I have seriously not done justice to my “one post per week” or even “one post per month” goal. Apologies! I’ll try to do better moving forward.
Some highlights since my last post:
- I competed Domino for the first time since his injury in February 2014! We rode Training Level Test 3 at a schooling show at home. He won his class with a 68%. I’m still trying to figure out what this means for us and my plans with him.
- Tebow also made his First Level debut at the same show and placed 3rd in the First Level+ division with a 65%.
- Tebow developed his flying changes.
- I am starting to school more challenging questions with Tebow. He’s doing great.
But this post is mostly to recap our first event of 2015. I don’t have super reliable transportation so it took until July, but it finally happened last weekend! I competed Tebow in beginner novice – and I evented without my trainer for the first time. As someone who can get show nerves, it was a bit daunting, but I know my trainer wouldn’t let me do it by myself if she didn’t think I could handle it. Seneca has been good to both Tebow and me in the past (it’s where Tebow went to his first ever show as a baby, and it’s where I earned my personal best dressage score of 23.8 with Domino). We had nice ride midday ride times, so we leisurely loaded up and were on our way.
My parents met me there, too, which was fun! They don’t get to see me ride too often and they’d never met Tebow before. Bonus: personal photographer.
Dressage was definitely the weakest link for Tebow and me this show. I was not happy with the way I rode: my geometry was abysmal and Tebow felt very unbalanced. It was on grass and the footing was not terribly consistent, which made it more difficult than I’d planned for, but I still don’t have any excuse to not ride an accurate 20-meter circle at this point. My trainer also noticed from the pictures that it looks like I’m bracing my lower leg instead of using my thighs and core to post, which definitely wouldn’t have helped Tebow’s balance. Guess who gets to do lots of no stirrup work?!
But we got through the test. Tebow behaved nicely – the overall comments started with “Lovely demeanor!” I’m proud of how rideable he’s become, and I’m glad that shone through despite some mediocre riding. Ultimately, we received what I thought was a very generous score of 34.7, putting us in 4th place (out of 10, I believe?).
Then it was time for the fun part! I went to walk my course and my parents babysat Tebow. They both fell in love with him because he’s just so quiet and easy on the ground. My mom is very scared of horses and even she was saying she liked him.
Show jumping warm-up without a trainer was a little hectic. It wasn’t my favorite part of the day, let’s put it that way. I went over just enough fences to feel like Tebow understood that we were going to jump, then got in the arena as quickly as possible.
The course was very straightforward: a typical hunter-style course with only a couple oxers. Tebow cruised through it, quick and clean. I was happy with our round: he jumped clean and he was under control and ready for more. I definitely think he’ll make the move up to novice show jumping without a problem.
There was no warm-up for cross country, which kind of threw me off my game a little. I know it’s only beginner novice and he was already jumping nicely coming out of show jumping, but I like to hop over one solid fence before getting on course just to help both of us change gears.
Instead, I decided I’d have to come out of the start box super positive and ride very forward to fence 1. Tebow had no problem with that plan! He charged over the first fence… and the second… and the third… I felt like I was on a freight train: he was going whether I was ready or not. The landing of the fourth fence was downhill, so before that fence I finally sat up and gave him a big half-halt and basically said, “Hey, pay attention to me damn it!”
After that he went really nicely. He was galloping very strong between the fences, but when I sat down a few strides out, he came back to me and was very polite and nice.
Our only problem spot, which I didn’t really anticipate, was the water. I brought him back to a trot so we could both take a breather, and because I know he hasn’t schooled this water element before. Instead of trotting in nicely, he slammed on the brakes. Visions of Domino a year ago – he did the exact same thing. I gave him a tap with the crop behind my leg, then pushed my hands forward and he finally walked in after maybe 5-10 seconds of hesitation. Fortunately, the water was only flagged out, so we weren’t penalized for our entry mistake.
They also took the ditch off course because the footing had gotten bad, but I schooled it anyways because I’d walked it and felt comfortable with the question. Apparently Tebow was comfortable with it, too – too comfortable. He barely saw it, never broke rhythm, and stepped in it with his hind leg (as only Tebow could do). It’s a very small almost faux-ditch, with no real depth to it, so he was just fine. Hey, I’m glad he’s not ditchy!
We finished strong. I’d survived my first trainer-less event! Even better, we finished on our dressage score and placed 4th overall.
Takeaways: Work on dressage. School some more water. But I do feel like we’re both probably ready to think about moving up to novice now.