A coworker innocently gave me a book of 50 waterfalls in SC, southwestern NC and eastern GA for Christmas in 2013. The following Thanksgiving I started a tradition of choosing one and finding it in time to get to my mom’s for dinner.
This year we headed out to find Pigpen and Licklog falls, two falls in close proximity to each other and in side creeks that feed into the gorgeous Chattooga River.
The weather was gorgeous as always. Low 40s and brisk to start and climbing to the low 60s to finish.
Over the last several years it has been interesting to see how our little group of hikers has changed. Dogs have come and gone, last year my mom joined us and this year we have M.
It’s a tradition that I really hope we continue to do though eventually we will have to get creative and camp the night before once we run out of those within 2 hours of our farm.
We learned the first year to always pack Wyatt a full change of clothes and a towel as that kid refuses to stay out of the falls. I don’t mind. It always makes me smile.
I think M enjoyed the tradition as well. She was certainly impressed with the beauty of the falls and the river.
Our only issue was helping Waggy make the steep climb back up from the bottom of Licklog Falls. The book had described it as a steep scramble and they were not joking.
Dusty waited at the bottom and then attempted to get Waggy up. Even with four legs she never really understood how to make them all function together and it wasn’t any better missing one. So Dusty picked her up and scaled the hill carrying her.
We headed back to the truck with the sun warming our backs and my heart full for another year.
Cross country ran immediately after stadium. I grabbed a quick drink of water and then headed straight over to warm up over the tiny house they had available. Eeyore popped over it without fuss, so we headed to the start box with 35 seconds to go.
I’ve never been counted down before and thought it would make me want to vomit. In truth, I sauntered in at the count of 10, circled at a walk and then trotted out without a care in the world. I was ready. I was more than ready.
Eeyore popped into a canter away from the start box and we headed to fence 1 like we have done this before. He was such a champ and so game to be out running and jumping that it made my heart swell and a grin split my face.
After fence one it was a longish canter to the next field with my next fence and Eeyore was still game to move forward as we made our way to the cabin at 2. Dusty was on picture duty and with the course being so spread out we had to make an executive decision on what fences to get. I wanted the start, water and end. In retrospect I really wish he had skipped the water and went 1 to 2 to 5 but oh well. He really busted his butt to run to the water after fence 1.
After fence 2 we ran into an issue. Eeyore was done. It was an insanely long canter through a pasture which housed a bunch of fences for the other divisions and then down a long sandy lane and he quit on me. I really wish there had been more tadpole fences to keep his interest because he really didn’t see the reason behind working that hard to run away from all the other horses when there wasn’t anything to even jump.
By the time we were half way down that sandy lane I was pony club kicking him to keep him in a trot. Fence 3 with a nice log that caught his attention and he picked up a canter right before it but it was a lot of work on my part. There was no getting in 2 point and coasting.
Dusty missed fence 3 behind the trees but if you listen with the volume up you can hear the jump judges making fun of our sloth like progress into the field and down to the water.
I really wanted a picture of us cantering through it. It is one of two bucket list pictures I want on cross country. It was not meant to be this day. We came over the log at 3 and slowly cantered towards the water. We came to the water and nearly slammed on the breaks, then entered and thought about drinking, but I kept his butt moving through and onward.
There were a few BN jumps I really liked the looks of after the water but once there I had no horse under me. He was still game to jump what I put in front of him but that pesky little incident at FENCE where he just would not move between fences came back to haunt us yet again. I made the decision to keep his feet moving and get this course done knowing that what I had left was going to be really hard terrain. Its so odd because generally my attention is spent trying to slow his roll yet out on cross country he acts like a sloth stuck in peanut butter on a cold day. My brain can’t reconcile the two.
We got out of that field and it became a war of wills to keep him moving. He wanted to walk. WALK. On cross country?!? WTH horse?!?! In dressage all you wanted to do was be a race horse, then in stadium you took the bit and ran off and now, now that you finally get to gallop to your little heart is full of it, you ask to walk?
It was partly fitness related. We had done a lot that weekend and he was feeling it but mostly it was attitude and a whole lot of not seeing the point of continuing on when nobody could see him, he was all alone in the world and this was starting to feel less like fun and more like work to the Orange Butthead.
Finally, we made it through the hills and around a sharp curve to see fence 5 which was a log shared with BN. You can hear me on the video talking to him and nearly pleading with him to just keep going.
When we passed through the finish flags I was elated and a tad defeated. I was so so so proud of us. We did it. We completed our first horse trial and all our hard work paid off. But also…that xc run sucked. The fences were fine. No issue. But the in between? I’m telling you all that when Eeyore isn’t on board with the plan it sucks and he was certainly not on board with that course.
Trainer AB came over and gave me a big hug for completing. She saw where we came from and witnessed my first show and she was beaming like she was my own mom (who by the way called me a loser for coming in last so…). Her end analysis was that Eeyore has got to learn to quit being an asshat (ok thats my word) in warm up and learn to conserve energy for later. Seriously, we worked hard to get him to stop being a turd in warm up and it was all wasted energy.
I have so many thoughts and over arching opinions on this show and how it went that I’ll save for another day. I will leave you with this though. Upon getting back to the barn and getting Eeyore cooled off and settled so I could pack up and leave Wyatt looked at me and asked:
Mom, can we go to a real horse show now?
Way to keep me humble kiddo. Of course this was after he had already told me “that looks way better mom” when I changed from dressage clothes to my jumping outfit and then when someone called me badass for sleeping in a tent “she called you a badass? I’m shocked”
After dressage I had just shy of an hour before stadium and this is where my time management wasn’t so hot. I went back to the barn and got Eeyore untacked and settled in his stall to dunk his hay to his heart’s content. Meanwhile I changed into my jumping shirt and vest so I could go straight over to xc after stadium. And then I sorta had no idea when to get him tacked back up and head to stadium warm up.
I knew I wanted to get him over a few fences but I also knew that he was breathing a little harder than I’d have liked after our hard dressage warm up and the test. As usual I got on way too early and then ended up sitting on him forever waiting for them to reset stadium for my division. Trainer met me at warm up again but didn’t want me to start riding him until the first person in my division went which meant a lot of standing around.
We warmed up over the small cross rails and one vertical they had set up in an L configuration turning the four fences into a small course. He was game and very happy that this whole weekend wasn’t flat work only. After more waiting, it was finally our turn to head in.
So…..I made a really big error right off the bat. I walked in when the steward told me to but then Wyatt started talking to me at the rail and I got distracted and didn’t hear the horn. Thankfully they realized I was looking confused and honked it again because had I been eliminated for that I wouldn’t ever live it down.
Once I had Eeyore pointed to fence 1 he was on fire. He decided that he had this figured out and took off. Not sure where the energy boost came from but after fence 4 he felt like he was due a good gallop and I had to yank hard to get him turned to the bank.
I made him trot the bank to get his head screwed back on and he handled it no issues at all. The horse loves banks. Really the most fun I had all weekend was doing that bank up, down then fence 6 combo. It rode really well and was a complete blast.
He thought he was the bomb after that and once again snatched the bit and took off after 6 and 7. It was a sharp left turn to the oxer at 8 and as we left 7 I really thought we were going to blow right past the turn. He ran through my half halt so the Big Orange Butthead got brought to a trot to turn the lights back on in his head.
The oxer at 8 was no issue at all but then we came around to 9 which went right by the dressage arena he previously had zero interest in looking at when we were actually in there. All of a sudden it was the most interesting thing on the planet and he stopped paying attention to what was in front of him.
This led to our first rail on course. Womp. Had we even had a hope of not being in last after that dressage test, we certainly were after that rail came down. It did serve the purpose of waking his butt back up as 9b came up and he cleared that and cantered to the end without an issue.
I left shaking my head at that darn careless rail, but Trainer AB shrugged it off saying that he is typically pretty careful and was distracted so don’t even worry about it. She was really happy to see him say yes to everything, praised my decision to trot where I did due to his behavior, and was thrilled that we did the bank. She sent me off to cross country warm up with a smile.
Do you want to know the quickest way to piss off a very toddler like Appy? Ride him three times in under 24 hours with no jumps in sight. Whoa boy did he get mad at me Saturday! It was funny but maybe not the best attitude to enter a dressage arena with.
With all morning Saturday to kill before my ride at 12:44 pm, I walked my xc course again, watched show mates in the earlier divisions, pre rode at 8 am and read a book all before tacking up for my official warm up at 12:15 pm. The whole day I was a little concerned about his enthusiasm levels knowing it was going to be a lot of cantering out on that course. I found it a bit tricky to navigate the pre ride and warm up to get him supple and responsive yet not over worked. Of course Eeyore didn’t help me out at all being a raging lunatic for the morning pre ride and then starting the warm up the same. He eventually came down and realized the work was just beginning but by that point I think he was over the entire day. I don’t know. It will make more sense when we get to the other phases.
Trainer AB had a lot to do that morning with at least 1 rider in every division (except prelim) and ride times all over the place. Somehow she magically appeared right next to me in dressage warm up right as I was ready to throw my hands in the air and call the whole thing quits. Eeyore was still in the mind set that he could only canter or walk and with a lot of the test at the trot, I was worried we’d be a train wreck. Trainer AB set me on a circle and called me out for letting him pull me down when he got flat and rushed. I needed to focus on sitting back, remaining strong in my core and being a more proactive rider. At one point she commented “He really thinks he has more of a say in how and where he is going and we need to change that” By the end of warm up I had a much more supple horse who could trot and bend again.
And then I threw everything she had said to me out the window and stopped riding completely the moment I entered at A. Ugh.
In retrospect I think my attitude of “I only want to complete” backfired. I set that as my motto so I wouldn’t allow myself to take it too seriously and get all nervous but in the end it only served to give me the leeway to not take it seriously enough and ride like crap. Next time I’m going to fix that. Anyway.
We entered at A and trotted down the center line to the weird bending line to M. I think I held my breath the entire time and finally let it out once we began tracking left. Of course the moment we were along that far short side, someone was jumping their stadium round right next to us and Eeyore found that way more entertaining than anything inside the dressage area. I should have forced his attention back inside but instead I hung on like a blind monkey and let him do whatever he wanted as long as he stayed in the darn trot. That garnered us a “counterbent” and a “still counterbent” comment on those marks.
We kept it together to E, made the 20 m circle stiff as a board on both our parts and looking like we hadn’t just spent the last 3 months on bending, then rejoined the long side heading towards the first canter transition. In my head I kept a silent whisper of “please don’t buck, please don’t buck” going as I at least remembered to slow down his outside before asking. Thankfully he picked up the left lead without complaint and we managed a motorcycle lean 10 m trapezoid at A. But hey, he cantered, he was on the left lead and he came back to the trot when I asked so I was thrilled with that.
The walk transition is his favorite thing ever, so that wasn’t a big deal and he gave maybe a pretend stretch in the free walk. We never practice that so I didn’t really care. Once tracking right I made zero attempt to collect him up in fear he would break to the trot as he was getting a bit pissy and over the fourth flat ride of the weekend at this point. The judge saw it and remarked “unclear trans” Yeah. I know.
The right hand side of the test comes up a lot faster with trot at K and then an immediate circle at E and canter in the corner. I was a bit tense going into this hoping he would keep his marbles with all the questions being thrown so quickly. He did though and I was proud of him for keeping his cool. His right lead was softer than the left which is not typical for us and while the circle was still small and erratic, we made it through without breaking to trot or leaving the arena. Then it was trotting all the way around before the final center line and salute which even as I was doing it I knew was off line and then I completely blanked on where G actually was and randomly halted. The judge wasn’t very pleased with us.
I exited the arena and was really proud of Eeyore. He had stepped up when it mattered and while he was tense, rushed and distracted I also didn’t actually ride much in an attempt to get by. I was relieved to be done with dressage and talked with Trainer AB as we put his bell boots back on and headed to the barn for the hour before stadium. her end analysis was that she was super proud of us, the geometry could use some work but when he gets flat and rushed its hard to really tell where we are going to go and that I should be really happy in that atmosphere that we got our leads and did all that asks when we needed to. The rest can get polished up over the winter.
I went back happy, relieved and with a tired and sweaty horse under me that still had a lot of work to do. I had no clue what my score was and didn’t really care. It was on to the fun part!
I’m sure you want to see the score sheet. We got mostly 6s. The lowest was 5.5 for both our canter circles with the comment “small”, but I was really proud we got a 7.0 for our right lead canter transition because historically he bucks into that one so yay! The only other 7 was in the working trot after the left lead canter circle with the comment of “active”. All collectives were a 6.0. I do need a little help here bloggerland. I ended with a 38.9 which was dead last and whatever. But um how? I’m not arguing the scoring at all here. I really don’t understand when everything is in whole or half numbers how you get a .9. I’d have thought it would have been a 39 then. I’m sure it is a math thing and math makes my head hurt so can someone briefly explain to me the math behind this?
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.
I’ve been obsessively stalking the farm’s website like a mad person for days now.
Finally they posted ride times just now and eeeek!! It is real and I am SO SO SO SO SO SO SO very excited to finally after 3 long years be heading to my first ever horse trial.
This week has completely fallen apart on me. I gave Eeyore Sunday off after the marathon lesson on Saturday. Monday is Cub Scout night so I never ride. Tuesday the farrier came and its probably just me but I never ride the day the farrier comes in case the horse is a bit sore from all that pounding and trimming. Wednesday I swore I was going to ride but then I got word that I PASSED MY FREAKING BOARDS and am now a Diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Medicine and will not have to take another damn boards test until 2029 and dammit I wanted to celebrate so we went out. Tonight we have a dinner scheduled for business purposes but I don’t care if it is midnight when I get home, that horse is getting ridden tonight and then again tomorrow morning before I load up and head to the facility.
I had originally debated not going down Friday so I didn’t have to stress about the Orange Butthead being stalled so much, but then I got offered a shared hotel room and the thought of not having to wake up at 4 am and being super stressed about loading and driving down won out.
I’m heading out tomorrow to hopefully arrive around 2 pm and get settled in. Trainer will be there around that same time and we will walk our course and decide which BN fences she wants me to add. They have added one fence to my course making it a total of 5, all are labeled as “logs” except one has a barn option and another a water option which I’m pretty positive she will have me take. Other than that we shall see how it goes!!!!!
Come what may I am so freaking excited to even be going, to see my name with ride times, to put all our work this summer and fall to action. We may do amazing or we may crash and burn. Either way my only goal is to HAVE FUN.
After the dressage lesson, Trainer AB pointed me up the trail that led to the top of the cross country facility. Eeyore and I marched off across the Pacolet River and up the mountain with a vague idea of how to get there. Trainer took her car over and we would be meeting up with another rider who is also going to the show and is running BN.
I’m pretty sure that when we popped out of the woods onto the mountain top with wild wind gusts Eeyore just called bullshit on this weird day. He had a decent temper tantrum about it and I hopped off to let him graze a little and chill out. After I got my vest on, he had settled down and I did a very quick w/t/c warm up before we got jumping.
Our talk back at her farm had Trainer warn me that they had removed pretty much all the smaller jumps for the show they had recently run and that we might not do a whole lot except play in the water and the tiny bank. I was fine with that though truth be told I was a little disappointed. After our last cross country outing had him bucking on the back side and me flipping out, I really needed a good confidence boosting outing.
Trainer pointed Other Rider (OR) at a BN table for her first jump. They ran out to the right and came again to clear it. Then she looked at me:
AB: ok Sara, your turn
Me: My turn for what?
AB: the table.
Me: uh….that’s bigger than 18” and I’m good.
AB: Do it. It doesn’t look big to him. You’ve jumped this height before. Do it.
With a big old gulp I pointed him at it and we ran out to the right. Trainer said I did the exact thing OR had. Both our horses had been looking left but bulging right so we both made the mistake of pulling on the right rein with no right leg. She had me come again and we went over with no issue outside of my heart being in my throat.
Up next she had OR take the table the other direction and add a bending 5 strides to a novice sized round top. I watched. When AB turned to me and said “your turn” I about shat myself. “That’s bigger than the last one!”
“Oh I hoped you wouldn’t notice. He is fine. He doesn’t think it looks big. He loves this. Go.”
And go we went. I got left behind a tad but other than that it felt amazing. This horse guys. He is the best angry Appy on the planet.
We moved to the water and I was not shocked when she pointed out the BN tootsie roll leading out of the water. OR went over and then AB turned to me with “this one is smaller than that roll top so you aren’t allowed to complain.” She knows me too well.
Eeyore was on fire though and didn’t put a foot wrong. He trotted through the water and up over the out fence without hesitation. He got all the pats and all the good boys I could squeeze in before we were off to other things.
It was time for course work. Her biggest thing she wanted to accomplish was simulating the show in that once there we won’t be able to school individual elements and Eeyore has to learn to go with it and read the jumps as we get to them.
To that effect she laid out a course for me. A BN coop between two trees, up hill to a starter green bench that I had failed to ever get Gem over after multiplied outings and attempts and that gave me nightmares, up hill to the BN table, 5 bending strides to the N rolltop then all the way up to the starter up bank.
The jumps were surprisingly fine. Eeyore was in the mood to say yes and was having a lot of fun doing so. One massive hole in our training showed up though.
Eeyore is lazy. He had already worked hard and we were going up a giant ass hill. After every single fence he called it quits and tried to either walk or plain stop. It took some embarrassing pony club kicks to keep his big orange butt moving to the next fence and we sorta zig zagged along a little drunkenly as we went. I think it’s the nature of the group xc school we have always done where it has been go jump a jump or two then come back and sit. I dunno but darn that was hard!
AB stressed the importance of me landing and kicking on and we went back down to do it again. It went better the next time though still slloooooowwwwww.
Our last exercise was a small three jump course at the top of the hill. Again the stress was on getting him used to going over fences he hasn’t seen before. It was a small starter rolltop (who am I????) to BN bench to starter ramp and he took them all without a fuss. I backed him off the bench pretty badly as benches with all the sharp edges still scare me a bit but we managed.
After that we were cleared to head down the mountain and home. I had gotten exactly the confidence boosting trip I was after. Tackling those BN and one N fence is going to make my tadpole fences look tiny and that is exactly what I want. With the show venue and two phases before xc, I want the height to be a complete non issue for us. We only have 4 fences on xc with the ability to jump any BN fence as well and AB said she is going to point out the ones I need to do during our course walk.
Heading back to the barn on a loose rein I silently checked xc off my list. We may not be perfect but we are capable of this and man am I excited for this show!