A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: Sit Back and Kick. Kick and Sit Back

For the past 40 days over at EN’s Blogger’s Row we’ve been following the adventures of Julie Maner, mom to Prelim eventer Emily who decided to attempt an event herself riding Emily’s old horse Romeo. The goal: Jump Start H.T. in Lexington, Kentucky. After trials and tribulations, she made it to the event — and now she’s sharing the story of how it went! If you’re just tuning in, catch up on previous posts from Julie’s blog here

Photo by Kathy Pate.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life and the procedure. The process is its own reward.” — Amelia Earhart

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Phase Two: Stadium

There were 15 riders in my division Friday. By Saturday morning, one rider had scratched. I was tickled with my 40.0 dressage score, which put me in 11th place out of 14 riders. Now, I know I said I wasn’t going to be competitive. All I wanted to do was complete all three phases. It’s a bucket list thing. But … the top 10 riders get ribbons. That might be nice …

After dressage, Jen and I rode back to the barn breathing a sigh of relief. This is really happening! Time was of the essence as my ride time for stadium was 10:33. I sipped on a water and watched as Em started switching tack. Paper tigers, paper tiger, paper tigers. Coach Erika would be a few minutes late to my warm-up since she was working with other riders. Em was to get me started.

We headed into the stadium warm up arena and were quickly stopped by the officiant. “You need an armband.” Crud. Em ran back to the barn but couldn’t find it. I had left it in the camper; it’s hard to think of everything at 5:30 AM! Since there was not enough time to get back to the campground, and the Big Blue Tack Trailer was literally next to our barn, she bought a new one and ran it to me. By the time we had it all sorted, Erika had arrived.

This warm-up arena was less crowded than the dressage warm up, but a nice fall breeze had come up and Romeo was feeling fresh … a bit more than I wanted. We popped over a few jumps and his excitement seemed to increase with the wind. After I slammed on the breaks after a jump and gave him the “what for,” he settled down. Erika took the opportunity and said it was time to head to the in-gate. We walked to the arena. Paper tigers, paper tigers, paper tigers. 

Erika: Sit up and kick. Kick and sit up.

Me: Sit up and kick. Kick and sit up.

And with that, I entered the arena. I circled just as Erika had showed me. I heard the whistle (not to be confused with any other whistles) and the announcer say my name and Prepster’s (Romeo’s registered name). We trotted toward the first jump. It had butterflies on either side; very appropriate. SIT UP, KICK!! We cleared it! Romeo didn’t hesitate at all!

Photo by Kathy Pate.

I gathered my thoughts and got the trot back as we headed down the rail to jump number two. Heels down, eyes up, KICK! We were over two and cantered to three! On purpose! No problems! My confidence was building.

But jump four was a tight roll back near the rail, so I decided to trot again. Jump four was behind us.

We cantered toward the fifth. Trot! Trot, damnit, trot! Nope. He cantered. Screw it. Sit back and KICK! Clear five!

Photo by Dale Duckett.

Again, the rail and quick turn allowed me to regain my composure. Sit back, KICK! Then the smiles came, we were over jump six (in a not-so-pretty fashion!)

Romeo was more than eager! He was having a great time, never really looking at anything and completely forgiving my rookie mistakes. We cantered out of six and from there, I abandoned the trot and went for it. Barely avoiding a display of hay bales and flowers, we took jump seven. We weren’t exactly in the center of the jump, but Romeo didn’t seem to mind.

Photo by Kathy Pate.

I completely lost balance on the hard turn to the right toward fence eight and had to laugh as I almost toppled out of the saddle. ONE MORE! SIT BACK, KICK!

And like that, we were done! Eight jumps and no refusals or rails. (SQUEAL!) Thanks to me trotting so much, we accrued five time penalties but I wasn’t there to be competitive, right? Clearly, we need to work on our equitation but there will be time for that later. I was grateful to crumble the paper tigers and defeat both Rome’s and my insecurities.

Photo by Kathy Pate.

I’m not certain my feet touched the ground the rest of the day! We enjoyed lunch and afterwards walked the cross country course with family and friends by my side. There were lots of different kinds of jumps; certainly, I had never jumped anything like them … except for the logs! A quick glance over the map and I realized there were no hay bale jumps. Well that was an unnecessary exercise but hopefully it was a confidence builder for me. Honestly, I wasn’t too fazed. I had slayed my fears in stadium; I could do this too.

Time to walk the course again with Richard, Erika and Val; this time with intention and purpose. On our way to the start box, I looked at Erika. “OK, I do want to be competitive.” I had moved from 11th to 9th place after stadium. “7th place gets a purple ribbon. I want a purple ribbon.” I’m not certain if the look she gave me was one of disbelief or “Uh-huh, I thought so” but we walked it with the intention of being competitive. I tried not to skip with joy!

Her biggest piece of advice was to forgo the water. We had an option at the water complex: trot/canter through it and deal with a really spooky in, or trot alongside it and jump a log. “If you want to be competitive, don’t do the water. It’s not inviting. The safe bet is to take the road and jump the log.” Duly noted.

We wrapped up the day with dinner at the campground with the team, family and friends. I was in bed by 10:30.

Photo by Kathy Pate.

The rest is merely tenacity, the rest is merely tenacity, the rest is merely tenacity…