Do you ever have those moments where you’re so happy you can physically feel it expanding in your chest, and you know you’re happy, and you also know exactly how happy you are, and the moment is even sweeter for realizing the extent of that happiness? That’s how this weekend was for me.
This weekend was the WHJA Sweet Summertime** Hunter/Jumper Show. After the fiasco at my last show, my “normal” show horse, Husky, has been in rehab for both of his shoulders. I have recently been riding Admiral, a.k.a. Dun In Hockeytown, and he we have become a new competitive team.
We trailered up as the Friday classes were ending and as we pulled in the last few jumpers were cruising around the course. The host farm is beautiful, and the temporary stalls that had taken over their large indoor arena were really nice, with solid walls on three sides and bars on the front. One of our horses, Dandy, did not appreciate those white walls, as he is normally a pasture horse and to top it all off, he couldn’t see his buddies. He wore quite the rut into the dirt over the weekend, but behaved like a true gentleman in the show ring.
The team had four horses altogether and five riders competing, so when we arrived, we all got right to work to settle the horses in and schlep all our stuff from the trailer/caravan of cars into the barn. In my estimation, this included: 5 bales of hay, 4 water buckets, 3 grain tubs, 4 saddles, 4 bridles, at least 6 halters, 8 saddle pads, a set of polo wraps, 5 girths (plus a girth extender), a breast collar, an extra pair of stirrups, enough food to feed an army, a muck bucket, a shovel, a pitchfork, 15 brushes, three cans of Shapley’s Show Touch Up (2 white, 1 black), 3 pairs of scissors (should’ve brought more!), 3 different colors of yarn for braids, 3 bags of rubber bands, 3 latch hooks, two bottles of leather cleaner, 4 bottles of green spot remover, a bottle of hoof polish and a bottle of Quic Braid. Plus miscellaneous things I’m sure I’m forgetting. The clothes all arrived on Saturday!
After a pizza/ice cream party, we had a short schooling round over all the jumps and Admiral was a good boy, if lazier than all get-out. He was sooooooooo slooooow. I had to give him one “wake up call” with a crop, and then he perked right up. Then it was time to braid! Let me take a moment to rave about Quic Braid. Chelsie put me onto it the other weekend at the Combined Driving Event, and I was so happy to have it this weekend! I braided Admiral dry, and Quic Braid just makes is so easy, and the braids stay in so nicely. In fact, a random stranger told us on Saturday that Admiral’s braids looked amazing. I mean…they did:
Saturday started off fairly late in horse show hours. I arrived at the grounds at 6:30, and the others arrived shortly after. Stalls got mucked, horses fed and watered, and we began bumping braids. I enjoyed having Admiral as my show horse because he doesn’t need much at all in the way of a warm-up. This made for a totally relaxing morning! In the past I’ve needed a long warm-up, which can lead to stressful starts to shows.
The younger girls rode first. Amanda was asked to ride Dandy as a “filler” in the ground poles division since there was only one rider registered. Hey – she got a Reserve Champion right off the bat! Then, Madi and Admiral, Mia and Cinnamon, and Amanda and Dandy went into the Beginner Rider Division. They did awesome! They all had great rides and took home some ribbons. Amanda nailed a first and a second – and another Reserve Champion in a division of 10 riders! So awesome!
Kimmie was our next rider to compete, with Twinkle. They looked very strong in schooling on Friday night, and it carried over into the show. They had a simply beautiful rides, though didn’t pull home any blues. We all thought that was a very strange call by the judge but what are ya gonna do? Kimmie and Twinks went clear on all their courses (except the one where they went off course – oops!) and overall looked cool, calm and confident the whole way through.
And then I was up! We went in for our first course, Equitation Over Fences. It was so much fun! Even though he basically got the wrong lead every single time, it was a blast! That was sort of the theme for all of our courses. He kept switching to be on the wrong lead every time we went down a diagonal line. Le sigh. He was also tired from being shown by Madi in the Beginner Rider division earlier in the day, and so he kept chipping in extra strides. I didn’t really care that much, to be honest. I cannot tell you how much fun I was having! The weather was perfect, I was so happy to be back in the show ring, Admiral had given me zero reason to be concerned about anything and I just got to enjoy the moment. We ended up 3rd in our Equitation O/F class, 4th in Hunter Under Saddle, and 6th in each of our Hunter O/F classes (which was pretty good considering he got almost all the wrong leads and it was a division with 9 riders).
Sunday morning I was back at the barn by 7:30, having left in Admiral’s braids overnight. They looked lovely (THANK GOODNESS). First up was our USHJA Outreach/WHJA Limit Medal class, which was – again – so much fun! Admiral got all his leads but one and even got all his distances but one (the 3-stride). But in our next class, the first round of the Hunter Classic, he finally got the 3-stride line in – gasp! – 3 strides! We landed on the incorrect lead, though. Oh, well. You can’t have everything! During this course, I had my moment of total happiness. I was smiling like crazy over the fences and just enjoying the whole experience. I could tell that Admiral was having fun, too – he was super forward, locking on to each fence and not chipping in strides. He was right with me and I swear it was like we had wings on our feet and my heart was full to bursting with joy.
All of this resulted in one of my favorite photos ever taken of me:
To top it all off, I was thrilled with our score in the first round – 64. I had heard some 50s and low 60s, some high-60s and one 70, so I knew we were right in there. I came out, memorized my third course while two other riders took their trips, and headed back in for the second round of the Classic. We blasted around the course like it was nothing, getting almost all our leads and striding!
As I walked Admiral out, I heard that they were announcing my score but couldn’t hear. Kimmie came over and leaned on the fence as we walked up to her.
“Did you hear?” she asked. I shook my head, and she made a face.
Oh, crap! I thought. It’s bad. In the 50s? Worse? 40s?
“You missed a fence. There was another one at the end. You’re disqualified.”
Nothing takes you from a horseback riding high faster than a DQ. I was so disappointed. Not because I thought I was going to win or anything. I literally just wanted to ride one more course. I knew they might call some riders back for a 3rd trip and I had really wanted to do it, to keep on having so much fun with Admiral.
Note to self: always look for a 10th fence when learning your course.
So, I headed back up to the barn, trying to think of the good things that had happened all weekend and not dwell on the one disappointing thing. Admiral was untacked and I had put away half of my show clothes when Brenda hung up her phone and said, “Lisa, you might be riding again! Leanne is down by the announcer and they might call you back for a second medal round!”
And thus the flurry began. The other girls threw Admiral’s tack back on while I got re-dressed and tried to control the adrenaline and hope. Until…”Yep! You’re riding!” Brenda told me.
HOORAY! I got to go in and ride once more! We got to redeem ourselves and not end on a disqualification!
And it was a really cool experience, too. The judge announced the pattern we were to do: enter at a walk, canter to fence 3, trot to fence 4, canter fence 5, and halt; exit at a walk. Admiral was, once again, a total champ. We ended up 3rd out of 9! I was so, so happy! And – bonus – we also got 8th out of 9 in the Classic, even though we’d been disqualified. Someone else was also disqualified, and we had scored higher in the first round. So, I got a big brown ribbon attached to the bridle and we did the ride for the ribbons (my very first one). Super fun!
Overall, it was one of my favorite shows ever. It was just such a wonderful weekend, and I can’t wait to get back out there!