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I’d wanted to try some jumpers this year, and while we did an itty bitty class at BEST earlier in the spring just to get off the farm and over some strange fences, I really wanted to go do something more serious.  At Culpeper last month, I asked about trying it there in August, but our plans ended up changing, due to budgets and people available to go places.  So it ended up just being me and Holly at the Swan Lake “B” show on Saturday, which was really great, because my .80M division went very first thing, and I had undivided Trainer Attention, so in addition to the great lesson we had Wednesday to get us warmed up, we also got fully prepped like I was a total beginner at my first show.  Because Holly knows my biggest problem is getting lost on course, and she was not letting it happen to me at this show!

We got there in plenty of time, so the ring was still open for hacking until 8:30, and we took advantage of it, since we checked out the course map first and I was a little panicked by the 15 jumps in our first class, a Power & Speed round.  Even after walking it, it seemed like a lot of fences to remember.

We were in Swan Lake’s big GP ring, which had a big tent on one side, and a big judge’s box, and lots of things going on, too.  So we headed in, moseyed around, and Cally didn’t bat an eye.  In probably the best strategic move of the day, one that would’t have ever occurred to me, Holly had me do something really simple–trot the course!  Not going over the jumps, because that’s not allowed and she didn’t really need to jump them anyway, but to actually go in the ring and ride the path I’d have to take, see how the turns would kind of feel, know where I needed to look next.  I just tried not to think too much about the fact that there were TWO one-strides on our itty bitty Intro To Rated Jumpers course.

Then we chilled a bit by the ring, and went into warmup (which is really pretty there, you go over a little creek with willow trees) and popped over just a few fences.  Since I was the only one in the warmup ring, we were able to really take advantage of that fact and I was able to use two jumps, and practice a few rollback turns, which was really confidence building.  And Holly cranked up the final oxer to about 6″ higher than I’d be jumping in the show ring, and Cally totally nailed it.

So I was feeling pretty confident going in.  I felt like I had a good grasp of where we were going and the track I wanted to take–I wasn’t worrying about time, just having a clean trip around. We went in, they announced us like we were heading into a GP not the .80s, and the buzzer sounded almost immediately, so we picked up a nice forward canter and we were off on our first rated jumper trip!

From the running commentary from Holly–which I could hear none of while on course–and the obvious observation of the trip, I need to allow more forward. I did a few times, like down the 9-10-11 bending line at the start of the Speed section, and it rode great.  At the points where I didn’t add enough supportive leg, like going to fence 2, and we ended up with Cally heaving herself over it while I flailed around like a drunk monkey up there. But at least it’s jumpers, all that counted was us going around and not taking out a rail! And we managed to do that, so as a first go to build on, that was a pretty great way to start. Plus we ended up with a blue ribbon for our efforts!

I was over the moon happy, and we had a bit of a breather while they changed the course numbering to go over the 2.B trip, and drink half a bottle of water.

Then it was time for our second trip!  The first part of the course was basically the Speed phase from the last round, plus the far outside line.  It rode pretty well, though I was still not legging up enough into the one-strides.  The second portion was pretty straight foward, but I didn’t take enough time to regroup in between finishing our first part, and the buzzer for the second phase.  So Cally wasn’t as well together as I should have had her going to the first fence, and actually under powered to a bad spot, so we had the first rail in the jumpoff down.  But we went around the rest great, and totally nailed the rollback to one-stride at the end, which was a note I was very pleased to end on.  Turns out we had a time fault, too, so I ended that round with 5 faults, and a 4th place ribbon.

But overall I was really pleased with it as a first serious jumper outing, rather than something I was doing just to get the horse out and in a ring.  Having the right warmup really helped, and now I feel much more confident in my ability to go do a jumper class and not get lost on my way around.  Adding leg is something we can work on and improve, and as I told Holly, I think I need to jump a one- or two-stride in every lesson from now til the end of time.  Doing those things will also help not just in jumper rounds, but in my trips in hunters or equitation, too.  So we’re not just having fun, we’re rounding out our skills and making us better in every ring, not just jumpers.

We’ll have more jumper fun, though!  I did our entry for Maryland Horse & Pony yesterday, and in addition to our last sidesaddle show of the year, we’ll also be doing a few Thursday afternoon jumper rounds for fun.  I talked with Holly about aiming for a few of the MHSA regional Adult jumper divisions and Dover Jumper Medal, which run at 2’9″, next year, and that feels like a good plan for us, as there are plenty of opportunities for it.  Holly may also take her in a .90 or even 1.0 open class for a bit of mileage in the jumper ring with a pro, which would probably be really fun for me to watch, and I know Cally and Holly would have a blast.  I’m actually pretty sure if she weren’t pregnant, she would have climbed on Cally yesterday and taken her in the .90s then and there!

The best part may be having a horse who is so wonderfully versatile that she’s able to go in all three rings and come home with something–she may not be the winner in every ring, but she can go in and do it respectably.  And that’s so much fun, to be able to vary up my plans for the year, do a little bit of everything, hunters, jumpers, eq, even our dressage shows, and come home with something to show for our efforts.  Not every horse can do that.  Heck, if we’d gone later in the day closer to leadline time, Holly’s little girl could have come along and done leadline on her too, I have zero doubt.  That makes me love my horse so, so much, because that is most definitely not something every horse can do.  Cally really is The Best.