Lessons Learned: Friday Fall, Saturday Success

Amateur eventing blogger Ainsley Jacobs took a tumble during Friday’s cross country schooling session. How did she fare at the same fence on Saturday?

From worst to best – I fell off at this jump during schooling on Friday and then dominated it at the event on Saturday! Photo by Erik Jacobs / P.TEN Marketing.

After kicking butt at Poplar Place Farm two weeks ago at our first Novice event in two years, JJ and I kept the momentum going with another Novice event at Chattahoochee Hills.

Since Chatt is closer to home than Poplar, my trainer and new mother to a beautiful 3-month-old, Miriam Offermanns of Milym Equestrian, was able to join us this time around. My friends and fellow Milym riders, Mary, Shay, and Catherine, were riding in the event, too, and we were all looking forward to a great weekend.

We arrived early in the afternoon on Friday, set up our stalls, and awaited our horses’ arrival. When the hired trailer got there, JJ unloaded without issue and happily munched on hay in his stall while I took off his shipping boots. To my surprise, I found a gash on his right hind leg. Even with the boots, somehow, he had managed to scrape off a big chunk of skin and hair and was bleeding. Fortunately, it was just a surface scrape and he wasn’t actually “hurt” – but I was SO glad he had his boots on, because I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been if he hadn’t been protected! After a quick booboo clean up, my baby was tacked and ready to go school the XC course.

We walked our fun little four-horse group down to the start area and began our warm ups. JJ felt fine, and I was relieved he was still sound. Schooling started off well and JJ easily popped over the first few Novice jumps without any issues. While we waited for our friends, he relaxed and grazed. Eventually, it was our turn to jump a few things again, and we geared up for another section of the course.

He jumped #3 effortlessly, but as we came into #4A we had another one of our typical conversations:
JJ: I’m not sure about this one… so I’m going to look at it a little and then pop over it, k?
Me: Sure, that’s fine. I trust you.
JJ: HAHA JUST KIDDING! *ducks out at the last second*
Me: *flying through the air hearing my new Hit-Air vest inflate for the first time* Well, I guess this thing works… Hah!

Oops! The vest protected me just as it should, and I was actually smiling as I got up from the ground. No harm, no foul. I stripped off the puffed up vest, mounted back up, and was ready to try again before my trainer even got to where I had fallen. Unsurprisingly, JJ stopped at #4A again, but I was able to stay on the second time.

Rather than try again and (possibly) fail for a third time, I decided to give him a better opportunity to succeed – I circled back around and took the Beginner Novice version of the jump instead. He didn’t even bat an eye at it, and we immediately came back to hop over the Novice jump perfectly. Despite the fall, I was really happy with how we corrected and resolved the issue in a positive way!

The rest of the course was picture perfect, and JJ was his usual rockstar self. So, we headed back to the stabling area where I hosed him off, got him settled in, fed him dinner, and kissed him good night.

My first ride on Saturday wasn’t until noon, but being that it was Mary’s first three-phase ever, I got there early to cheer her on. She did fabulously, of course, and it was nice to relax a bit in the morning with my husband/photographer, Erik, and my mom, Paula, who was in town visiting and came to see me compete for the first time.

Our dressage warm-up was great, and JJ was really supple. We’ve been working a lot on leg-yielding through our corners lately, and he was on point. He’s a little too smart for his own good, though, and when we came into the ring to begin Novice Test B, he thought he would “help” a little by giving me a lovely canter transition through a corner… during a trot circle. No big deal, and we kept going – but later, when he tried to “help” again thinking “Mom, I know what’s coming, just let me do my job!” and I told him “no, you’re wrong” he got mad and threw a buck my way. I started laughing so hard that I momentarily forgot where we were going and that section of our test suffered a bit, but we still managed to score 5.0s on it, and the rest went really well, so I just laughed it off. Dressage struggles are real, yo.

A few hours later, he was so perfect in stadium warmup that it was actually really boring. The jump course itself was also perfectly boring, although we did take down one rail, and I had no words except “good boy!” for him as we exited the arena.

I’m kind of obsessed with how perfect he is. Photo by Erik Jacobs / P.TEN Marketing.

It was a tight turn-and-burn before XC, so we went back to the barn to let JJ grab a drink and me grab my XC gear. Suited up, we strolled to the warm-up area, popped a few more (perfect) jumps, and wandered over to the start box a few minutes later. We got our count down, headed off with a “Have a great ride!” holler from the starter, and I knew we were going to have an epic run.

JJ was right there for me every step of the way, and we were working well as partners. I was apprehensive about #4A again, but my friend, Ava Vojnovic, had inspired me earlier in the day when she told me she and her horse, Pony Boy, had taken it without any issues. I had originally planned to jump BN4 first, then do N4, but I put my faith in Ava, decided to be brave, and just went for it – and it worked. What wound up being our worst jump during schooling was actually our best of the entire XC course in competition!

We crossed the finish double clear, and I couldn’t believe how much fun we had. I have come a long way from my early days of being so freaked out that I scratched before stadium in Beginner Novice to now actually enjoying Novice and finding it easy.

JJ and I wound up fifth of 11 for the weekend in our division, and I’m now (stupidly?) considering moving up to Training sooner than I had originally planned…


Take a lesson from Taylor Swift and just “shake it off” – it is far better to fall during schooling than during the competition! Also, I learned how much it costs to fall off with an air vest… about $30 for a replacement canister.

Ainsley Jacobs is an adult amateur based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She started riding huntseat equitation when she was eight, and has tried practically every discipline since then. In 2014, Ainsley discovered eventing and it changed her life! She purchased her first horse, JJ Spot, in February 2016 and chronicles their successes (and struggles) of learning to overcome literal and figurative obstacles in her blog at www.RideHeelsDown.com.

Photo by Erik Jacobs/P.TEN Marketing.