This weekend Cisco and I braved a very soggy day to make my it around a challenging Tapole horse trial. No big deal. Cisco had Phoenix and Nico for company who both crushed their pre-training and entry levels respectively.
My ride times started and finished before either Nico or Phoenix started so the day seemed to fly by. Saturday night lovely Kate braided Cisco for me while Nicole (both from Hunter Pace 1.0) spent the evening with me cleaning tack and giving me moral support.
It rained Saturday into Sunday and I checked the weather at 2am when I couldn’t sleep. Yep, still calling for rain. It wasn’t raining at the barn when I got there which was helpful to load the ponies in the dark. But it was raining when we arrived at Wits End. Poor Kate was already there and gamely walked me around cross country and stadium. She was so helpful in talking me through it all and telling me which lines between other cross country fences I should take.
When I pulled Cisco off the trailer to tack up she was unimpressed to say the least. I was so excited just to be here and really be doing it! We started over to dressage warm up and we got half way before Cisco decided nope, this doesn’t look like a fun day. My nerves took hold when she tried to drag me back to the trailer and it took Shannon (Cisco’s real mom) to intervene and grab her bridle to take her into the ring. Once we got going Cisco got down to work and only tried the “go home” thing one more time. This time I was able to be a bit braver with her but I still let Shannon lead us down the hill to the dressage ring.
We walked by the judges booth before our test but I guess that wasn’t enough as our first movement of “trot down centre line, walk at X” was a bit creative as Cisco decided this rain and riding thing with now a big box with admirers we just too much. A few interesting turns had me thinking Oh Fuck, I’m going to be kicked out of the dressage ring and the discussion didn’t last too long. I watched the test later and although it was a bit inconsistent I’m really pleased with it. Our 20m circles were nice, we were accurate and had some lovely moments. Our free walk was not ideal, there was just too much to look at!
Ok, dressage is done and on to stadium. Insert gin break here for some liquid courage. With this horse trial being so laid back and Halloween themed, almost everyone else was in the pumpkin jumping class when I was warming up. The course was ready so the judge let me go ahead and not wait for my time. I can’t remember the last times I jumped a whole 10 jumps in a row and I’ve got to say leaning a colourful jumper course was easier than the brown and white hunter courses of my youth! Cisco got many compliments from the judge and ground crew which she ate up before we started.
We had a “creative approach” to jump 4 (jump 4 was not nice to us all day). She drifted to the right hard but I didn’t let her go past the standard and made her walk over it sideways, which she obliged and avoided getting faults for! We went down the line no problem and then turned for jump 7, a brown waterwheel standard jump with some interesting big wavy plants in front. It was just past the in gate so Cisco decided to try to go home. A few tries and steps backwards she gave in and we popped over it and finished the course uneventful of slow. Thank goodness they don’t time Tadpole!
And now onto the good stuff. I switched up our soggy saddle pad and took off my rain proof jacket since the sun was making an appearance. I kept the warm up short and Cisco got into the zone while we waited. I went down the hill to the start box and I actually wasn’t nervous at all! We set of at a good trot and I let her take me to the first jump at a nice canter. Back to trot. We’re just taking it easy. Two and three were easy peasy, I kept Shannon’s voice in my head, wide hands, lean back. She’s going over, under or through every jump, no giving up.
Jump 4. It was down a hill beside the jump judges pick up truck. Cisco started “noping” and turning for home a good 8 strides away and tried to go back up the hill to home. A very short chat that yes in fact she was going to take us over the fence and on down the hill to the hay bales with t xx a nice log in front. We didn’t get penalties for jump 4 since I hadn’t presented her when she started trying to go home, lucky break.
The hay bales. The discussion at this fence was longer but it didn’t even cross my mind to give up. The horse at the top of the hill above us was having none of his jump and I think he was telling Cisco there were monsters up there so don’t come up. I heard Shannon’s voice again, wide hands, longer reins and we popped over finally. Definitely got 20 faults there and I cantered always wondering if we’d been eliminated but I guess they took pity on me and called it one refusal.
The next jump was a good size (to me) and I put my leg on and actually asked her to canter. I knew there was a big hill after a sharp right turn with a jump on top. All the hours hunter pacing this summer definitely helped because I was not backing off and definitely wasn’t feeling afraid.
Now we were at the top of the hill and a Cisco was figuring out we were CROSS COUNTRY AND JUMPING ALL THE THINGS! I let her cover some ground before we trotted the long approach to the biggest fence. I looked past it and she carried my bum over that one and the next one. Then we ventured down the big hill and I let her canter up the next hill to the tiny birch poles. From that up hill on I was just holding on and steering. We had one more and I couldn’t stop her. I wouldn’t exactly call it a gallop but it was the coolest feeling to jump out of stride like that to the last one.
I overheard someone around me saying they had issues until they just followed us over a fence. Look at us being the leaders for once.
I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I would get when I got back to the trailer. Cisco got all the treats and a cooler on and got to hang out on the trailer while Nico and Phoenix took their turn. I celebrated with a gin and tonic and finally let it sink in. Although it was just the tiniest tadpole course it was a huge accomplishment for me. I know Cisco was well capable and a different rider might not have had the issues we did but my confidence certainly grew throughout the day.
In the end we got 4th place out of 7. OK fine, 4th out of 4, the other 3 were eliminated or retired but AT LEAST I DIDN’T GET ELIMINATED! I’ll take that as a win any day. It was so much fun I’m truly sad it’s the very end of the season and I can’t go out again in a few weeks and try again.
I’ve leaned so much this last year, I pushed my nerves to their limit. My good friend who has known me almost all my life told me after I went cross country schooling for the first time that it was literally a dream come true. And Sunday was even better. I seriously doubted my ability to ride some days over the last years especially when I had Solomon or I would be on a horse when they spooked and I literally couldn’t get over it to keep riding.
My story and life lesson to you is if you want something bad enough, you can do it. I mean, maybe not win the lottery or get that job that you’re not qualified for but you know what I mean. If there is a will there is a way and this nervous nelly is proof!!!
I am indebted to Shannon my coach, Laura McKinnon my previous coach who set goals a for me to be successful in the dressage ring with Eddie when my fear of even riding outside would make me panic. It takes a community in this crazy eventing world and I wouldn’t be here without my barn family past and present. Who knows what we’ll do next year?