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!
September 16, 2017
The last 24 hours have been filled with a whirlwind of emotions. Yesterday, I competed in my first schooling show since I was in the second grade, which means it was also the second one of my entire life.
My biggest problem heading into it wasn’t memorizing my dressage test, nor was it being brave for show jumping. No, you see, when I sweat, my glasses slide off of my nose. You may laugh, but this is a problem for us glasses wearing folk! Richard stopped on the way to the show and purchased a pair of croakies to hold my prescription sunglasses in place. He is the greatest husband in the world. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t tighten enough to secure my glasses. So big decision — do I ride the test constantly pushing my glasses up my nose, or do I take them off and ride in a blur. What the heck … let’s go for blurry!
Moving on, I became a bit paranoid as we drove to the show.
Me: What was that? Someone hit us!
Richard: No one hit us.
Me: Yes they did! What was it then?
Richard: It’s the horse.
Me: He kicked???
My mind races; Romeo never kicks in the trailer. The only time he did that was on our first outing to Erika’s barn years ago. He was colicy when we arrived and was kicking at the trailer. OMG, he’s gonna colic. OMG! OMG! I was quite certain bad things were going to happen. The vet lives right down the street from the show. I wonder if he is in town? Will a shot of banamine do the trick? I have to compete today!!! ARG!!!! We arrive. There is no poop in the trailer! OH NO!!! For my non-horsey friends, pooping on the trailer is an important thing. Poop is good. Always be aware of the poop!
Anyway, he unloaded, looked around and started to graze. I quickly confirm with Erika that if he didn’t feel well, he wouldn’t be eating. “Right?” “Correct,” she says. Em and I tacked up and headed to the dressage warm-up.
Em: You look tense.
I’m not! I am! I was enjoying myself; really, I wasn’t nervous! Trotting around in the circles; enjoying the moment…it was all good. After our ever-so-talented saddle fitter, Kate rode her test, it was my turn. Wow, I get to trot around the outside of the dressage arena just like Em does. I even flashed a big smile as I trotted past Em and Richard! I stopped at the judges and introduced myself, told them it was my first dressage test ever and I couldn’t see or hear. I can’t say they cared but off I went to trot some more. The whistle blew, and I entered the arena.
I’m pretty certain we nailed the center line, but after that I can’t remember much to report. I felt pretty relaxed, playing out each section in my head. I wasn’t looking for bend and connection, which is a good thing because the judges said we had none. What I was going for was accuracy, and other than not using the corners when I should have, we were very accurate! We had another great trot down the final center line and a good, square halt. Smiles from ear to ear, cheers from my favorite groupies, and my first ever dressage test was over!
Moving on to the next phase, show jumping. My “fix it” husband had fashioned a rubber band around by croakies to secure my glasses so at least I could see the jumps clearly! I walked the course with Kate who later quizzed me on the colors of the jumps as well as their locations. Another walk with Erika and it was time to go.
Romeo and I made our way down to warm up. We popped over the cross rails with no problem. I don’t know why, but vertical jumps make me a bit nervous. Erika sensed my tension and started talking me down. Breathe. Breathe. This is what you want to do. Enjoy it. With a deep breath, I headed for the warm-up vertical. I got my distance wrong, but Romeo took a long one for me. As we landed in a heap on the other side, I felt my back snap. Great. Note to self: schedule an extra massage this week.
We rode it a few more times and got it right. That was enough for me. Let’s do this … before I’m paralyzed; both mentally and physically! We approached the arena just in time to see a young girl being led out in tears. See? It could be worse. You aren’t crying … yet.
I entered the arena and told the judge I had never done this before and to let me know when to go. She laughed, and said it was her first time, too. “Why don’t you make one circle around and go?” she suggested. And we did. The video speaks for itself — I had a blast. I could hear Erika giving me instructions (which is allowed at schooling shows), some of which I actually replied to out loud as we popped over the obstacles! Romes was a good boy, getting a bit strong on me once, but never questioning a jump. It wasn’t pretty but we got the job done. I managed a high–five to Erika with trembling hand!
We packed up and were home in plenty of time to watch the Vols throw away the Florida game. Despite the loss for the Vols, I was on cloud 9!
Heels down, eyes up, leg on.
13 days to Jumps Start
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Still on a high from successfully completing a two-phase schooling show yesterday, I excitedly texted Erika asking her what the plan was for the next 10 days! That’s right, it’s closing in on us! I was completely caught off guard by her response.
Erika: Do you know you are on the wait list?
I’ll spare you the narrative here but full-on panic ensued. I registered in plenty of time. I sent the money and forms. How could it be full? It turns out that many of my fellow Road Less Traveled eventing team riders didn’t get in either. Jump Start is a very popular event and basically my hands are tied. The remainder of my day was spent fighting back tears. Every option and scenario playing out in my head as I spent most of the day alone while Richard baled hay. Once home, I laid out my options to him through a trembling bottom lip:
1) I can do nothing and hope and pray I get into Jump Start. I am currently 5th on the list at a packed show, so this feels pretty improbable.
2) Go to Windridge, an event in North Carolina, a week after Jump Start. Although I had my heart set on riding at the majestic Kentucky Horse Park, it’s still an event, and it would still qualify as an accredited horse trials. I could still mark this journey off of my bucket list. Unfortunately, the RLT team wouldn’t be there competing, and Erika can’t go to this event. So, Emily would have to step in as my coach.
3) Register for River Glen, our local event, in November. River Glen has agreed to have a starter division assuming 10 people register for it. But, there are no guarantees that it will happen. What if I put all of my eggs in this basket, and then they end up not having it?
4) I can wait until next May and go to the Kentucky Horse Park. This is really a non-option for me. My back can’t take the regular impact associated with jumping. And sweet Romeo is no spring chicken. I have poured so much $$$ toward keeping my body moving as well as his. Who knows what condition we will be in nine months from now?
Have I mentioned what a great husband I have? He has spent the last four weeks going to get take out, dealing with a messy house and the availability of clean underwear has been limited. To say I have been distracted is an understatement. Without thinking twice, he made the decision for us.
“Let’s go to North Carolina. You have worked too hard and put your heart and soul into this. River Glen is not a consideration because we can’t be certain about it. If you want to go to the Horse Park in the spring, we will go then, but you need to do this now. I know how your brain works. You will be miserable if you wait. Hell, if you get into to Jump Start, we’ll just do both!”
Thankfully Windridge has extended their deadline a week which gives me more time to find out if I stand a chance of getting into Jump Start. Of all of the scenarios that could stop us, this was not one I had remotely considered. It’s like a punch in the gut, but I’m looking for the positive. Romeo is sound and feels good. I am enjoying weekly massages and am constantly reminded of how blessed I am.
So, here we are. We wait. But while we wait, you can still find me on my horse, training for my first event.
Heels down, eyes up, leg on.
12 days to Jump Start
19 days to Windridge