Ainsley Jacobs
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Ainsley Jacobs

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About Ainsley Jacobs

Ride Heels Down's Ainsley Jacobs has loved horses ever since she was a little girl. She began riding on Long Island when she was 8 years old and focused mostly on huntseat equitation. She spent many years volunteering at local barns, teaching lessons, pushing trails, and managing summer camps to earn more time in the saddle. After graduating college, she moved to Atlanta and began riding at Go With It Farm. In 2014, Ainsley decided to try eventing, and she’s been addicted ever since! Her first event was at the Tadpole level, and Ainsley currently competes in the Novice 3-phase with JJ Spot, a wonderful 15.3hh APHA gelding who she purchased (her first horse! OMG!) on February 16, 2016. :)

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Lessons Learned: Eventing, Race Tracks & Slumber Parties

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.comJJ has been rehabbing from a ligament injury for a few months, so during his layoff time Ainsley is revisiting earlier lessons in her experience. Today’s story is from March 2015.

Riding on a race track was such a cool experience! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Riding on a race track was such a cool experience! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

We’ve been eventing for a few months now, and slowly but steadily it’s getting easier. I hope I didn’t just jinx myself by saying that!

For our next event, we went somewhere new – North Atlanta Equestrian. It was a little far from our barn, so we reserved some stalls and trailered up the day before. Since it was a Combined Training event and not a 3-phase, there was no cross country course to school.

Instead, as North Atlanta Equestrian is situated on an old Thoroughbred breeding and training facility, we went out and had some fun on the race track! I’d never ridden on a track before, and it was such an amazing experience. I’m still getting to know JJ, and wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of letting him run flat out since I wasn’t sure how he’d react. Instead, I wussed out and settled for a mild hand gallop… but it was still a blast.

That night, we got some dinner, then had a team slumber party in an incredible bed and breakfast on the property. The house was full of such amazing memorabilia and pieces of racing history – I felt like we were staying IN a movie!

The next morning we woke up and walked down to the barn to feed and get the horses ready for another day of showing. It was REALLY windy out, and while JJ usually isn’t spooky, he can be pretty frisky. That said, we actually had our worst dressage test to date. One of our canter departs included a buck, which the judge kindly noted as merely an “exuberant transition.” We wound up with a 48.50 on Beginner Novice Test B – ugh.

A touch behind the vertical, but overall we had some REALLY lovely moments of trot. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

A touch behind the vertical, but overall we had some REALLY lovely moments of trot. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

For the second portion of the event, the arena had been set with stadium jumps and an adjacent grass arena was set with a few cross country-esque jumps. For the first time, we got to jump INTO and OUT OF an arena as part of our course, and it was so cool! JJ put in his usual perfect round, and we were double clear yet again.

We finished on our dressage score, and went home with a pretty white ribbon for fourth place. I had opted in for a second jump-only round, and we took fifth in that.

Looking back now, I really wish I had let JJ run his heart out on that track…

Lessons Learned: Schooling Shows

Adult amateur event blogger Ainsley Jacobs has been chronicling how she finds the takeaway lesson from the good, the bad and the ugly in her equestrian experience. Her horse JJ has been rehabbing from a ligament injury for a few months, so during his layoff time Ainsley is revisiting earlier lessons in her experience. Today’s story is from March of 2015.

On course, JJ being perfect with his knees. Photo by Go With It Farm

On course, JJ being perfect with his knees. Photo by Go With It Farm.

Disclaimer: I know I’m not ready for an off-farm Novice event, but we regularly jump Novice-sized stuff during our lessons, so I figured I would give it a shot at a Go With It Farm show.

I had missed our first GWIF farm show in December of 2014 as I was out of town that weekend on vacation, so I was really excited to be able to be a part of the fun this time around. I liked the idea of riding in a setting both JJ and I were familiar with, pushing ourselves a little harder than we usually do in lessons, and getting great feedback from the dressage judge.

Both of our dressage tests were lovely, and our scores reflected that. We got a 29.80 in Beginner Novice B, and a 32.40 in Novice A. I would be super excited to have finally scored in the 20s, except that I know the judge was being a little nicer than usual since it wasn’t a USEA or GDCTA recognized show.

For jumping, we started with the Beginner Novice course and went double clear. The jumps were raised, and we went double clear for our Novice course, too!

Although this was not my first time jumping a Novice-height course, it was my first time doing it in a “show situation” with a little extra stress. I’m really proud of how well both JJ and I performed, and I loved being able to cheer on all my fellow GWIFers, too!

GO GWIF!! Photo by Go With It Farm

GO GWIF!! Photo by Go With It Farm


LESSON LEARNED

If your barn has a schooling show, GO! It’s a great, fun way to get extra show practice in a safe, supportive environment. Plus, you don’t have to pay for hauling or stabling!

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Two In a Row

We’re starting to look like we know what we’re doing! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

We’re starting to look like we know what we’re doing! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Coming off our last event with having completed all three phases successfully, I was excited about trying again to see if we had simply gotten lucky or if we were starting to get the hang of things.

We headed back to Chatt Hills for another 3-phease schooling show. JJ and I had have now had a few months together as a team, and we were starting to figure things out! After we schooled our cross country course on Friday night, we popped over a few stadium jumps for fun. I still have no clue what I was thinking, but my trainer told me to take the warm-up vertical and I pointed JJ at the oxer… I totally derped, and as a result, so did he. We crashed through it, and I was so incredibly embarrassed, but thankfully neither of us were hurt.

The next morning I was still a little shaken up from the jumping fiasco the night before, but I decided to put it out of my head. I told myself it was a new day, a clean slate, and JJ and I were going to have a fresh start. Armed with that positive attitude, I tacked up and got on.

Dressage was a little rough, but once again, it wasn’t my primary focus so I just rode what I got and tried to make it as “not bad” as possible. We finished up with a 40.53 score on Beginner Novice Test A.

I was a little worried about stadium after having screwed up so royally the night before, but much to my surprise, it was uneventful. JJ carried me around like a boss and went double clear yet again.

I’ll admit, I still had nerves about cross country as we walked down to the starting box, but I was learning to trust JJ, and to trust myself. Once we got started, things went well, and I found myself actually having fun again. We had several perfect jumps, including an up bank to a stack of logs combo that proved difficult for a lot of other riders. We flew over every jump without a struggle, breezed through the (chilly) water complex, and completed our course!

As we crossed the finish line, I couldn’t stop smiling because we had finished two three-phase events in a row. It didn’t matter what color the ribbon was, I was just happy that I didn’t fall off and die!

JJ deciding whether or not to be annoyed by the fact that the water was chilly. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

JJ deciding whether or not to be annoyed by the fact that the water was chilly. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing


LESSON LEARNED

Eventing is a team sport, and your horse is your partner on your team. Trusting your horse to do his job, and allowing him to trust you to do yours, will help make it easier and more fun for you both.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: One Jump At a Time

While her horse JJ rehabilitates from a ligament injury, Ainsley Jacobs is rewinding to past chapters from their journey: today’s story rolls back to mid-November 2014.

After such a rough first Beginner Novice event, we decided to try again. It doesn’t get any easier if you don’t keep working at it, right? So, I signed up for another 3-phase, but made sure it was a schooling show this time as JJ and I clearly needed a little more practice on cross country…

My wonderful friend and teammate, Beth, knew I was having some anxiety after the last event, and I arrived on Saturday morning to find a surprise outside of JJ’s stall. To help with my nerves, she made me a special seat which was “reserved for Ainsley Jacobs, Queen of Sr. Beginner Novice.” Thanks, Beth!

Thanks to Elizabeth Clymer for being the world’s best cheerleader. :) Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Thanks to Elizabeth Clymer for being the world’s best cheerleader. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

We got through our dressage test without any major incidents, and although our score of 41.58 on the Beginner Novice A test wasn’t great, that was the least of my worries that day. I had gone from having loved cross country at our first Tadpole, to being terrified of it after our first Beginner Novice.

JJ is an extremely talented jumper. He loves it, and takes his job seriously. I had opted to add an extra 2’6″ jumper round for this show thinking it would be a walk in the park for us. I wasn’t concerned about stadium at all until we started warming up, and he was just a touch more enthusiastic than I was comfortable with. There were tears, there was back-talking to my trainer, and, I’m ashamed to admit, there may have been a diva moment (or ten).

My wonderful trainer somehow talked me into at least trying the first jump of the course, and told me to continue on if that went well. I begrudgingly entered the arena, and JJ changed from “beast” mode to “baby sitting” mode. Miraculously, we went double clear once again.

As I was already a little freaked out and had some lingering confidence issues after the last event, I decided not to push my luck and scratch from the following 3-phase stadium round. I didn’t even attempt to school the cross country course, because I didn’t want to risk another bad experience for either myself or JJ at that point.

Somehow, JJ and I managed to WIN our 2’6″ jumper round. I went from so freaked out that I scratched from my 3-phase division to winning our jumper class. How crazy is that?!

Here’s me having a panic attack mid-flight. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Here’s me having a panic attack mid-flight. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

LESSON LEARNED

Even when it all seems to be going wrong, it’s still worth trying. Jump the first jump. If that goes well, jump the second jump. Then the third. Then the fourth, and so on. If at any point you don’t feel comfortable, you can stop. There’s no rule that says you have to finish, but you owe it to yourself (and to your horse, and your trainer, and your bank account) to at least try.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Try, Try Again

I was hoping to have good news for you today about how JJ has been cleared for cantering, but we hit another snag in his recovery. He had been doing fabulously with his rehab, but a week and a half ago his behavior drastically changed and he started bucking and sucking back when I’d ask him to move forward and trot with a purpose. The vet came to look and found him to be footsore. He’ll have to grow out more foot before we try again. So, it’s more waiting…

So in the meantime, let’s focus on something positive: the first Beginner Novice event where I finished!

Our first two attempts at Beginner Novice eventing did not go as planned, so we stuck to the motto of “try, try again.” Eventually, I figured, the odds would work out in our favor and we’d manage to get through one of these things…

It was a new year, and I decided that I was going to be the type of rider and partner that JJ deserved. The Go With It Farm team road tripped down to Poplar Place Farm for our first event of 2015, and we set out to school our cross country courses on Friday night.

Being that it was January 2, it was cold, dark, and wet. I was still extremely apprehensive about cross country, but not only did we nail every jump, we did so in the rain. JJ was great, and I was starting to learn to trust him more and let him do his job.

Saturday morning we warmed up for dressage and rode Beginner Novice Test B to our best score to date! Our hard work over the past few months had paid off, and we got a 35.50.

Stadium, thankfully, went well and there were no freakouts (from me) like there were at the last event. We were double clear and positioned well going into the cross country portion of the event.

JJ aka “Sorry He’s Dirty, He Wants To Be A Chestnut” Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

JJ aka “Sorry He’s Dirty, He Wants To Be A Chestnut” Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Once we started our course, I realized that I was going to have to work to keep JJ from picking up speed faults – that boy can RUN!! The footing was slippery from all of the rain, and so we chose to trot several sections to help with balance and pace. Although we got through the whole course without a fight (hooray!) I was overzealous in my speed corrections and wound up picking up 10 penalty points for going too slow.

We finished fifth overall, and I was overjoyed just to have finally finished an event. I had gone from expecting a ribbon at every event (as that was normal for me in hunters) to realizing that finishing in itself is the reward.

LESSON LEARNED

Eventing is fun. Yes, it’s also HARD, and at times it can be scary and frustrating, but the feeling of actually finishing is so incredibly rewarding that it’s worth working for.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Ride to the Finish

This was our best moment of the entire weekend, and it wasn’t even during any of the competition. Photo by Harriet Engman Sysyn.

This was our best moment of the entire weekend, and it wasn’t even during any of the competition. Photo by Harriet Engman Sysyn.

After such a great eventing debut, I couldn’t have been more excited about trying it again! As everything had gone so well, my trainer and I decided that I should move up to Beginner Novice. The next event was a USEA recognized one, and we decided I should go for it…

We arrived at Chatt Hills ready to conquer the world. I meticulously braided JJ’s mane, and battled the ever-present poo stains on his adorably white butt. We went for a warm-up flat ride up on day one of the show to loosen up his legs and let him inspect his surroundings.

Several hours later, it was time to start! We waited patiently for the “okay” to proceed into the main dressage area. Once the gate steward allowed us in, JJ decided to invent a new dressage move. Inspired by the scary, flapping flags that were flying overhead, he showed me his “rear, pivot, and bolt” talents… three times. Fortunately, I stayed on and this occurred before we actually entered for our test. Once we started, however, JJ put on his game face and tried his best to listen to what I was asking. We rode our Beginner Novice Test B to a score of 37.00!

That afternoon, we set out for cross country once again. I was full of false confidence since our previous event had been so easy, and I was blissfully unaware of what was ahead of us. As it was a recognized event, we were not allowed to school the course the night before.

To stay it was a struggle to get through it would be putting it mildly. JJ and I did not trust each other at that point, and he put in a lot of effort to try and refuse or run out at almost every fence. Somehow, I managed to get him over every jump the first time. It was a fight to the finish, and we (almost) made it. We cleared our fifteenth jump, and I stupidly allowed myself to relax.

Literally three feet before we crossed the finish line, JJ spooked, jumped left, and I got dumped. I couldn’t believe it – I feel three feet before the finish line and got disqualified! After working so hard to get through the course, it all came crashing down so close from success.

 I somehow managed to fall off between landing this jump and that oh-so-close finish line. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

I somehow managed to fall off between landing this jump and that oh-so-close finish line. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

As we had therefore been eliminated, we were not allowed to ride our stadium jumping course on day two. I, however, still had an obligation to JJ (and the rest of my team that had been competing that weekend) so I showed up on Sunday to muck stalls, feed, and take care of my partner. Despite being disqualified, we had gotten through it. The photos from the event showed me that I was not riding JJ like he deserved, and I vowed from that moment on to be a better partner to, and for, him.

LESSON LEARNED

The last jump isn’t the finish, the finish line is the finish. Ride the finish line as if it was another jump and don’t stop focusing until you’ve crossed it!

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Eventing Is a Galloping Sport

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. In the latest installation of her “Lessons Learned” column, while continuing to tack-walk her rehabbing event horse, Ainsely takes us on another flashback to 2015 when she learned a game-changer lesson, the impacts of which she still feels today!

Letting him run means both of us are happier! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

Letting him run means both of us are happier! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs lately. We’ve had struggles and successes, but it’s been tricky to do anything regularly. I figure the more events we can go to, the more practice we’ll get, and we’ll start being more consistent.

I’ve been talking to a few of my more-experienced eventer friends lately, and the one thing they all keep saying is that “eventing is a galloping sport.” Whenever I whine about the fact that galloping between the jumps is scary because I don’t really feel like I’m in control, they all laugh and say they have the same problem!

The key is to realize that it’s OKAY to be (slightly) out of control, so long as you can check in with your horse a few strides before the next jump and refocus his attention. His job is to listen to you before, over, and after the fence. Your job is to act like a GPS and guide him — let him take you to the next jump and have some fun running in between!

By not interfering with him between jumps, JJ was much more willing to listen when I did “check in” before each question. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

By not interfering with him between jumps, JJ was much more willing to listen when I did “check in” before each question. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

For this next event, I decided to try and focus on that mindset. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I decided to have a beautiful, sunny attitude to match!

Once again dressage was “blah”, but that’s okay with me. We scored 41.05 on Beginner Novice A, then went double clear in stadium like always. Going into cross country, JJ was feeling good and I knew we were going to have a tough time placing well with our dressage score, so I said “screw it, let’s just have fun.” Best. Decision. Ever!

We left the start box in a hurry, and I wasn’t even worried about the possibility of JJ stopping at a jump again. He was going SO fast, but I could tell he was having a ton of fun, and I didn’t want to piss him off by getting in the way of that. So, I just made sure I was balanced, stayed off his back, didn’t pull on his face, and just pointed him in the direction I wanted him to go. Yeah, we had to circle (a LOT) so we didn’t get any speed penalties for going too quickly, but holy heck, that was a blast! He was perfect over every jump, didn’t hesitate at anything, and was such a happy horse when we crossed the finish.

We ended the day on our dressage score and wound up 8th overall. Although I left yet another event empty handed, the lesson I learned, and the confidence both JJ and I earned, was so incredibly valuable.

LESSON LEARNED

Eventing is a galloping sport. The sooner you get comfortable with the idea of being (slightly) out of control while galloping between fences, the sooner you’ll start improving!

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: I Had Lunch With George Morris! (Kind Of)

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. In the latest installation of her “Lessons Learned” column, while continuing to tack-walk her rehabbing event horse, Ainsely Jacobs rewinds back to September of 2015 when she audited the George Morris clinic at Blackjack Farms.

After months of waiting, wishing, and hoping, much like a child does in anticipation of Christmas morning, I got the news that I was not selected to ride in the George Morris clinic at Blackjack Farms. So, I did what any reasonable fangirl, er, horseperson would do — I went to audit!

My two best barn buddies, Beth and Monique, also wanted to audit, so we met up early on Sunday morning at our home base of Go With It Farm and made the 2.5+ hour drive to Birmingham, Alabama to attend Day 3 of the clinic.

It was rainy and a little chilly, but our excitement wasn’t dampened at all. We grabbed some prime seats and listened attentively to every word that came out of The Master’s mouth. We took copious amounts of notes, drew diagrams, and fantasized about having the nerve to ask for his autograph (spoiler alert: we didn’t).

Through the morning sessions, Mr. Morris was surprisingly lacking in his famed lovably-heinous insults, but not lacking in his tokens of knowledge and insight. He easily conceptualized things I hadn’t quite grasped, and verbalized things I already knew but had never consciously taken into consideration.

During the lunch break, my friends and I enjoyed the downtime to giggle like groupies about the fact that we were in the presence of George freakin’ Morris, and maybe snag more than our fair share of free cookies. Hey, we were only auditing — GHM wouldn’t notice if our breeches were a little tighter tomorrow!

Anyway, at one point, I sat down on a couch to eat, and realized a split-second too late that I had chosen to sit across from George Morris himself. I generally don’t care much for celebrities, but I’ll admit I was star-struck. I sat there, eating in silence, basking in his epicness, and trying not to somehow magically piss him off. I also casually snapped a very stalker-esque picture of him eating, to prove that I had lunch with George Morris! (Kinda. Not really. Whatever.)

I don’t care about Hollywood celebrities, but George Morris is a legend! Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

I don’t care about Hollywood celebrities, but George Morris is a legend! Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

The clinic resumed that afternoon, and GHM put his groups through some interesting jump exercises. My friends and I were beyond pleased to see that many of the things he worked on were exactly the same as what our trainer, Halliea Milner, works on with us back home — cool!

All in all, it was a really great day spent learning from one of the greats, and spending some quality fun-time with my barn besties.


LESSON LEARNED

If you have to make a tight turn after the jump, ride a short-strided, conservative distance to it. If you have plenty of galloping space after, you can go for the long spot. Within reason, of course … adjust accordingly depending on the jump height/scariness.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Cranky or Communicative?

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. In the latest installation of her “Lessons Learned” column, as her horse JJ rehabilitates from a ligament injury Ainsley details the importance of listening when your horse speaks up.

In my 20+ years of riding, I’ve thrown my leg over hundreds of horses. Many have been lesson horses, and while most were happy to cart me around without a care in the world, there have been some that were flat out opinionated, obstinate and ornery. Who can blame them? Lesson horses, are, essentially, the “rental cars” of the equine world and I can’t say I wouldn’t be crabby if little kids kicked me around all day, too.

However, knowing the difference between when a horse is simply being cranky, or when he’s trying to communicate can be a real game changer.

As JJ’s rehab progresses, I can’t help but think about how the fact that he communicated to me that he was hurting may have saved both of our lives. How? Read on!

Example 1: A few weeks after I first started working with JJ in 2014, he began bucking when I’d ask for canter. He had never bucked with me previously, and it wasn’t a malicious “get off me, woman” type of a movement. It was more of a “hey, I don’t like that” thing.

At first, I reprimanded him for the bucking behavior, but it persisted. My trainer and I figured he was back sore, so we put him on meds and started using a heating pad before and after each ride. After several more rides where nothing had changed, we were perplexed. JJ, however, was smarter than both of us.

Rather than continue with his bucking, JJ changed his behavior. Instead of kicking out when I asked for canter, he would instead reach around and gently nip at my left leg. He was telling me, “hey, dummy, it hurts over here and what you’re doing to help isn’t helping at all.”

When we realized that his actions had changed, we re-assessed the situation. Could it be an ulcer, and not back soreness at all? Perhaps! So, we treated for ulcers, and his bad habit immediately disappeared!

Long story short, this incredible horse actually consciously changed his method of communication and tried a new tactic because we simply weren’t getting the message. It worked. WOW.

Example 2: When I arrived at Go With It Farm to hack my new horse on April 1 earlier this year, I wasn’t expecting an April Fool’s Day joke. I tacked up JJ, lead him down to the flat arena, and proceeded with his mandatory pre-ride cuddles. Yes, he makes it known that he requires some snuggles and scratches prior to me mounting up.

This time, however, instead of craning his head around to “hug” me like he usually does, he nipped at my leg. He had never bitten me before, and I thought it was strange.

Just a few short minutes later as we began to trot, I discovered that JJ was lame. Was his little bite his way of communicating that he was ouchy and didn’t want to work that day? I think yes.

If JJ hadn’t told me “no” at our event in April, we both could have been critically injured or worse. Fortunately, thanks to this boy’s smart thinking, he only wound up with a minor ligament issue. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

If JJ hadn’t told me “no” at our event in April, we both could have been critically injured or worse. Fortunately, thanks to this boy’s smart thinking, he only wound up with a minor ligament issue. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

Example 3: After the next few weeks of off-again-on-again lamenes, JJ seemed to be feeling okay enough for us to go show. On April 15, he schooled a warm-up session flawlessly and we had one of our best works ever.

The next day, JJ was a trooper as we got started for dressage in the warm up arena. He seemed just the slightest bit off, but he was forward and willing and went about his job happily. It was getting close to our ride time, so we walked over to the main dressage arena.

Two minutes before we went in, JJ demonstrated a drastic flip in behavior. He went from fine to barely able to stand up. He was dramatically hobbling at the walk, suddenly extremely lame. I immediately dismounted and withdrew from the event. A few hours later, and he was definitely still lame, but his condition had miraculously improved significantly.

What I think happened that day was this: the moment he saw the dressage arena, JJ realized we were at an event and were going to be competing. He knew we would be running. He knew we would be jumping. And he knew we would be going all-out on cross-country. I think JJ sent me a message, loud and clear, that “Hey, mom, I’ve been trying my best for you, but I’m actually hurt worse than you think and this is a BAD idea. Let’s not, okay? Please? We should NOT be doing the cross country jump-y stuff.”

If he hadn’t told me he “couldn’t”, I would have gone out on cross country later that day. And, given that JJ had what we later discovered to be a collateral ligament injury, chances are we would have had a devastating fall on course from his leg giving out, either while running or jumping. That scenario could easily have ended with one or both of us being horribly injured, or worse.

I truly believe that JJ saved both of us from tragedy that day when he communicated his inability to perform.

Example 4: During JJ’s stall-rest recovery, I’d often take him out to hand graze so he could see the world and get a break from the dull monotony of doing nothing. As we neared the four-month mark, JJ had something to say.

JJ loves to jump, and he makes it known. I guessed that he probably missed “working” and being active, and once again this great little horse communicated to me what was going on in his head – I was right!

On one of our walks, instead of sticking to the yummy grass like usual, JJ beelined straight into GWIF’s jumping arena, walked right up to a vertical that was set in the middle, stopped in front of it, bumped the pole with his nose, turned around to look at me, and bumped it again. He then walked me over to a second jump and did the exact same thing. There was no mistaking it. JJ was telling me, “I’m feeling better and I miss this. A lot. When do I get to jump again?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at how obvious he was, and it took a huge weight off my shoulders. My suspicion was validated not long after when Dr. Carter came and confirmed that JJ was sound enough to begin rehab.


LESSON LEARNED

Knowing what’s normal for your horse – and what isn’t – is extremely important to keeping you both happy, healthy, and safe. Be fair, ride with respect, and ride with open communication. It’s your job to know when, and how, to listen.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Walking the Road to Recovery

Blogger Ainsley Jacob’s horse JJ is BACK! After a collateral ligament injury sidelined JJ for months of stall rest, he’s been cleared for tack walking at last.

The smile on my face says it all. It feels good to be "home" on his back again. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

The smile on my face says it all. It feels good to be “home” on his back again. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

“That’s a sound horse.” – Dr. Dan Carter

Good news, friends! JJ has been cleared by our vet to start rehab!

After he came up lame at an event in April, JJ was diagnosed with a collateral ligament injury and put on stall rest for several months. (Fun fact: in the six months that I’ve owned him, he’s been sound for only six weeks … ha!)

JJ usually lives outside 24/7, and he’s generally a very active horse, so having been on stall rest for 4+ months was not his idea of a good time. Standing around eating, however, is one of his favorite hobbies (second only to rolling in the mud). As a result, he has gotten F-A-T! (To be fair, he’s really not “fat” – we’ve been managing his weight well. It’s more like he’s gotten flabby since his fitness has deteriorated from lack of exercise.)

Fortunately, we’re now able to start tack walking again, and we’re both really excited to get back in shape together. We’ll take the rehab slowly and be careful so as not to risk re-injuring him, but I can’t wait to not have a giant horse-shaped marshmallow anymore.

Dr. Dan Carter of Countryside Veterinary Services wants us walking for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, two days on and one day off, for the next six weeks. Last Tuesday, I got to sit on JJ for the first time in months, and from the smile on my face as we walked around the arena, you’d have thought I’d just won Rolex – it felt so good to be “home”!

Ironically, JJ had the same exact reaction. He was totally pumped up and snorting like a 4* horse about to leave the start box for the world’s most epic cross country run. We had a conversation, as usual, and it went something like this:

JJ: MOM I AM READY AND I WILL WIN THE OLYMPICS FOR YOU!
Me: Uh, yeah, that’s cool, but not today, okay? Today we just walk.
JJ: YES, I WILL WIN THE MOTHER LOVIN’ OLYMPICS OF WALKING!

Considering he hadn’t had someone on his back since May, and we haven’t even trotted since mid-April, he was an angel. No bucks, no rears, no shenanigans. He chilled out and settled in after the first two minutes, was a perfect gentleman, tried his best to be on the bit a little, and kept his ears focused on me even though we were “only” walking. I’m SO proud of what a good man he is.

JJ says: "Really, mom? A saddle? Are you sure? I thought all I do now is eat grass?" Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

JJ says: “Really, mom? A saddle? Are you sure? I thought all I do now is eat grass?” Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

This morning, the small flat arena where we have been walking was being used by Go With It Farm‘s hippotherapy program, and the footing in the main flat arena was pretty sloppy from a rain storm last night, so the jumping arena was my best option for our tack walk session.

I figured JJ would be excited by the presence of jumps, and I was right – he was CONVINCED that today was HIS day, and we were going to be jumping ALL the things. I had to break the bad news to him that the opposite was true … and although he begrudgingly obliged, his cute little ears perked up hopefully every single time we even walked near a fence. It was adorable.

Aside from the tack walking, JJ is still on stall rest for the time being. Once we reach the 6-week mark (barring any problems with his progress) the vet will be back out to reevaluate and (hopefully) clear him for trotting and light turn-out. Keep your fingers crossed, friends!


LESSON LEARNED

Clean your tack regularly! Seriously, if you let your saddle sit for several months without touching it, you will find that when you go to pick it up for the first time, a very large spider and her egg-babies have taken up residence under the tree. Then, you WILL wind up doing a very ridiculous, very embarrassing “OMFG I TOUCHED IT GET IT OFF ME WTF IS THAT SOMEBODY PLEASE SAVE ME!!” interpretive dance in front of everyone at the barn.

www.RideHeelsDown.com.">Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN MarketingAinsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: From Zero to Hero

Now that’s a halt! We scored our very first perfect “10” on a movement! Video capture by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing. Now that’s a halt! We scored our very first perfect “10” on a movement! Video capture by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. While her horse JJ is healing from a ligament injury, we’re revisiting some of her past lessons learned — like her personal best event, coming right on the heels of a memorable spill.

My already fragile confidence had taken a hit after I fell off during stadium last week at the USEA-recognized event at Poplar Place Farm. I had planned on showing Novice 3-phase at this past weekend’s schooling show, but thought it would be wise to back down to Beginner Novice just to make sure we didn’t have a repeat performance.

I’ll admit, I was nervous. Things had been going really well for me and JJ lately, and I was surprised by the setback. We had a jump lesson on Thursday prior to the show and JJ was very enthusiastic. We didn’t have any stops, but I was still feeling a little shaky. Going into the weekend, I tried to push those feelings aside and focus on the import thing – staying on, staying safe, and having fun with my awesome Go With It Farm team.

Friday we hauled down to Poplar as usual and got to work with our typical routine of setting up stalls. Our group tacked up and headed out to school our XC courses. I was pleased to see that mine was mostly the same as last weekend’s, which I didn’t get the chance to ride. My trainer, Halliea, let me decide if I wanted to school the whole course or go one jump at a time. I put on my big girl pants and decided to go for it … we popped over our Beginner Novice #1 to warm up, circled back to hit the Novice #1, and things were going so well that we just continued on through the course.

Except for a stop at the up bank where the footing was really odd, JJ ran it flawlessly and gave me a perfect performance. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going since we hadn’t walked this exact Beginner Novice course, so I was finding my jumps as we ran, and I accidentally added in an extra one that wasn’t flagged. Bonus! After we crossed the finish, we circled back around to hang out with the rest of the group as they schooled their jumps and I let JJ enjoy some happy grazing time. I had a feeling we’d be fine the next day so long as I could just stay on.

Saturday morning was chilly, and fortunately, the show was small enough that the organizers decided to set the start time to 9am. Our first ride wasn’t until noon, so I spent the morning hanging out and helping with whatever anyone needed. Eventually, it was go time. I tacked up JJ with our dressage gear and walked down to the warm-up to start getting him in focus mode. We did a quick 15-minute work, and the show was running ahead of schedule, so I decided to just go on in and get my test over with.

We rode Beginner Novice Test B and JJ gave me some really lovely movements, and he didn’t feel as resistant as usual. I didn’t think it was great, but I was satisfied overall. My trainer, however, couldn’t stop smiling and told me she thought it was my best test ever!

Two hours later, it was time for stadium. Ironically, the same exact jump that JJ ducked out at last week and I fell off was in the same exact place this week, except now it was part of a two-stride combination whereas last week it was a single obstacle. We began working up in the hectic warm-up arena, and as we went by “The Jump” (which was parallel to the warm-up area) JJ spooked at it, hard. I gave a “that is not the answer, buddy” crop smack, leg yielded him towards it, and made him go by it several more times until he realized the jump was not, in fact, going to eat him.

Our warm-up went well, although JJ was feeling unusually strong. When we began our course, I was just hoping to be able to point him in the (generally) right direction and hang on through whatever distance he gave me, since I wasn’t having much luck in communicating to him what I thought was best for us. I planned to just go one jump at a time, keep my shoulders back, my leg under me, and pray that the horse show gods were merciful. Eleven jumps and just over a minute later, we crossed the finish to stop the timers with me still on JJ’s back! YES! Success never felt so good!

With confidence bolstered from stadium jumping, we went up to the barn so that I could grab my XC gear then headed back out for our third phase of the day. My trainer’s beautiful 7-year-old daughter, Sidnee, was riding her very first dressage test at the time (which I am super bummed I didn’t get to see in person!) so I just hung around in the XC warm up area waiting until they had finished. Unfortunately, the way the timing worked out, I had to start my warm-up without my trainer.

Ironically enough, I was more scared of doing my warm-up jumps without Halliea’s consent than I was of the course itself. I didn’t know if she would be okay with me not waiting for her, but my ride time was coming up and the starter wouldn’t wait, so I had no choice. With less than two minutes until my ride time, I tried to tell myself what she’d tell me if she were there. I popped JJ over the warm-up cross rail, the vertical, the oxer, the hanging log, then booked it over to the start box. The starter began my 10-second count down, I started my watch, and suddenly we were officially on course – on our own.

JJ was in BEAST mode the whole way through, and although I was super proud of how full of “go” he was, and how game he was for every obstacle, there were moments where I had to remind him who was in charge (me, I think?). We had to come to almost a complete stop for a reality check – twice – and do some trot sections to calm the heck down, but he said “Yes!” to every question and carried me through the gallop stretches and a crazy fast pace. Interesting note: when we got to jump #11 of 14, I still had 2:20 left on my watch before optimum time. Fortunately, we worked together well enough to add in some circles to kill time, and crossed the finish about twenty seconds under optimum, with no jumping penalties. We had survived.

Back up at the barn, JJ got lots of “good boy” cuddles, treats, and his dinner. Halliea got back from her own cross country run and – thankfully – wasn’t mad at all that I had warmed up and started my course without her. She had checked my dressage score earlier in the day and proudly told me that JJ and I had scored a 27.75! My reaction was to ask “was the judge watching the wrong horse?!” HA! I couldn’t believe we had done so well! We were always mid-30s at best, so to be in the 20s was simply incredible.

Once the scores were posted, I went to check out final placing. I was THRILLED to see we had finished second, just 0.75 points behind first, with our official new personal best of 27.75. When I opened my dressage test to read the judge’s comments, I got a shock – we had scored a PERFECT 10 on our halt! WOW!!

27.75 – a new personal best for us! Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

27.75 – a new personal best for us! Photo by Ainsley Jacobs/Ride Heels Down.

The best part of the day wasn’t the pretty red ribbon or the incredible “10”, it was the fact that we conquered yet another fear-obstacle and made more progress towards rebuilding my confidence.

LESSON LEARNED

Leave your past in the past — a poor performance does not mean you won’t succeed in the future! That said, make sure your horse sees the “scary” jump before you start your course so you’ll have less of a chance of him spooking at it.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: 100% Success … At Failure

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. While Ainsley Jacobs' horse JJ is healing from a ligament injury, we're revisiting some of her past lessons learned -- like this particularly memorable moment from earlier this spring!

Pictures can be deceiving! We may look pretty perfect here, but I fell off just a few jumps later. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing. Pictures can be deceiving! We may look pretty perfect here, but I fell off just a few jumps later. Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

Yeah yeah, I know that’s a pretty Negative Nancy blog title, but don’t give up hope for happiness just yet! February 6-7 was our second-ever USEA recognized 3-phase event, and just like the first time around, we were disqualified due to me falling off. So, yeah – I’ve now fallen off at 100% of the recognized events I’ve (tried to) ride in, and I find that pretty funny!

After having several successful months in a row of Beginner Novice 3-phase schooling shows (as well as a successful Novice 3-phase schooling show), I decided to try the USEA recognized event stuff again. JJ and I have made *huge* progress in our teamwork, and in our cross country, so I figured it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to simply survive it. My only goal was to stay on and avoid a repeat of our first recognized event, but as is so common with eventing, things didn’t quite go as planned.

Truth be told, I wasn’t nervous about this event at all. If anything, I was the most relaxed I had ever been prior to a show! JJ had a visit from our wonderful chiropractor, Holly Breaux, DVM on Thursday, and on Friday, the Go With It Farm team trailered down to Poplar Place Farm. Due to the class being split by age rather than horse/rider/etc designation, I wound up in Open Beginner Novice.

Friday morning our girls arrived in good spirits, and everyone had fun hanging out and braiding our pretty ponies. We began our dressage warm up that morning, and JJ was feeling s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r! He was so soft and responsive and light and lovely and, well, I couldn’t stop smiling. Thirty minutes later, we entered at A and had (what I thought was) a really nice test! I was pleased, my trainer was pleased, and JJ seemed pleased. Turns out we scored a 40.0. Definitely not our worst, but nowhere near what I had expected… that’s okay, though! There was still plenty of time to move up during stadium and cross country in the class of 16 riders, or so I thought.

That afternoon, I got JJ all fancied up for our stadium round and checked that all his tack (including his martingale) was in place. We wandered down to the warm up arena, loosened up, and took a few pretty perfect practice jumps before heading into the arena to start our course.

The course had a few difficult turns and roll backs that had been causing problems for a few riders, so I had a plan of what path to take to avoid those issues. We started strong and had some really lovely jumps through the first half of the course. We nailed the tricky jump #4 that had been taking people out like it wasn’t even a thing! We had a little argument about pace and balance coming into #7, but got over it and headed towards #8.

We approached #8, which was on the long side of the arena parallel to the slightly chaotic warm-up area, and JJ locked on to the jump. It was an oxer, and I was working to keep him balanced, upright, and listening. I had my trainer in my head reminding me to stretch tall, keep my shoulders back, and wait, wait, wait … we neared the jump, everything seemed perfect, and suddenly – BAM! I was on the ground! What?!?

JJ says: “Oh, look! Let’s go do that jump over there instead of this one!” Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

JJ says: “Oh, look! Let’s go do that jump over there instead of this one!” Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

Turns out, JJ added a small chip, then decided to duck to the left. Despite doing my best spider monkey impression, I wasn’t able to hang on and hit the ground. Fortunately, Poplar’s arena is squishy soft and my butt helped cushion the fall.

As a result of the fall, I got us disqualified and we were done for the weekend. I was SO bummed that we weren’t going to be able to run XC (as it seemed like a fun course) but SO happy that neither of us had gotten hurt in the incident.

I’m learning to handle the disappointment of “failure”, and I was really proud of myself for being able to shake off this emotional upset fairly easily. I’m starting to see things more as opportunities to learn more about what JJ needs from me as a rider (support, confidence, etc) instead of focusing on the fact that we had trouble. Rather than get angry, I just told myself “Hey, it’s better that this happened today when our dressage was mediocre than on a day where we had a great test and were in the lead!” There will be plenty more shows for us to have good days at!

Anyway, Sunday was a nice, low-key day for us since we weren’t riding. I spent the day taking care of JJ and cheering on my trainer and teammates as they finished up their classes.

Overall, despite going off, I actually had a lot of fun and met some great new friends! We’ll be back at Poplar next weekend for another 3-phase schooling show. I had planned to try Novice again, but I think I’ll stick with Beginner Novice for now and (hopefully) get some confidence back for both JJ and myself. Wish us luck and thanks for reading!!


LESSON LEARNED

When your trainer tells you to make your horse stand in front of the jump when he tries to duck out in your lessons, she has a point. Eventually, rather than stopping in front of the jump, he’ll learn to run out, and you’ll wind up in the dirt like I did. If you get a stop, keep your horse in front of the jump (as best as you can), give a crop discipline, and turn him AWAY from where he wanted to go. Accidents happen, and riding is always unpredictable (that’s what makes it fun!) but you can unintentionally train in an undesired behavior that will come back to bite you in the butt during a very expensive horse show. Oops!

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Tack Check, Testing One Two

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. In the latest installation of her “Lessons Learned” column, she takes us back to her first Novice three-phase, where she discovers just how critical it can be to check and double-check your tack, whether you're showing or schooling.

After our fairly decent off-farm Novice CT debut in November, I was feeling good about moving up to a Novice three-phase for 2016. Bright and early on January 1st, we headed over to Go With It Farm to load up the trailer and drive down to Poplar Place Farm.

We arrived at Poplar, set up our stalls, unloaded the trailer, and settled in our horses. I groomed and tacked up JJ, and our small group set out to school our cross country courses.

We had a nice little warm up on the flat and I noticed that JJ was feeling unusually perky, but didn’t think anything of it. We started with a Beginner Novice jump, then a Novice, and then a Training jump before working on the course itself. It was exactly the same as the course I had schooled in November when I did my CT event, so I figured I could handle it. I was wrong.

JJ was extremely excited, and I was having an usually difficult time controlling/slowing him. As a result, we had a few stops throughout the schooling session, but eventually got through everything and finished strong. I was a little freaked out by the fact that it hadn’t gone as well as I had hoped or expected, but we survived and that’s all that matters. Right?

When we got back to our stalls, I went to unbuckle the reins to remove them from his running martingale. Wait, running martingale? I HAD FORGOTTEN TO PUT IT ON! I had never jumped JJ without one before, and stupidly forgot to reattach it after I cleaned his 5-point breast plate the last time we showed. That explained why he was feeling so, uh, enthusiastic, and why I was having such a hard time managing him. OOPS!!

With a little “explanation” as to why the course wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, I felt a little better. Our team went for dinner, and then called it a night.

The next morning, JJ got fed, groomed and loved on. I tacked up and we had a pretty good dressage test. Not our best, but definitely not our worst – we scored a 39.00 on Novice Test B and were solidly in second.

After that, we changed tack and walked on down for our stadium round at 2’11”. On our course walk, my trainer had mentioned that jump #2 was going to be tricky due to its placement, line, and surroundings. She was totally right, as usual.

We cleared jump #1 without any problems, but #2 caught JJ by surprise. I tried to prepare him for it, but didn’t ride confidently enough and we had a stop. Thankfully, I stayed on. We circled around and got over it easily the next time through. We finished the course without any other incidents but incurred the 4 faults for the stop plus 10 time penalties due to having to circle and slipped into third.

For cross country, JJ took off like a bullet from the start box and I was worried we’d have a repeat of the day before. Fortunately, he was willing to “listen” to me (thanks, martingale!) and we had a much easier ride, although it was still pretty crazy! He said “Hell YES!!” to every jump, and there were two long spots where I was simply happy to still be in the middle of his back when we landed.

We had a few short trot sections to make sure we didn’t have any abrupt stops going into the water (he’s been funny about that lately) which put us two seconds over optimum time, but overall we finished clear with 0.8 time penalties!

I was worried about getting a stop at this jump since it was one of the largest and most substantial, but I knew once we cleared it, we'd be home-free for the rest of the course - and we were! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

I was worried about getting a stop at this jump since it was one of the largest and most substantial, but I knew once we cleared it, we’d be home-free for the rest of the course – and we were! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

I was SO thrilled to simply have finished my first Novice 3-phase that I didn’t even care what place I came in. I proved to myself that I could do this, and learned a bunch in the process. When the final scores were announced, JJ and I had moved back into 2nd!

It was a great weekend, and I can’t wait to get back out there and give Novice three-phase another shot!

LESSON LEARNED

ALWAYS check your tack! We all have forgetful moments, and things are bound to slip through the cracks eventually, but doing a double-check that you’ve got everything in place will be a big help in reducing unwarranted nervousness and anxiety! If you take something off, don’t wait until “later” to put it back on.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Beginner Nauseous … er, Novice

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. In the latest installation of her “Lessons Learned” column, she takes us back to her last event completed before her horse pulled up lame -- and as always, finds the takeaway lesson in her experience.

Poplar Place Farm and I have recently become frienemies. I love the facility itself, head trainer Werner Geven and his wife Marjolein are amazing people, and Kris the Sugar Cube Lady is wonderful. However, I’ve had not one but two falls in stadium there (and one near miss) recently, and I’ve definitely got some residual nerves as a result.

My trainer, Halliea, and I trailered down to Poplar on Friday morning for day 1 of the 3-day event. We unloaded, immediately started braiding, and then saddled up for our dressage rides that afternoon. The show itself was HUGE – the biggest event I have attended so far – and I was expecting JJ to be a little fired up. Surprisingly, he wasn’t. Instead, he was super calm, relaxed, and responsive. We had a short warm up since he was being so good, and cruised on into the arena to run through Beginner Novice Test A to start our Beginner Novice Rider division.

I felt like we were going to throw down a really decent score as we trotted in at A and proceeded down the center line. JJ’s gait was lovely, he was bending nicely, he was on the bit, and I was not screwing things up (mostly). Then came the medium/free/medium walks… he’s learned the tests by now, knows what comes next, and has started to get a bit anxious.

There was bracing. There was jigging. There was “oh well, so much for a flawless test” thinking. But then, then there was more gloriousness once we stared trotting again. So much so that when I prepped him for a 20-meter trot circle at E, JJ’s thought process went something like this: “Hey mom! Look how balanced and light I am! Look at how well I’m using my hind end and how I can rock this self-carriage thing! Let me canter for you!” and it was freakin’ SPECTACULAR. Seriously, it was the best canter transition I’ve ever had with him.

I was amazed, I was impressed, I was thrilled … and then I had to immediately tell him “No, please don’t do that” – which almost broke my heart to have to so negatively respond to his willingness – because he had cantered when we were supposed to be trotting. I couldn’t help but laugh, though, because he really WAS trying to be good and give me what he thought I would like. We finished the test with no other incidents, and wound up scoring a 38.40 and were 13th of 18 – pretty impressive considering the accidental canter and crappy walks!

For day two, we had stadium jumping with a start time of 4pm. That meant I got to spend the entire day sitting around getting nervous, and I definitely didn’t waste that opportunity. I’ve had bad luck in stadium lately, and I just couldn’t help but be nervous. I tried to keep busy to distract myself with other stuff, but eventually sat down to watch the Novice group go so that I could learn my course and plan my lines.

There was a group of catty girls sitting in front of me making nasty remarks about riders who were having trouble (side note: Please don’t be those girls. If you see someone struggling, either don’t say anything, or be encouraging and supportive. Stay classy.) and it didn’t help my nerves. Plus, watching those riders have trouble really didn’t help, and I noticed my heart rate rapidly rising.

After I felt like I’d seen enough (and knew the course), I consciously removed myself from the negative environment. I went back to my stall, hung out with JJ a little, set the alarm on my phone for when I needed to start getting ready, and decided to take a nap. This is my go-to game plan for nerves: I can’t notice that I’m freaked out if I’m asleep!

After a refreshing nap, it was time for us to head down. I tacked up, told JJ “Hey buddy, this is all you have to do today. Please jump all the things,” and went on down to warm-up. We jumped a few jumps, had a near-miss when someone cut across our path to the practice oxer, and I decided that that was actually a good thing as it forced JJ to listen to me for direction. He was focused, and I had a teensy bit of confidence. Into the main arena we went!

The course started with a big, bold, butterfly jump – very fitting considering the gigantic butterflies I had in my stomach! We cleared it effortlessly, and the rest of the course flowed unexpectedly well. JJ listened, and it was strangely EASY. No issues, no questions, no stops. One minute and 30-something seconds later, we had gone double clear and I had no more reason to be nervous! Thank you, JJ!! The day’s scores were posted, and we had moved up into a tie for 9th!

Can you tell pink is our color? Should out to Kelda for the fun helmet cover, Camryn for the awesome glitter saddle pad, and Beth for the amazing sparkly crop! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

Can you tell pink is our color? Should out to Kelda for the fun helmet cover, Camryn for the awesome glitter saddle pad, and Beth for the amazing sparkly crop! Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

On Sunday, our third and final day, we got up before sunrise to feed and prep for the cross country portion of the event. I had an 8:58am ride time, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to sit around, which I liked. Truth be told, I wasn’t really anxious about cross country at all. JJ’s been in beast mode out there lately, and I knew if I could just hang on and point him in the right direction, we’d be set.

The weekend had been wet, and the footing was a little slippery. We warmed up a little, jumped a cross-rail, then hit a vertical and JJ stumbled on the back side. My trainer and I decided we should go in on that in hopes that he wouldn’t be too bold due to the bobble. We got the count down from the starter, and away we went!

Our first two jumps were great, but after number two, JJ wanted to go to the right. I told him “No, left,” and he said “OKAY!” a little too eagerly. Suddenly, his hind end disappeared – he slipped while making the turn, and practically sat down in the grass. Somehow, my handy boy righted himself, I stayed on, and he was much more willing to listen to me after that! Ha!

We ran the rest of the course with no other slips, and had a fairly appropriate pace (ie: not our typical flat-out gallop). We wound up finishing 11 seconds under optimum time with no refusals or run outs for another double clear round!

Later, the final scores were announced and JJ and I had finished 7th in a huge group of 18 riders! I was so thrilled to have moved up so significantly from our initial place. We didn’t score a ribbon, but our score itself was still good enough to act as a second qualifying score for our USEA Bronze & Silver Medals! Yay!!

Additionally, my trainer and I participated in the Area III USEA Adult Team Challenge program and we both wound up with beautiful 6th place ribbons on behalf of our team’s efforts. :)

LESSON LEARNED

If you find yourself getting nervous, remove yourself from that situation and refocus your attention on something positive or productive – whether that’s hanging out with your horse, taking a nap, or something else entirely – and you’ll be a lot better off!

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: Collateral Damage

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur eventer whose blog focuses on learning the lesson at the heart of every day with horses, from the good to the bad to the ugly. In the latest installation of her “Lessons Learned” column, she finds the bright spot in months of stall rest.

JJ has been on stall rest since he came up lame at our last event. We had the vet out to check him several times. She X-rayed, she ultrasounded, and she gave an unconfirmed diagnosis: lateral collateral ligament damage in his front right.

Several weeks of stall rest later and JJ showed only mild improvement. We decided to have a lameness specialist come out to take a look, and he was able to confirm that it was, in fact, collateral damage. He recommended an IRAP therapy protocol, along with corrective shoeing, and two more months (minimum) of stall rest. He’s optimistic that JJ will recover fully, and I am eagerly counting down the days in the meantime.

The vet’s drawing of where the injury is and treatment options. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

The vet’s drawing of where the injury is and treatment options. Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

Early on in the lameness situation, we were cleared for short, 15-minute tack-walks and I was so happy to get JJ out of “horsey prison.” It wasn’t much, but I was determined to enjoy it simply for the fact that I was grateful to be back on my (wonderful) horse.

Our very first ride, there was some construction grading going on (to prepare for a new lesson horse barn that’s being built) next to the small arena we were riding in. I figured it would either be a disaster where JJ would spook, dump me, and re-injure himself again in the process, or it would be a learning moment in which we worked on relaxation and confidence. I hoped for the latter. Fortunately, as so often does not happen with riding, things went just like I had hoped.

Initially, JJ was a little put off by the construction equipment, but I assured him with my legs, seat, and voice that there was nothing to worry about. He took my advice and continued walking around like a good boy, and didn’t even try to jig at all.

At one point, though, the big, loud front-loader came barreling straight towards us with its massive, metal-tooth lined bucket raised high in the air. It was definitely a “10” on the “things that should be terrifying to horses” scale, and I could feel JJ start to tense and we had a quick conversation that went something like this…

JJ: Uh, mom? Do you see that thing?!? WHAT DO I DO??
Me: Yep, I see it. You do nothing, except relax and keep walking.
JJ: BUT IT IS TRYING TO EAT US, DEFINITELY MAYBE. ARE YOU SURE I SHOULD WALK TOWARDS IT?
Me: Yes, I’m sure. #NoBigDeal
JJ: … okay. I am good. I am brave. I will do this for you, mom.
Me: ♥

I was SO incredibly proud of how little JJ cared after that. I even walked him on a loose rein for most of our quarter-hour ride, right by the “scary” front-end loader that was very, very active. Although we didn’t accomplish anything from a traditional ride/workout standpoint, we definitely accomplished something in the trust department.

We’ve been working a lot on just relaxing and enjoying our time together during our walks over the past few weeks now. I’m trying to focus on getting him more responsive to my seat and legs for steering/stopping, and we’re actually making a fair bit of progress there. Also, JJ absolutely LOVES to roll (and to be as filthy as possible), so I’ve been giving him baths on the weekends with the sole purpose of letting him roll in the dirt afterwards, simply because it makes him so happy.

Not being able to work him and do fun things like jumping and practicing our dressage tests is torture, but I’m so fortunate just to be able to spend time with a horse, let alone my own horse. I feel so relieved now that we know what’s wrong and we have a treatment plan in place to help him heal and get healthy. I’m also finding solace in the fact that he’s still young (he turned 13 on April 23!) and we have plenty of time to together to conquer the world.

Here’s to a speedy recovery!

LESSON LEARNED

Even if you can’t do much, you can still work on strengthening the bond and partnership between you and your horse. You never know when these “nothing” moments will save your butt in the future!

Go riding!

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February, 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: When It’s Over Before It Begins

When you’re suddenly faced with a lame horse at a show and a whole weekend to spare, what do you do? In the latest installation of her “Lessons Learned” column, adult amateur event rider Ainsley Jacobs reflects on a recent bummer.

Photo by Halliea Milner of Go With It Farm

Photo by Halliea Milner of Go With It Farm.

It’s never fun when your horse goes lame, but it’s especially not fun when your horse goes lame right before a big event that just so happens to also be on your birthday. Fortunately, JJ wasn’t badly lame, and some rest and several days off fixed him up in time for us to still get a few good flat sessions in before our next USEA-recognized event at F.E.N.C.E. in Tryon, North Carolina.

When we pulled in, I saw that my stall had been decorated with tons of “Happy Birthday” banners! Turns out the awesome show organizer, KC Betzel, had worked her magic and decided to surprise me. It was so sweet of her! We unloaded, got the horses settled, and then tacked up to let our boys stretch their legs after the long trailer ride.

To say JJ felt great would be an understatement: he was floaty, he was light in the shoulder, he was responsive and he felt soft and supple. He didn’t show a hint of lameness, and I capped our light exercise outing at 30 minutes to prevent any re-stressing of whatever had been wrong.

On Saturday morning I groomed my filthy boy, got him braided, and tacked him up for dressage. We walked down to warmup without any problems and began going through our routine. He felt just the slightest bit hitchy in the hind, but we attributed it to the fact he’d been spending a lot more time in his stall than normal lately and probably just needed to work it out. Twenty minutes later he felt good, and we walked up to the covered arena for our dressage test.

As the rider in the arena was trotting down center line for her halt and salute, JJ and I stepped into the holding area to get ready to enter for our test. Immediately, he started hobbling at the walk. I was exceptionally confused, and wasn’t quite sure what had happened. Thinking maybe he just stumbled, I asked for a little trot to see if he’d come out of it. Five steps later, I knew there was a problem, so I halted and dismounted.

JJ was l-a-m-e LAME! What had happened between warmup and the walk to dressage?! I checked all his hooves and there were no stones. I felt all his legs and there was no heat or swelling. I had no idea what had happened, but the poor boy was obviously miserable. I chose to scratch, and our weekend ended without ever setting foot into the competition arena.

We walked slowly, and sadly, back to his stall. I made sure to tell him he was a good boy and that I appreciated how hard he tried to give me what I wanted despite being ouchy. He got lots of love and lots of treats.

Photo by Halliea Milner of Go With It Farm.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.

As incredibly disappointed as I was, I was actually very thankful that the problem presented when it did — as we had not yet begun our dressage test, we’ll now have only a “SCR” on our record which is so much better than having an elimination “E.” Also, I was so thankful that JJ’s lameness resurfaced while we were just walking around. If it had happened while we were galloping (or even jumping) on cross country, it could have been extremely dangerous and potentially devastating for us both. I’m so glad we’re both safe!

I allowed myself a momentary pity party, then decided to make my remaining time (ie: the entire weekend) at the event worthwhile. I stepped in to help my trainer Halliea and friend Beth who were also competing. My husband and I went up to XC to watch Halliea’s Novice course, and I decided to volunteer as a jump judge since I had nothing else going on.

As fate would have it, two jump judges had bailed at the last minute and the show organizers were desperate for help. I was happy to step in and enjoyed watching my fellow riders out there having fun. I judged two divisions (Novice and Starter) and I’m pleased to say that 100% of the horses and riders that came through my jumps got through successfully and with no penalties!

On Sunday, while my Go With It Farm team was preparing for stadium, KC contacted me to tell me there was something for me in the show office. Apparently the jump judges and show staff were so impressed by my decision to volunteer despite my weekend being so disappointing that they gave me a sportsmanship award! How cool is that?! I am now the proud owner of a very awesome (and much-needed) fleece-lined saddle cover with “FENCE 2016” embroidered on it. Thank you, FENCE!

All in all, I was really sad that JJ was hurt, that I didn’t get to compete on my birthday weekend, and that we didn’t earn any more AEC or USEA medal qualifying scores. Despite all that, though, I’m so grateful to have spent a fun weekend with my friends, my horse and my husband.

And, yes, the vet is coming today to take a look at JJ and see what’s wrong.

LESSON LEARNED

Even if your event comes to an unexpected, unfortunate end, you can still choose to make it a positive experience. Help your friends prep for their rides, or volunteer at the show as a jump judge, ring steward, score runner, or something else. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated, and you’ll have put your time to good use.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Lessons Learned: A Rolex Rookie’s Recap

The closest I’ll ever get to riding at Rolex. Photo by Erik Jacobs, P.TEN Marketing The closest I’ll ever get to riding at Rolex. Photo by Erik Jacobs, P.TEN Marketing

With her first trip to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event under her belt, Ainsley Jacobs shares her tips for future first-timers — as well as the big lesson she learned while browsing the vendor village. Ainsley is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

When I was little, I spent countless hours parked in front of the TV watching any and all equestrian-related coverage I could find. My best friend, Alana, and I would park ourselves on the floor just inches from the screen and dream of someday riding with the greats like Ian Millar, Hap Hansen, Bruce Davidson, and so many others.

I had idealistic goals of someday riding in Rolex, or jumping at Spruce Meadows, but, as I got older, I realized that those dreams, while still (eventually) obtainable, just aren’t realistic at this point in my life. If I couldn’t ride in Rolex, though, I could at least still go and spectate!

Cue my awesome barn family from Go With It Farm: my trainer, Halliea, organizes a huge group trip each year, and this was the first time I was actually able to attend as well! Let the shenanigans begin!

On Wednesday, I drove from Atlanta, Georgia to Lexington, Kentucky with my husband and my friend Sarah. We were all Rolex rookies and had no clue just how much fun we were about to have.

Thursday morning we arrived bright and early at the Kentucky Horse Park to watch dressage. The horses were stunning and I was studying the riders’ cues as if I were getting ready to take a college final – I wanted to capture some of their magic and be able to bring it home to my horse!

• DRESSAGE TIP: Rent a headset so you can listen to the experts’ commentary of each ride.

After, we took a walk through the vendor village and stopped at many of the tents checking out sales and swag. Somehow, I stumbled upon the Kent Nutrition booth that was hosting Jimmy Wofford for an autograph session. I scored a copy of his book, Modern Gymnastics, which he signed to “Ainsley and JJ” – cool! Despite the (awesome) distractions, I had a mission in mind: I was hoping to buy a jump saddle for JJ so I could stop using his old lesson saddle that is way too big for me.

I stopped by a few booths and sat in tons of saddles. Some felt good, some felt awful, and then … then, I found the CWD booth and sat in a used Antares monoflap and it was like my butt had been waiting its whole life to find that saddle – it was heaven! It fit me perfectly, and two individual CWD reps assured me that it was in fact a wide tree and would likely fit my marshmallow-shaped horse.

I even brought a tape measure with me to make sure the numbers matched up to his old saddle, but they told me not to bother. After much convincing, because I was skeptical that the saddle did not appear wide enough, I decided to trust their advice and handed over my credit card. I was so thrilled to have such a lovely saddle!

• SHOPPING TIP: Start early! In-demand items will go fast and you may be out of luck if you wait too long.

On Friday, we opted to skip Rolex completely. Instead, the ladies in our large group of 20+ dressed up, donned floppy hats, and headed down to Keeneland for a day at the races. I grew up in New York near Belmont and Aqueduct, so it wasn’t a new experience for me, but I still always get a thrill out of watching amazing Thoroughbreds fly down the home stretch as they fight for the finish, mere headbobs separating the winner from the wisher.

• RACING TIP: Go early to catch the horses breezing in the morning, then have breakfast at the track.

With two days of fun already behind us, we awoke on Saturday ready for the main event – CROSS COUNTRY! I was ready to watch the pros. I was ready to cheer on riders who I’ve spent my life idolizing. I was ready to feel like my beginner novice and novice jumps were ground poles by comparison. I was ready to be inspired!

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Our group had gotten a tailgating spot, ironically located right across the aisle from our friends at Eventing Nation! It started raining practically the moment we arrived, but we were well stocked with ponchos, rain boots, and attitudes that could not be dampened despite the weather. We had a fantastic view of the (terrifying) Land Rover ditch-and-wall jump, as well as decent views of two others, and I installed myself in a chair to watch the first horses and riders come through.

After I had gotten my fill of “OMG I’M FINALLY HERE AND IT’S HAPPENING”-ness, my husband and I ventured out to watch other jumps along the course and cheer on the riders as they came through. To say I was impressed does not even begin to cover how astounded I was by the true talent and partnerships these pairs demonstrated. From the Head of the Lake to the finish, in pouring rain and sloppy footings, my expectations were not met – they were exceeded. If I ever wind up riding even a fraction as well as these folks do, I’ll die happy.

• CROSS COUNTRY TIP: Listen for the whistles – they’ll let you know when a horse is about to appear.

The forecast looked fairly decent for Sunday’s stadium jumping, and after scouring the vendor village for more last-minute bargains, we took our seats in the bleachers. What blew my mind the most wasn’t the size of the jumps – yes, they’re large – but how much heart the obviously tired horses had as they tried their best to go clear. Rails came down, time penalties were tacked on, awkward distances were managed, yet everyone who crossed the finish line was a winner as far as I was concerned. Do they give out ribbons to fiftieth place? They should!

• STADIUM JUMPING TIP: You get such a better/closer view from the bleachers! Skip the grandstands!

Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

Photo by Ainsley Jacobs.

With a 6+ hour drive ahead of us, and work obligations looming, we unfortunately had to leave just before the event finished up and Michael Jung earned his astounding second consecutive win. I usually fall asleep on road trips almost immediately after we get on the highway, but I was so pumped from having had such an incredible time at Rolex that I was wide awake all the way home.

Post-Rolex Monday, not gonna lie, sucked just a little. I had to be a responsible adult and catch up on work when all I wanted to do was to go to the barn, see my boy, and see if the new saddle was a keeper! I had to wait until the next day to visit JJ, but I made up for being away for a week with several treats and lots of attention.

Then came the moment of truth – it was time to try JJ’s new saddle on him. I tied him in his stall and carefully hoisted our expensive new toy onto his back. After such an awesome week, reality came crashing back down: the saddle didn’t fit. Not at all, not even a little. Super disappointed, I hauled it back home after I rode (another horse, as JJ is still down with his mystery lameness that the vet hasn’t been able to figure out).

I contacted Antares to see if they could confirm what tree was actually in the saddle, and their rep, Ashley, was super helpful. Lo and behold, it wasn’t the “wide” that CWD sold it to me as – it was actually a medium tree that had been narrowed even more with extra reinforcements. I was told it was suitable for a slender Thoroughbred, the exact opposite of my broad-shouldered cow horse.

Next, I contacted CWD. I had the saddle on trial with the idea that if it didn’t fit, I’d ship it back at my expense. That’s totally fine and a logical expectation. However, as I was sold a saddle that was not what it was promised to be, I requested CWD cover the return shipping to make up for the misrepresentation. At first, they were not willing to do so, but I forwarded an email from Antares confirming the “not wide” tree, along with a photo showing the “not wide” measurements, and they finally sent me a pre-paid shipping label to return the saddle. I was exceptionally frustrated with the situation at first, but pleasantly surprised they were willing to make it right.

All in all, I learned a LOT at Rolex and I’m already making plans to go back next year! Hopefully I’ll have a jump saddle for JJ by then.

6 ESSENTIAL RK3DE PACKING LIST ITEMS

A small backpack with built-in hydration system – Easily carry your freebies, swag, and other great finds without having to haul around a water bottle, too!
Hiking sneakers – They’re lightweight, comfortable, and provide great support for all the walking you’ll wind up doing.
Leggings/yoga pants – Usually I despise the idea of “leggings at pants”, but it’s totally okay for Rolex. If it’s hot/humid, you’ll be happy you’ve got stretchy, comfy pants while you rack up miles on your steps counter!
Rain poncho – April showers are unpredictable, so stow a handy rain poncho in your backpack and you won’t regret it.
Portable battery pack – If your cell phone can’t handle the all-day demands of snapping pictures, making your friends jealous via social media, and searching for service, pack extra power.
Fanny pack – Not a joke! Bring back the ’80s and forget having to lug around a bulky purse (or worse, setting it down while you try on some new boots and forgetting to pick it up). A fanny pack is the perfect hands-free way to carry your credit card, cash, ID, phone, and chapstick.

LESSON LEARNED

Seeing is believing. If anyone tries to talk you into a purchase that you’re unsure of, make sure you get (and confirm) the facts — even if that means calling the manufacturer or measuring for yourself — before you let them charge your credit card!