A friend talked me into doing a jumper show last weekend. I initially thought, but, I do hunters, but then I decided it didn’t really matter and I’m going to do it anyway. It’d be fun!
It was a fun experience, but I do need to make some changes to make the next one much better, starting with tucking in my shirt…maybe wearing show pants. I was the only one in blue breeches. But, I do like those blue breeches…they are comfortable… and blue.
Here’s what I really and truly did wrong:
I didn’t make enough time to warm up.
I think this was my main problem. I got there an hour before the show started, and then spend a lot of time figuring out how to do my course. That was time well spent, though, I thoroughly understood my course, and that was a strength. But I should have hustled more to get an actual 20 minute warm up in. Since I did not allow for enough time, I went from figuring out the course, to tacking up, to holding up the ingate while they waited for me to warm up. Pretty nice of them to hold it up for me… but meant I got a 5-10 minute warm up. Berry did more time than that to chill out… and this led to the next problem.
I should have cantered the entire first course.
Due to Berry’s lack of warmup, she was a bundle of energy, and nerves, and was jumping and staring at everything – the coop, the cars going by, a slight wind. I thought the best thing to do would be to just do a nice slow trot to settle her, but what I should have done was just cantered her forward, and channeled that energy. With a slow trot, she had way too much time to contemplate her existence on this planet, and how scary the jumps looked, and what the meaning of life is. She actually refused two jumps! (a bad trend this weekend…) Granted, one was from a rollback, which we have never done, and that was slightly confusing to her. I was actually ready to retire, but I got yelled at to finish the course. And if there’s one thing that motivates me, it’s people yelling at me to do things, especially when its in front of a watching audience.
There was also no question that I was incredibly slow at the trot, and the one line that I kept the canter I did a 7 stride in 9 strides, plus a long distance because she couldn’t fit in the 10th stride. Watching the video, I was shocked at the utter slowness of it all. It was like watching slugs racing.
If I had just cantered it would have used the nervous energy she had, and likely relaxed her. After we finished that course, she was super relaxed…which she always is, after burning off a little energy.
I took a random meandering tour of the arena before my course.
Apparently, 45 seconds is much shorter than I thought it was… I was lucky I wasn’t buzzed out.
I was also softening too much at the base, which is probably what caused the refusal. I spoke with my surrogate trainer about what to do for the next course, and I went in again. It was a nearly perfect round! I just went slightly over the allotted time of 80 seconds, so I did get a time fault. I cantered the whole thing, and I was still too dang slow! It also helped that it was essentially a hunter course, outside line, diagonal to outside line to diagonal, and that’s what we know. Although hilariously (to me anyway), when we started down the line where the roll back was in the first course, Berry remembered and made to turn off the line and do the rollback. She remembered! But she was also okay when she realized we were doing the line like normal hunters.
The two courses were like night and day. Hopefully, next time will both be like day, as I know exactly what needs to change. But I have figured out, I love jumpers! Other than it being fun to do something different instead of a variation of the same course every time, it was also nice that I was first in the day, did my rounds, and I was out by 10:30. I like a show that leaves the rest of the day available to do other things.
Despite being a bumbling idiot in the first course, and being massively slow in the second, I snagged a second and a third*. Hurrah! *only four people in the class, two of them children. But, it was nice to know that I was slightly acknowledged, and I had a great time. There will definitely be more jumpers in my future!
We took the mismatched bays out to a local hunter show, and overall, it went great! It was such a fun day, I can’t wait to do it again.
D’Arcy rode little bay Pony Man. She was initially going to take him in the green pony division, but apparently green ponies is only for children, so I feel like “Green Pony division” is very misleading. Maybe it should be “Children’s Green Pony Division”, that would make it clear who it was intended for. But luckily she called to clarify, and it was determined that “Maiden Hunter” division was more appropriate for the little guy. This meant we got to show up later in the morning, so that was a plus. No waking up at 5am to prep.
I was going to do the 2’6″ Green division. This turned into doing the 2’6″ Thoroughbred division, because of the Thoroughbred Incentive Program, which I didn’t really care about before, but now I kind of want to collect all the points. But more on that later – my division wasn’t until after 2pm, so again, nice and lazy approach to getting to the horse show.
We arrived about 11:30 and discovered that the show was actually moving along quite quickly, and it was almost time for D’Arcy to ride. This is the first time this has ever happened at a hunter show for me. There was no sitting around for hours waiting for my class! (This is probably one of those things that only happens once in a lifetime – I will never again experience the joy of a show moving along quickly.)
We actually had to hurry up to get ready (no hurry up and wait, literally just hurry). We quickly dressed, D’Arcy, usually the jumper, going for a “Jackie-O” style hunter look, with a green wool coat, and I looking more like a jumper rider with the tight tech jacket and a rhinestone helmet. It seems this particular show attracted other casually dressed riders, as later we stood by the ring and judged the several others who were wearing black breeches, navy blue jean style breeches, and sweaters. How dare you all befoul that which is the formality of hunters.
I KID, I KID
We were joined by super amazing Shelby, who is the source of all the photos with her super amazing photography skills.
We started our warm-up, which was basically as long as we wanted since D’Arcy was the next class to go, and one of two people in the class. We had a nice long warm-up in the competition ring, and were feeling pretty good. Pony had never done a course before, and after every jump, he would start breaking, thinking that was the end of the exercise. D’Arcy’s main goal was to keep him cantering.
We had joked with the show organizer that it was Pony’s first show when we signed up, and from then on, she announced it each time she announced Pony and D’Arcy.
“And now in the ring, D’Arcy, on Naponyman, who is doing his very first course!”
“Champion is Naponyman, who is debuting at his very first show!”
Moments later, it was time for me to warm up for the 2’6″ division. All the jumps were raised, and in I went. My goal was just to jump each jump one time, as I’d already jumped them all during the earlier warmup, I just wanted to make sure she realized that the jumps were higher now.
D’Arcy gave me pointers on the approach, and I was practicing the diagonal line. The line went really well, but when I landed on the second jump, Berry got very upset, and gave an actual buck. She’s never actually bucked before, and I popped up in the air. It felt very high, and upon finding empty space where my horse used to be, I realized I was coming off. I went right over her shoulder, and saw the mess of her legs, but luckily she swerved and avoided me. I landed right on the best possible spot – my fleshy behind. It’s a built-in landing pad. I was up instantly, and for a moment it seemed like no one had even noticed I had come off. But then I saw D’Arcy coming over, and people started moving to block the loose horse.
I haven’t fallen off in years, and I’ve never fallen off Berry, so that in itself was kind of a shock. I’ve had jumping fears for many years, basically up until I started doing hunters, so I was trying to reassure myself not to get worked up about this, and everything is fine. My behind also hurt a bit, but I just ignored that, and it went away as soon as I started riding again. I got back on quickly, and took a few minutes to compose myself. D’Arcy and Shelby were super supportive and really made me feel better. Thank you, Turk and Red <3. Then it was back to the line, time to get it together.
I’m not entirely sure why Berry bucked to began with, so it was a little hard to diagnose. Our little team agreed that the line itself went great, but something on the landing pissed her off. The best I had figure is that it was because she landed on the wrong lead. Berry gets really upset when she’s on the wrong lead, which definitely puts me at a disadvantage when I can’t do flying lead changes. I decided the strategy was going to be – if she lands on the wrong lead, collect, compress, and do a nice counter canter.
After doing the line a bunch of times, it was time to move out and prepare for the actual course. Because there were actually a whole bunch of people in my class, it was time for the waiting. It was actually only like 10 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. I was tempted to scratch, but I was told that was unacceptable, and I was going to do it.
Eventually it was my turn, and in I went. With the exception of no flying lead changes, both rounds went well. There were a few long spots, I held the wrong lead through the turns, and did a few simples changes at times, but overall, it was pretty good!
It supposed to be fun…and it was fun. I love jumping! No need to panic, just relax, and have a good time.
I did have boot issues again. I was nearly done with my course when my foot went numb, kind of like this. Luckily it was only one foot, and not both, but it was quite annoying. I was using borrowed boots because I didn’t want to wear the tall boots that caused my feet to go numb last time, and I don’t own black paddock boots to go with my half chaps, but apparently, I need to just pony up and get some boots that fit me.
After my rounds, we celebrated with mimosas and/or beers. I decided to just scratch my next class, but we just hung out by the ring and watched the other riders go while grazing the horses. It was very fun, and Pony entertained us by watching all the horses go by with a fasinated expression. He tried to flirt with a few of them who were particularly booty-ful.
After having 3 or 4 mimosas, they called for my flat class. We’d been standing there so long, I thought it had already gone, but in a fit of tipsy energy, I decided to mount back on and go in. It was very relaxed and easy, exactly how I felt. But Berry got one of her leads wrong, and I’m pretty sure that’s why we didn’t place higher. But I did discover something very important: have a mimosa before any class, and they will all be easy and relaxed. Clearly, that is the lesson to be learned.
They did the placings, and I got 2nd in one of the over fences class, which is definitely an all time high for any over fences class I’ve had. Hurray for success at 2’6″ before winning at 2’3″! I knew there was a good reason to move up!
Now to just get those pesky lead changes… I suppose I’ll have to buckle down and actually work on them.
If you’re wondering why I put up posts at a snail’s pace, it’s because I have a new job. It’s a pretty awesome job, but I end up having very little free time. When I get home, I either want to fall asleep, or just become comatose.
Dave, understanding my exhaustion, has been offering to take care of the horses at night. I thought that was pretty great until he said his true purpose: I don’t post enough, and with him taking care of the horses, I should spend the time making a post. I guess that’s still great, it just means I have to use my brain (slightly) instead of going into hibernation mode. I do have some catching up to do, let’s see how fast I can get this all out.
First, we will backtrack into October. I did a hunter pace with D’Arcy. She rode Vintage, and I rode Berry.
My horses have not been ridden regularly in a few weeks, so I was anticipating a slow pace. When we first got there, Vintage was her normal self, but Berry decided the grass field filled with trucks and trailers was the most exciting thing she had ever seen in her life. I mounted up as quickly as I could, and while I was waiting for D’Arcy (Vintage was doing the mounting dance where she takes two steps up, and then when asked to back, goes back 5 steps) Berry actually started doing little rears and prancing. The little snot!
But the good thing about Berry is that she really doesn’t have that much juice. She was a bit hyper while we walked down, but after warming up and waiting to go, she ran out of batteries. Then she was mostly interested in eyeing up her competition (likely wondering if they could be friends), and rubbing her entire head on Vintage’s body. Surprisingly, Vintage did not seem to mind this, although D’Arcy didn’t appreciate a horse head smashing into her leg every three minutes or so.
The reason I have been waiting to post this is because I really wanted to post one of the official photographer photos. At the very start of the race, there was a small split rail fence. I think it was around 2’3″. This was the shot the photographer was going for. I wasn’t going to do the jump because I hadn’t jumped Berry in forever, and if there’s one thing I am, it’s cowardly. But D’Arcy is not, so she was going to do it.
When they called for us to go, D’Arcy aimed for it, and as she approached, Berry spooked at a truck, because that’s what Berry does. Vintage refused the jump. D’Arcy immediately got her going at it again, and Vintage decided it worked so well the first time, she was going to do it again. She refused. This time she rightfully got a spanking, and D’Arcy went at it again.
That time, she took a huuuuge leap over it. The crowd nearby gave an “Oooooo!” It was magical. And that is the picture we are hoping the photographer got. Who knows if it will surface though…
But, we continued on. The route was about 5 miles, and we probably weren’t as fast as we could have been. Like I said, out of shape horses. But we had some good galloping streaks in.
There were a bunch of jumps that looked like they would have been fun, but again, coward here. I hate that I said this last year too, but maybe next year I will jump them…maybe…
We treked through onward through the woods, where we saw the group behind us was catching up. That encouraged our forward motion.
In all seriousness though, despite Berry being the world’s slowest thoroughbred, she is out slowed by Vintage at a walk. Vintage can beat her at a gallop, but Berry wins the walking race. Just stick to your strong gait, Berry.
Turns out the team that was passing us was a jumping team, so they gained a lead. But when one of their horses wouldn’t go over a stone wall we gained a small lead, for about a minute. Then they got over the jump and breezed by our couch potato animals. Somehow, I don’t think Berry and Vintage cared. They don’t have the competitive edge.
We eventually ambled our way to the finish line, and decided we really wanted a good finish photo, so we took up a gallop. The world’s slowest thoroughbred was quickly left behind, so likely our finish photo will actually be two finish photos. Maybe they can be photoshopped together so we look like a team.
Hopefully, I will have the energy to get this blog up to date, and also be able to catch up on you guy’s blogs!
The local GMO has Thursday night dressage shows. I find this very cool, because how many times have you been partially through a week and thought, “Wow, I really wish I had a mid-week horse show to look forward through.” But then you’d realize you have to send in your entry form in advance to be able to show, and additionally, if you are me, you’d have to have a truck that doesn’t have a flat tire.
I went with my friend who was showing her mare dressage for the first time. We recently did the 4-H show together, but this time, she was taking her intended show horse, instead of the backup.
As it has been recently in Virginia, it was hot. Even at 5pm, it was hot. But, we got moving and she mounted on up.
Her horse is Hera, a 16h dark bay mare of unknown breeding. She’s a bit of a mystery, as she was picked up by my friend from Camelot horse auction. My friend has had her at least two years now, but began serious work with her in the last six months. The other day, she let me ride her, and she is a very interesting ride. She’s extremely forward and athletic, with a huge canter stride, and it’s apparent that at sometime someone spent a lot of time training her. But she’s incredibly sensitive, and can get very hot. To put it lightly, she’s a very challenging ride, which is why I’m assuming she was dropped off at Camelot, in otherwise great health, and appearing like someone took care of her. She is not amateur friendly.
I find her fascinating. Before I rode her, I didn’t truly realize how difficult she can be. My friend makes her look easy. I am extremely impressed with my friend, as she’s done all the riding on Hera, and often times without a trainer watching her.
The show was at Warrenton Show Grounds, the same place I showed a few months ago. Once again, I am so pleased that this place is so close, and also that it’s next to a 7-11, so I can go get Brisk Half Lemonade, Half Tea, when I’m feeling the urge. Also, water, after I finish the Brisk and discover that it’s not actually thirst quenching.
But I digress… Hera was ridden around, and my friend discovered the benefit to showing up way earlier than needed, as Hera got very excited about being in a new place.
But, eventually she ran out of steam, and was ready for her test. It accidentally very well timed, she was all warmed up, and ready to go, and then the steward came over and said to go!
Although accidentally it was too soon, as the rider before her hadn’t started their test. But, moments later, she was headed out to start. I didn’t get any photos of their test, as I was calling it for her. It was Intro B, and she ended up placing third.
She had a second test coming up, Intro C. It was a few minutes of waiting, but she was back into the ring. Once again, I was calling her test so I didn’t get any photos of the actual test.
Overall, she had a great outing with Hera, and I am so proud of her! She’s one of the most positive people I know, and she loves her mare so much, it is touching.
I’m hoping more of the Hera mystery will be unraveled, as we figure out what she does or doesn’t know. Next time I see her, I’m going to check for a lip tattoo, just in case. That would at least be a start, although I’m not too optimistic there will be one. If only horses came with a detailed history!
I took Berry to Frying Pan Park on Saturday for an open 4-H show. I took my very first riding lessons at Frying Pan Park when I was six years old, and I grew up coming to watch the shows there, always wanting to be the rider on the horse.
I finally fulfilled that childhood dream, although mostly in a half-fulfilled kind of way.
I arrived there nice and early, because my friend was scheduled to have her dressage test at 8am sharp. However, her show horse threw a shoe, which meant she had to pull out her runner up, who was not quite show ready. She arrived at the show, and asked if she could push back her time so she could have a beauty montage to morph her horse from wild mustang mode into civilized equine citizen form. The show organizer was perfectly happy to allow this.
She cleaned her up, and we got on to warm up. Berry was being suspiciously quiet. She was looking around, but her energy level hadn’t shot up into untrained horse territory. She was perfectly pleasant to walk, trot and canter around, even with tons of tented vendors, huge machinery, and goats. Because I am completely oblivious, I hadn’t noticed that this horse show coincided with a carnival.
The carnival meant there were tons of spectators. Full families, with grandparents, wailing babies, and dogs on leashes all swarmed the barns and arena. It was kind of exciting to have that many spectators. I have never been so watched before.
My friend and I warmed up, and then we waited. We checked in with the steward, and the show was going to be starting late. At some point, I ended up separated from her, and I just wandered around with Berry. The western classes were still going, and I had no idea when my first class, Showmanship, would start. Eventually, I spotted my friend in the far arena getting ready to do her dressage test. Since they hadn’t given her a new time yet, she took it upon herself to walk up to the dressage judge and ask when she could go. The judge told her, “Now,” and off she went.
After her test, we hurried off to Showmanship, and while we waited, I tried to teach Berry how to back up. She does not like it, or cannot understand the concept. I eventually got her to very hesitantly move each foot back in slow motion, but it was pretty obvious Showmanship wasn’t going to be her strong point.
When we finally went in, she did a very obedient performance, doing the exact slow motion backing up we had just practiced. She trotted quietly up to her cone, but as soon as she halted, she suddenly realized we were in the most terrifying indoor she’d ever seen.
It is huge, with panels marking off the arena. There’s space on all sides of the arena for storage, spectators, bleachers, bathrooms, judges stand, etc. Berry’s head went straight up, and her eyes bugged, which worked well for the judge’s inspection, because she didn’t move a single muscle while the judge circled. When we moved off again, she decided it wasn’t a big deal, and everything was fine again. We ended up placing 5th, which seems right because I think there were five people in the class.
Then came more waiting. They announced they had to have a break for the official opening of the carnival. I know this isn’t the show’s fault at all, but it was frustrating. The show had only been going for about 30 minutes, and then we had to have an hour break. There was another hour break scheduled as hour after that, too. To make it horrible, it was started to heat up, and Virginia’s famous horrible humidity showed up.
It was at that moment I decided to get a stall for the day. The stalls were free, we just had to supply bedding/water/food. Berry has never had the experience of being left in an unfamiliar stall, and as I walked away from her, her little desperate eyes staring at me through the bars, I felt like I was abandoning my child. When I came back later though, she was perfectly happy, munching away at hay, so it likely wasn’t that traumatic.
Once the break was finally over, it was time for the flat classes. My friend went first, winning both her classes (lucky her, being the one one in the class!), but I didn’t get to fully watch as I had to hurry up and mount up. And that’s where the trouble with socks started.
The zipper on my boot snagged the sock. I don’t know if it was the socks fault, or the boots fault, but this has never happened to me before. It ended up messing up the zipper on the boot, and I had a brief moment where I thought I completely killed my tall boots, moments before entering the ring. I ended up in the middle of the warmup ring, sitting on Berry, with one foot up on her neck, pulling off my sock and putting the boot on with no sock. I ended up with a huge nasty blister afterward, but it worked for the time I was in the ring.
After baking in the sun for ages (probably 10 minutes), they called us into the indoor. It was briefly a relief to get out of the sun, but it turned out the indoor was still super hot. It was an enormous oven.
The indoor was now packed with people. There were families pressed up against the rails, and crying babies everywhere. I don’t think Berry has ever encountered the mystical crying baby before, and she started doing the biggest, pranciest trot, while curled to the outside, her bug eyes fixed on these elusive creatures. Suddenly, everything in there, even things that were in there that she saw before, like the stored jumps, was a monster out to get her.
She was listening about 60% of the time. The other times, like when we were right in front of the judges’ booth, she suddenly became a bomb, and threw out some bucks, or did some sideways moves. We didn’t place in the first class.
I was so sweaty from the heat, and the effort needed to control her, I think I could have passed out while sitting in that line up. It was that moment I decided the next class was it, and I was done.
The next class she was mostly good (she doesn’t have the stamina for extended naughtiness), but she picked up the wrong lead, and when I switched it, she had a bucking fit, right in front of the judge’s booth. Shockingly, we still got a fifth.
Now I have two more pink ribbons to add to my collection of pink ribbons. One day, I’ll move past the pink… one day….
As I was sweltering hot, I was ready to go. Berry surprisingly seemed okay, but I made the executive decision for her. We went back to the barn, and she got a nice hosing.
Did I mention all the people there from the carnival? Because there were tons of people in the barn. There had been an announcement over the loudspeakers inviting people into the barns, and everyone was happy to come in. I think this is when Berry decided she wanted to be a celebrity horse.
She got hosed off in front of audience of about 40 people. Everyone thought she was hilarious as she mouthed the hose, and tried her tricks of getting me soaking wet. We went back to the stall, and a line formed of people who wanted to pet her. The children would creep forward timidly, she would put her big dipping wet face right into them, and they would squeal with laughter. She would rest her nose against them, and everyone stroked her face. I think she was in heaven.
It was really fun to share her with everyone. The kids were so cute, and the parents were so nice. Only one time did I get annoyed – There was a western saddle in my barn aisle, owned by my stall neighbor, and some parents walked up with their son, “Do you want to sit in the saddle?” I intervened and told them not to do that. It was expensive, and it also was not a toy. It’s mind boggling to me that someone would just walk up to someone else’s property and think it’s okay to play with it. I don’t walk up to your house and lay down in your bed!
It took me about 45 minutes to fully clean out my stall, all the time, thinking about how nice it would be to get out of the heat. (In my defense, it took so long because I brought no tools to clean up a stall). In my final moments, I put on Berry’s shipping boots, let out a sigh of relief, walked out of the barn…and discovered that the heat was dying off. It was cooler now, and they had just started up the classes again.
It was that moment that I really regretting packing up to leave, but I’d gone too far now. I was already committed to leaving.
So I missed out on my last two classes, which were both going to be my try at jumpers. But I did check out the course before I left, and it was basically a hunter course, but timed. So I don’t feel quite as bad. But I do feel sort of bad, because all I had to do was sit it out a little bit longer. Darn it, why am I such a weenie!?!
In case you are wondering, no, I am not in 4-H, as I am a full grown adult that cannot pass for a teenager. But, this 4-H show is catering to non-member apparently, and full grown adults can show at it.
4-H brings back such feelings of nostalgia. In my youthful, carefree days, I was a member of 4-h, and I was always disappointed I didn’t go to more shows. That was in the pre-horse ownership days, and the horse I rode was owned by a loon who apparently hated shows, and possibly hated horses. So naturally, when I saw I could go to a 4-H show as an adult, I was all over that, and trying to convince everyone I knew to go with me.
The tire still hasn’t been fixed. But, luckily, I have parents who understand my desperation, and they lent me their truck to use on Saturday for what I had already signed up for. It isn’t the full weekend like I hoped, but I’m not going to be greedy. At least I won’t abandon my friend who signed up fully expecting me to be there with her, but I won’t be able to do hilarious games like barrels, or egg and spoon. I really feel like Berry had potential to be a champion Egg and Spoon horse.
Having a show goal, no matter how small, makes me ride better. I’m kind of lazy most of the time when I ride. When no one’s judgmental eyes are upon me, do I really need to not have a hunchback? I know, I know, I’m terrible. But when I’m prepping for a show, I’m thinking, I better sit straight up, or put Berry in a better frame, because I don’t want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing (you know, as much as I possibly can while still not knowing what I’m doing).
Additionally, it makes me realize that I forgot to teach Berry things. I better not ever encounter any gates ever, because I will not be able to open it mounted. Sure, I’ve been practicing lead changes for seemingly for months, but when I might actually use it, I realize I actually have not practiced in months, and I probably should have… I mean, it’s been months, jeez.
On the plus side, she neck reins now, a bit in a turning battleship type way. At least my enthusiasm for polo paid off. And she trots super slow. I’m not sure if that will be at all useful though. Too bad I didn’t sign up for any western classes!
My friend, isn’t a big show person, so this is new to her. I went over to see her ride, and explain the subtle nuances of 4-H, such as showmanship. She really took, “Be proud of your horse,” to heart, so I think she’s going to do well!
I, however, while always mostly proud of Berry, am slightly embarrassed because she continues to rip out her tail. Every time I stall her, I come out to find more tail attached to her water bucket than the the stub of a tail bone. It’s pretty sad when my appaloosa, a breed known for having a scraggly tail, has a way better tail than my thoroughbred.
I’m not getting a fake tail, she’s just going to have a wisp of a tail. Maybe she’ll think twice about putting her tail in her water (probably not).
I also entered in my very first jumper class. I figure if I am really feeling intimidated, I’ll just trot the whole thing. But, I’m feeling about 87% confident that I will be just fine. Hopefully it’s not that much different from hunters…maybe it will even be more fun! We shall see…!
THE LAND ROVER GREAT MEADOW INTERNATIONAL, PRESENTED BY ADEQUAN
A very long name for this event, but I feel like I should include all of it.
I was very excited about the Nation’s Cup being so close, so I absolutely had to go. I bought the weekend pass, and I was there first thing Saturday morning. Except I did skip out on some dressage, I would have had heat stroke if I stayed the whole day to watch dressage.
Great Meadows, where the event took place, is a 200 acre open land space land preserve. It is primarily famous for hosting the Virginia Gold Cup, a steeplechase race held in the spring and the fall. During the warmer months, they host Twilight Polo and Twilight Jumpers on Friday and Saturday nights. It is run as a non-profit for the community to enjoy the open spaces. In an area that is continually being developed, it’s more important than ever to keep our open space.
This riding arena, the warm up ring, all the cross country jumps and any other little bits, were all build just for this event. It makes me wonder if they will continue having events like this here. The cross country jumps looked permanent, which would make it convenient for future events!
This is going to be a long post. But it’s long because of pictures, not words. That makes it easier to swallow.
I woke up at 5am Saturday to ride Berry before I went. I am shocked that I actually managed to go through with this plan, but I got up like I was on auto-pilot. Riding in the morning is amazing, I only hope I’ll be able to keep doing it (so far, I have not). But the end result was I got there nice and early to watch dressage. The amount of photographers, both professional looking, and just amateurish, like me, was astounding. We were all competing for the best spot just above the judge’s car. I decided not to join them, and wandered around the ring.
Since this event was affiliated with Land Rover, they were everywhere. The judges for dressage sat in them. They were sprinkled throughout the cross country course, peeking out from behind bushes, or creeping down to the water to drink.
Because of my lack of a really good zoom, and the overcrowding of prime locations, I ended up hanging out mostly by the warmup, and the entrance to the ring. I actually like hanging out by both of these locations, because I like being really close to the horses, and I like hearing the trainers during warm-up.
Warm up was a well oiled machine, but I’m used to the equivalent of crossing a five lane highway in rush hour. This warm up allowed two horses in the dressage railed section, and then two horses on the opposite side of the ring that was not railed in.
Since the warm up ring was elevated, it gave a good view of the entire ring.
The test I saw was 2015 3 Star Test B, for any of you that want to try it at home. Looks exhausting!
And speaking of Sharon White, she was my favorite to watch. Not only am I a sucker for a gorgeous grey (I admire from afar!), she’s a beautiful rider!
Let’s admire her together:
Cooley On Show is an Irish Sport Horse gelding, imported from England. He is owned by Sharon Cooley and goes by the barn name Louie. When not showing off his fantastic movement and jump, he enjoys long walks around his pasture and taking naps in the shade.
The dressage was going throughout the day with 15 minute breaks. During the first break, I went to check out the vendors.
I discovered a new kind of vendor. Of course, it was more like how Columbus “discovered” America, as in, lots of other people probably knew about this, I just happened to find it this time. But here it is: The buy a tin cup, and keep coming back for more vendor.
There were two of these, and I got a cup from the other one. I immediately regretted this decision, the “soda” was flat. I put it in quotes because it might as well have not been soda. I would have preferred the lemonade from Bayou Billy instead. Oh well…
The vendors were all clustered together, resembling a flea market. Of course, they had all lots of expensive things at them.
It’s so much fun to admire pretty things.
I then headed out for the day, hoping to get a nap before show jumping in the afternoon. The nap did not happen.
A few hours later I was back, this time with company, and we settled ourselves in the hot sun on what they called “Adequan Hill”. It gave us a nice view of the arena, a nice view of warm up, and a nice view of the path leading down from warmup.
The heat made me disinclined to wander around to get good pictures, so all my pictures are pretty terrible. I regret this now, but at the time, moving seemed like a lot of effort.
I don’t know what the rules are for this kind of thing, but while the National Anthem was being sung, a rider was still warming up. This was even more obvious because they had trouble on the warm up jump and literally smashed through it. Way to be suave, unknown rider!
The announcer told us there would be an award for the best fist pump after the round. Phillip Dutton came in strong for the first ride with his double fist pump after his round. I personally loved the fist pump award idea. The announcer had us all cheering for the best fist pump, there was a lot of audience interaction throughout the evening. Some riders forgot to fist pump, others got really into it. Those of course, were the favorites. Lauren Keiffer on Veronica gave an enthusiastic fist pump, and her horse Veronica surged forward with equal enthusiasm. One rider (Marilyn Little maybe?) gave an extended fist pump as they lapped back around to the exit.
Thus ends any decent photos I have, and of being in the horrible, terrible heat.
In yet another amateur mistake, I packed my camera, hoping for lots of glorious photos of cross country, and then I forgot the battery. Way to mess that one up, Courtney! I was reduced to using my cell phone.
But, the day was truly beautiful. It was warm, but not overly hot, and with low humidity. Seriously, the best day possible for cross country!
I took a video of every fence except the first, but I do not yet understand the magic of posting videos. I will figure it out though and post all the little clips…eventually. But I am willing to accept I am terrible at videos, and it would be a much better idea to check out the archived feed of the event. Here’s some other points of interest:
After walking the entire course, we settled down under the trees by the water jump. It really was the best spot to relax.
As we were sitting there, the last rider headed out, but unfortunately only made it to the first water jump, which was jump 5 or so. We saw her and head’s heads bobbing on the edge of the hill. That was the signal for everyone to leave, and the mass exodus begin.
I’ve decided I really REALLY love watching eventing. Everything runs on time, and I can’t believe how supporting the crowd was. At every jump, people clapping and yelling encouragement, it was so easy to join in. I would definitely be more motivated after applause, so I hope people will do it for me during my hunter rounds. Overall, really fun to watch, and I really hope there’s another event at Great Meadows!
Upperville’s Hunter Derby was Saturday, and let’s get the preliminaries out of the way.
Despite my reminder on Instagram, no one made the deadline to request my presence in their VIP space. I’m very disappointed in everyone.
Additionally, standing next to the entrance of the VIP tent and looking really sad didn’t work either.
But never fear, this turned out to be a good thing! We went and sat under the oak trees, and then gradually moved over until we were right by the in-gate. And really, the VIP tent has nothing on hanging out by the in-gate. We got to see all the riders talking with the trainers, putting last minute touches on their horses, and joking around with each other. AND Tori Colvin hung out with us for like 30 minutes. We even got a picture with her!
Okay, so I will admit she did not agree or offer to be in this photo. But she actually did hang out in approximately a 10-15 foot radius, chatting with various people, checking out the course map, and, amazingly, polishing her own boots. Actually, she’s holding the rag and polish in our group photo. AND she did end up winning the derby, so what this tells me is that if you really want to win, you need to hang out within a few feet of Dave and I for 25 to 30 minutes.
Okay, so on to the actual derby. Please feel free to correct/discuss your thoughts in the comments. I’m still learning, and I would love for more input.
The jumps were all spaced out far away from each other, so there were really only a few related distances, 7 and 8, and 9 and 10. The option fences were 2, 4, 5, and 12. Jumps 2 and 12 were the same, round bales, just jumped opposite ways.
When we first got there, about 30 minutes before the derby, there were many people walking the course, complete with their horses.
All horses seemed mostly unimpressed at that time, and only a few had any issue greater than a down rail.
Granted, this jump was on the exact opposite of the arena so it was hard to see, but no one had any difficulty with it.
The first option fence, round bales, with the left having an additional rail on it.
Wishing well vertical. No issues.
I would call this wall “Very intimidating”. Possible that the riders agreed. I think the majority choose to do the smaller height.
An option fence, split rail vertical, with one side higher. This was unfortunately where the crash happened.
I found it interesting that after this wreck, Coluccio continued to jump a few more fences, but everyone knew they were schooling jumps. Not quite like this crash, but a couple of people had some kind of issue and choose to school before retiring. Even the announcer declared, “X has decided to retire, but is taking a few schooling jumps to retire on a good note.”
The horse above, Casaloma, ridden by Paul Matthews, had an unfortunate bit of luck as Casaloma did a big spook at something. Matthews elected to school him over a few more jumps before retiring.
To get to 6, riders had to turn right to loop around the jumps and come back over to it. It consisted of a very green and leafy oxer, which was probably beautiful on the other side. It also had tree stumps near it, I suppose just as another obstacle for the riders to avoid.
This was the first related distance. It seemed straightforward, and perhaps that’s why one horse had an issue with it.
She circled and went over it with no problem.
It was about 7 strides to 8, and yes, I am terrible at both counting and judging distances. If they went over 7, they went over 8.
I would guess it was a two stride from 9 to 10.
And after that jump, 90% of them had to do a lead chance.
An option of a coop panel, or a much lower overgrown log jump. Nearly everyone choose the higher option.
The final fence, with a height option. About half choose the high option.
The handy round was eight jumps, with some of the jumps from the previous round reset to face the opposite direction. Jason Berry will demonstrate all the jumps because I don’t have any pictures of anyone else doing it.
The eventual winner was Victoria Colvin, making it her second win for this event in a row.
Every year I go to Upperville, because it is always wonderful. I think this year was the best yet, with everything extremely organized, lots of vendors, and lots going on.
For those who don’t know what Upperville is, here’s the briefest history:
The oldest horse show in the nation
The Upperville Colt and Horse Show dates back to 1853. Heretofore, horses – particularly stallions – had been exhibited for prizes at country and state fairs, but it is believed and accepted that the horse show, as a separate entity, was introduced on the American sporting scene at Upperville, Virginia in that year.
There is no available documentary record of the 1853 show. However, Colonel Dulany, of Welbourne, its organizer and head until his death in 1906, apparently spoke of its origin a number of times. According to the family historian, one of his granddaughters, Richard Henry Dulany was riding cross-country one bitterly cold day in the winter of 1853 when he spied an animal struggling under a snake-rail fence. Reining in his saddle horse, he stopped to determine the trouble and found a colt had gotten cast, having been in this unfortunate position long enough for his feet to become frozen. Rescuing the ill-fated colt, the horse lover made up his mind then and there that something must be done to encourage better care of young horse stock. After a discussion with neighboring planters, a summer show – and premiums – was decided upon. The exhibition was scheduled for June in the oak grove at Number Six (Grafton), a centrally located Dulany property on the Turnpike about two miles east of Upperville. The program of the 1853 show listed two classes – one for colts, the other for fillies.
One of the most unique things about Upperville is that a country highway runs right through the middle of it. On one side, “Under the Oaks”, is where all the hunter classes are.
On the other side of the road, is jumper land, much more open and lined with stone walls.
While there are a couple of parking areas for exhibitors and sponsors, the general admission parking field is on the jumper side.
They had one of the high jumper classes going when I approached, but I both cannot tell sizes, nor do I know what kind of jumper class it was.
In the above picture, you can see the sponsor reserved spots that are right up against the ring. At the hunter derby, one of the sponsors let her child play in the ring before the handy round.
Apparently it was not, and the announcement came over the loudspeaker for the child to vacate the ring.
Next to the big ring was a big field where many exhibitors were choosing to either hack around, or warm up. I found it delightful that despite the abundance of rings, they still wanted to go ride out in the field.
Looking back over at the jumpers though, I discovered the jump of my life. It gazed at me across the ring, and I gazed at it, and I really think there was something there.
It was pink, and flowery, and even though it had to have sacks of sand on it to keep it up, I really think we are perfect for each other. But alas, I think we will never be together, as I’m pretty sure someone would know if I came by and took the jump. Later, on my way to a porta-potty off the beaten track, I found the jump again, except this time it was dismantled, it’s standards shoved together along with a mismatch of many other standards, it’s poles laying discarded on the ground. Oh my poor jump, if I only I could protect you.
There was a second jumping ring going, and this one featured some big names such as Joe Fargis.
Walking between these two rings may be the safest place, thanks to this sign.
But only for about a 100 feet length of path, then they were allowed again. I’m guessing because the path was narrow, so pedestrian injury rate could be high with those carts speeding everywhere.
Just to the south of the rings and the golf cart sign, there are vendors. There’s a line of vendors on both the jumper and hunter sides, sometimes the same vendor, that way you can shop without risking being hit by a car. (Just kidding, the police were stopping traffic).
After walking down the vendor row, it was time for the hunter side. At the point I crossed, I walked by some of the stabling before getting to the rings, and I saw some of the impressive stall fronts.
I’m very disappointed I didn’t get more pictures of the stall front, but I felt like a huge peeping tom as it was, going up to these barns I didn’t know and taking pictures. The effort they put into making these areas beautiful really does deserve attention though!
Onward to the main ring!
The first day I was here, they had a handy hunter division going. That was really fun to watch, and I would like to do classes like it, although obviously much, much lower. I’m planning a whole other post about this class, so check back for that.
On Saturday in this same ring, they hold the enormous lead line class, which unfortunately I did not see but the pictures are adorable, and another favorite, the sidesaddle class, which I did see.
I posted more photos of this class on my facebook page, which you should definitely take a look at!
There’s tons of vendors lining the paths on this side, although the main theme seems to be hats. If you want a hat, you have a huge selection of hat makers here!
And custom portraits:
All this leads right up to the what I have heard is the best of the stands – The Upperville Lemonade Stand, which I have heard people rave over. I didn’t have any this year, and I don’t remember it last time, so I am not sure if I should recommend it. Lots of other people do though!
I wandered over to the second hunter ring, which had an amateur hunter over fences classes going on. It looked pretty competitive, but hopefully with another hard work, I’ll be competing among them!
I could have stayed and watched all day, but sadly, I had another appointment to get to. I still want to talk about the Handy Hunter class and the Hunter derby though, so assuming I can type it all out, this looks to be an Upperville themed posting week!
I kept my head, and didn’t let my nervousness get to me. I call that a success!
My trainer went up the night before with her horses/ponies/kids and everyone spent the night there.
We helped the organizer set up the course, and I am impressed by her collection of jumps. I intended to get a picture of the fancy pants jumps, but I was too busy carrying around the jumps. Oh, the irony.
I schooled Berry there, which was definitely helpful. She was jumping out of her pants at everything, from the hedge, to the cross country jumps she could barely see. I ended up just cantering her around in circles until she settled. Sadly, this turned out to be required on the day of the show too, as the warm up area was full of terrifying things, like cross country jumps that were 20 feet away, and other horses.
When I first got her there, she was pretty calm though. We watched the pony classes, right next to the warm up area, and Berry happily grazed for 40 minutes.
But apparently once the saddle goes on, it’s a whole different story. She turned into a spooking, bucking bronco three times, once almost running directly into another horse and rider. It’s especially scary when that happens in a big open field, where she could toss me and run for miles, hopefully not with my foot caught in the stirrup. Luckily, this did not happen.
She eventually calmed down, and she was very well behaved when we went in the ring. I forgot the video camera, so Dave just used his phone.
The two courses were mostly uneventful.
I still need to work on position, our changes, and our distances. Basically everything.
In the under saddle class, Berry was very calm, which was a huge improvement from last time, when she raced around, intent on catching the other horses. In fact, she was a bit too subdued, my trainer said I need to open up her trot a bit more.
The division was pretty big, with at least 15 riders, so I was very pleased with our placings, a 5th in one of the fence classes, and a 5th in the under saddle. I wasn’t a bundle of nerves, and Berry was a good girl. We are starting to get it!