Back in the Show Ring

Whew do I have a lot of news to share! I know I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus- having a horse going through a long and painfully slow rehab doesn’t lend itself to a lot of motivation to blog. You can only say the same things so many times before your own forced enthusiasm wans. I recently had something very exciting happen in my horsey life though, and her name is Tupelo aka Loopy. Let me start with a brief backstory of how Loopy came into my life.

I hadn’t truly considered a lease since horses cost money. I’m extremely lucky to have somewhere very affordable for Rio to rehab (my parents’ property) and I have been saving as much money as possible for a future show ring partner. Of course, I am hoping with every fiber of my being that Rio rehabs successfully, but realistically the chances of him being fit for the 3′ ring in the future aren’t great. I want him to have a job he loves, and I also want to do what I love. In case our paths do not align going forward, I have been socking away money. I didn’t initially love the idea of a leasing a horse, since it would essentially prevent from saving money. BUT, my mental health is also really important (one could even say priceless), so when my trainer called me from a show one day and said there was a horse there she wanted me to come sit on, I didn’t even hesitate.

Loopy had to show later that day, so a quick warm-up and 6 jumps later and I was hooked. My trainer arranged for the horse to come home with us for a short trial before I had to make a final decision. A few lessons later, and I had forgotten about my desire to save money, because c’est la vie right? Loopy had been in my life for 5 rides total when we headed to our first show together. Might as well dive right in after all!

I arrived at the showgrounds (Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, TX) on Wednesday afternoon. I got to watch my assistant trainer show her in the 2’9 hunters and she looked fabulous- happy to do her job and very relaxed. The plan was for me to hop on and do a few jumps after to settle in and relax a little myself. We walked for awhile while my trainers showed another client horse in the jumper ring. When they returned we got to work. Our first few jumps were fine and then I royally missed the distance… about 4 times in a row. At this point I was freaking out in my head. “WHY DID I COME TO THIS SHOW?!” “IT’S GOING TO BE A DISASTER TOMORROW!” etc. You get the idea. My trainer talked me through what was going on, and gave me some pointers. Things clicked back into place and I actually started riding. A few perfect efforts later and we called it a day.

On Thursday I was entered in a warm-up round, and another open 2’9 round. Since pros can enter those classes, it was quite a large field of about 20 entries. This actually took the pressure off a little, since most ammies don’t really expect to ribbon in classes like that. Our warm-up went smoothly (thankfully), but I was still a bundle of nerves going into the ring. You truly forget how terrifying showing can be when you haven’t done it in a long time.

In my few rides with Loopy at home, I found her to have a pretty long stride, and often needed to hold her a bit in the lines. During our first trip into the ring (the warm-up round) she was so chill that I didn’t realize I needed to get down the first line a bit more until it was too late. I ended up adding in the first 5 stride line. This woke me up a bit, and I was better prepared for the next 2 lines (a 6 and another 5). Not the ideal first round, but I truly wasn’t upset about the add at all. It totally happens, and it was 100% my fault for not realizing we weren’t making it soon enough. Mostly I was excited we had survived without anything too dramatic happening LOL.

My next trip into the ring was for the USHJA 2’9 class. Better prepared for the lines, and slightly less nervous, we had a great trip! We got all our changes, all our strides, and the jumps flowed pretty well. They weren’t all “perfect” distances, but none of them were offensive. I was absolutely glowing that not only had we survived day 1, but we had actually put in a very respectable round. A couple of hours later after the class had concluded, I found out that I had even snagged an 8th place ribbon (yes, hunter classes often ribbon to 8th!). I was pleased as punch to have ribboned at all, and definitely felt ecstatic at being back in the ring.

Here is the video of that round (it’s the same one I already shared on IG):

The next day I started my actual division, the Modified Adults, which is A) only open to adults, and B) only open to ammies. Typically one of the largest divisions at a show, this one didn’t disappoint with 21 entries. We had a good warm-up round with one close-ish spot going into the diagonal line. Then for our first division round I got a bit complacent and set-up for the lead change but didn’t really follow through. We only got it in the front, and ended up having to skip change it to get the rear. Definitely a major error as far as hunters are concerned.

My next round was going great until I found another deep distance to the same diagonal line. You’d think I would have learned from my warm-up round but nooooo LOL. I did get the lead changes at least, and everything else went smoothly. So we ended up with an error in each round, but I felt really good about the way everything else was going, and was excited to try to smooth things out the next day. I was pretty tickled to learn we pulled a 3rd in the warm-up round, and a 6th in our 2nd o/f round, despite the deep distance.

 

 Video of my 2nd division round from Friday:

 

I was so excited to do it all again on Saturday. After 2 days of what I considered successful rounds, I was feeling really keen to get back in the ring again. My division was going first thing in the morning, which is my preference over being nervous all day. Driving to the show, I decided to drive through McDonalds to get an egg & cheese McMuffin. Since I’m a vegetarian it can be hard to find concession stand food at shows, and I was strangely hungry for so early in the morning. Turns out this was a bad move. I’m not usually a big breakfast person, and by the time I got the show grounds the nerves were setting in, and my stomach was doing somersaults. I couldn’t decide if I was ACTUALLY sick, or just the combo of nerves and a full stomach.

Once in the saddle I still felt pretty dang queasy, and all I could think about was how pissed my trainer would be if I threw-up. I don’t actually know that she’d be mad to be honest, but at the time I was envisioning the worst case scenario. Thankfully, once I started actually warming-up the nerves, and thus the stomach ache, subsided some. Loopy was absolutely foot perfect as we popped over some warm-up fences. It literally felt like we couldn’t miss, and was I was decidedly more excited then nervous as we entered the ring. Our warm-up round was good, but we got in a bit tight to an outside line. Our first division round felt SO good, all the fences flowed and we seemed to find every distance out of stride.

 Our first division round on Saturday:

During our next and final round, I actually kept thinking about how much FUN I was having. Not every distance was quite as magical, but I didn’t stress and did the best I could to make it look like I loved every spot. My trainer says I often give myself away but showing how much I dislike a distance, so I’ve been trying to not do that as much. I was pretty psyched when she said that although the distances didn’t all show up as well as they did my previous round, that I did a great job of going with it and making them look as smooth as possible. Mission accomplished!

Our 2nd division round on Saturday:

Several hours later the division finally wrapped up. I was down by the ring watching some of my barnmates in an under saddle class when I I heard my number called. I was standing next to our assistant trainer and I totally squealed and asked if she knew what place it was for?? We kept listening and the next place they called was 4th.  A THIRD PLACE! I couldn’t believe it! I thought our round was good and all, but I saw lots of good rounds. Then I was straining to hear the results for round 2 when I heard my name announced… in first place. I could have fainted. Instead I squealed again and hugged Julie and said how I couldn’t believe it. First out of such a large field, I was absolutely giddy. I was also a little suspicious that I has misheard, so I ran over to check the posted list. Sure enough, my number was at the top.

I was even more shocked to learn that Loopy and I had won reserve champion. This is my first tricolor at a hunter show in… 6 years? I don’t show a ton of course, and have had periods of long gaps, but I still kind of can’t believe we did so well at the show. I was thrilled to be there at all, and then doubly thrilled about how well our actual rounds went. To receive top ribbons was absolutely the icing on top of an incredible show.

Pretty sure Loopy knows how great she is
Could she be more gorgeous?!

 

I have Loopy until the end of January, and unfortunately I don’t know if we will have anymore shows before our time together is up. Being at the show was absolutely a breath of fresh air for me, and exactly what I needed to recharge a bit. I would LOVE to get to do another one with her after we have had a bit more time to get to know each other, but I am not sure it will happen. That is ok though, because I am really looking forward to hacking and lessoning on her this winter. I feel like she will give me the opportunity to really polish my ride, and make sure I’m at my best when Rio is ready to come back to work.

Anyway, it’s the Wednesday after the presidential election, and the world is basically in turmoil, and I am clinging to every happy emotion from this show. The show was amazing beyond my expectations, and I cannot thank my wonderful barnmates and trainers enough. I am truly blessed beyond measure, and I try to remind myself of it every single day. Find what makes you happy and cling to it!!

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