Even before Coronapocolypse came into the picture in early 2020 I didn’t have big plans to do much horse showing. The trainer I’ve shown with the past few years had moved away from Texas and I was really focused on my new fun fox hunting friends and trips. I was hoping to go to Belle Meade’s hunt week in February, but life and responsibility got in the way. However, the planning made me stop and think that I really ought to get more experience and coaching to prepare for jumping some bigger jumps. The highest I’ve jumped at shows is 2’6″ and in schooling is 3′ and only a handful of times. Most of the jumps in hunt fields range from 2’9″ up to 4′ at the more ambitious hunts. The coops Simon jumped at Burwell in October were more like 2’9″ to 3′. To that end I started researching hunter/jumper barns in my area and decided to take a few lessons at a barn called Bay Yard Farm.
I was attracted to Bay Yard for a few reasons. I knew a few people who rode there and seemed very happy with the program. Fellow blogger Kelly of Hunky Hanoverian has ridden at Bay Yard for the past few years and had blogged about her great experiences there. Most of Bay Yard’s clients are adults or mature junior riders and after riding at a more pony/kid focused barn I was definitely looking for a barn with riders I have more in common. They go to a few A shows every year and sometimes add in a local show here and there. Lastly, they do haul in lessons and and have a focus on hunters with a dollop of jumpers which suits my 2020 goals and my foxhunting hobby.
My first few lessons were delightful! It isn’t terribly unusual to start at a new barn and feel pressure from trainers to get a new horse, go to a bunch of horse shows, or do other things that can be perceived as high pressure. I have ridden with two of the four trainers at Bay Yard and both have been nothing but supportive and complimentary of my horses and riding goals.
At the end of July trainer JB texted and asked if I would be interested in going to a schooling show nearby. With no hesitation I responded “Yes!”. I was hoping to take Coco and started making plans to be sure she and I would be prepped and ready to show in mid-August. Coco then promptly whacked her leg on something and subsequently got a “no jumping for 2 weeks” order from the vet exactly 2 weeks before the show. Horses! Her 2 weeks would expire on Friday before the show that was on Sunday. I opted to continue to ride her on the flat with hopes she would be healthy and sound to show, but knowing that I may need to take Simon if she weren’t ready.
Photo from a fabulous BYF Junior rider/photographer. Coco is not very affectionate. LOL!
Thankfully she was sound and prepared in time to horse show! We entered the 2’3″ Junior/Amateur division mostly because it was the first division to go in the morning, but partially because it didn’t seem fair to ask her to jump bigger jumps after a few weeks off jumping and a couple of minor injuries.
To say that Coco was a good girl is an egregious understatement. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous how she would act. In the past she has been either a bit hot or very agitated at horse shows. She will seem calm and accepting of the situation only to blow up and express her disdain by misbehaving. She’s never been naughty or dangerous, but I’ve never felt relaxed with her at shows. This was completely different. We had hacked around the show grounds the day before and she had been a bit fractious, but on show day she was aware of surroundings yet amenable to do what I asked of her.
Scope has never been a problem for Coco. These jumps were quite small so she didn’t have the loveliest form.
We did two hunter trips and an equitation course and she answered every question I asked perfectly. She was a bit crooked in the lines and she has a bad habit of veering to the right, but she happily jumps the jumps and mostly gets her lead changes (especially when her rider asks for them correctly).
Here is a video of our second hunter trip. Pardon the ridiculously long trot around the ring before we actually start the course. She was a bit looky after the first hunter trip so I wanted to just trot around the ring calmly before we jumped again. And I couldn’t figure out how to mute the talking from the video so inserted some ridiculous YouTube music instead. Feel free to mute your computer now. Haha!
She is calm, keeps a consistent canter, gets her distances and looks like a lovely hunter. I couldn’t be more thrilled with our progress. The regular lessons have made a world of difference and I can feel that my riding has made drastic improvements. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been getting regular lessons and it’s helping so much! We got second place in the second hunter and we won the hack to end up as Reserve Champions in our division!
Happy girl over the tiny jump.
I’m hoping we can make it to at least one or two more schooling shows this year. If a rated show works out I might go to one of them since Bay Yard goes to those shows more frequently, but it’ll depend on my fox hunting trips. I’m going to start getting Simon fit for Burwell so will be taking him to more of my lessons and (hopefully) getting some practice over bigger fences. Learning and getting better is so much fun!
No scope no hope! The best girl!
I took Coco to another show this past weekend and we had a much different experience from the previous weekend. In a good way, too!
Hidden Lakes is a great little show venue near Flower Mound, Texas. They often have show series throughout the year that are great to attend if you are starting out as a rider or for young horses that need miles. Clearly, Coco fits the bill for #2. I had intended to go to more of these shows, but at our first attempt Coco was having nothing with getting on the trailer. We worked that out. Then I had a show with Sterling in Waco. Then we opted for the closer to home show we went to last weekend, so we only ended up going to the final weekend of the summer series.
We got to the show grounds at 7:30a (my ring started at 7a). I THOUGHT there were only 6 jumpers so we would go around 8:30a or 9a. I was very wrong in this regard.
When Coco gets to new places she isn’t particularly energetic or spooky, which is great. However it makes me a bit lackadaisical in getting her acclimated to the venue. On this occasion I got her tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring immediately after completing our entry at the office. She started out OK, but got more and more amped up as other horses entered the warm-up area, she started to notice horses showing in other rings and the energy of being at a show started to spark.
It was at this time that I figured out there was no way we were showing around 9a. “Then she started doing the same thing she had done the previous weekend (which she didn’t do at home all week) and offered to buck when I added leg to ask for the canter. Rather than be in a dangerous situation and scaring other horses/ponies and riders, I decided to untack and go the the lunge ring. This was the BEST idea I’ve had in a long time.
She is nothing if not beautiful!
It was a hot day and it didn’t take too long before she was showing clear signs of getting tired. Thankfully she’s a good sweater in the heat.
After lunging I led her down to our show ring to await the completion of the jumpers and get her into the ring to lead her around and show her the jumps. This was happily uneventful. At this point in her life she had never jumped anything with fill under it. No flowers or walls or really anything other than rails and standards.
There was a still a full division before mine so we headed back to the trailer to tack up (again) and get ready. I could tell when I got back on her that the sassiness was still there. The edge was gone, but not the sass. We meandered to a warm-up ring and she was clearly going to kick up at the canter again. I was about at my wits end with her shenanigans. Back to the lunge area we went , which is just a circle area of sand, but I stayed on her rather than lunge her again. We trotted, all was well. I asked for the canter, head down and hind legs go up. I sat down in the saddle, grabbed the reins in one hand, and gave her 2 strong (not hard) taps with my crop. This got her attention and she rocked back to her haunches and cantered on. YAY! A win!
We changed gait a few more times with no issues then walked a bit and changed direction. She did the exact same thing again; trot, leg on for canter, head down and hind legs up. I sat down gave her 2 strong taps with the crop and it was back to business. From here on out for the rest of the day she was awesome. Relaxed and willing to do everything I asked her to do.
Our first trip around the course was OK. She stopped at the second fence in a four stride line, but it was completely my fault. I looked down, leaned forward and forgot I had legs. The second trip was fine. No big mistakes other than a couple close spots to jumps. Same with the third trip, except I think we may have added a stride in a line, but I’d rather have a calm young horse add an easy stride than one running away with me around the course.
My goal for our hunter trips were these:
- Jump all the jumps
- No bucking
- Use my legs for the entire course
- Look ahead to help her get leads and not have to change lead
- Should the need arise, do lead changes
And guess what, we pretty much met all these goals! She did multiple flying changes exactly on purpose. I got so excited she got the changes, I forgot to look where I was going and she dang near jumped out of the ring!
Before this Saturday I really was having reservations about Coco’s future. Was I asking her to do the right job? Would we ever “get along? Am I wasting a nice horse that should be doing something else with someone else? I’d be jumping the gun (pun kind of intended) if I said that all these questions have been answered, but I feel 99% better about us getting along and at least 70% better that this might be the right job for her.
We didn’t place very well and I REALLY wish I had video of our trips so I could see what they looked like, but it FELT good. She felt relaxed over the fences. She was incredibly consistent in her canter. She didn’t look at the jumps. She didn’t get spooky in the ring. SHE DID FLYING CHANGES ON PURPOSE. We have another outing planned this coming weekend, then she will get a few weeks of a break from “showing”. Miles, miles and more miles are what she and I both need right now! I’m sure excited to see where we are at this time next year!