Posted by: shannonc | April 26, 2010


Event report:  Valinor Farm 2 phase with xc schooling, 4-25-10:  Beginner Novice

The pony and I headed to Valinor Farm today with our friend Vicki for our first outing of the year. 

I was in the odd position of coming into the competition almost directly from a very troubling jump school – not the way you want to start.  It made me more nervous.  But I had contingency plans for my contingency plans…and really, things couldn’t get much worse, right?  Unfortunately, any worse and someone is getting hurt.  Lovely.

Dressage — warmup was busy.  He came out a little sticky and behind my leg, and really hanging left.  I was trying to fix this while sliding around, cursing myself for cleaning my boots and saddle a little too well.  After a couple of minutes I gave up and went back to the trailer to put Saddle Tite on my boots – thank goodness it still lives in my bag after having last been used about an eon ago.  Ahhh.  Much better!

We headed up a hill to our ring, and once there learned they were running late, so we had to hang out for a couple of tests without anywhere to really move around.  Bummer.  At least it was time for him to get used to the new sights. 

The pony normally doesn’t pull rabbits out of his hat when it comes to flatting in competition – he is essentially the same at home as he is away – and he put in a nice solid test.  Good moments and inconsistent ones.  I blew the free walk trying to get his hind end in gear – booted him and he trotted!  I really can’t complain since I’ve been working so hard to get him more responsive to my leg…it was a good answer!

Our test was 6s and 7s with two 5s – the free walk, and the first down transition from canter (he was dying to break, and it was sloppy).  We didn’t score the 5s on the up transitions that I expected, but the comments were predictable – she was just kind to us on the numbers.  I thought after the test it was mid to upper 30s, and it was:  37.5.  Surprisingly this put us in 6th in a group of about 17.

Walking the sj I thought it was going to be tough, nevermind the black cloud of the ugly school that hung over our heads.  It was in a nice big area, and there were a couple of straightforward jumps, but many with lots of filler – flowers, panels, gates, barrels – and a 33-foot (ugh) combination with dice and fire truck cutouts:

7 a/b

There was also terrain to deal with.  We watched for a bit and saw a number of slips and stops, and a ton of rails on the last fence – an uphill panel – which it looked like the horses were getting flat to.

I was very grateful it wasn’t raining as forecasted.

The pony warmed up fairly well I thought.  He got a variety of distances to the jumps, none of them scary.  I made sure to trot both the vertical and oxer and decided to trot in the ring.  If he needed to gawk, it would give him more time.

He went in ears pricked and as cool as a cucumber and we embarked on our large tour of the ring (I mean, our entry circle).  No issues about leaving the warmup, very keen for me to Hurry Up Already And Show Me Which One!!!  Trot into #1, he sizes it up and picks up canter when he wants, and…ooh…overjumps.

Fence 2, same.

Around the corner to 3 and 4, a downhill vertical to oxer line that was riding in 3-5 strides.  Over 3 and I did not want to take back too much in the space I had, because I don’t get an instant answer, so we were cantering to 4, and he took himself right down to it and then stopped.  He nearly went underneath – Vicki was taping from right behind us and you can really see him sit down and scramble/slide. 

We extricated ourselves and circled around at trot.  I really thought he was going to go, but at the last minute he threw on the brakes. 

I didn’t feel he was being naughty.  He was being super careful.  It felt like we got sucked downhill to the base of it and he got there and suddenly thought he wasn’t sure he could do it.  Maybe I didn’t use the space well enough between jumps, maybe he was shaken, maybe he needed me in a different spot.  So I didn’t reprimand him.  When he is panicky, getting after him yields more panic.

I pulled up, rubbed his neck, and made both of us take a minute to breathe.  Then we trotted around one more time, I gave him a little tap on his shoulder, and he went.  Woot – narrow escape from the E!

Fence 6 was a red barrel jump, second element of a broken line.  It was the only other thing besides the 2nd element of the in and out that I didn’t get him back to trot for, and he four-footed it.  When I watch it on tape I think my little pony is all heart.  He did not like that thing.  I am pretty sure we would not have gotten over it if I had made a big deal of the oxer stops.

7a/b I had decided to ride in 3, and it rode pretty evenly – thank you Michael Page for making me practice whoa in the first stride and not the last one.

We got to finish the course, and he ended more confident than he began.  He’s greener than when I put him away in the fall, but I think he just needs a little time.  We may be trotting at UNH next weekend, so let’s hear a big yay for time penalties at BN :)

The judge called me to her after we’d left the ring and told me I did a good job.  That felt really nice.

I think the pony is very interesting.  He’s all “Yes, yes yes let’s GO!!!  What are we waiting for???!!!” followed in the last couple of strides in front of a jump by, “Holy CRAP!!!” 

When you combine that with neat feet and the need to Understand Everything before being comfortable (I attribute that to the Arab!), I think you get a horse that you have to be very careful doesn’t fake you out.  I need to make him take his time even when he’s telling me he doesn’t want any.

Again, I was pretty worried about xc after Weds, but it had to be done, so out we went.  Vicki was being really patient with me, freezing her ass off while wondering if we were actually going to jump anything as I looked around nervously.  I wanted to find a little pile of logs and put it on a circle, but it was too busy out there.  We played in the water, did some up/down banks, went back and forth over a ditch, and last, put together a little course.  He was very good to everything.  He cantered boldly around and I felt like I was able to get up in the tack and not stay in the backseat.  This is an interesting thing I think we’ll be playing with for awhile.

I think what I am most proud of on the day was the way he coped with the bad experience in sj.  Plenty of horses are done after nearly sliding into something.  But he kept trying, and then he just got better and better.

I’ll try to get some video up soon.

I have an idea. Put away the camera and feed me a treat!



  1. “Mastering the unexpected. It’s why we ride.” :)

  2. Shannon,

    I am so very proud of you and Pony. Well, I’m not sure PROUD is the word….but maybe AMAZED is :) I’m thinking back….just a year ago you were doing GROUND POLES and CROSS RAILS. Now look at you! PONY JUMPING FIRE ENGINES?!?!?! Spectacular! :)

  3. @ Dave – who said that?

    @ Sarah – thank you!! <3

  4. Congratulations! That took fortitude!

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