Wake up at 6 and pack until 2pm only stopping once because the adorable 4ft and under club in my house insisted that they require food to survive. Amazingly I was on the road in time to drop off the two littlest at a friends and get to the high school to pick up the other 16 year old girl that was accompanying us on our journey. Weather person said it was going to rain on the trip down which means I couldn't utilize the truck bed as I had hoped so packing was a stratigic process for stuff and people alike. The three of us packed in to the front seat and we were on our way. It was a nice drive. The rain never showed up. It was nice all the way up until we got stuck in rush hour traffic in Indianapolis. The only thing worse than being stuck hauling your horse on the road with every other idiot out there is hauling your horse stuck in close proximity and moving at a snails pace for nearly an hour with every other idiot out there. The closer we got the more omnious the clouds started to look. The moment we pulled the truck in front of the barn the heavens open with a vengence and it started to pour. Of course it did. At least it wasn't a cold rain. So we unpack the necessities, settled Steady into his stall and headed to dinner (since I of course made sure the kids had eaten all day and completely forgot that my body enjoys regular feedings too). After dinner was the first Wal-mart trip of the weekend. Then back to HHP to head to bed. Where me and my awesome show buddy D layed in bed talking, laughing and carrying on until the wee hours of the morning. Until the eldery one of the two (ahem, I won't say which one of us that is) started snoring mid sentence.
5:30 am comes awfully early after a late night but at that point excitement is the driving force. The day was cold, cloudy, windy and drizzly all day. I decide to get a ride in before the Prelim and 3 day folks starting showing up to warm up. I wanted to see what horse I came to event with. On our walk down the arena I was given a job for the day since certain volunteers canceled last minute. In our ride Steady was nice. Not perfect but very very nice. He was mostly relaxed and moving very nicely. I was relieved. Canter transistion were a bit wonky, upward and downward but as my friend pointed out that is just one piece of the test so don't get all worked up about it. I unfortunately had to forego a shower in order report to my volunteer position of bit check in time. The morning was gross, wet, windy and soooo cold. I felt bad for my 9 year old and the 16 yr old girl that was with me I sent them off on a golf cart to go watch steeple chase lessons with Dorothy Crowell. I figured if they had to freeze it may as well be doing something other than sitting there watching dressage all day. The lunch hour break came and I high tailed it to the showers so I didn't have to spend the rest of the day feeling the horse show yuck. It took everything in me to step out from under that hot water to return to the cold but I did. I returned in time to start the afternoon checks. Shortly there after I was pleasantly surprised with a sweet young lady who said she would gladly take over my post. I
We slept in on Saturday until 5:45am then we pryed ourselves out from under the warm covers to go get the day started. I heard that we may have possibly unknowingly cuddled during the night but that can not be proven so I am claiming innocence...lol. My friend rode at 9 am and I didn't ride until 1:30. I saw my daughter and T off to their jump judge position at jump 3 for the day. I made sure they understood their job and then I hopped on a golf cart back to the barns. On the way back I witnessed the first of many falls that happened over the weekend and by far the worst. I did not see the moments before the fall I turned around when I heard the loud scream and a huge thud and saw the horse on top of the rider on the ground. At that moment your gut just sinks and your heart hopes for the best. The horse jumped up but the rider did not. The EMS was there quickly and we felt there was no need for a crowd so we moved on. I heard word later that it was a rotational fall and the rider suffered a broken colar bone and ankle. About the 4th rider on course and not the best way to start the day. I made it back in time to watch D (my infamous show buddy) warm up for her dressage test. They looked nice and relaxed and ready. They rode a lovely test and then I thought it might be a good time to start getting ready for our first ride of the day. I took Steady out at about 10am to see what horse I was going to have for that day. He was AMAZING! Seriously as good as I have ever felt him. Everything was great even those wonky Canter transision were amazing. I was SO hopeful about how our test would go that day, yay! Then to groom, dress, tack up and a huge thanks to D for doing an amazing job braiding Steady. He looked so good thanks to her. She also taught me how to do button braids so now I need to practice. We headed off to warm up with about 40 minutes. The warm up arena was buzzing with crazieness of course and I quickly realized that Steady had decided that he would NOT be obliging me with that fluid, beautiful relaxed movements he gave me earlier. He was tense, up and quick, sighhhh. With about 2 riders in front of me I decided I needed to get the hell out of that warm up. Then it was time. They introduced us over the loud speaker and we started to enter as we hear Eric over the speaker giving our bio. It was such a cool touch to the show to have a bio read as you were preparing to enter your test. We started to walk in and I could immediately feel Steady's "Oh we are facing the barns I am going to walk as fast as I possibly can because I KNOW my mom is taking me home". To say he was disappointed when I made the turn to go into the arena for our test is an understatement. He flipped his head and did a half rear and attempted to go backwards. I kicked him on made a small circle and figured, it's do or die whether I like it or not we have to do this NOW! We came up center line and he was tense he felt crooked and I felt the only thing I could do at that moment is do my best to hold him together enough to get through the test accurately. It felt awful compared to what I had just 3 hours ago. He was tense and fighting me the whole way. He did pull off a mediocre freewalk. But the wonky canter transitions reared their ugly heads. The only thing we had going for us at the canter is that he did pick up the correct leads and kept them. We exited the arena and I don't know if I am just a big weeny or it was the lack of sleep but I immediately felt the urge to cry. A huge rush of disappointment came over me and to be honest I was quite pissed off at my horse at that moment. I made it to about the exit of the arena befor the tears started unvoluntarily coming out of my eyes. Then right then someone came up and said "Hi Amy" and I thought, 'shit I am bawling like a baby, suck it up'. It was Jen and she sweetly introduced herself and then saw I was kind of a basket case and did say some very kind things that helped me feel better. I decided to get over myself and just go work out some issues. I mean I had show jumping shortly after and I was not planning to tolerate his crap for that too. So we went to an empty arena and I worked his butt until he decided to actually start listening to me. Then told him I was NOT happy with him and put him in his stall. I know what he is capable of and then to go out and get that kind of behavior was overwhelmingly disappointing. A schooling show is one thing but it was NOT a schooling show and I sacrificed a whole lot to be there right then and he was going to give me that? Sighhhhh....
In a blink of an eye it was time to get ready for show jumping. I knew my course. It was straight forward and flowed so I was confident with that. He was a bit strong in warm up. He got sucked back and rushy. A friend was coaching me a bit and she was telling me I needed to get his nose off his chest and looking where he was going. So then I became obessessed with getting his head up not remembering how long I have worked to get his head down. Yes it would be nice to have a happy medium but if we did then, well we wouldn't be competing at BN and more like Training. So I went into show jumping with one goal to keep his head off his chest. Looking back that was a mistake. Trying to make quick fixes right before you enter an arena will probably never turn out well. The buzzer rang and we cantered off and yes he took full advantage of the fact that he was not being forced to collect and threw his head up in the air inverted his back and then we were off. You have all of a 60 or so seconds to run a tight course of 10 jumps and frankly I had not one second to make the massive correction that needed to be made. I then went into survival mode. Get him to the jumps, ride him strong to them and get over all of them. It was wild, it was crazy and it was NOT pretty. He even jumped the last jump sideways and I was more surprised than all the onlookers were that I did not hear one dreaded "TINK" of a rail. We made it around double clear....hmmmm.....ok....sweet! That meant WE GET TO GO ON TO CROSS COUNTRY!!! At that moment I could care less how it looked but that we got to move on to XC!!! I was proud of my horse for though he was not acting 'properly' he was still listening enough to get there and that he tried as hard as he could to pick up his feet and get the job done, pretty or not.
|By these you would could never tell how wild this ride really was.|
|This one more acurately depicts it.|
He got rinsed and his face filled with treats. I at least met one goal and that was to at least get to do all 3 phases!!! Even if we did end up dead last! I had no doubt that is exactly where we were in the standings but curiosity got the best of me and I had to go check scores. I found our division and figured I would find my name faster by starting at the bottom of the list. I was surprised to not see it at the bottom so I started to move up. Nope still not there I made it up all the way to 6th place before I saw Amy Grayson and Steady Smiler! Whaaaat!? We were tied for 6th place. Our dressage score was not wonderful BUT it was better than I had imagined. 43.3 and after dressage we were tied for 10th but with a double clear stadium we moved up 4 placed for a tie for 6th?!! I was estatic and in disbelief. I felt like an idiot for crying like a baby over it and knew I would be eating shit for dinner from my friends for doing so. That night was the competitor/volunteer dinner and it was good food and good friends then lots of drinks, golf cart course 'walk' two times over, considering the drinks part of the equation. And I am sure you can guess at this point we did NOT go to sleep at a normal hour but stayed up far too late and laughing far too much. Once again 5:30am comes awful early.
Today was THE day. The day that I have been working for the entire last two years. It was our very first opportunity to run a real, bonafide cross country course. We fed horses and ate breakfast and got the two girls off to their jump judge postition for the day and made the 2nd wal-mart run of the trip. I decided that I was not nearly important enough to sport one of those fancy Optimum time watches that cost, cough cough a hundred dollars. So I went and picked up a fancy schmancy Timex large face digital watch from Wally world. On the drive back to the horse park the lack of sleep finally set in and my eyes started become very heavy. D and I sleepily pulled back into the horse park and then of course got another rush of adrenline motivated energy. I mean today was XC day! No matter what time of day your ride is it always seems there is never enough time and the whirlwind of getting ready and on your horse is madness. Then the amount of things you are required to have on your person is incredible. Numbers, pinny's, vests, armband, gloves, helmet and of course the helmet cam. You kind of feel like you are being prepared to make a 1000 foot plung from an airplane. As I was mounting my horse a friend walks up and says "hey I wanted to tell you before you go out, not that it will make a difference either way but last night I over heard the ground jury talking and after your dressage and stadium round you were put on the dangerous rider watch list." HUH, WTF is that supposed to mean???!!! "It just means they are going to be watching you" I almost immediately burst into tears. I mean I was about to go and do this thing that I have worked and worked for so long and that is the last thing I hear before heading out? Dangerous? I got a 43.3 in dressage if it was dangerous how in the hell did I get that score? AND what did we do dangerous???? He did a little half rear before our test and there was not one person or horse within 100 feet of us. Who were we endangering? And I was certainly not in danger he was throwing a baby fit and it was nothing to me. I ride and ex-racehorse and you don't think I can sit the tiniest rear ever??? As for stadium I can see how that would have look wild as hell to any one watching but there was not even one fraction of a second that I was even insecure in the saddle let alone even close to being unseated. I had to have had some semblance of control I mean I got him to and over ever jump clear. I don't know what the requirements are to make this list but all I know is my life would have been way less stressful if I had NEVER known that piece of information. ESPECIALLY right before I go out on cross country. The whole probably 1/4 of mile walk out to warm up I could almost hear my funeral music being played. I just kept hearing "dangerous are we really dangerous". I mean I never felt we were dangerous. I have never been hurt on this horse and we have NEVER hurt or even come close to hurting anyone else. But I mean the term ground jury sounds pretty damn official and they say I am dangerous so maybe we are??? This stuff kept running through my head until the moment we got out in warm up. That is when I then again felt the connection to this horse that I have been working tirelessly to develop. That is when I thought F them! Dangerous my ass. This is between me and Steady and I KNOW we can do this!!! He warmed up beautifully. He was listening, jumping and I could feel his power in my ankles running up through my knees, then through my hips then pulsing back to him through my hands. We were in rhythm and all that other mumbo jumbo just went out the window. There was a moment that my life seriously flashed befoe my eyes in warm up and me and my horse had nothing to to with it except being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were cantering along the outside of the warm up area just minding our own business when I hear a man shouting "whoa!" and I look over to see this big ass draught type horse heading directly for Steady's side. There was nothing I could do in that moment except hope for the best. I squeeze my fists and just said, "shit, shit, shit, shit". Steady caught him out of the corner of his eye and bowed away from him just enough for the rider to pull his horse up enough to breeze by us. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought, "and WE are dangernous???" Other than that moment it was me and my partner and THAT is all that matters. Then I hear "245!!!, 245!!!". It was go time. We walk to the start box and the start box people (my good friends BTW) say they will give me 30 second then count down from 10. At thirty seconds I start fumbling with my helmet cam and cannot hear the 'start' beep. She then starts the count down and I say to myself "Forget the camera and get your head into the game". Sorry for the lack of helmet cam footage :( but there was nothing I could do in that moment except get my mind on what needed to happen for the next 5 and half minutes of my life. 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1..have a great ride!
Then we pick up a canter and I say to my parnter, "This is it Steady we are really doing it!!" Let's go!" Steady, "oooooooh galloppy, jumpy goodness I better ruuuuuunnnnnnn!"
|Coming out of the start box!|
Jump 1 comes up quick and it is a little log I mean we had schooled the prelim log next to it so it was not much of a jump to slow him down at all.
|Jump 1 and we are on our way!|
Jump 2 you could not see yet and it looked like wide open spaces and Steady saw that as his cue to ruuuuunnnn. So I took that opportunity to quickly get through his head that is NOT what we are doing here. We are here to listen to each other and work together. So I circled him right off the bat. That helped a little but he was still strong to fence 2 so between 2 and 3 we had a teeth floating moment.
|Giving Steady a little reality check.|
|Now he is getting the hang of it. LOCKED ON!|
I had my leg OOONNN and he went right into the water.
|"Hey Momz this stuffs is way more fun than that drezzage."|
Out of the water and over Larry's house.
Up and down a steep hill. At the hill Steady was SO cute he went right up but I swear as soon as we cleared the top he was expecting a jump to be there. It was like he got ready to jump and then realized 'oh I guess we are only going BN but a jump right there would have been fun!' We were in the zone by then and next was a jump was a bench which was nothing. These jumps are not even an effort for this horse it was great! Then it was off to the 13 a and b a roll top combo. We took it wide and around the tree and by then the guy just knew what his job was and was doing it amazingly. Those fears of him just wanting to run at top speed where gone and he was going as fast as I was asking him to at any given moment. Then it was out through a wooded path then back into the prairie and facing home.
|Heading to our last 3 jumps.|
I think he though just for a moment that his job was done. I put my leg on and locked on to our next fence which was quite a ways a way. He cantered nicely and beautifully up to it and up and over we went. Then it was over to jump 15 almost home. I made sure we had a nice approach. It was a brown angled jump with a bright sun freshly painted in the center. I locked right on to that sun. Bad idea because Steady of course then thought, "well my mom is staring right at that thing it must be pretty scary! Don't worry mom I will save us and just go right around it!" That is when I woke up though shit Amy look up and get over this. I am very glad I decided to ride with a crop at the last minute because it sure came in handy right at that moment. I felt him resist a little about 2 strides out so I tapped his shoulder twice and that was not enough encouragement for him and he kind stepped right and then I decided to pull out the big guns and smack his ass and he popped over it!!! Yay gooooood boooy Steady! The photographer caught a pretty funny series out of it.
That's it that was the Event. There were really high highs and really low lows and in the end I realized that none of what eveyone else says about me, mumbo jumbo really matters. It is all about me and the partnership between my horse and I. Yes we have good moments and even moments of greatness and those are equalled out by the bad moments that we have plenty of too. But though in this sport you are always striving for perfection and maybe for some that is what it is all about is forcing an animal to serve your goals and demands and them having bad, crazy or even ugly moments is just not acceptable but for me it is about me and my horse and about every step of our journey working together, respecting each other and doing our best even if our best at that given moment in time is deemed "dangerous" by others. And I must say that the one thing that saved me in those low lows of this event is my amazing and incredibly upbeat friend D. She was SO positive and encouraging and she does it without being critical or negative about anyone else. Without her I cannot imagine this weekend turning out as well as it did. So I know you read this D, Thank you!
So I guess you may want to know the final results. This time when I went to check the scores I started from the top of the page! Do you think that XC run boosted my confindence a bit or what? And I was excited and though I was a little shocked I also felt we kind of deserved it I found my place just 3rd line from the top. We ended our first recognized event in third place with a 45.7. 2.4 points added to our dressage score for time penatlies and get this, for going too slow....LOL....now I wouldn't have thought that would have happened at our first event in a million years. We came in 6 seconds over, damn watch! Next time I can assure you I will remember to start my watch, because I could have easily fixed 6 stinking seconds. We came home with our yellow ribbon and are now recovering happy, satified and quite proud.
|I'd say Steady was quite proud of himself also.|