Catching Up: It's Been A Minute
Hey everyone! long time no chat, I apologize for my absence the past few weeks; between school, work, my internship, riding, showing, and the IHSA team I have been absolutley swamped. Wow, I'm exhausted just listing it! But, this week I want to catch you up on everything horse related!
On January 26th and 27th Coriander Farm hosted the Vic Russell clinic. After discussing the pros and cons of the 2'6" and the 3' groups with my trainer we decided it was in Rumor's and I's best interest to do the 3'. I won't lie, I was hesitant as we hadn't schooled anything bigger than 2'9"since out move to Coriander, but I took the leap of faith thinking that the first day would be flat work and pole work like the previous groups did; which would give me the time to feel out if Rumor and I were ready. Jokes on me though, because after we were all evaluated on the flat and received some excellent instruction Vic decided that it would be more productive for the entire group to move straight into jumping. We started the clinic by working over a small crossrail; the exercise was a tight left right turn, 5 trot steps, crossrail, and then we were expected to land and stop within a specific distance. This was a really great exercise as it forced me to think quickly and it made it so Rumor did not have the opportunity to get too excited on the back side of the jump. After everyone mastered that we raised it to a small vertical and worked on riding a consistent 6 strides to an oxer, the first few times through the line Vic just asked us to keep the horses strides controlled as we were asked to stop within 4 strides of the last fence of the line. Rumor did not appreciate the idea of having to stop after two jumps and expressed her opinion by landing from the oxer and giving me some mini bucks of joy. We had to repeat this exercise a few times before she realized that staying calm on the back side of the oxer was the best option. Then we continued to add on to pieces of the course, the jumps were raised, and issues were addressed as minor issues arose. Vic really helped me to understand how to ride a horse as sensitive as rumor, he told me that to ride a reactive horse you can not think too much. He advised me to work on thinking one complete thought at a time and to think these thoughts slowly. He explained it as this: Rumor is so in-tuned to even the slightest change in my leg, seat, and hand she can sense when I am preparing to do anything. So, to help keep her a bit more manageable I need to just think simple and not let my mind race. Ever since hearing him say this, my ability to ride Rumor has improved ten-fold; no longer do I have an overly excitable mare who is prancing in anticipation of our next move, instead I have a horse who is listening and waiting for my slight ques to happily jump into whatever it is I ask for. Unfortunately, Sunday was a washout due to rain; even though the clinic was still being held I made the decision to not risk the chances of Rumor hurting herself as the ring was absolutely soaked and footing far less than ideal. Even though I scratched Sunday I still took the opportunity to audit, and I learned a lot from watching those who still decided to ride.
On Wednesday, January 30th, Rumor was on her way to HITS Ocala. I was really excited as this would be her first A show debut and we had been making leaps and bounds as a team. On Wednesday, Rumor was full of herself but behaved fairly well for being at such a large venue for her first time. Thursday went very differently though. Rumor seemed to be more settled in and comfortable in her stall but when it came time to take her down to show her in the morning her mind shut down the second she saw the race track. Her whole body began to shake and she started backing up rapidly, which left me in the difficult position of attempting to make her stop while simultaneously attempting to handle the situation in a way that wouldn't lead to one of her famous rears (in case you didn't know, watching your horse rear is quite a terrifying thing and unfortunately I have become significantly less phased by her dramatic reactions). It took me about 30 minutes of just letting her settle and absorb the scenery around her before we could attempt our walk down the hill to the show rings. Knowing Rumor as well as I do, I just patiently waited until she willingly walked forward before continuing to the central part of the show. This waiting game was crucial, had I forced her to walk forward and made her feel pressured she would have thrown a fit which would have resulted in rearing and a horse who would have no longer been willing to try to cooperate the rest of the weekend. Rumor just happens to have really bad anxiety when she doesn't understand a situation and is very opinionated. Thursday ended up being a bust, down near the schooling ring she made it clear that she was not in the right frame of mind to be asked to be ridden in a manageable manner. So, instead I brought her back up to her stall, untacked her, and we spent the next 4 hours simply hanging around the show venue taking everything in until she was settled. The rest of the weekend went without a hitch. I arrived early Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and spent about an hour and a half or more hanging around the rings with Rumor and lightly lunging her. This seemed to really help her settle and be receptive to what we were asking of her. Nashea showed her in the .60 and .80 jumpers on Friday and I showed her in the same classes Saturday. On Sunday the smaller jumper classes were completed, so we bought a schooling ticket and played in the schooling hunter ring- which Rumor was unfazed by and behaved like an absolute champ as she packed me around. What started out looking like a bust turned into a great weekend full of lots of learning and stories! I was really proud of how little miss Rumor pulled herself together in the end and surpassed my expectations.
Fast forward to this weekend, I am at a IHSA show with the University of North Florida Equestrian team, we are showing at SCAD. I have the opportunity to show both over fences and flat both days. Saturday went well, I put down some exceptional rides (in comparison to my previous IHSA rides) but didn't quite place as expected, actually placed significantly lower than usual. Oh well, ribbons are great and all but knowing that I walked into the ring and gave my best performance possible was worth the trip to SCAD in itself. I am 2 points away in the flat and 6 points away in over fences from qualifying for regionals! I'm hoping that I can even better my performance from today and maybe secure a spot at regionals in over fences and flat before our last two shows of the season. I will let you know how it goes!