfect round by any means, but we got around, we got our leads, and we were much more forward than the prior day.

Round two felt even better I was more forward, the bending 6 I actually put leg on coming in and had a fabulous line, like maybe my best line ever, and while the 2 was still weak, it wasn’t as terrible.  But then that damn fence 5 oxer again, I felt like we were going … and then we weren’t.  Even on the reapproach she felt sticky to it, but we got over, and got around nicely to the rollback to the final fence, which rode great.  On the whole, even better than Round 1, but obviously not good enough for a ribbon in a huge class of great rides.

We went back to hang out, and Cally got lots of treats, and an apple, and some time to chill in her stall while I watched barnmates ride before the Costume Class.  We were “State Secrets” and went as a President and two Secret Service agents.  Julie and I were the SS, since our horses are twin chestnuts with big blazes, while the rider on the bay was the President.  While our costumes were not nearly as elaborate as some of the teams, they looked sharp and classy, and we could ride easily in them.  And thanks to WBBF, we had James Bond theme music to ride to.  If nothing else we looked the part.

Agent Martin is on the case

Everyone on the team had some bobbles. I did make my goal of getting all my leads and getting the stride in the really forward 7 (where guess what I PUT ON LEG!!!), so the out looked good, even in a video grab.

We were going well, and I was pretty happy with the trip, until we had to roll back to that damnable oxer again.  Where she stepped out stage right, again.  Came back around with low, wide hands and leg on, and over went, and finished up the course with a strong ride down to the final vertical.

I think we’re in a good place for championships tomorrow.  I’m not holding out massive hope of a ribbon, but I feel much more confident in us than I did on Friday.  And I feel like this has been an amazing learning experience, as we get to go in and make mistakes and learn from them, and improve over the course of several days. Because for whatever reason, my brain works differently at a show than it does on course at home.  I could do this course set at home in my sleep.  But for some reason, it’s so much harder.  This has been a great opportunity to work through some of that, and hopefully get a great picture or two in the process.