Show Recap: WHJA Fall Finals

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This past weekend was the big finale show for the local circuit and it’s always a fun one. It’s an out of town one, so our team stays over in a hotel and it’s a full weekend of nonstop horse show goodness.

We drove up Friday afternoon and schooled outside first. This went great, except for the judge’s box was apparently where the monsters lived because Drifter was having none of it. We were finally able to walk and trot past without spinning away, and once we started jumping he wasn’t as concerned about it. He jumped great overall. We schooled a second time, later that evening, in the covered arena. I thought he would have more trouble in there because they decorate the heck out of it with flowers, cornstalks, tall grasses, pumpkins…you name the fall-themed decorative item, it’s there. He did not care about anything. He jumped great, we found our distances and the pace we’d need to get them (which felt fast to me!) and the kiddo was pretty tired out by the time we were done.

Saturday morning was hectic because all four of us pretty much had to show at almost the same time in two different rings. Two were in the outdoor starting at 7:30 and two were in the covered arena starting at 8:00. Needless to say, we were there pretty early to finish braiding and get the horses cleaned up. My boyfriend’s parents were there and graciously agreed to take pictures, so I have a whole bunch! This is how I learned that I make really goofy faces when I ride. But it was so much fun to have them there cheering me on! The Boyfriend made it up on Sunday and took over camera duties – thank you guys!

The Limit classes were giant – even more so than usual. And since it’s always a very competitive division, I was prepared to just put in my best effort and let the ribbons fall where they may. And it turned out to be a mixed bag. Overall I was very pleased.

We did not place in our first two hunter over-fences classes, which wasn’t too surprising. We had a fairly spectacular rail down/stumble in one, and some leads and striding issues in the other. Our final over-fences round was a medal class and it was our best by far. It’s also my favorite class to ride in because it’s the most jumper-y of them all. I really liked the course – there were a couple of rollbacks, an in but not an out of a line, and a tidy turn. Drifter did great and we picked up a 4th out of 8.

Less than a minute after we came out of the arena after the medal class, Drifter suddenly stuck his head up the air and trotted off, taking me by surprise. Once I got him calmed down, we saw down the road a long, snaking line of people in purple shirts. And dogs. So many dogs. There was some kind of fundraiser for dogs going on (never did find out what it was, precisely) and there were hundreds of people with hundreds of dogs walking a long course around the entire facility. Drifter was not happy to share the grounds.

This is the face of terror.
This is the face of terror.

I tried taking him to another area of the facility to walk it off, but the dogs were everywhere. At one point I think the barns and arenas were literally enclosed in a giant circle of people walking dogs. So I hid Drifter in his stall for a bit to decompress.

Then we went into our hunter under saddle class. The horse show gods must have been smiling on me, because we had some issues that the judge must not have noticed. On the side of the arena where the covered ring overlooked an open field (toward the dogs and the people), Drifter gave his best giraffe impression. We also picked up a wrong lead in front of the judge’s table, and had a small problem staying in the trot after a canter-trot downward transition. Drifter prefers to continue cantering. But the judge must’ve liked what he did see, because they called us for 4th place…out of a class of 14! I think my jaw hit the floor because I thought for sure we were out of the ribbons. Just goes to show you – ride through every mistake like the judge didn’t see it. Because in my case, he did not.img_3415

Then we had a long break until our equitation classes in the afternoon. That was really devious clever on the part of whoever planned the show schedule, because my legs were tired toward the end of the day.

There was one very hairy moment in my first over fences round. There was an outside line that went right past the judge’s box that Drifter didn’t like the day before. As we approached the second fence in the line, which was situated directly in front of the judge, Drifter chipped hard and then launched over the fence, popping me out of the tack. I lost my stirrup closest to the judge and it felt like I was close enough to nearly kick him in the face. Whoops! I did not, thankfully, but I did accidentally kick Drifter in the flank as my leg flailed over the fence, and he let me know what he thought of that with a buck upon landing. Then we continued on, I got my stirrup back, we finished the course nicely and I exited the arena laughing. Apparently the judge didn’t fear for his life too much, because we still pulled a 6th out of 11 in that class.

We were consistently just okay through the equitation with some left lead issues and a chip or two, and got sixth in both over fences rounds as well as on the flat. I was really happy with Drifter’s mental game during the outdoor classes, because there was also a demolition derby going on elsewhere on the grounds. It was very noisy and distracting, but Drifter handled it so well and I did not feel that it affected our performance.

On Sunday, we had our Hunter Classic and the Medal Final. Our Classic went almost exactly the same way as it did at the last show: An okay-but-not-great first round with a score of 65, followed by a decent round but taking a rail for a second round score of 45. A little frustrating but Drifter was getting tired, which makes him jump less carefully and really lean into the turns. Not pretty or effective. But we still got a pretty purple ribbon for getting 7th out of 11.

For the Medal, I rode more assertively and kept him more collected to try and get a rounder jump. It worked out well. I decided to add a stride into the one line we had in the course and it worked well. He came back nicely and landed on the correct lead, which made our turn much nicer than our previous two rounds. I was happy with that as our last course of the show, and we ended up getting second!

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Overall, I felt like it was a successful show. Drifter and I worked very well together all weekend. He did not charge the jumps like he has at our past two shows. This, along with his calm and willing attitude all weekend – dogs and demo derby included – showed me just how much this horse has matured over this summer. It is very encouraging to look back and see how far our relationship has grown over that time, too. I really do love this horse. I also noticed that my stamina was much better than the last show. I started running after that last show, and I could tell there was a difference, especially on day two.

Now, we’re both going to take a little well-deserved break. We’ll take some time to recover from the show, and from the push to prepare over the last weeks. And then, knowing me, I’ll start making plans for the winter and spring to get us ready for next year! I’ve got my eye on the jumpers for 2017…

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