A 40-Day Crash Course in Eventing: What Matters Is the Journey

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!

Emily fitting Romeo in Loki’s dressage bridle

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I have officially wrapped up all of our jumping training … assuming we make it into Jump Start. On Sunday Romeo and I trailered over to the barn where Emily first learned to ride with the sole purpose of jumping The Scary Panel. They have always kept this particular panel up in their arena. It has a painted horse on it and is covered with the names of all of the young kids who have jumped it. Over the past 11 years, I have watched horse after horse struggle with The Panel. So, I knew that if I could get Romeo over it on the first attempt, anything at a show would be doable.

“The Scary Panel”

It wasn’t pretty but I got the job done. From there, we went out into the field and jumped seven or eight cross country jumps. You could tell Romeo was a bit nervous, as there were no other horses within eye shot. I have no idea why Richard following us on his motorbike was not comforting to him! We cruised over all of the jumps and I called it a day. I am a huge fan of ending it on a good note!

Heels down, eyes up, leg on

6 days to Jump Start

Monday, September 25, 2017 

Yesterday, I climbed up to the hayloft, retrieved three square bales of hay and drug them out to our makeshift arena. I’ve been watching cross-country videos from Jump Start (I’m doing everything I can to prepare!) and know that they have hay bale jumps on course. With Richard keeping an eye on us, we popped over the hay obstacle. No problem!!! We did it a few more times before wrapping it up. Both rides were short but for a specific purpose — present something foreign to Romeo and get the job done. Mission accomplished.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Today started at 5 a.m. I had my last jump lesson at Erika’s farm at 8, which is an hour away.  Out in the field by 6, I couldn’t find the horses. I walked that five acres from one end and back. By the time, I found them the horses were convinced I must be a mountain lion. Running (and cursing) ensued. It was not until Richard arrived, that we were able to bribe them into the barn with feed. I climbed in the truck with dew soaked pants and fought the rush hour traffic to get to her farm.

While sitting in traffic, I was reminded of Emily and how many times it was so easy for Richard and me to say, “You wanted to do this; go get him.” Sitting in the comfort of our own selves, it was so easy to play the parent card and say, “Just do it, buck up, make him!” What kind of a parent was I? This is hard. It is scary. And, it is DANGEROUS!  Not that I didn’t know all of this before, but again, I was on the sidelines where it was easy to be an armchair quarterback.

As this 40-day crash course is wrapping up (hopefully), something I wasn’t expected has happened. I expected to learn how to ride in a more polished manner. I knew I wouldn’t leave anything on the table. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. What I didn’t expect was to have the honor of peeking inside my little girl’s world — if only for a few weeks.

Throughout this process, I have found an even higher, more purposeful respect for Emily Grace. She is simply a bad ass. She has chased this carrot for years. She has ridden with bruises and cuts, in sweltering heat, bitter cold, winds and rains, when things were going well and when the chips were down, cared for and doctored her horses in the late night hours, and above all, she has ridden a 1000+ pound beast with a mind of its own. The beast has sometimes been her best friend and other times not, but she has always climbed back on the proverbial horse and kicked on. What dedication! What passion! It says something about one’s character to make such sacrifices.

As Richard brought the camping trailer home and backed down to the barn for me to load up, I went inside and prepared to make a new camping list of necessities. I opened the closet to find all of Emily’s show clothes hanging neatly in a row. You see, earlier this year, Emily set a goal. She wanted to ride in her first CCI1*. She started training in late January/early February. She drove home from college every few days to put all of the necessary training on her horse. She crossed every T and dotted every I. She acquired the equine passport, signed up for the memberships, drove her horse to the lessons, and competed in the lead-up events. I watched from the sidelines.

One week before the event, Loki stepped on a clip and developed a stone bruise. We moved heaven and earth to get him healed before the event; the farrier was there practically every other day and the vet too. It came down to the wire. Would we go? Would he get better? He did not.

Through tears, she withdrew from the competition. She refused to take the chance of her best friend, Loki doing even more damage to himself. It was crushing. I knew she was devastated. But now with me being on the verge of not getting into Jump Start — an event that I have done all of the work to get to — I understand even more how crushed she was. My starter is no CCI* mind you, but I feel for my girl even more now.

And so there are her show clothes; they are waiting for me and my turn. If I don’t get into Jump Start, it will hurt. Of course there is the North Carolina event but that was not part of my dream, part of my goal. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Emily Grace has taught me lots. What matters is the journey; the preparation, the knowledge, the passion. It will work out the way it is intended and life will go on with a new set of goals and dreams. Thanks Em for being the daughter you are and reminding me about the things that are most important.

Heels down, eyes up, leg on.

4 days to Jump Start