Up, down, and in between: A competition debrief

The first two competitions of the season have come and gone, and left me realizing that I am out of shape– and have a lot to learn. We’ve made our debut in the jumper ring, and said our farewells to the hunters. We’ve dealt with rain and heat, and been tested by new challenges. I’ve found new muscles, and realized the stark differences between the riding styles required in the different rings. Here’s a run down of the highs and lows over the last two weekends!
My most rewarding day was definitely my first day at Ride of Rides, during Red River Exhibition. This was in the sand ring, and the first day brought gorgeous weather and fun courses. I competed in the .85m (2’9″ft) and the .90m (3ft) jumpers. That day may have been a classic case of beginners luck- I came away with 2nd and 3rd in the .85m open and Junior Amateur classes, and another 2nd and 3rd in the .90m classes. Everything seemed to go without a hitch, although I was feeling quite out of shape after round 1 (and 2, 3, 4). Compared to what I’ve been used to (8 jump hunter courses), a 11 jump course that requires a very active riding style, plus a immediate jump off course (additional 7 jumps for speed) felt like a marathon (in all reality it was more like a 500m sprint x 8). The second day of competition brought literally all the rain, making for a sloppy ring. Our first round of the day in the .85 brought a decent course until about jump 9.. where Willard caught the back rail of a wide-ish and stumbled upon landing, causing me to slide off the side into the quicksand below..landing on my back for some nice whiplash effects. The next 15 minutes were spent with the medics, who quickly realized that I wasn’t going to agree to stop competing for the day. I promptly signed the refusal of treatment form and hopped on to go back into my next .85m.. this time I ran a double clear for 3rd place. Warming up for my .90m that day, Mr. Will did exactly the same thing and stumbled me into the biggest puddle in the warm up ring after a oxer. Sigh. This time I landed face first (mid tuck and roll), and fully exfoliated my entire body (without the spa experience). In my own true style, I managed to bruise my ribs and make my rotator cuff very unhappy. Thankfully the medics already knew my name. This stunt caused M to grumble “enough playing in the sand for you today” and scratch me from my .90m.. which I was thankful for. I was also quite thankful that day three of the competition was cancelled due to torrential rain.
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Half recovered and not at all refreshed, we headed into the next competition 4 days later. Warm-ups felt great, minus my complaining ribs and surrounding muscles. This time we competed in just .90m jumpers, and then did the Child/Adult/Non-pro Hunters (3ft) so I could compete in the Hunter Derby. This meant Saturday had 5 courses between rings (2 jumper, 3 hunter). Our jumper rounds were a little sketchy. The combination of me not being horribly effective as a rider, both myself and Will’s confidence still being shaken from the previous weekend, and the courses being much more challenging then we’d experienced before brought some new lessons. The jumper courses on Saturday featured a lovely combination going away from the gate to a long one stride (for Will anyway)– vertical to a wide oxer, and then 4-5 strides to a scary skinny plank jump that featured a pair of wide smiling cartoon lips on it. It was rare to see any horse and rider combo get through this combination with complete grace over the weekend. Our first course was half decent until getting around to this combination. Will got into the one stride okay, but didn’t make the distance to the out oxer with much confidence (mostly my fault) and had to chip and leap to get out- unseating me in the process. I recovered on landing, but not well enough to set him up for the teeth that came up pretty darn quick, resulting in him taking the left side run out. No blame on him for this, my riding instilled absolutely no confidence for him to draw off! We came back to it no problem and completed the course. The second course started out the same way, and this time Will took a great distance into the one stride, but stopped at the out jump.. he really wasn’t giving me any breaks this weekend. Coming back for attempt two,  we added into the one stride and got through the rest of the course okay.
Our hunter rounds that day started out equally as sketchy. This is where the stark differences in riding style became very obvious to me. Both of us forgot how to ride a hunter course, and with this lines being built pretty long (again) we were presented wth a challenge. Our first course came with adding to each line. Which was okay, as I really wasn’t trying to compete in this division- I was just required to enter it if I wanted to do the derby. Our handy course in the division was built for us, though. Set to all our strengths, the course involved no set lines, and was full of roll back turns and bending lines. Yay! This was definitely one of the best hunter courses I’ve ridden in my entire career thus far. We both clicked back into the hunter rhythm. I was able to loop the reins, sit into a half-seat and let Will do his thing over the course. We placed 2nd in this course! This definitely made up for our somewhat frustrating jumpers earlier in the day, and reminded me that I can actually ride worth something. The derby started up at the end of the day, and our course was great- except for our unlucky rail at jump #2. For those who are unfamiliar with derby scoring, a rail automatically lowers your score to 40/100. So although we had an excellent round, we were out of luck for placing.. I ended the day with a 56/100 after bonus points for handiness and high point option jumps being added. Through all his grumbling about me doing hunters this weekend, M even gave me a “tough luck, kid” after that round. M’s statement from last year: “you have to be lucky to be good, and good to be lucky” was ringing in my ears after day one at Summer Smiles.
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Day two left us with just two jumper courses. Much to my chagrin there was a two stride and a one stride in the day’s courses (some part of my brain was hoping they would omit any challenging combinations from the courses…). We started out with each of us giving each other mixed signals through the first course. Jumps 1-7 went okay, with some unnecessary lazy rails on Will’s part. 8A-B brought a one stride, which Will promptly halted right before, for no apparent reason other then lack of confidence. He came back to it and did it fine with an add (again, felt pretty long). Around to the two stride we got through with an add again, and then looping back to the final line (oxer on the outside rail 7strides to the lovely teeth jump…which was conveniently placed right beside a group of endurance horses tied to trailers). Through sloppy riding on my part, and an uninterested horse, we ran out the left again. Course 1, incomplete. Warming up for round two, in an attempt to wake myself and my horse up (after grumbling a motivational, “c’mon girl get riding!”), M set the warm-up fences a good few inches above course height. So, with me muttering “holy shit, M” under my breath in the strides leading up to the warm-up fence- we kicked ourselves into gear and Will clumsily knocked it over first and then over jumped it the second time (goal accomplished, M). The next class brought a lovely round- actually- with a confident add in the one stride (no point fighting for it at this point!) and a beautiful two stride. Around to that dreaded final line again we went, this time getting in okay but Will was having non of the teeth endurance horse combo, and my legs were apparently non-existent. So we stopped, and I flew off the side. Classy finale, team, classy finale. I, however, have chosen to omit that jump from the course- and as a result am quite pleased with how we finished off.
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So, as you can probably tell, competition two was a little more challenging then competition one. But competition one was a little more painful and wet then competition two. They both had their ups and downs. The biggest lesson I learned is that it is absolutely impossible to be an effective rider with stiff, bruised ribs on one side. It 100% affects one’s ability to be fluid and therefore confident in the tack. C picked up on that from a field distance away, and commented that I wasn’t riding as well as I could be, and queried as to whether my leg was okay or if I was sore from the previous weekend still. The leg is fine, even though we’ve had some issues with proprioception over the last few weeks– taping is helping with that. The soreness definitely was a factor, and I’m sure I will be going through rider bootcamp in the next two weeks in prep for the next show (Beach Party!). Leading up to both these past competitions, I wasn’t able to be in the tack as much as I wished- which lead to the resultant fatigued horse and rider. We learned how much we still have to learn, but also how much we’ve progressed. M&C are continuously challenging us which is exactly what we asked for this year, and I am loving it- even if it comes with small frustrations along the way!

 

It was hot, then it got hotter

Another season has come to an end in the hunter jumper world. And I have absolutely no complaints about anything that happened this season. It was for sure another up and down kind of summer for me, but the consistency I saw in my rides in the shows I was able to go to is truly encouraging- and the way my rides when this weekend at Fall Harvest sums up, as this show always seems to, how much I’ve progressed.

Our warm-ups Friday went by with ease. We warmed up in the hunter ring first, and were probably done in about 20 minutes- everything went so smoothly! C and I were wondering how it was going to go, as the night before during my lesson Willard seemed to have taken the equivalent of 50 caffeine shots. It was a little bit crazy. But, I guess either the heat took some of that out of him Friday, or he actually just chilled out a bit- because he actually acknowledged the human on his back this time. After jumping around the hunter ring, we headed over to the Jumper ring.. Our first jumper school at Bird’s Hill (or anywhere.. usually there either isn’t a jumper schooling or I miss it..). It was pretty intimidating, even with Lauren and Megg there with me. Lauren is an old pro at jumper schools, and Megg was there for the first time on her new horse. My horse surprised me with how well he handled everything. I expected him to be good for the jumps, but wasn’t sure how he would handle the natural obstacles such as the ditch and the bank/table top jumps. The ditch took a couple tries to get him to gallop down and jump out with confidence, but not as long as I thought- and the bank, well, he just loved that! Loved it so much that when we did the table top ride (jump up, three strides, jump down), he decided that it was so much fun he need to buck his way across- hop down- and buck away. Hokay pony. That evening Megg and I went out for a lovely supper. One of my favourite parts of shows is getting to spend time with the amazing friends I’ve made through training with M&C.

Saturday came bright and early with Jumpers beginning first thing. Will and I were competing in the .85m divisions. We went into the ring with the mentality of “ride like it’s a lesson”, and had no major issues. Will loves jumpers. Saturday we placed 4th in our .85 Junior Ami division, with a rail and a time fault. Later that day we moved over to the hunter ring for our Child/Ami Non-Pro Hunter division. We put in some good rounds and ended up top 5 in both over fences and the under saddle. Quite respectable for the competition there, and the fact we’d just come from Jumper land! C was happy, I was happy, and that’s what mattered. It was a great feeling to get out of the heat that night, I can say that much!

Our Sunday jumper rounds were even better then the previous days. In our Open .85, Willard decided to have a good long look at jump 6- so long that he forgot to jump it the first time. This provided us with a great set up for our JA round right after, as it was over the same course. That round was perfect, except for a lazy rail early in the course. Click here to watch it. I decided to drop our Open Low Hunter that day, because it was so hot (+40 degrees, crazy humid, and zero wind), and I could feel my horse’s energy (and mine) starting to dwindle. I wanted to save something for the $500 Hunter Derby later on that day. It was so hot my sunglasses would fog up while I was wearing them. I would be able to cross competing in a sauna off my bucket list, if it had been on there in the first place.

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So, finally came time for the Derby to get started. As myself, a fellow McMullan teammate, and M&C were walking the course- I was informed that I had been misinformed earlier and the class was a sign up order of go (I thought it was posted order, in which case I was in 5th). Since I hadn’t signed up they had listed me as first to go, and were taking no excuses- if I wasn’t at ringside, with my horse (who was still in the barn, untacked) in 7 mintues then I would be disqualified. I am blessed with amazing teammates on my side. Megg and Lauren sprinted ahead of me to the barn and by the time I had also completed the ~1000m sprint (thank god I’ve been doing interval training this year) my horse was ready to go. I had time to just barely take a couple warm up jumps and get to the ring, where M&C instructed me to gallop into the gate (not usually hunter style) and gallop straight to the first jump, which was about 50m inside the gate. So, that’s what we did. The video unfortunately missed the first couple jumps- but the rest was caught- it’s definitely worth a watch!

No time for any second thoughts, we had one of the best rounds I’ve ever ridden. My horse left it all out there for me, and I could not have asked him for anything more. As we came over the last combination, a two stride, I couldn’t contain my smile- and it was so cool to have everyone at ring side burst into cheers. We achieved a score of 88/100 that round, a personal best! After the class of 10 finished- all very competitive rounds, we ended up 4th. Another personal best for us when it comes to special, classic, or derby classes. If there is a way to end a season, that was it!

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So what else have I been doing in this heat wave? Since getting home from the show on Sunday, I’ve been spending my mornings at football practices taping ankles, thumbs, and fingers, covering blisters, abrasions, lacerations, and assessing injuries. Oh, and learning. So much learning. I’m learning quickly to trust my instincts when it comes to this stuff, and more often then not they lead me in the right direction. Classes begin next week, and I’m pretty ready to get back into things. This year is going to be one giant challenge, but I’m excited to take it on. The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of this week is writing- obviously not on here, but a lot of it stemmed from topics I have covered here. One piece was for a scholarship entry, another an article for Horse Country on the EC Hunter Classic, and one more piece as a writing contest entry- all focused around how riding has impacted me in one way or another.

Other events happening next week, my first time covering (or being at really) a football game. In Brandon of all places. From what I’ve heard game days are pretty crazy, but if there is one thing I’m good at- it’s crazy. But, right now, I’m heading into a long weekend. I had the entire afternoon to myself yesterday- which I spent going for a ride with Lauren at the barn (I’m going to miss those this winter!), then with my old friend Netflix at my dad’s. Today I had the entire day to do exactly nothing, and I’m just about to head for another ride while my horse is still this close to me. He moves home tomorrow, where I’ll only be able to hack now and then when I’m out that way and time allows. Sad face. Saturday I do my one work shift for the weekend and then more freedom until Tuesday. I have no solid plans for those days- which is a new concept for my over scheduling brain- but I’m also looking forward to have some time to just chill out before the crazy train hits my life next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Heart of Hearts

This show started out for me fairly similar to how RMWF did. Going as a spectator, falling in love, and setting a goal to one day be one of those glorious people in the competition ring. This is the second time I’ve made that dream come true, and taken my humble horse to Heart of the Continent- Manitoba’s largest and most competitive outdoor hunter jumper show. Willard and I entered in our usual divisions- and were most competitive in the 3ft hunters. If I were to take you round by round over the course of this 5 day event, this post would take 5 days to get through- so I’ll give you a briefing on how we did.

Overall this was one of our best shows yet. I feel like I say that every time I write about a competition, which is the way it should be right? Always seeing improvements, and the big picture starts getting a little more awesome. Thursday and Friday we stayed consistent and earned ourselves top 6 placings in our Child/Ami/Non-Pro division as well as the Senior Low and Open Low divisions. Will pulled out his awesome for the flats- which he normally despises, and we were scrounge up some good results there too.

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Saturday brought the big Equine Canada Open Low $5000 Hunter Classic, which we managed to put in a great round for. My best Classic round yet (Hunter classics are just a fancy, longer hunter round- of which the top 10 scorers get called back for a second final round- usually intense, always more expensive). If you’d like to see what our round looked like, click here.  We ended the first round with a score of 64, just a couple points below the cut off for the second round. There were 30 competitors in this class, one of the biggest hunter classics I’ve ever competed in (no doubt the purse helped). What brought our score down? We didn’t find the elusive perfect distance to the first fence, which in a big competitive class such as this one is important. I also had to push him up in one of the lines, and that slight pace change would for sure catch the judges eye. However, the fact that we were only a few points behind the top 10, and it was our best classic round ever, is enough to satisfy me! Besides, missing that distance in that class meant that I found it in every single course I did the rest of the weekend (that same first jump ended up being the first jump in most of my courses). Later on that day we ended up 2nd in our Child/Ami/Non-Pro, click here to see that round, and placed in the top 6 of our other rounds and flats for the day.

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The final day of competition brought our Adult/Ami medal and our 3ft Hunter Special (specials are similar to classics, except they are only one round). Our course in the medal class went really well, however I didn’t ride a very great flat portion and we ended up 4th overall- still very respectable given our competition! The high light for me was our Special round. It was absolutely perfect, except we had some loud ticks on a couple fences which brought down our score. However we still managed to place 6th overall, which meant I achieved my goal of winning a “fancy ribbon”! It was the first time we’ve ever placed in a special, and I am SO pumped about it! Another high light was being Reserve Champion in our Child/Ami/Non-pro division for the weekend!

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Fancy ribbon!!!

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The rest of the loot!

So, it was a super great weekend for us results wise. Many goals were achieved, even the superficial ones- like getting a cool ribbon. One of the best things for me was to be able to place, and be competitive with some really good, national competition. To hold our own against some of the best horse/rider combos in western Canada is something to be proud of! Another really cool thing is how consistent we were throughout the entire weekend. Something that is becoming common for us is that consistency. The ability to go into the ring and have good rounds over and over again is new, but exciting. I used to be happy with one good round over an entire show- but now I expect to go in and be successful no matter what. The bar keeps getting raised higher, and I’m excited to find out what we can achieve next.

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Still 1

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Just in time

I’ve broken my record for length between posts, I think. Which must mean my life is finally getting back on track (insanely busy)!

It’s been just over a month now since “the surgery”, and I’m finally almost back to normal. I’m done dressing changes, and although there is still some healing needing to be done- I’m pretty much able to forget about it and just let it happen. Which is good, because that means I can ride! Yesterday was my first real ride back since surgery, and I haven’t been that happy in a long time! Willard has been moved to McMullans for the week as we’re planning on going to Fall Harvest this weekend. Yes, a show right after a month off- an excellent plan, isn’t it? Any other year I might not have felt comfortable doing this, but this year I have complete faith in my horse and our ability that this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. And here is where I need to say a HUGE thank you to my friend and fellow rider Laura Clark, who rides at Bluebear and also hails from Carman. She has been coming and hacking Willard for me over the past month and after riding him tonight in the ring I was so happy to find he was moving beautifully and so willing to do lateral work. Like I never got off! I knew he would be in good  hands with her. So, Laura if you read this, thank you thank you thank you!  It’s great to know my horse is in relative condition even when I’ve been unable to ride for a while.

I rode for about an hour and a half yesterday, and an hour today- I just couldn’t bring myself to get off. Even though my body has gotten a little too used to the easy life. I’ve been slowly trying to add things to my schedule, like work outs and now riding, plus work- and soon school again. 2 months ago it was easy to do all of those things in one day and still have energy at the end of the day. Now, it’s a little more challenging. I’m still trying to find the energy I used to have. I’m sure it will come back, I’m not really giving it a choice. Hopefully over the next couple weeks, as my schedule starts to pick up again I will feel back to normal. School is only a couple weeks away!!! I can’t believe how excited I am! Before I started this post I had my nose stuck in one of my texts already. Wonder how long this will last? Haha

My class schedule is pretty full. Actually, it is completely full. I have 10 courses, my 5 for the fall are: Nutrition, Biomechanics, Data Analysis, Anatomy and Physiology, and Scientific Principles of Fitness and Conditioning. Following those, with my AP running all year, are: Intro Kinesiology, Research Methods, Prevention and Care of Injuries, and Psych in Sport and Life. It’s definitely going to be a challenging year, to say the least. To add onto my school schedule, I plan on riding and working as well. Although fall has some of my tougher courses, I think it will be the easier term, schedule wise as most days all my classes are in the afternoons- so I’ll have most mornings and evenings free to work and ride and study. The winter term things get a little crazier with courses spanning from late morning to evening classes plus a Saturday class- which means I’ll be in school 6 days a week. Unfortunately this was the only way I could schedule things so I got into all my classes and labs, so it will have to do! The past week or so has been a flurry of me organizing text books, gym memberships, locker rentals, and everything in between. Thankfully most of that is done now and I can focus on Fall Harvest, and then finish moving things to the city and settle in there. As much as I’ve been pretty stressed lately, it’s all for the right reasons and I’m very excited to face the challenges that come up this year in school. I proved to myself in Anatomy this spring that I can get decent grades if I work hard at it, so I hope I can continue proving that to myself in the future. That B was definitely not easy for me, but it was such an accomplishment when I got it! I still stop and wonder sometimes why I chose this path. What is someone who has always drifted towards arts and never did well in sciences doing in a Bachelor of Science degree in one of the most challenging specialities?! At the same time, I can’t see myself doing anything else. And the more I talk to other people in the profession, the more I fall in love with it.

That’s all I’ve got for now, I’m exhausted! Here are a couple pictures from my ride on Sunday- and I hope I write again soon! There will definitely be a Fall Harvest update!

MS River Rouge cruise!

Roomies!