Update: Completion, Check!

My happy place. Photo by Merrilyn Ratliff with Monica Fiss Burdette’s camera!

I promised to update everyone on the progress I’ve made with returning to competing again in the sport I love. The progress report is “some more work to do” but satisfactory nonetheless.

I have learned I really do not need to stress over this. I do not need to overpack the trailer. I do not need to overpack clothing for myself (one pair of boots and breeches will suffice). ┬áDon’t over-ride and don’t over-jump — you won’t be over-tired. And definitely park in the dirt and not the fresh green grass — makes the day MUCH easier and I’ll explain that in a minute.

Entering a lovely, long-standing unrecognized event held by our local pony club, I knew fairly well what to expect: great footing, good organization, friendly faces and a mild early season challenge to the courses. All was as expected and sometimes that’s really what you need to keep your confidence developing positively.

Surprises are part of the sport — you learn to roll with the punches — but to protect a sometimes fragile confidence you want to find a way to get the job done without drama or concern. Fortunately for me the day was quiet!

I think we give ourselves much too much attention; it is smarter just to walk it once and say, “Just canter around and look for the numbers.” Honestly the hardest part of the day was walking parts of the course in deep grass — my knee was a little tired from it all Sunday night, but I know I have to continue rehab.

I followed my epiphany of No-Sleep Saturday: “Don’t Over____ It.” As in over-warmup. Over-jump. Over-everything. And doggone, it worked. Still working on maintaining uphill balance for the duration of the dressage test, but most of it was pretty solid. We need work on stretching, and on straightness.

Following the mantra, I only jumped four warmup jumps — well, maybe five — crossrail, crossrail, vertical, vertical, oxer, oxer (I guess that is six.) The show jumping rode well — I asked for a steadier distance to three jumps that I knew I couldn’t get him round for. The two stride rode a bit snug but I “whoaed” before it, and I made the last jump also throttled back and short because it was a downhill vertical.

In our area we go straight out to cross-country following stadium so no need to warm up for it. I started with a hop over a tiny log and cantered on, the second fence was a bit weak so I asked for a more forward canter after and the rest of it was super. I opted to do a bank up to the bank down, while only the bank down was flagged, I wanted to make sure my big old boy didn’t have to be cranked around on the top of it, and wanted it to be straightforward to him.

The rest with one exception rode very well, he looked carefully at the water but let me canter him right down into it then trotted in front of my leg to the up bank. I trotted him up the steep hill so we could both catch a breath. There were a few more then a larger hayrack; here I made a mistake. I tried to use a downhill-uphill swale in front of the jump to develop a better balance, but it was further out from the fence than I thought I needed in order to get him balanced. So I waited til I was near the jump, and the distance was very off and he stabbed in a short one and clambered over it. Lesson learned — never too early to balance!

While we got a nice primary colored ribbon, my biggest concern was both of our fitness. I was breathing hard and so was he, and for only 14 jumps I thought that was not very good. But by the time we walked five minutes back to the trailer, both of us were breathing normally. That was all the actual metric calculation I could get, since you have to get your vest and helmet and gloves off, and loosen the girth and take off the bridle and put on the halter, then untack, wash down, remove studs and all that stuff when you solo event. So no numbers, just anecdotal evidence that we recovered shortly and should do more fitness work.

And … parking on the dirt meant Mr. Vacuum had to eat from the haybag, and not be reaching constantly to graze on the good grass part of the parking lot. This made for much easier day in terms of tacking up and untacking, as there was no tugging on halter for me all day, and no worries he’d get his lead rope caught on something while stretching down to try and snack on grass while tied. He actually slept in the horse trailer while I went on my course walk, so that also was a good thing for his first event of the year. I like that he has recognized when he is in the trailer he can relax.

So that was the day. I’ve entered two more and have a lot to look forward to including a move up to the next little tiny unrecognized level so more adventures later this month. Onward!

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