FGF Starter Trail: The Elimination, Part 2

By the time I entered at A Eeyore was the most rideable he has probably ever been. Of course he was sore and exhausted which I didn’t really pay attention to at the time, but still he was rideable and I had a good feeling about the test.

Will I learn to sit up? Maybe.

My only goal for this phase was to go in and ride the test this time. I didn’t want to survive it. I wanted to ride it.

And to that end I’m actually quite pleased. When he lost his focus outside the arena, I dragged him back. My circles were larger and more round. I asked for bend and while we didn’t achieve at home levels, we were much closer to what we can do than the last time. I was more proactive about slowing him or bumping him up and he felt much more even paced because of this.

Other than him breaking from the left lead canter early (a warning sign of what was to come, this horse never chooses to stop cantering on his own) I really felt the test rode 100x better than our prior attempt. I was super proud of Eeyore and myself as we left the dressage court.

In reality, it scored 1 point worse than Jumping Branch with a score of 39.7. It was fair though. We got 7s for the left trot circle, left canter transition and right trot circle. I got dinged with a 5 for the break in the left canter circle and then another 5 for the return to trot afterward with the comment “could be more supple”. Other than that it was a bunch of 6s and 5.5s. End comment was that he needs to be off the forehand and is a bit braced and stiff into the contact which happen to be the main focus of our flat work these days, so yup. Spot on judge.

Almost square

I had about an hour before stadium which gave me time to put him in his stall to rest a little while I showed Dusty the xc course and he made a plan of where to stand to get the most fences on camera. At Jumping Branch I had gotten on too early before stadium, so this time I waited and gave myself 20 minutes of warm up time.

And this is when I knew we were in trouble. I had Dusty set up a small vertical and Eeyore just sorta plopped over it from a trot and refused to canter on the backside. We did it again and he was better but the horse was half asleep and not wanting to move. He cantered away from the fence for about 3 strides before putting on the brakes and asking to be done. This from who generally gallops off into the sunset after each fence. Typically once he gets pointed to a fence, he lights up like a Christmas tree and tackles it with obvious glee. Not this time. This time he put in the smallest effort possible and with a glance over at the massive looking course we had before us, I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty.

WTF is that thing?! – Eeyore

Now here it gets a little confusing. The course looked huge to me. It was supposed to be 2’3” but it didn’t appear any different than the just finished BN division and nobody had seen anyone change the height. I asked the steward to make sure it was in fact set to starter and was told that it was the lowest it was going all day and to go when I was ready. I popped him over the vertical again, asked the steward yet again about the height and then assumed I was just being a wimp and entered.

What ensued was a bloodbath.

Cherry picking is fun

Rumors after said it was still set to BN height especially since some of the people entered in starter were seen jumping a much smaller, simpler course though when I asked about it I was told they were doing amoeba and it was correct. I don’t know. What I do know is that Eeyore and I were over faced. We were not prepared to go from our prior experiences of tiny verticals with no fill at our last starter outing to a beast of a course that was 90% oxers, overloaded with fill and brightly colored. I’m not saying the course wasn’t fair. I’m saying we weren’t prepared for the massive jump in questions we were asked.

I’m posting the video here but be nice folks or I’ll haunt you all in the afterlife. It’s embarrassing and ugly and if I wasn’t such an honest person I’d hide it.

Be nice to me

I came in to the first fence, which had a huge wall under it and was a wide oxer, backed off and Eeyore said “no thanks”. My fault. We came again and he pogo stick jumped it then proceeded to do the same until jump 5 which was finally a plain vertical. On my end I got left horribly behind and had a hard time figuring out my own body as he would come to the base under powered and behind my leg, then ask to stop, I’d add more leg and he’d launch over at the last second. I couldn’t get in sync with him which didn’t help his confidence at all.

Finally feeling better about this by jump 7, but this is the largest spread and the highest jump we have ever done. Multiplied by 8 of the 10 efforts. It was a big giant leap for us form what we had done before.

Jumps 5,6,7 went pretty well but then 8 was another heap of ugly and coming to 9 you can see him take some not good looking steps on his front left. We eeked it out over 9 and 10A/B to finish with no rail and 1 refusal, but folks my horse was done. Fried. Kaput.

Cross country was immediately to follow and I had a bad feeling about it. What little fumes Eeyore had been running on were long used up after the efforts he put in to not kill me in stadium. His mental health was shaken by my poor riding and Dusty said he saw some bad steps on his front left.

I headed to cross country hoping the longer stretches of cantering would help loosen him up and we got counted down.

There were three jumps on course I was worried about. A palisade at 4, a scoop/coop option at 11 and massive table option at 12. The rest were logs, cabins, a fake ditch, straight through the water and a down bank.

The three I was worried about. Never made it to any of them.

Well, we came out of the start box and I knew I needed more power so I got him in a canter and he said no. He ran out to the left which I knew was a possibility since the right was blocked by the BN fence. We came again and the same thing. A third time and we were done.

The start guy yelled that I could still go on, so I did thinking maybe it was that fake log/tootsie roll thing that had him backed off. A violent no in a sloppy muddy hole right before the jump told me we were done for the day.

What part of NO aren’t you getting woman?!?!?

And you know what? I wasn’t upset at Eeyore. I told him he was a good boy. Thanked him for the effort he had put in during stadium and walked him back to his stall to drink while I grabbed my dressage test and packed up.

Eeyore may be a lot of things, but he is honest and brave and loves to jump. Him saying no like that was about as loud as he could make it that he didn’t have it in him to do it. I could have been more forceful and he may have gone over but why? There was no way we were going to make it over 12 jumps that way and the footing was sloppy and slippery from all the recent rain. All I could think about was him getting hurt. He saved my ass in stadium over the hardest, highest course we had ever done and I was thankful for that.

As far as I’m concerned we did the best we could on Sunday. The decision to work him Saturday was based on past experiences and recent life choices and it ended up biting us in the butt. I do think that had I not done that, we likely would have completed. Or at least made it past fence 1. I won’t make that mistake again. Easy fix. We were also outfaced in stadium. The leap from amoeba to starter was bigger than I anticipated and while I know we can do that height, we need a lot more work before I do another full course at that height in competition.

Eeyore got bute in his dinner Sunday night and will have a few days off. Dusty examined him closely and believes he is just muscle sore. Hopefully that is the case and we can get back on track quickly. I have a lot of thoughts of where to go from here, but thankfully none of them include giving up. I know we can do this, we just need more time to get us both on the same page and a better base of fitness.

27 thoughts on “FGF Starter Trail: The Elimination, Part 2”

  1. If anyone else gives you a tough time about that show jumping round I’ll also haunt them.

    Ok, so things weren’t perfect At every single fence, but you guys worked together through a bigger course than you’ve ever done to get each other home safely! Mate!! 6 months ago could you even think about doing one of those fences? Now you’ve done a whole course!

    But even more importantly look how huge a change in your relationship! You should be so proud and take the rest as the learning experience that comes competing young horses because every competition can give you a different persona until they settle down


  2. What Eventerinprogress said. 6 months ago you wouldn’t have attempted any of these fences let alone an entire course. So keep that in mind. I know I keep repeating myself, but you have come SO FAR. So, don’t be so hard on yourself. We all have days where we make mistakes, where we question our decisions/choices/judgement, but horses are very forgiving or none of us would be alive right now. Seriously. After all, they try to kill themselves daily, we get to make mistakes too considering the amount we spend on vet bills fixing their mistakes in judgement!

    Next lesson, next ride, next show, you have something to improve upon. If we waited until we were perfect, there would be nothing to improve upon. And honestly? The biggest thing I see is he’s tired. So, if he’s less tired next time? Imagine how GOOD that will be? Yes you may have felt over faced, but you RODE vs curling up in a ball. It’s always better to sit back and ride and you did that. That shows how much you have improved. And, Eeyore gets to take some of the blame himself. If he hadn’t been such a brat lately, no one would have felt he needed all that extra work… Don’t shoulder the whole thing. He can take his part. He’s shown you in the past that he’s a little extra at places and jumping and all that. So… Just putting that out there.


    1. We have lots to improve on. He was exhausted and I really think that course would have gone a lot different if he had been his typical gung ho self instead of sucking back and asking to stop. I’m not bold enough as a rider yet to make up for him when he decides he wants to go back to his stall and that’s something I need to work on too.


  3. I’ll haunt people as well if they give you a hard time lol. The videos didn’t show up for me, but Eeyore really was a Very Good Boy and tried very hard for you. And, reading what Eventerinprogress and Sarah said – complete ditto on everything they mentioned. Especially since you RODE that dressage test, and you RODE that jump course. There are still a lot of good positives about the show 🙂 ❤


    1. Hmmm…I don’t know why they didn’t come up. I’m the least tech savvy person ever. He truly was a Good Boy. A tired boy but a good boy which is why I didn’t punish him for saying no on xc. He really didn’t have it in him to do it and asking him to didn’t seem very fair

      Liked by 1 person

  4. oh man, idk if you remember charlie’s first season, but we kinda wildly swung back and forth between the lower levels. like, from one week to the next we’d enter the 2’3, then 18″, then 2’3 again. bc…. damn, esp at 2’3 you can see a WIDE RANGE for how the level looks and feels to a green horse and rider. for instance, the 2’3 at Fair Hill is basically BN-lite and is for riders prepping the move up to BN; whereas the 2’3 at Loch Moy was extremely inviting for riders new to that height. so yea… it’s really hard knowing what to expect at 2’3, esp if you’re not super familiar with a venue.

    i think you guys did great tho. and to be perfectly honest, watching that show jumping video, i think you’re way closer than you felt in that moment. i bet if Eeyore felt less tired and more forward to the fences, or if your prep had been more consistent, you’d have felt like that course was perfectly within your skillset instead of overfacing you. you guys are definitely getting it!!!


    1. What Emma said. Don’t be so hard on yourself (seriously stop and let it go) and you didn’t kill his confidence. He said no because he was tired not because he was over faced. Add pace to the stadium and it would look fine. That’s how close you are.


    2. I know that had he been his typical self the course would have gone a lot better. I still think it caught us both off guard and we weren’t quite ready for it but we did manage to clear them all so maybe next time he won’t care as much.

      It’s hard to judge a venue without being there. I had wanted to do 18” but I had done that with Gem in 2016 and it wasn’t set to 18”. It was more like 12” and mostly cross rails. I want more than cross rails I can walk over but I’m not sure we are ready for what we encountered either. It’s hard to feel stuck between levela


  5. I’ll be another voice saying you’re being too hard on yourself. First of all, the stadium wasn’t THAT bad. A few less than stellar moments sure but there was a lot of good, too. You rode, and you never got flustered or gave up. Your horse kept trying for you no matter what. Those are both fantastic takeaways – you can see the building blocks of a real partnership (which, spoiler alert, has nothing to do with being perfect). As for the rest: you learned. Sometimes we learn the hard way, that’s part of the deal. You’re very new to this, and you’re still learning about what this particular horse needs in order to be prepared for a show. So this time you learned a few things about what not to do. That’s how you get experience, and I’d bet my last dollar that you won’t make the same miscalculation again. From that perspective, it’s a win.

    I don’t think you’ve killed his confidence or anything that terrible. Give him a few days, let his body get happy again, and then take him schooling so that you guys can both get this day out of your minds. He’ll be fine. He might not have been if you’d forced the issue and beaten him around, but you listened to him and were smart enough to call it a day. I doubt he’ll even remember anything negative about that. Don’t beat yourself up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I for sure won’t make the same mistake. I learned that I’d rather have too much horse under me at a show than not enough. That’s a feeling I hope to not experience again.

      I gave him all the pats and good boys when we walked off that course. I didn’t want him to think he was being punished for being honest about saying no.

      The course felt worse than it looks on video and I really need to learn to get more power under me but again he was fried and didn’t have a turbo mode that day


  6. Fill can be really deceiving it happens to me too – I go to a horse show and think “Did they set this for 3′? It looks 3’6″ with fill” but it’s actually 3′ my eye had just not gotten accustomed to it. The best thing to do IME is to go watch a rounds at a height bigger than the one you are competing at and then come back and watch some rounds at your own height and then viola it becomes adjusted (if it is at all possible at Trials and 3DE shows… since my experience is H/J where there are a million rounds at a million heights.)

    Sorry it was a tough show 😦 don’t beat yourself up over it, we all start clawing our way from somewhere and it can be so scrappy sometimes, but scrappiness is a good quality!


    1. The height issue really was me not being prepared to see it. All venues I’ve been to are generally very soft at the 18” division making most of them closer to 12”. Then I show up to a real 2’3”, hear rumors it’s BN, and then my mind freaked a little. I was proud of myself to not wimping out though


  7. I’m glad you shared your stadium video. I loved your “woo” over some of the fences and beamed at your enthusiastic “good boy!” Those fences are a big step up and you got over them all, even if it wasn’t perfect. That’s more than many people can do. I love your attitude after the fact and the fact that you’re so willing to listen to your horse and learn from your experiences. I would have wimped out if the fences were much bigger than I was expecting, so you have a lot to be proud of.


    1. Oh I’m embarrassingly vocal during jumper rounds. It keeps me breathing and when I’m nervous I get major verbal diarrhea so it channels that. Eeyore was trying so hard and I knew I was riding sorta crappy so I wanted to praise him as much as possible


  8. I think sometimes we have to learn from our miscalculations, which is exactly what this was for you! So what if it wasn’t perfect or you anticipated him needing MUCH more prep than he actually needed. The fact that you are out there TRYING is amazing, as I don’t think you started this season even believing that you would make it to this point. 😉 Onward and upward, girl!


  9. I’m with everyone else. I am so impressed with your riding of Eeyore in the stadium round. I loved how you regrouped and kept going. I agree that he looked a bit sore and tired. I won’t repeat what everyone else said- it’s great advice.

    you should be proud!


  10. If anyone has said anything to you that’s anything less than encouraging, I’ll haunt them also 😉

    I know the feeling all too well, when only 50% of the team is in it to win it, and it sucks but it def doesn’t mean anything in the long run. Also, you haven’t really taken him to too many shows so fine-tuning pre-rides and all that is going to take time to get used to. You’re still data collecting, just like we all have to!

    And, uh, your SJ round was def not as bad as you made it out to be 🙂


  11. I’m late to this party, but I just wanna chime in and say how impressed I am with your stadium round. Your strength in the saddle is so evident over each jump. It looked like a push ride, and in my experience, those are SO much harder than pull rides. You did a beautiful job riding the horse you had that day. Bravo.


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