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Julie Maner

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A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: Squeezing Calves = Speed

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 12, 2017

I didn’t want to ride today. Thanks to my granddaughter, I was battling a daycare stomach bug. But I knew it had to be done as I have worked on the jumping components with Erika but not dressage. I am choosing my days very deliberately now. After this lesson, I will only have time to fine tune what has been taught and hope for the best.

Battling waves of nauseousness, Romeo and I headed to Merry Hour. We had a lengthy walking warm-up as to save the stomach bouncing for my lesson! I rode the test for Erika. Hopefully, we will have time in the next two weeks to work on connection and bend but for now it was all about accuracy; when to ask for transitions, how to aim at letters, the judges vantage point and those darn circles. Or in may case, ovals.

We broke the test down and worked on making the circles round and using the corners. Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up. It was a good lesson, leaving me with lots to lay awake at night and memorize. Erika asked me to ride it one more time using all of my new tools.

Nailed the centerline, circles not so egg like, got the correct lead on canter. Yippee!  We were almost done. Canter down the side, downward transition to trot and then a walk. Wait…WHAT IS HAPPENING???  Romeo was getting faster and faster! We went reeling around the corner toward the judge’s box (Erika). Trot!!! Trot!!! What the hell, Romeo??? I quickly run through my checklist. Oh crap! Squeeze with thighs to slow him down, not calves. Damn it! Having turned my brain on autopilot, I quit thinking about each move. Things were going so well.

Erika:  What was that?

Me: Curse, curse, curse! I was squeezing with my calves, not my thighs.

Erika gave a small grin and a shake of her head. Calves = speed. Grrrrrrr. Stupid, stupid, stupid mistake! I picked up where we left off and other than that sudden bolt of speed instead of a downward transition; it wasn’t a half bad test.

We made it back home before serious stomach issues overtook me. I am looking forward to the schooling show this Saturday. I received a funny phone call this week from the show organizer asking why don’t you just jump the Beginner Novice course? Because I don’t want to die! I explained the situation at Jump Start. The dressage test is a higher level than the jumping components. My brain is too overloaded and old to mess with memorizing two tests. “You won’t qualify for a ribbon but we can do it.” Well, OK. I’m sure it would have been a blue one! Ha! 

A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: Only Three Weeks to Go!

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 7, 2017

Today, I talked Erika into meeting me at another nearby farm, Cedar Valley. I had told her I wanted to work on stadium, but once I arrived, I changed my mind. The weather was amazing: crisp and cool. The view from the dressage arena was too nice to pass up. Forget jumping, that’s too stressful on a day like this. Unfortunately, Erika didn’t agree and we headed to the jumping arena.

Em and Loki were also along for the ride. At this point, Em has decided not to compete at Jump Start. This has been a difficult decision for both of us. It was part of my dream that she compete with me, of course not in the same division, but I had imagined us walking horses together, braiding manes and giving pep talks to one another. Fortunately, Em has her priorities straight. She is taking an extremely hard accounting class this semester and couldn’t dedicate the time needed to prepare for the show. She will still be there by my side at Jump Start but studying in the down time.

Back to today’s lesson — I was determined to not have any refusals. With just three weeks to go, I can’t afford to have my confidence shaken. I need to learn from all of my previous mistakes and be consistent by applying what I know. I think Erika may be right — while Romeo is a good boy and basically a school master, he will not take a jump if he doesn’t feel all systems are go. He has confidence issues. That can be a problem because you can’t guarantee he will be a team player or bail you out if you become just a passenger and not a rider. I have to remember this. I can’t let adrenaline and nerves take over. I have to approach each jump as though it is the first.

With that, we were off. Not to sound repetitive but consistency for me is the key; gather your thoughts, one, two, one, two, sit up, kick! Trot poles set, cross rail rails, verticals, trotting between jumps, cantering between jumps, going one direction and then switching (to keep Romeo from assuming), two jumps in a row, three jumps in a row, four jumps in a row and more! More smiles! My stone-faced prelim daughter said to me, “I really should try to smile more.”

Even as Loki galloped and bucked around the arena trying to engage in some horseplay, we managed to compete a seven-jump course. YAY! We can do this Romeo! I know we are going to have some hiccups in the coming weeks but hopefully, we will keep moving forward and arrive at Jump Start with confidence and consistency.

 

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

23 days to Jump Start

September 8, 2017

It is done. We are committed. And I got a massage!


Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

22 days to Jump Start

September 9 & 10, 2017

I’ll make these entries short and sweet. Yesterday, we worked on dressage at our farm, and Richard called the test for me. We have progressed enough that I have to stop doing the actual test and work on individual components since Romeo thinks he has it memorized … and he does not. Breaking into the canter before we’re supposed to is not a way I want to gain points.

Today, Em and I walked hills on our horses, and I rode the test once. She seems pretty impressed. Although I have never trained to be an eventer, I have listened to the instruction she has received for over 10 years. The questions I would ask about Em like why can’t you shorten the reins, or what’s up with that leg, or sit back … I’m now seeing how easy it is to be an armchair quarterback. But, I do feel like it has given me a leg up (ha, ha) as to know what I am doing.

I may not have logged many miles in the saddle, but I have certainly logged plenty of mental miles while standing beside my daughter. And my husband … he can read a dressage test! He knows where I am and totally gets what I am supposed to be doing. Supporting Em all of these years is making it possible for me to mark this off of my bucket list. I guess the biggest news I can report this week is that the halter, the one that taunted me, is no longer hanging in our bedroom. It is either on my horse or hanging outside of his stall where it should be. What a ride this has been. Only three weeks to go!

Heels down, eyes up, leg on. 
20 days to Jump Start

Read more on Julie’s blog here

A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: Up, Up and Away!

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

It was Labor Day, and Romeo and I were on the road early headed to River Glen for another cross-country schooling. This time I was nervous. I had a sense of dread, not fear, just a sinking feeling. I figured if it didn’t go well, Erika might be inclined to say we were not going to be ready by the end of the month and pull the plug. W

ith butterflies in my stomach, I tacked up Romeo. My jaws hurt. Stop clenching your teeth. Without Emily to double-check everything, I was even more insecure. I enlisted Erika’s help with the jumping boots (not dressage boots) and she also presented me with a crap strap to use for the day. For those of you who don’t know, a crap strap, as eventers call them, is a simple leather strap that is fitted around the horse’s neck. It comes in handy when you lose your balance or need something to hang on to as you’re careening through the fields yelling, “Oh crap!”

A small hiccup in our plan was that Erika and I had completely forgotten that she had borrowed my cross-country vest and it was back in her trailer an hour away. Julie P. (another member of the Road Less Traveled) offered me hers. Julie P. and her horse, Bosco are amazing. Bosco is pretty much Superman. He is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and I am quite certain he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. This being said, Julie’s cross-country vest has a Superman logo on the back. I am not worthy. It’s a bird, it’s a plane … oh wait … it’s just Julie and Romeo.

We headed out to warm up. This time the group consisted of young girls — girls who had been training in some form or fashion of a horse discipline for years, or possibly their entire lives. No pressure. I think I’m going to throw up. I asked Erika at what point do the butterflies go away. “Never” was her reply. I tried a page from my son’s Zen lifestyle. Meditate. Breath in through the mouth, out through the nose. Enjoy the moment Julie. Apply what you know. I faintly heard Erika ask, “Are you taking deep breaths?” I nodded.

For the past week, I have relived my two jumping refusals. I have played them over and over in my head. I lay awake at night visualizing sitting up, heels down and counting my trot steps to each jump. It was my turn. Don’t just take off and go. Take a minute. Remember to sit back and when you think you are sitting back, sit back more. Count out loud. Heels down. Got it. Now, you can go. The other girls might have thought I was crazy as I gathered my thoughts and took a moment; it was just a small log on the ground. One, two, one, two, one, two. Jump! We did it! No problem! Cheers and applause coming from the sidelines encouraged me to do more!

Next jump. One, two, one, two. Success again! I could hear Erika yelling when I had reached “the point of no return!” This was extremely helpful. At that point we were committed to the jump. Heels down, eyes up, KICK! We tackled every obstacle put in front of us. I was even able to get the trot back a couple of times! Butterflies turned to smiles — lots and lots of smiles. I bet I look like a person straight out of a mental institution. But I was having fun.

More importantly, I think Romeo was having fun. He took a few stutter steps here and there but Erika explained that he wasn’t questioning the jump — he was finding the distance for me. I was staying out of his way but still giving him all of the right signals to jump the obstacle! Feeling confidant, I even followed Katherine, a fellow team member, up a bank: more smiles and cheers! Erika asked if I wanted to attempt the beginner novice back-cracking combination again. No need to push my luck or my back. “No, thanks.”

Our first up bank!

I found myself going through the water, up a hill and toward a jump. You could tell Romeo just thought we were going for a hack. Hands wide, sit up, count, LOOK ROMEO! And he did! Success!

Remember when I said I can sound like I know a lot about eventing but don’t really know a lot? Well, I’m used to my Preliminary level daughter doing trot and gallop sets to prep for shows so while taking a break, I asked Erika about conditioning Romeo.

Me: So, how much galloping should we be doing to get him in shape? Em is going to do the conditioning for me.

Erika, aghast:  NONE!

Me: What? Why?

Erika: He’s a thoroughbred. He’s naturally fit. He’s fit for starter just by the work you’re doing. You want him to be fit for the job but not too fit or he could possibly overpower you. We don’t need him to be anymore athletic than he already is. A trainer once told me that you want your horse to be on or near the same fitness level as the rider.

Me: Oh. Wait? What are you saying? I’m slow, old, and not very talented? Snicker. I’m not sure that’s a compliment but I get it. He’s a thoroughbred. No more conditioning. Mark that off my list! Does this mean I can skip the gym this week? 

We shared a good laugh and moved on. There was one jump to go, the dreaded red barn thing that we had trouble with last week. More butterflies. I have to get comfortable with this. I have watched cross-country videos from the starter division at Jump Start. They have lots of these barn things on course. With Erika in my ear, “Open your left rein, MORE, POINT OF NO RETURN!, KICK!”  One, two, one, two, one, two. We were over it! We did it! Granted, he jumped it with a few feet to spare (no doubt memories from last week’s correction) but we did it! Grabbing the “crap strap’” I did a victory lap. More insane smiles! Stop smiling you crazy lady! 

My approach to the barn thing.

To top the day off, those dressage boots from my first cross country lesson were still sitting on the jump I’d put them on two weeks ago AND I remembered to grab them this time.

With that, my second cross-country schooling was over. I get it. I understand why these girls keep going back. The freedom of flying, the sound of the wind, seeing the mane fly, the ears perk, becoming one with a 1000+ lb beast! My words don’t do it justice. When everything clicks, it is an amazing feeling! I couldn’t wait to get on the road to call Richard … and I didn’t stop smiling all of the way home. Good job, Romeo. Up, up and away!!!

Erika (and her dog, Sunny), me, AC, Katherine, Julie and Lisa.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

27 days to Jump Start

Read more on Julie’s blog here

A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: Oh Julie!

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!

Romeo enjoying a carrot from our garden.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Our farrier, Jeremy was here today so another day off for Romeo. And I had my granddaughter all day, so riding did not happen. I scheduled a massage for Friday and will pick up the muscle relaxers tomorrow.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

30 days to Jump Start

 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Today, Emily came home to ride with me. Thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, the farm was too soggy to do much work so we opted for a hack and some hill work. As I prepared dinner, Em went to catch the horses and tack up. I glanced out the front window to see Romeo trotting away from Emily. He’s my horse now. Hee Hee!

After a trip back to the barn for feed, she had him. Off we went. If it weren’t for Loki’s antics, it would have been a pleasant ride. First Loki spooked at the cattle (which he sees every single day), next it was the newly paved road. He must have thought it was a river of lava or a big snake; he snorted, and bent his neck and showed the whites of his eyes the entire way to the field. Once there, he spooked again … at our dog, which is under his feet every day. Romeo spooked at the cows but only because Loki did it.

The other times I felt like he wanted to tell Loki to just “relax.” We tried a bit of trotting but Loki wanted to relive his racing days and I was quickly reminded of my aching back. We decided to end our ride before Loki went over the edge and Romeo and I became collateral damage.

Tomorrow is another day off as my best friend’s daughter is getting married. It’s time for Richard and I to put all of those ballroom dancing lessons to good use!

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

31 days to Jump Start

 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Today, Romeo had the day off and I got a much needed massage.

Me: No need to work on my arms and legs. Let’s just concentrate on my lower back.

Rhonda (my massage therapist): You have a one-hour scheduled; that’s a lot of time to spend on just your back.

Me: Trust me.

She gets to work…

Rhonda: OH JULIE!!!

Needless to say, for the next four-weeks, I have a standing appointment!  My rejuvenated muscles and I had an awesome time at the wedding and we danced our tails off!

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

30 days to Jump Start

 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The conditions here were still too wet to do much of anything on our farm so Romeo and I loaded up and headed back to Merry Hour to practice the dreaded Beginner Novice dressage test. Emily was to meet us there and read the test and give me pointers. We arrived before Em and so after a good warm-up, I thought I could go ahead and start working on the test. I pulled the paper out of my pocket and tried to focus.

OK, for all of you young bucks out there, getting old can sometimes suck. Don’t get me wrong; I am in dandy shape (possibly the best of my life) but eyesight? I have no control over that. I strained to focus. Even at a full arm’s reach, I could barely make out the letters, much less the motions of the test.  Every time Romeo so much as took a breath, I lost focus! Quite the visual picture, I know!

My reading glasses were in the truck. Dare I go back and get them? What if someone comes in here and sees me riding around with my grandma readers on the end of my nose. HELL NO! I gave up and waited for Em to arrive. Heavy sigh.

Despite my vision woes, once Em arrived, we had a great little lesson. Trot the circles. Canter the circles. Oops, forgot that diagonal line! My bad!  Romeo tried to help. He thought he had the test memorized and knew when to trot, when to canter, and when to halt. Most of the time he was wrong but, I appreciated his efforts.

I have to remind myself that I am not looking for a ribbon; this is a bucket list item … a challenge. But what if we get eliminated in dressage? Not because of Romeo but because of me? My biggest fear: my 50 (almost 51) year-old memory. What if I get disqualified for forgetting the test?

Less than 30 days to go now. Gulp.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

29 days to Jump Start

 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Today, Em took the reins. I have decided that if I can spare my back any of the concussions that come from galloping about, I should. So, for now, Emily will work on his conditioning. i.e. making sure he is physically fit to run cross-country. Rambo (a mustang that we board) and I watched as they cantered across the farm today. He looked good to me!

Tomorrow is another cross-country schooling. Fingers crossed.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

28 days to Jump Start

Read more on Julie’s blog here

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

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

Monday, August 28

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

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

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

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

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

Erika: Let’s do some cavaletti work instead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Wasn’t his fault? What the heck?

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

Erika: Do it again.

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

Erika:  Again.

Erika: Again.

Erika: Again.

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

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

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

34 days to Jump Start

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

Read more on Julie’s blog here

A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: I Trusted You!

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!

Sunday, August 27

Today was my first ever cross-country schooling. It was Em’s and Loki’s (her horse) first outing since he had foot problems back in May. Needless to say, we were both pretty excited.

I hadn’t thought to ask Erika who would be joining us but much to my relief the first thing we saw as we approached was a red, cotton topped lady and her cute painted steed! Val! What a relief. I can fall off in front of her and not be too embarrassed! Erika and Jess, another adult amateur student, joined us and in record time we were headed out to the field to warm up.

After a bit of walking, I asked Romeo for a trot. That’s not right. What’s wrong? Is he bucking? Trantering? Is he broken? Oh God! He’s broken! The dream is over already! I got him stopped and quickly look to Erika for an explanation. Laughter between her and Val ensues. What the heck???

I look toward Em who coolly says, “You might want to take those hind boots off. I don’t think he likes them.” Seriously? I quickly dismount and remove the hind boots. Magically, he finds the ability to trot on. Later, I learned that Em had saved the jumping boots for Loki and she had put Romes in some ill fitted dressage boots. Note to self: Learn to tell the difference between jumping and dressage boots, and don’t forget to come back and get the boots once we’re done here.   

Our warm up continued with me cantering in circles, squeezing and trotting. No problem. I watched as the more advanced riders popped over jumps, Loki looked like a fire breathing dragon, excited to be back at it again. See, Romeo, we don’t have to do any of this. No need to get excited.

My turn. With instruction from Erika, we started jumping the things. There was no screaming but lots of laughter. Ok, there might have been a bit of screaming when Romeo latched onto and headed straight for a jump that was not only much larger but backwards! It was a laughable moment. We were having fun.  I felt good about it. My eyes were up and my heels were down. I’m not too sure about the kicking part but we were going over so it must have been right.

Em encouraged me to try a Beginner Novice combination. The first jump was spot on, the second jump … I don’t know. We went over it but I felt my back crack as we did. No need to call the chiropractor now.  

We were almost done. There was one more jump to go. It was a barn thingy. I knew this jump. Years ago, Em was schooling Romeo and I was on my horse, Loki. Em asked if we could switch mounts so she could pop Loki over it. I remember the look on her face. I remember Erika’s eyebrows lift as she said, ”Do it again.” It was the beginning of the end of my partnership with Loki.

Anyway, today, I didn’t like that jump. It didn’t look friendly. Emily sensed my hesitation. “You want to follow me over it?” I nod. Em and Loki went over. As I approached, my foot slid too far through my stirrup. ABORT! ABORT!  I pulled up on the reins and veered away from the jump at the last second. I heard Erika yell her disapproval! She explained that now Romeo would refuse it. For those of you who don’t know, Romes is kind-of known for refusing. Erika says he’s insecure. He has been accused of not being a team player. I don’t know what his problem is but for some reason, I thought he and I would not have an issue with this. It’s green as grass for Pete’s sake!

Little Emily and Romeo working on their refusal issues years ago: 

I approached the jump again, feeling more insecure than before.  Romeo felt the question in my confidence and he took advantage. He stopped. I went from fear to anger with American Pharoah speed. Thankfully, I had a crop (which I had tried to convince Erika I didn’t need). Romeo felt my wrath. How dare you??? I trusted you!!!  We circled back around and managed to get the job done.

It was determined that Erika needed to dust off her megaphone (Val and I can’t hear you!) and I needed to carry a crop … always. My first cross-country schooling was overI lived, although my pride and confidence were a bit shaken. I breathed a sigh of relief as we drove away leaving a bit disappointed and without those damn hind boots!  Before we headed home, Erika flexed Romeo and we decided to hold off on injections. He looked pretty darned sound.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

35 days to Jump Start

Read more on Julie’s blog here

A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: We Are Going to Have Fun … Right?

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!

We are going to have fun … right?

Tuesday, August 22

I asked my trainer Erika to meet me at Merry Hour (a local farm) to ride in their indoor arena. I wanted the walls for security and stability. Cantering without screaming — that was my goal.

Flashback to my first lesson on Romeo in the spring:

Erika: Pick up your left lead canter.

I trot by with a confused look on my face. Our eyes meet.

Erika: You do know how to canter, right?

Me: Well duh … I know that when we go over a jump, he canters out of it and I don’t fall off.

Erika: My apologies. I thought you were walk, trot, canter.

Me: I am! I just don’t know how to do it on purpose.

Back to tonight’s lesson. Romeo was a good boy. I learned how to canter: on purpose. My biggest take away: squeezing my thighs makes him slow down. How counterintuitive? I would have thought squeezing would send him forward. Erika tried to explain the physics of it: energy from behind in canter, rounded back, squeezing breaks energy…. Squeeze thighs to slow down. Got it. Good to know.

The lesson ended with only one scream that I quickly squelched. I am officially W,T,C.

Romeo’s mane is pulled but I don’t quite feel like I am ready to wear a team shirt.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

39 days to Jump Start

Wednesday, August 23

I awoke and started my day. Dang. My shoulders … my back. Where did that bruise come from? Where’s the TylenolArg. I headed down to the barn. Today, we were on our own. We practiced dressage in our front field. When I say we practiced dressage, I mean we stayed in the boundaries, trotted and cantered around in circlesDid you read that correctly? We cantered … on purpose … with purpose. I was pretty proud of myself.

I squeezed and he trotted. See, I can take instruction. This is going to be a breeze! My mind wandered. I should really print off the intro test so we can practice. I need to call the vet and discuss injections, call the farrier and tell him about this madness (Romeo had just grown enough foot to put a nail in it), need to go to the chiropractor, check registration deadlines, sign up for CDCTS schooling show and clean this bit. Ride done.

Inspired by my superb downward transitions, it was time to see the actual dressage test. To my great disappointment, the USEA website said Jump Start uses Beginner Novice, test B. Beginner Novice? That can’t be right. Could that be a typo? It should be an intro test. I printed them both. That evening, with cardboard boxes and a sharpie, I made dressage letters for our makeshift dressage arena. Nicole was meeting me in the a.m. to help position them and read the test to me.

Day two of official event training was non-eventful but I had a new list! Where’s that Tylenol?

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.
38 days to Jump Start

Thursday, August 24

Nicole and I were in the front field by 10 a.m. The letters were placed.We opted for the intro test. Beginner Novice had to be a mistake. We ran through the test a few times. She had to trot the 20-meter circle on foot before I completely understood where I was supposed to be going. I’m sure drivers-by raised an eyebrow at our antics. In the meantime, Emily was reaching out to the show secretary and friends on Facebook to clarify which test was to be used. Late in the afternoon, it was confirmed: Beginner Novice B. Damn it.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.
37 days to Jumps Start

Saturday, August 26

Romeo got yesterday and today off as we have two jumping lessons on the horizon. In the meantime, Emily drew the test for me. What the hell? The drawing was a mess. How can anyone remember all of this? I swallowed hard. We decided to drive the test on the four-wheeler.  Emily was not amused as I tweaked the gas to imitate a trot and gunned it (almost repelling her off the back) for the canter parts. Where’s your sense of humor? Heavy sigh. This is going to be more complicated than I thought.

Romeo watched from the safety of his run-in shed. Don’t worry Buddy. We are going to have fun…right?

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

36 days to Jump Start

Read more on Julie’s blog here

A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: A Prelim Mom’s Journey to Starter

Welcome to A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: A Prelim Mom’s Journey to Starter, a new blog by Tennessee eventer mom Julie Maner: “I would like to invite you to follow along as I attempt to ride in my first … and only event. 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!”

Photo by Julie Maner.

The Halter That Taunted Me

Last year, for my 50th birthday, a friend gave me a grooming halter. Save it for your first event. I hung it on a table in my bedroom and have walked by it multiple times a day for almost a year now. Emily, my one-star chasing daughter, once asked if I was ever going to use it. One day. In March, something unexpected happened: Emily’s first Novice horse, Romeo, came home. I continued to walk past the halter, sometimes lingering a bit. Could I really do it?

With no clear intentions, I took a few lessons. Romeo was patient. I promised Erika Adams, Emily’s coach, I would not wear a Road Less Traveled eventing team shirt until Romeo’s mane was pulled and I was able to ride without screaming. I think we enjoyed ourselves but life tends to get in the way: a grand baby, vacations, the never-ending to-do list, a lame horse, the gym, dance lessons, trying to give up wine … my list of excuses were long.

As I spent the summer marking things off of that list and adding to it, I thought more and more about Romeo. I thought about why he had come back home. Was it a sign? Richard (hubby) and I went to Scotland armed with only a travel book and Nicole and Ryan (unofficial daughter and her husband) to guide us through the country. After just a few days, Richard and I were on our own, exploring places unknown and more importantly, unplanned or researched. I returned rejuvenated. That was fun. What’s next? The halter taunted me.

Richard and Julie in Scotland. Photo courtesy of Julie Maner.

I watched our friends, the Morrisons, map out a cross country motocross adventure that took them from the east to west coasts. I found myself looking for their Facebook posts. That looks miserable. Oh, how amazing! Wow! And just recently, I have closely followed Leslie Wylie’s journey to the Mongol Derby. I read about her preparation and followed her little red dot as she started and finished the race. HOLY COW! Now don’t get excited, I have no desire to ride a motorcycle or try my hand at breaking wild ponies, but it did beg the question: What are you waiting for? Damn halter.

I made a decision. I set a goal. Romeo and I would ride Starter at River Glen Horse Trials in November. Three months of training, that should be enough. Done. I’m doing it. Keep in mind, I have never ridden a dressage test, never jumped more than six consecutive jumps (and that I’ve only done once) and fallen trees in the woods are the extent of my cross country experience.

Julie, Romeo and Emily. Photo by Julie Pate.

People ask if I can ride. Ummm, I can sound like I do. I took regular lessons while we lived in St. Louis: a two-year stint. I couldn’t tell you what kind of lessons they were but I learned how to post the trot. In the 8th grade, we returned home to Chattanooga where a big, brown horse was waiting for me, at least I think he was big. Ironically, this same horse had once chased my brother, cousins and me through an open field near my grandmother’s house. My dad must have gotten a deal. Eventually, the adults convinced me he was saddle broke (a racking horse nonetheless) and before long, I was climbing on helmetless and galloping bareback through the fields pretending to be a beautiful Indian princess. With the advent of a driver’s license and boys, I outgrew Trigger and he went on to his next owner.  My husband has always humored my interest in horses and will even tell a stranger I can ride! He feigned enjoyment on our honeymoon as we rode horses on the beach and even swam with them in the Caribbean. Horses have come and gone on our farm. Most have been lawn ornaments but I have to own a horse — I live on a farm!

“Whaddya mean you can’t ride, Julie?” — the editor. Photo courtesy of Julie Maner.

I must have done something right, because Emily chose to ride … with no encouragement from me. Que Richard’s eye roll. Always by her side, I have listened to lessons, walked the courses, studied the tests, watched the videos, and shared in the victories as well as the defeats. I know the terms: needs to be more forward, more bend, inside leg–outside rein and a million more. I have heard them all and sometimes, I am lucky enough to actually understand what they mean!

Emily, Richard and Julie with Emily’s Prelim horse Contender. Photo by JJ Sillman.

#1 horse show mom. Photo by JJ Sillman.

Fast forward to August 21. Eclipse day. Remember that decision: the one about River Glen? We realized — there is no Starter division!!! Don’t panic. You can do Hagyard Team Challenge. It cuts your preparation by two weeks but that’s OK. What? THERE’S NO STARTER THERE EITHER!  I’m left with a North Carolina event seven days into October or Jump Start at the Kentucky Horse Park, the first weekend of October. Inner conflict goes on tilt. I don’t want to die. Jump Start is only seven weeks away. Refer to the third paragraph if you have forgotten that I have absolutely no eventing experience … or any other respectable mounted equine track record.

A meeting of the minds with Richard and Emily followed by a “have I lost my mind” conversation with Erika and it is decided. We will shoot for Jump Start. What could possibly go wrong? Call it a bucket list item or something more — I’m in it 110%.

The 40-day countdown begins now. Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

Keep an eye on EN Blogger’s Row for future editions of “A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing” and check out Julie’s blog here