Posted by: shannonc | May 3, 2010

And we do this for fun

And non-horsepeople think we are nuts.  Especially when we do not have fun.

We work, we cook and clean, we ride, take lessons, go schooling, and muck the barn.  We care for our houses and families.  We clean tack, bathe and braid, hitch and unhitch and re-hitch the trailer, we clean it, we lug hay and shavings and gallons of water around, we drive for hours.  We compete in the heat and come off course and make sure our horses are sponged and scrubbed and grazed and cooled before we stop to take a sip of water or remove our boots.  We return them to their barns, hose and wrap, flyspray, give hay, clean the trailer, and do the chores we skipped on an early show morning before we pee or get something to eat.

We deal with the people who don’t know what to say if we have a bad day (hint:  “do you want me to slash his tires??!” works much better than, “aw, you’ll ride better/stay on/get a ribbon next time”).

We spend a lot of money in coaching and entry fees and hotels and diesel fuel whether we win or lose.

We pat our horses when we say goodnight whether they were stars or pukes. 

And then, if the day was for crap, we go home and lick our wounds.  And our non-horsey family members, understandably, are flummoxed.  “Why, if you did not have fun, are you spending so much time, money, and energy in this sport?”

At the end of those days, sometimes the best you can say for yourself is that you’re a horsewoman and a good sport.  And of course, that you’re fortunate enough to have horses and do this crazy eventing thing at all. 


Event report:  UNH Spring Horse Trials – Beginner Novice.  May 1-2, 2010

Here is someone who had a good day. Hil and Star finished on their D score for the first time, and took home third!

Saturday – Dressage

We are in the odd ring – ring 3, across the street from the busy stadium, with warmup indoors.  I have a difficult time with the pony in warmup – he feels stiff especially to the left, and hollows when I ask him to come through from my leg to my hand.  He wants to be crooked and tracking left picks up the wrong lead a couple of times and also swaps behind once or twice.  In the last 5 minutes, we do some good work, but we don’t have our best connection in the ring.  The pony is distracted by the game and announcer across the street and I don’t perfectly keep his focus.  We have some good moments.  When I watch it back on tape, I think to myself that I should have just sent him more forward, but when I was on top and did that, it felt very hurried.  The judge’s comment is that things will be very nice as soon as he completely accepts the contact.  The test is a 38 and ties us for 5th.

Sunday – Show jumping and xc

Here are the things I am worried about:

  1. It is going to be very hot – 90 – and we are not acclimated to heat yet (it’s May 2 in New England!).  Our go times are 1:30 and 2pm, in the height of the heat.  He still has a lot of fuzzy winter coat.  The jump phases are back to back.  Added up, this seems just not all that good.
  2. Fence 1 on xc is a monster.  It’s a max light grey painted uprightish ramp with a drop landing, shared with N and T, going from light to dark, field to woods, and the approach is rocky:  barefoot pony gets stung on rocks.  The pony is always sticky to fence 1 on xc, and this one is imposing.  When I walk the course, every jump I pass up till fence 8 I would gladly swap for fence 1. 
  3. Fence 8 is a big rolltop off a very short turn after a gallop along some pink tape.  I’m not sure how near we will be able to get to the pink tape, so the approach could turn out to be even shorter.
  4. Getting his focus at the water.  The approach will take us headon toward the spectators before we hang a 90-degree right turn.
  5. Fence 13, a quite vertical max red saw table with a drop landing.  The approach to this is gravel.  I am not exaggerating. 

Fence 1, looking rather friendlier here than IRL

Some rocks on approach

Here are the places my worries were borne out:

  1. Pretty much nowhere, except at fence 1.


Show jumping

Walking to the warmup, a horse in a paddock next to the ring takes off running.  The pony spooks and refuses to go forward until I get after him – after which he prances and breathes fire.  Seriously.  I think the first time the pony has pranced.  Ugh…I get him in the ring and put him to work.  He warms up well, though he is a little difficult to turn, and is overjumping.

In the ring he is almost unrideable.  I planned to trot into fence 1 and as soon as I turn the corner to the start flags I realize this plan is not going to work.  He backpedals, props at 1 and jumps awkwardly, I kick like hell on landing, but fence 2 is spooky for a lot of horses, and coming in badly amounts to a stop.  I take maybe more time than I should, thinking he needs it to get his brain together, and he jumps the second try and then takes off with me.

I cannot rate him at all whatsoever.  We are barely getting around the turns, they are ugly, and when I finally get on approach and put my hands down and kick, he sucks back and jumps like he’s been jumping for all of 2 weeks’ worth of his life.  He makes a square out of almost every fence and I have to give the reins and then try to collect them again to make the next turn while he is running and pulling…it sucks to the point of shame. We have a heap of time penalties in addition to the stop because we were fighting all the way.

Fence 2

I have never been so tired and worried after a show jumping round.  I entertain very serious thoughts of scratching before xc because I know I can’t make it around a 6-minute course if he’s going like he did for the last two minutes.  Vicki and Hilary tell me that I can though, and to get out there already, so we walk down to the warmup.  Very quietly.  I am contemplating just how crazy I must be, feeling confused, and realizing that I need to adopt a brave attitude in the next few minutes.  Where did I put that?  Hmmmm.

Cross Country

We go for a gallop in the warmup area and I make him get forward off my leg (this is not actually a problem if there is not a jump involved), but I can still barely get him back…he is just removing my arms and I have to remove his teeth. Please, I’m thinking, he’s a PONY, how hard can this be?!

Thank God for adrenaline because otherwise heat exhaustion would have set in, it’s 90 by this point, and I wouldn’t have been able to kick at all.

I come out of the box and I think we get a positive canter away but he still stops at 1. Reapproach, growl and over. Very awkwardly.

Fence 2, birch rails, he tries to go left, tries to go right…right-left-right-left rinse and repeat and keep kicking and over.

Fence 3, awkward turn, and I can’t get him to look at the fence until we’re on top of it. It was so small he should have jumped from a standstill but he would not. Stop #2, reapproach and over.

Then the bridge…spook at course walkers…not too bad, head to 4, airy ascending logs, he also tries to stop at this, and I am able to stuff him.

Fence 5, little doghouse with drop landing, he asks if he can stop and I tell him no and he goes.

Into the bank complex, where there is a lot to look at.

Bank complex. BN route on far right.

Fence 6, tiny up bank, he’s good. I land kicking because this is where I made my mistake at KO but…

Fence 7, small wide bench, he stops. This is stop #3 and I am trying to recall, while I am on course, Hil’s GMHA story about whether I am allowed 3 or 4 total. He stops straight after trying to go right and left and respecting being closed out of those escapes but he still stops, and I am not happy because I can’t think of any good reason why he should’ve. Crappy place to have to reapproach (so were 1 and 3) but we do, I whack him once, then I whack him again when I feel him think about hesitating, and he goes. We have a small gallop to…

Fence 8, the rolltop off the short approach – it’s one of the bigger fences on course – and by this time I don’t even care about riding precisely or the turn or whatever, I just put my eye on it and kick and I think as we’re headed on a little bit of a left to right angle that I said I was not going to jump him into the woods but screw it, I don’t want to check, so I just kick and it’s the first good fence of the course.

I am really conscious the whole way around, more than I ever have been, of putting my hands down and riding forward on the approach to every jump with height.  I remember it vividly because the contact lightened so much.  I pull and yank to try to rebalance and then I give it up and just put my leg on, it’s a bit of a severe transition.  I also remember not looking at anything. I walked the course several times and watched horses and realized my eye is off, probably because of all the recent confusion…so I promised myself I would look up and kick and let him pick the distance. Oddly we got no horrible distances, just horrible square jumps.

We have a long gallop to fence 9 and I let him roll. It’s a bit rocky but at this point I figure his feet are the least of our problems since we’re on the verge of the E…and if he wants to back off, he can, but he doesn’t.  Was there a time I thought this pony might not have a gallop gear?  Oh, he does.  I let the uphill bring him back before the ditch, get a trot, sit in and kick and he gives me no problems.

Get him back again for the 90-degree turn to the small but steep drop log #10 and he’s very good there.

#11 is the water and we have to head right for the spectators and turn 90 degrees to the entry, we are trotting and he resists the turn but is very willing into the water. I kick him up on exit to get the canter back and he is good to #12, a little house.

Water complex

#13 is the big squarish saw mill off a gravel approach with a drop landing that I was concerned about.  But thank God by this time he is rolling and I am giving him no breaks and he goes.  It’s not gorgeous but it feels forward.

#14 and #15 he still asks whether he has to go but he does go.  Through the finish flags.

Comic relief at the log

OMG.  Was that fun?  I think I need a week of sleep.

He doesn't look worried to me!

Funny line of the day:

Vicki:  I think you need a new bit.

Me:  But this one is supposed to be able to stop a train!

Hilary:  A train is not a pony…



  1. Can I slash his tires??? ;p

    Actually, the water complex and the fence afterwards looked great :)

  2. I’m surprised you had the energy to write this! Can I help with the slashing?

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