Backing up in time a bit:
After I had checked out the goings on in the dressage end of things, I spent a solid hour watching stadium. The last few intermediate riders were going and the course map looked like the same for every level, but different heights. I stood there and memorized the course while slowly trying not to let my head spin out of control as I stared at jump 4.
The rest of the course looked doable, or at least it would be once they lowered them all to 18″ crossrails as the flyer promised. I also noticed that the arena was very large and super spread out. There was plenty of room for approaches and only one jump, #8, had any related distance at all. At the higher levels and for those who cantered, the course had some really tight turns but I completely failed to snap a picture of the course map.
Ok… back to after dressage:
Stadium was slated for 1:45-2pm with any order of go. I was first up in dressage and didn’t even finish until after stadium was open. I was glad that they had a big window and not a dedicated time so I could change tack and warm up without rushing too much.
The jump warm up arena was down by dressage and had 4 fences set up: a cross rail on either side and two verticals in the middle. The steward informed me that I was the only one around. After popping over the cross rails a couple times, I called it enough. My head was starting to pound and both Gem and I were tired of the blazing sun beating down on us. It was time to go.
Dusty stood farther away and so the screenshots I tried to grab aren’t very good, but the video is at the end too. I advise watching it on something you can fast forward because there is a lot of open space and trotting it takes a while.
Jump 1 was a friendly cross rail with no filler or decorations. I was way past nervous and literally begged Gem to jump it as we approached. She did begin to hesitate, but once I put my legs on she was game enough. Good girl. We were on a roll!
It was a long way around the outside of #9 to get to fence 2 which was also a friendly bland cross rail. If it had been later in the course I would have let her canter it, but my death grip was still in full force and I was faking a smile which looked much more like a grimace. She went over without a second thought.
But then it was to fence 4….the train. The entire day my mind kept going back to that darn train. Would she go over it? The approach wasn’t the greatest either and there were a lot of refusals here. Once you went over 3 it was a sharp left and only a quarter of an arena width to 4. Now if I was educated at all I could tell you in strides what that was, but I was trotting and didn’t pay attention to that. Anyway, it came up fast after the sharp left and caught horses off guard.
Gem wasn’t immune to it either. It didn’t help that the cross rails only class ended up with verticals too and the train was the first one. They left the solid red board up and Gem had never jumped anything solid ever. She hesitated hard, came to a walk and then just stepped over it like it barely existed.
I was elated that we made it over the train, but I also knew that we had the rest of the course to do and they got more difficult as it went. Fence four was a pretty butterfly jump that also had a solid board. What happened to cross rails only?
I was a bit surprised that Gem hesitated more at this than the train, maybe it was the bright colors, and I think she basically walked this one too.
Six was a long trot back around 9 to the left and taking it coming back towards home. It was a cute little wishing well and I don’t have a decent enough shot of it to make it worth posting, but by this point things just clicked for us. She was finally game on and looking towards the jumps and I was finally loosening my death grip. I started to smile for real too and as I made my very slow way around 9 and past the jump judge I heard them comment about me looking like I was having fun finally.
And the truth was that I was having fun!
Jump seven was a nice pink and grey vertical. Gem jumped it the best yet on course and looking at the screen shot I can see why. My position actually looks like I know how to jump and I’m no longer holding her back.
Fence 9 was the farthest out from where Dusty stood by the in gate and again the picture isn’t worth posting but it was another vertical but this time was three poles high and I am pretty sure was over 18″ because I don’t see how you can stack three poles and only be at 18″ and it looked much bigger than the rest of the course. It jumped straight forward though and by this time we were both in sync and game on.
But then it was over and all I wanted to do was keep jumping. Now that is an amazing feeling.
Here is the video:
Truth is Gem doesn’t jump well because of me. I mean, she definitely will run out or stop if you don’t keep your leg on and let her know you actually want to jump. If she has the slightest out, she will take it no doubt about it. However, when I’m riding her it feels like we are going a million miles an hour but watching the video afterward we could have walked over each jump and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I really need to let go and trust her more. She is a super great jumper in the sense that she won’t expend the energy to over jump, but also won’t hit a rail if she can help it.
Anyway, I walked her back out the gate and was so thrilled with the entire day. We made it through and didn’t make complete fools of ourselves and didn’t get eliminated!
We were all hot and getting headaches by this time, so I untacked Gem then quickly changed out of my show clothes. She got a sponge bath and walked over to the water trough before I shoved her full of crack cookies and smothered her in hugs as I took her braids out.
My head was really starting to pound by this point and I realized I hadn’t put anything solid in me since getting up at 6 am. Not smart. I hid in the air conditioning in the truck while the class finished and then got my scores and placing.
One of the women ahead of me after dressage had 12 faults in stadium so I moved up to 4th and was so happy to grab my white ribbon and dressage score sheet. I was so proud of both of us! And I didn’t have to be called a loser by my son as I now had my ribbon in hand.
There are so many thoughts to share about this experience and where I’d like to go from here so stay tuned for some posts coming up about that. For the first time in a long time I am really excited for my future with Gem and I can’t wait to tackle it all head on. With the changes I’ve seen in both of us in 4 short months, I can’t even imagine what we could be a year from now. All I have to say is Bring It!!