Are you ready for an epic tale of a way too busy, mostly scared adult ammy tackling her first HT? Well, settle in folks because I’m drawing this sucker out for all its worth HA!
I debated for a long time about going down Friday or just waiting until Saturday morning. The facility was only 2 hours away and with a ride time of 12:44 pm, I would have plenty of time. Even Friday morning as I cleaned all my tack and packed, I still waffled back and forth. Ultimately though, I wanted to give myself the least stressful approach and that seemed like going Friday with plenty of time to pre ride and settle in before the show activities started.
Trainer AB had texted that morning that she would be doing the course walk at 3:30 pm. With that in mind, I arrived at the facility just after 2 pm and quite honestly I was a bit worried I would be bored hanging out at the facility by myself all day. HAHAHAHAAH!
As soon as I unloaded Eeyore, Trainer AB came over, introduced me to the other six women showing with her that weekend and told me to tack up for a pre ride while she went and grabbed my show packet.
Uh…I just got here.
Yup…get on him and lets go.
That set the pace for the rest of the day and by the time I finally laid down that night I was exhausted. There was no down time and no time to worry or stress.
All seven of us mounted up and walked off to the warm up area. The facility is huge, 115 acres, and runs dressage and stadium in a massive field inside a race track. Trainer AB told all of us to go gallop the horses and let the wiggles out however we needed, be that on the track itself or in the warm up field. I stuck to the field and with a fire breathing dragon under me I got up in two point and let him go. I’m pretty sure that is as fast as I have ever gone on a horse.
He was lit, but he was listening as well so we coasted around and around and around for close to 30 minutes until his brain was reinstalled enough to try to do something else.
When I did finally try to do something with the Big Orange Butthead I quickly learned that I had only two gears available: walk and canter. Keep this in mind for later. Its important. He had lost his trot and every small ask with my leg resulted in him flying off once again. I did manage to run through our dressage test in a small area next to the dressage arena but it was pretty ugly. He broke to canter a lot, was incredibly tense and our circles were more trapezoid in shape. But I wasn’t too worried. This was just the pre ride after all and it was a lot of atmosphere for him to take in. The big open facility, the other horses acting just like him and careening around, the speakers blasting music and announcements, and golf carts everywhere. It was a lot and while at the time I didn’t give him much credit, looking back he really kept it together pretty well in those circumstances.
Finally we all called it quits with steaming, lathered horses and headed back to the barn to clean them up before we lost all day light to walk the courses in. In my show group full of lovely women I am now thrilled to call friends, we had two running training, two novice, three BN and me in starter. Trainer AB is super woman I swear for being able to handle all those divisions like she did. Even though she was super busy and needed everywhere at once, if I needed her she was always there, always patient and always helpful. That woman needs a halo above her head.
Walking cross country was….interesting. The course was 1,985 m long…a distance I’ve been told is really long for a starter division. All levels followed a similar course with start and end jumps by each other and the middle varying depending on the level. I only had 5 mandatory fences and with a course that long it meant a lot of very long canter stretches between jumping efforts.
The jumps themselves looked more than doable to me which is exactly what I wanted to feel heading into this show. With so many other factors that needed attention, I didn’t want fence height to be a concern. The terrain was going to prove a little interesting. The first 2/3rd was pretty flat and open but the back 1/3rd went up and down hills steep enough to make even this endurance rider pause, but I knew I could trot if I needed to.
I made my plan A then added in a plan B with some of the BN jumps that looked doable as well (honestly most of them!) and then we headed to stadium to walk that as well.
Stadium looked really cool! It even had a bank complex with an up, I believe 3 strides, down and then fence 6 three strides away from that. My division had an option at 5 to bypass the bank, but Trainer AB told me I wasn’t allowed to take it as my bank was small and Eeyore really does love going up and down banks. Plus my xc course had water but no ditch or bank so she wanted me to take advantage of the bank in stadium.
With the light almost gone, we headed back to feed and check on the beasts. One of my concerns with going Friday was how Eeyore would handle being in the stall. He lives outside at home and the random times he is kept in for the farrier or bad weather, he paces, cribs and doesn’t touch his hay or his water bucket. I needn’t have worried. His water bucket was empty, his hay net 75% empty and uh…water was EVERYWHERE. His face was soaked, the wall behind the bucket was soaked, the floor was puddled and why on earth was his hay net also wet? I thought maybe he was playing with the water bucket and shook my head at him as I refilled both the bucket and his hay net and went to use the bathroom.
When I got back I watched him grab a mouthful of hay, dunk his face in his water bucket, come up for air and then eat his hay with water dribbling out of his mouth. Well, that answered that!
My new show family invited me out to dinner with them. I was glad for the company and even happier when I found out we would be going to Takosushi a restaurant that serves tacos and sushi. It was delicious, the company was fantastic and while I ended the night exhausted I felt more at home than I had in a long time and really happy to have found a show family I could join.
After that it was back for one last night check and to set up my tent for the night. I was offered space in the hotel but the night was warm and dry and the grass on sand footing the Aiken area is known for was soft enough that sleeping on the ground didn’t seem unbearable. I fell asleep the second my head hit my pillow and didn’t move again until six the next morning.