Winter in New England could be described as a double edged sword. On the one hand, we are surrounded by a breathtaking icicle kingdom, especially when driving down some of these long, back, dirt roads in Vermont.
I find myself intentionally pulling off the side of the road in hopes of capturing such splendor on my iPad.Vulnerable and heavy branches caked with thick sheets of ice are precariously draped above the road, creating a small but luring tunnel beneath them. On the off chance the sun is shining, and the light happens to hit the frozen extremities just so, magic seems to be the result.
On the other hand, thousands of people are without power, with all the electrical lines down. Several of these back roads that connect us with our real lives and jobs are often impassable. The freezing temperatures and the driving conditions can be trying and finding motivation when the sun disappears at approximately 4:22pm is extremely difficult.
As an avid event rider, staying focused and finding inspiration every winter can be a challenge. Though, when you have something like an indoor jumper show to look forward to, and an entire Gold Cooler Jumper Series to work towards, the winter just went from bleak, miserable and uninspiring, to highly motivating, uplifting and thrilling.
Yesterday, I took Vinnie to our first indoor jumper show together at Orion Farm in South Hadley Massachusetts, which is part of the Gold Cooler Jumper Series. A couple friends and I made the couple hour journey to the sunny south, where the sun was shining, the grass was visible and the atmosphere was perfection. And yes, 42 degrees shall be described as the sunny south, when 10 below is the norm!
We were running slightly late, after dealing with ice, shoveling trailers out of snowbanks, and driving on back roads to do some horse shuffling. We arrived just in time for the last division, which was the 3’6”-3’9” class. We hustled to get on our horses and warm up as quickly as we could, as to not keep everyone waiting even longer than they already had been. We jumped a couple warm up jumps, went in the indoor and immediately learned our courses.
My heart was pounding. I was second to go in the ring. There were enough people standing around and watching to make the adrenaline kick in. I trotted towards the judge and proceeded as the whistle blew.
My inner dialogue turned on immediately. Good GOD these seem big. I thought this was 3’3” NOT 3’9”? Whatever, suck it up, and get it together Lila. Don’t go off course, dumb dumb. Stay focused. Keep him coming, but not running. Stay balanced. Shoulders back, leg on. But don’t get tight.
We made it around the first course and while it did not feel like the most effortless, or straight forward round of my life, I was completely happy with Vinnie and how he felt. He is totally honest and continues to make me feel like I can literally conquer the world.
Denny constantly talks about going to more of these jumper shows and dealing with the pressure of going in the ring. I used to not understand why he was so insistent about these shows, but after going to several now, I completely realize how crucial they are.
If you’re not used to jumping in a smaller area, it can be very challenging. The jumps obviously come up quickly, and you can easily lose momentum. You do not have a lot of time to set cruise control, nor do you have tons of time to think about your next move.
You have to know exactly where you’re going, and you have to make decisions very quickly. You immediately realize where your holes are in your riding and what your homework will be before the next outing.
Not only do these jumper shows give me an opportunity to get off the farm and do something fun for the day, but they offer us inexpensive chances to practice our skills, to learn how to ride in smaller areas, to refine our riding, to remember a course quickly, and to put ourselves under pressure. Coping with pressure is one of the hardest things for me in this sport, and to have opportunities to be under pressure seems priceless.
While the layer of rust was completely evident at this show yesterday, I was beyond thrilled to get myself and Vinnie out in public again. I was just so happy to be jumping a course.
Thank you so much Orion Farm for being so incredibly accommodating and for waiting for our crew to finally arrive. We all had an amazing time and appreciate the effort to make these shows happen! We’ll be back, don’t worry!