I was up bright and early at 5am on Saturday to take Bear to his first combined test at Sandstone Farm. We entered the first timers division, which is Intro Test A and 18″ jumps.
Lisa and I decided it would be best to do the lower fences, even though he’s jumping 2′ to 2’6″ now at home. He tends to get distracted, so he could at least trot over everything if needed!
We were the first trailer there, but people slowly trickled in, which was an ideal situation. I didn’t want to get there in the middle of the day and drop him into “chaos” so to speak.
He had a look around, neighed a few times, then wanted to eat grass, so that was a good start. We hand walked around a bit, then I got on about an hour before my test. When Lisa got there, we did a little warmup, but it was on grass and the dew made it a bit slippery, so we mostly stayed in trot, but got a little canter going up the hill because it definitely helps his trot after.
We were allowed to trot around the outside of the ring before the show started and since we were the first ones in, it was good to be able to do that. In our warmup, Lisa talked about making sure to keep a solid connection from my leg to hand so he stayed focused on me. She also reminded me to watch his floppy donkey ears to make sure they were relaxed!
He lost focus, as expected, a few times when a trailer came rattling up the driveway or when there were dogs barking in the distance, but he really didn’t seem to mind the other horses milling about, which was surprising since we mostly ride alone at home and in lessons off property.
Luckily the warm up was pretty quite when we went, about 2 other horses, so it was the perfect introduction.
The test itself felt pretty close to what we get at home and once he trotted up centerline, he seemed to settle right in. It’s a pretty anti-climactic test, with two trot circles and a diagonal, but we made it through! We got straight 6s on everything except for the final centerline and the “Geometry” score in the collectives where we got 7s.
I can’t be too picky for his first show, but I was hoping for more 7s. I know his gait scores are never going to be as high as Oh So’s, but he certainly had submission and I thought everything looked fairly steady.
The judged remarked that his rhythm and connection was a bit inconsistent, which is normal for a 4-year-old, so I guess that’s where we lost the points on each movement. Oh well, we stayed in the ring and he wasn’t nervous or tense like Oh So can be, so that’s all I can ask for!
The jumps were kind of pathetically small, but that wasn’t the point for the first time out. The warm up was again a bit slippery, so we just did a few jumps and went in. I was really pleased with his confidence once we got on course and in a rhythm. For going in cold-turkey over some brightly colored jumps, he was a star. I got a little stiff in my body, as I do in show jumping, so I didn’t ride as effectively as I could have and we missed some of our leads when I threw my upper body a bit.
We went back in for an unplanned second round to try to fix those mistakes, but it was sort of the same type of round. Oh well. More practice for both of us!
I was really happy that once he was in the ring, he let the outside distractions go. I know it won’t be like that every time, but for the first time, I’d say it was a pretty big accomplishment. I was also really excited to be back showing again. The last time I trotted down centerline was in July. Even though I don’t like those horse show jitters the night before and on the way to the venue, I missed it!
It was pretty funny when we tried to load him to go home. He didn’t want to leave!
We’re going to try another CT in two weeks at Hunt Club Farm and maybe play around on their cross-country course afterwards.
I’m finally allowed to do a bit more with Oh So, so we’ve taken a few excitable walks outside the ring and down the driveway and I tried trot poles for the first time yesterday. Yeah…that didn’t happen! I had three set up 9 feet apart and we bounced through them about three times before I quit for the day.
Today I did one trot set, then immediately did the poles while he was still relaxed and he was fine through them. We’re also allowed to start doing one minute of canter this week, so today I did about one long and one short side. He was a fire-breathing dragon, but I was just laughing and smiling the whole time. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt his canter and I was happy to even have 30 seconds of it. Coming back to trot was interesting as we had a pretty nice collected canter for several strides!