Yesterday was Paddy's first-ever event! We went Starter Novice (also called "Goldilocks" down here), which is Beginner Novice Dressage Test A, with 2'3 jumps in stadium and cross-country. I'd love to say that we kicked ass and took names, and we did... mostly. He was a super-duper boy and I was very pleased with his performance at his first outing, although our final score doesn't reflect that.
Saturday I had a miserable jump lesson (he stopped 4 times) that was definitely not what one wants in a confidence-building ride the day before a show. I was SO nervous, I just couldn't hold it together. That's weird because normally I do get some butterflies (who doesn't?) but it's usually the day of. I don't show unless I'm confident we can go out there and get the job done, and I was having serious second thoughts after that lesson. But... as Deb Rosen said last weekend, eventers need to have a little bit of "get it done no matter what" attitude, and I figured I'd never forgive myself if I didn't at least TRY. So I loaded the trailer Saturday night and was on the road in heavy fog early Sunday morning.
This was my first show where I've had a coach there in... oh, 15 years. Lisa Bauman of Austin Eventing did a great job of coaching us (she's only seen me ride twice), and it really showed for our dressage test. I'd planned on sitting all the trot work, but she suggested posting so we could both be a little looser. Sure enough, her advice paid off, and we put in a stellar (for us, right now) test. Our transitions were great, circles were round and our centerlines were straight (!!!!). Our only bobble was on the right lead canter, where he sort of bolted into it. I hadn't set him up well for the transition and it was in a corner with deep footing, so he was understandably unbalanced. We got it back under control in half a circle, but otherwise had a super nice test.
We got dinged a lot for him having an open mouth... steady, quiet, soft contact is definitely a work in progress.
But look! We can canter without running around like a freight train!
And we had some suuuuper fancy trot moments.
So at this point you guys are probably like "SO WHAT WAS YOUR SCORE ALREADY!?!?!" but I have this weird thing where I DO NOT look at my scores until I'm done with all my rides. I don't want to go into any phase thinking "If I drop a rail that will take me from 2nd to 8th" or whatever, so I just don't look. I also tell whoever I'm with not to tell me. It's not failsafe, but somehow not knowing takes some of the pressure off. So let's just say I was super happy with our test... especially since 2 minutes before we went in the arena, a MULE came into the warmup area and started braying. Paddy, bless his giant Haffie heart, didn't even bat an eyelash. What a good guy!
We had a bit of a break until stadium, so I cooled Paddy out, stuffed him with carrots, and changed clothes. My white breeches were pinching badly behind my left knee, so I opted for tan for stadium. I went and walked the course in between divisions (nice inviting figure 8 shaped course, but the footing was DEEP). One challenge during the day-long shows is to eat and stay hydrated, so I had a few bites and some water, then it was time to tack back up. Warmup for stadium was short - an X, 2x over the vertical, and 2x over the oxer. Lisa reminded me to stay back and keep my shoulders back, and to ride what I had. I had decided to trot the fences unless he felt really balanced, in which case I would canter if it seemed right. We stuck with the plan and cantered the one line in a lovely 6 strides - he was soft and just as nice as you please. I think we trotted the rest of the course but can't quite remember, lol! We had two hard rubs but the rails stayed up - maybe someone duct-taped them in place? Still, it only counts if they come down, so we were clear and still standing on our dressage score.
Looking sensible and not like a train wreck.
Last jump - can you see my smile?
We had a long wait before XC, so I took the opportunity to get more to eat and drink, visit with some friends, and do a bit of shopping. Let's just say I now have one of the new Horseware washable jackets
, which I am SUPER excited about. Do you have any idea how gross a coat gets after a day fox hunting? I'm sorry, but no amount of dry-cleaning can possibly get that much horse snot and mud out of anything. Yay washable jackets!
Anyway, on to XC. We kept warmup short and sweet. Paddy felt tired for the first time I have ever ridden him. He still had plenty of gas, but I didn't feel like I was holding back a bullet train for once. We did a warmup log and oxer, then Lisa and I talked through what I would do if I had a refusal (I believe in having a plan, even if I had no intention of having a refusal!) After that, we headed over to the start box for countdown. I punched my watch with two seconds to go, then trotted out of the box and asked for a canter. Of course he got the wrong lead, but off we went anyway!
The first jump was a roll top, which went great. As we were cantering toward the second fence, I heard the Austin Eventing crew yell "GO PADDY!!!!" and had to smile. It's super nice to be with a group!
On to fence two, which was the white coop in this picture:
Three was a small ramp, no problem, and four was an option between the water and a log. I picked the water - he had a tiny hesitation and then plowed right in. We had a nice canter over to a second roll top for fence 5, and then over to a tiiiny drop for 6. Except that he leapt off it like there was an 8 foot moat with alligators in it.
Can you even SEE the drop? That's how tiny it was.
So of course I got bounced around in the saddle a bit, but managed to stay on board. The next jump - which you can just barely see as the blue dot past the drop - looked like this:
Seriously, that's 2'3???
This was one of the fences on the course I was worried about. It was narrow, out in a field, huge, and BLUE (you can also see it doubles as a BN jump coming the other way). I had planned to sit up, leg on, cluck to him, and ride hard. And I did just that. But remember that 8 foot leap off the tiny drop that was the fence before? Yeah, I didn't take enough time to get ourselves reorganized to actually make my riding plan work. Paddy ducked left, then right, then left, then stopped in front of it. I was disorganized, he was unbalanced - it was a recipe for disaster on a green horse. Totally my fault - he still needs me to keep us together at this stage in his career. Unlike Cash or Red, he's not going to save me and jump anyway if I don't have everything together.
So, we paused, took a deep breath, and approached again. He took it like a pro, and we were off to the next one. This was another one I was worried about - a big brush fence. But I stuck to the plan, coming in at a balanced trot and giving him plenty of time to look at it. Sit up, leg on, and he sailed over. Next was a small log pile, also no problem. Our last two fences were a big log and another roll top, both pointed toward home. We were both pretty tired by then, but I did my best to ride him to the fence and encourage him with leg. He took them both with no problem and finished well. We were roughly 20 seconds over time, but we did have a refusal and that's easily 20 seconds right there, so I know we were right on pace for this level.
Good 325 mpm canter - and we're even balanced and he's not pulling! My stirrups need to go up 5 holes though.
We walked back over to the start area to report our go to Lisa, and then I took him back to the trailer to cool out and feed him dinner. I cleaned stuff and put it away, since I knew I'd be too tired to do so when I got home. Finally, when I was ready to load, I went to check the scoreboard.
Sooo... yeah. I'm not going to lie, it would have been amazing to bring home a blue ribbon. Even so, I'm not at all disappointed with our day. We had a great dressage test, a good stadium round, and a cross-country course that was pretty amazing, considering where he is in his training. The mistakes we made were all me, not him being dirty or ugly. We definitely have our work cut out for us, but we're laying a solid foundation.
Good Haffies get extra carrots... right?
Many thanks to Lisa Bauman for great coaching on-the-fly, and the folks at Austin Eventing for making us feel so welcome and providing a cheering section. Also, all the pics on this page (except for the last one) are courtesy of Lisa. Thanks so much!