Where were we? If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you might want to start there. I left off after our first 2 rounds on Friday, which were pretty ok, but I couldn’t help but hope for slightly better, even if I was being greedy. Thankfully, h/j shows usually have multiple rounds over several days, so you get that chance at redemption.
Saturday morning dawned beautiful, with a light mist in the air. The rain hadn’t come yet, and the temp was nice and cool, hovering around 60. Perfect horse show weather! The main hunter ring was kicking off with the Adult Amateur under saddle, so my fellow barnmates that were also in the AA’s and I all got ready first thing.
Funny enough, this was a very sparsely attended show, and we were actually the ONLY entrants in the AA’s. Yup, 4 of us Bay Yard riders comprised the entire division at the show. Usually I don’t compete against them, because we are in different age groups, but everyone had a great attitude about it. They are all BEAUTIFUL riders on equally beautiful horses, so it was no surprise when I brought up the rear in the ribbons on Friday (not like you can hope for anything else when you trot in your courses though!). I seriously cannot be upset by losing to these women though, because I know what terrific riders they are and how hard they work at home. I guess that’s the good part about showing against your friends, you are happy for them when they win!
Rio was the best he’s ever been in the under saddle, still a bit strung out in our canter work, but he didn’t break gait (YAY) and his trot felt really nice and much more consistent then it’s been in the past. We didn’t stack up against the other lovely movers (what can I say, our barn is full of gorgeous hunters), but I was still grinning ear to ear. I know that he is improving in the under saddle, and in a larger class with more of a range of quality, we could maybe nab a ribbon in the future.
We all headed back to the warm-up to get in a few practice jumps, and then took turns going in for our rounds. I opted to skip the warm-up round and just do my 2 O/F rounds. Historically, by round 3 Rio seems to get pretty tired, and we wanted it to be super positive for him and hopefully end on a good note. I was much less nervous today, and really ready to go in there and ride, even if it meant breaking to the trot again or any other type of mistake. I figured we were at a small show, now is the time to really ride and put in the schooling for future success if necessary. I am NOT just a passenger! (Or so I kept chanting to myself)
Our initial canter felt great. We headed across the diagonal to jump one, a single vertical, and he jumped it out of stride. Landed on the wrong lead, and I went for the change. Not unsurprisingly, I reverted to a bad habit and threw my body, didn’t get him straight, and we didn’t get the change. Then I panicked and spurred again and he just ran faster wondering WTF the crazy lady careening around on his back was doing. Finally, we hit the corner and he threw me a bone and did the change. Adrenaline on fire now (not a pretty start to course, please let it get better from here), I told myself to sit the eff up and ride better, damn it!
I settled him down to a reasonable canter and told myself to forget about the rough change and pull it together again, and we did! Jumps 2 and 3 were a 6 stride line. We jumped in nice and conservative, and I felt him wanting to accelerate, but he listened to me when said, “No thank you, this is 6 strides buddy”.
We landed on the correct lead (Thank you baby Jesus), and then I had lots of time to panic about the impending 2 stride. Was my canter too slow? Too quick? Too flat? Who knows! Felt ok to me though, and the 2 stride came up just right. Neptune must have been in the right house, because we were half way through the course and it was feeling really good. Rio was listening, there were no trot steps in sight, and I was making pretty ok decisions.
We got a little hot going into the next corner and I focused on bringing him back and doing “the work” in the corner BEFORE we hit the long side to the next line. What do you know?!? IT WORKED. He came back, and was nice and soft by the long side, and 3 strides out I saw the jump perfectly and could float the reins and relax.
It was MAJIKAL. Half way down the line I re-balanced him and then let go again and it rode perfectly. Definitely my favorite line to date! At this point my brain was basically freaking out because things were going so well and I had one jump left that I need to NOT mess up. Hello long approach to the oxer! I spent the whole approach wondering if I would totally biff it and find a flyer or a total chip and kill what what so far our best round to date.
No need to fear though, we had a lovely balanced canter that allowed me to choose the spot, and I softened a few strides out and added leg for a lovely effort. I LOVE YOU RIO, AKA THE BEST HORSE IN THE WORLD.
I left the ring with the hugest smile on my face, and super excited to go to go in and do it again!
I won’t do the blow-by-blow for the next round, but I will say you should definitely watch it. It was amazing. Definitely our very best round to date. We got all of our lead changes smoothly (no run-away changes this round!), and even got the change at the end of the course after the last jump. I saw a few strides out from the 2 stride that I had to make a decision, and I sat up for the add step and Rio pulled it off seamlessly. We even pulled off 2 3rds, which may not sound awesome out of 4, but I’m telling you, these ladies are amazing and I’m crazy proud and thrilled that the judge thought we were even in the running in such an excellent group.
Let me just say… I never thought we would have rounds like we did on Saturday. I am SO FREAKIN PROUD of Rio, and how far we have come. We really worked together out there, and it showed. I could feel the partnership, the give and take, and it paid off in a big way. The jumps just flowed, and I never felt like we couldn’t make a distance work. He was so pliable, it felt amazing. Everything just clicked. THAT was the feeling I had been hoping for.
None of this would be possible without my amazing trainers and the incredible staff at Bay Yard- you guys ROCK!
My barnmates are truly amazing as well. We all cheered and supported each other, and enjoyed good food and wine after classes were done for the day. Nothing better then facing your fears, and then enjoying the rest of the day with amazing fellow horse people. I am not sure exactly what it is about horse shows that is so addicting, but I do know that it wouldn’t be the same without my amazing barn family. Love you all!
Another big shout-out to Liana for all these AMAZING pics. Also a giant thank you to R, one of my barnmate’s husband- who took all the video!!!
Speaking of video- here it is! All the rounds are back to back on the same video. If you want to skip day 1 and go straight to Saturday’s awesome rounds you can start at the 3:40 mark. Or, watch the whole thing through and see if you can see the progress between the 2 days!