A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: A Twisted Version of Whack-a-Mole

Welcome to A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: A Prelim Mom’s Journey to Starter. I would like to invite you to follow along as I attempt to ride in my first … and only event, Jump Start Horse Trials in Lexington, KY. Sit down, pour a glass of wine (enjoy an extra one for me as I have all but given it up) and watch it unfold. Will I make it? Who knows! Should I even be attempting this? Who cares! There are no baby steps to be taken as we are short on time, but my not so trusty steed and I are taking it day by day. Come along for the ride!

Monday, August 28

Romeo is back on a daily dose of Previcox to help with any 17-year old thoroughbred aches and pains. Me? I am upping the Tylenol and calling in a muscle relaxer.

After he ate his breakfast, I found Romeo lying down in his stall. OMG! What’s wrong? Are you colicking? In all of the years we have had him, he has never laid down in his stall. I quickly took a picture and sent it to Em. “He just looks tired, Mom,” was her response. Sure enough, he popped up and actually looked happy to see me.

He patiently let me clean him up and we headed to Yellow Wood for our first real jumping lesson. We entered the arena to warm up. Another lady of “maturity” was riding her horse. She asked me if I had been riding long. “Sort-of. Sort-of not.” I tried to explain what I was doing and she grinned with a look of good luck with that.”  Later, I would see her sitting to the side watching my lesson…out of awe for my raw talent? I doubt it: probably more for a good laugh!

After a successful warm-up, it was time to get down to business.

Me: All I really want to do is jump about 8 consecutive jumps and see if I can get through it.

Erika: Let’s do some cavaletti work instead.

Boo hiss. That was no fun. I needed to redeem myself after that refusal yesterday. Bring on the jumps! I did as I was instructed and we jumped the cavalettis. We weren’t half bad! Other than some wrong lead issues and cross-cantering, we were ready to move on.

Erika: Start with this cross rail and canter down the line to the vertical.

Me: Why do I have to canter? I am planning on trotting in between the jumps.

Erika: You need to be able to canter in case you can’t get the trot back.

FINNNEEEE. As I rounded the corner, in what I thought was the correct posture and pace, I felt all was well. I’m still not sure how I really wasn’t prepared but apparently Romeo never saw the jump coming … that is, until we were directly in front of it. He stopped. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?!?! I got in one successful smack with the crop before I lost my grip and it went flying. In my rage, I continued to smack Romeo’s hind end with my hand. I’m sure it was like watching a twisted version of Whack-a-Mole!  I let him have it pretty hard. He bucked a few times, wheeled around and let me know he didn’t appreciate my correction. After the dust settled, I looked at Erika who was biting her lip to conceal a smile.

Erika: Ummm. Yea. That wasn’t his fault.

Me: Wasn’t his fault? What the heck?

The fury raging between my ears was so loud that I’m not quite certain if I learned anything about what I did wrong. Although I’m sure Erika will read this entry and we will revisit the situation.

Erika: Do it again.

We made our second approach. This time Romeo knew what I wanted.  Posture, eyes, heels, leg … JUMP DAMN IT!  Well, Romeo was now convinced the jump was on fire, had trolls living underneath or was the opening to the pits of hell. He jumped it but at mock speed and scope of a Training level fence. I held on but that was about it.

Erika:  Again.

Erika: Again.

Erika: Again.

You get the picture. The wheels were fast coming off the bus. There were no more refusals but the intensity was not coming back down.  We moved to another fence and set up trot poles before and after: this tactic seemed to help. We made it back around to the fire breathing dragon jump. It was a bit more controlled but still too much of everything.

After completing this sequence at least 100 more times, my first jumping lesson was over. Something tells me we will have more refusals but I would like to think I could figure out how to stop them. There is one thing I feel confident about; I have a good seat. Add to the list … schedule a massage.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

34 days to Jump Start

Baby Em and Romeo with a refusal at one of their first schooling shows.

Read more on Julie’s blog here

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