A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: Not Bad for a Middle-Aged Bucket Lister

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!

Text exchange between daughter Emily and mom Julie.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

So here we are, one week out from Jump Start. This week started out tough for me. It was hard to get motivated knowing that I might not get to compete at Jump Start. I had to force myself to ride. You never know. It might still work out. 

My Tuesday lesson was cancelled due to storms but I managed to squeeze in a ride here at the farm before it hit. Lightning bolts were dropping nearby and the winds were crazy. Before taking a page from the Wizard of Oz, I called it quits. I received a call late on Wednesday, that I could have a last minute lesson with Erika at a nearby farm. I didn’t want to go. My back was still aching from Saturday and again, the wind had left my sails.

A friend sent me a cute message followed up with a bit about how she was living vicariously through me and how awesome it had been to watch me over the past few weeks. Arg. It’s so hot. I’m tired. I don’t want to catch, clean, load, haul, RIDE … I just laid there on the couch looking for any excuse. You’ve come this far. GO! I pulled myself up and reached for my riding pants. My granddaughter took notice and said, “Mimi ride the horse?” Yes, Mimi is going to ride the damn horse. 

The sun was setting once I arrived at the farm. To say we were spot on would have been an understatement. I was in control, counting, sitting back, looking up, leg on. Romeo wasn’t thinking twice about anything. He was game on too.  Erika was super happy. She was talking lots about how far we had come and how Romeo had forgiven my past mistakes. I was beginning to enjoy myself a bit when she then set up an oxer. For those that don’t know, an oxer is basically a vertical with a back rail — so the jump has width to it, not just height.

Erika: Next time through, canter into this one.

Me: Both of them?

Erika (giggling): Yes. Both of them.

It looked intimidating. I immediately became nervous. “You’ve jumped bigger,” she said. Fine. As I approached the jump, too many thoughts went through my head: Damn, that looks big. It’s getting dark, can he see it? I don’t wanna … Romeo saw the opportunity and stopped. And granted, I gave him every reason to. I will take 99% of the blame for that one, but for Pete’s sake would it kill you to take one for the team every now and then!?! The next hundred times over, we were successful but that nagging feeling was back. If all systems are not a go on my end, he won’t go. I flashed back to all of the times we “coached” Emily from the sidelines. “Don’t let him get away with it!” I understand now.

Erika had set up some colorful panels that I had ignored throughout the lesson. Tensions increased every time I circled past one. I knew what was coming next.

Erika: Well, are you ready to call it a day?

Me, eying the terrifying panels: You aren’t going to ask me to do one of those?

Erika: I need smiling Julie to do those. You aren’t smiling today.

Kudos for her for not pushing with what undoubtedly would have ended in more rattled confidence. We finished up with a bit of flat work and headed home. I’m pretty certain I was in bed by 9, replaying everything I had done wrong in the lesson.  One step forward. Two steps back.

I awoke the next morning with a new attitude and confidence. And, for the first time in weeks, my back didn’t ache!

I texted Erika: Smiling Julie is back.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

9 days to Jumps Start


16 days to Windridge


Friday, September 22, 2017

The sun rose on this morning with me trying to find my horse (I mistook him for a cow), and we headed to a nearby farm with a lesson from Grand Prix dressage rider Jim Koford. Did I really need to spend the money on a “Jim” lesson? Probably not, but I have watched Em do it for years. Again, I have sat on the sidelines and listened, taken video and learned. I want the entire experience! We exchanged niceties and I showed him my test from the weekend schooling show.

Me: I’m not too concerned about bend and connection. All of that stuff is a bit over my head. We only have one week. I’ll take remembering the test and accuracy.

The next 45 minutes were spent working primarily on bend and connection! Note to self about Jim the trainer … he’s gonna teach whatever he wants to teach. Other than not recognizing one of my circles, “What was that? Is that some move in your test?,” I think he was impressed. Not bad for a middle-aged, bucket lister who has never ridden dressage! I learned loads and am quite confident I will forget to apply all of it in the show but I’m thrilled I took the lesson and even more so that I didn’t make a complete fool of myself!

On the way to my massage, the radiator blew up in the jeep and left me stranded on the roadside. On the ride home with my knight in shining armor:

Richard: Why do you keep smiling?

Me: Because I’m happy.

As of 4:30pm, I have moved up to 4th place on the waitlist for Jump Start. Just saying that makes my heart race. What if it doesn’t happen? I’ll be so bummed. But then again, what if it does? Other than walking to the mailbox and putting the entry in the mail a few days earlier than I did, I have done all I can do. Romeo starts on ulcer meds in a few days to counter any chance of belly stress and colic, the farrier came today — two weeks early to make sure his feet are good, Romeo is sporting some fancy socks to help lower any chance of bacteria causing a cellulitis flare-up, and I have ridden my ass off.

Romeo’s socks

While cleaning out my car today, I found my old to-do list; the one I mentioned in my first post.  I laughed because it has been trampled and tossed aside. I glanced at it; pull weeds, hang pics in Em’s room, paint pool furniture, develop pictures. All of this has been forgotten. For one month, I have concentrated on me … something outside of my comfort zone … something to be proud of. Whether it be Jump Start or Windridge, it’s almost here and I am ready.

Not bad for a middle-aged bucket lister.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

7 days to Jump Start


 14 days to Windridge