Chapter 6: Our First Rated Show at HITS Culpeper

Hello beautiful people.

I would apologize deeply for my radio silence (yet again) by exclaiming that I’ve been sick as a dog, crazy busy at work, and just plain lazy, but you don’t need to hear that. (I’m feeling much better despite the lingering cough, work is still busy but I’m learning how to manage it, and I gave myself a kick in the ass to get movin’.)

You’re here to hear about our first rated show! And if you’re not, then too bad because that’s what I’m talking about today. Get with it.

I had my lesson last Wednesday thinking very positive thoughts: it didn’t matter that I was sick and exhausted and couldn’t take a full deep breath! My pony would take care of me! It’s fine that I accidentally took the drowsiness-inducing meds before hopping on! Beastly is a saint!

I’m formally removing my petition to have the Big White Unicorn canonized. Not that she was bad, but she is definitely the type of horse to get her confidence and gumption from her rider. When said rider is flopping around barely conscious and alternately flapping the reins/pulling at her face? Yeah, she’s not going over any of those jumps.

I’m surprised I didn’t fall off, because she ducked out HARD so many times. A couple were dirty stops where she was being lazy, but the majority was me not sticking to me guns. We eventually ended on a good note, but that was probably our worst ride to date.

I was feeling SUPER not ready to show on Friday. All my trainer could tell me was that “you have to have a bad dress rehearsal before the real thing.” Somehow that didn’t seem super comforting.

But Thursday I had a great school where I basically rode Addy in circles til she was sleepy, gave her a nice bath, prepped everything, and went to bed at 9pm.

Friday was show day! Up at 4am and at the barn by 4:45am. Beastly had naturally slept in her poop, so we got to re-do the bath from Thursday. She then got to run around the indoor for a while to get the beans out of her system (thank goodness, she was tearing around in there like crazy). She loaded on the trailer like she does it every day, and we were off! I actually really need to get a video of her loading, she turns herself around and backs right into the narrow slot like one of those self-parking cars. She’s such a champ.

Once there, we got checked in at the show office, used the permanent bathrooms (not porta-potties! So classy!), and went to walk the course. Bonus side of long legs: course walking is my normal stride, not big goofy steps. The course was really cool- none of the turns were that crazy, some cool combos, and nothing was too spooky.


The power phase started up the diagonal oxer, right turn down the single and continue out the gate, up the two-stride, down the diagonal line in 5, up the one-stride to six out. Then if you were clear the speed phase started, and it continued to the end oxer, rollback over the blue waves, left to go quarter-line bending out over the gold, rollback again over the blue waves, then hard right to end over the same jump as the power phase.

At least in theory. We had a great warmup, but I was still nervous going into our first class. My girl picked up on that, and we had a stop at the third fence and again at the in of the one stride. Not dirty stops, but I was staring at the jumps. So she said “OOH what’re we looking at?!” And stopped so she could see too. Womp womp. Note to self: we are not trying to get to the jump, we are trying to get over the jump. Stop staring at the jump.

So for the second round I grabbed a crop, they put spurs on me, and we changed the way I rode. We’re always holding her back and trying to keep the control, but we threw that out the window this time (to a certain extent…I still wanted control). The goal was to get the momentum going and have her carry me to the jumps so that stopping would just be too difficult. I was to let go of her face, guide with my legs, and let my horse do her goshdarn job.

And wouldn’t you know, when I got out of her way and encouraged her forward, my pony LOVES her job. She was thundering around with her ears pricked and I could feel her hunting down the next jump! We completed the power phase clear and continued straight on to the speed phase- we was one bobble at the first rollback where I didn’t set her up and she didn’t see the jump early enough so we had to circle and come back at it. We then finished off the rest of the course on a big huge step, which was crazy fun. I was beaming when I left the ring!

Still beaming like an idiot ten minutes later. No, the bay is not a pony. Addy is just a very big girl.

Even with our circle, we got around 48 seconds in the speed phase- the winner was around 41 seconds, so we weren’t that far off! I think if we hadn’t circled we would’ve been in the ribbons for sure.

I had the option to do one more class, but I called it a day after that. I was feeling great, Addy was feeling great, and I want her to associate these shows with getting to have fun doing what she loves best- jumping over colorful sticks. So we only did the 2’ and the 2’7”. Big step back in height, but huge step forward in learning how to communicate.

We then spent several hours hand grazing before she got to take a nap on the trailer, I did some shopping (bought a pair of breeches that I didn’t really need, but I reeeeally wanted them so close enough), and we watched AT totally beast the TB hunter division. I also spent way too much money getting one of the pro pics of us in the 2’ division. It was stupid expensive and the jump was super tiny, but I wanted a memento of our very first big show together. I’ll share it when it comes in!

Addy liked watching the Grand Prix ring. She told me she wants to do that next show.

All in all, it was an incredible day. The hustle and bustle of the showgrounds, the feeling of being in the big jumper ring, getting to hang out with my pony all day, and every single other thing about it was amazing. Would I have loved a ribbon? Obviously. I don’t pay all this money without some hope of recognition. But I wouldn’t trade a single part of that day because holy moly we learned SO MUCH.

A few takeaways:

  1. Let go of her face! Picking and picking and pulling is never the answer. Have enough feel to guide, but push her up into the bridle instead of pulling.
  2. Forward is good. It’s not what we look for in the hunter ring, but it will save our butts in the jumper ring. Let her turn into that snowplow and beast around the course. She’s naturally careful, stop worrying about that as much.
  3. Carry a stick and use it on the approach. Not necessarily hard, but just as a reminder that yes horse, you do have to go over this obstacle. She likes the reassurance that I’m up there and paying attention too.
  4. Get in the rumble seat. Forget that hunter half-seat. Forget that equitation perch. Get my ass in the saddle, sit up, sit deep, and drive. It’s ok to get left behind a little bit at this height- focus on getting the horse over the jump. This is not a horse that needs some minor steering, this is a horse that needs me to be in the driver’s seat during every stride.
  5. Deep breaths! Every so often I made a point to breathe and smile on course. It made a world of difference keeping me and the beast relaxed and having fun.

So there you have it. We survived our first rated show and LOVED every second of it. Addy didn’t blink an eye at all the craziness going on- loudspeakers, buzzers, 120398 horses up her butt in the warmup ring, tractors across the street, anything. Beast mare don’t care. Time to start saving my pennies so we can go to more!

Forever kisses

PS- I’m super bummed that I have no videos of either of my rounds. I would’ve loved to look back and review how we did!

32 thoughts on “Chapter 6: Our First Rated Show at HITS Culpeper

  1. Jenn 08/24/2015 / 11:47 am

    Welcome back to blogland, we’ve missed you 🙂
    YAY! I’m so incredibly proud of you and Addy for learning together and kicking butt in the ring at your first rated show! Yeah, a ribbon would be nice, but like you said, the things you learned at this show are more important than a piece of stain in the long run. Congratulations!!


    • hellomylivia 08/24/2015 / 1:52 pm

      Thank you love ❤ Now that we're learning so much, we'll have to go get that ribbon next time 😉


  2. Courtney 08/24/2015 / 1:21 pm

    What a classy place!

    It sounds like you had a lot of fun, and that’s what’s most important! I can’t wait to see your photo! If you need videoing next time, I’d be happy to oblige! I even have a HD camera!


    • hellomylivia 08/24/2015 / 1:53 pm

      It was crazy amounts of fun, you should DEFINITELY come next time! It’s not too far from your place and there’s tons to do (besides watch all the fancy ponies, which is entertaining enough).


  3. Erin 08/24/2015 / 1:32 pm

    Congrats on a successful show.


  4. Lauren 08/24/2015 / 2:25 pm

    The jumpers are rated shows are so much more intense, I’d be nervous too! Y’all will kill it next time 🙂


    • hellomylivia 08/25/2015 / 7:35 am

      It was definitely intense! The nerves lessened once I got around the course once, so I’m hoping next time we can skip the nerves and go straight to beast mode 😉


  5. Stacie Seidman 08/24/2015 / 2:37 pm

    Yay for pony showing!!! So happy you had a great experience! It’s not all about the ribbons like you say. My horse show goals are generally this:
    Don’t die
    Don’t kill horse
    Don’t embarrass trainer
    stay on
    jump jumps in correct order
    hopefully spend too much money a great photo.


    • hellomylivia 08/25/2015 / 7:50 am

      Sounds like we have pretty much the same goals! And lucky me, this show met all those goals (at least I don’t think my trainer was TOO embarrassed…)


  6. CallyJumps 08/24/2015 / 3:49 pm

    Congrats on your first rated show, and on having a big ah-hah moment! Can’t wait to see the photo.


  7. Liz Stronach 08/24/2015 / 8:38 pm

    Sounds like loads of fun, especially how much you improved from round to round! Roll on more rated shows!


    • hellomylivia 08/25/2015 / 7:51 am

      Improvement, not perfection, right? I’m on a no-breeches-spending freeze so I can get to our next show 🙂


    • hellomylivia 08/25/2015 / 7:52 am

      Yes I feel so weird not being able to critique my rounds! And I’m stupidly excited about that picture of me lumping over a glorified ground pole.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. emma 08/25/2015 / 10:29 am

    wooo hooo congrats on getting out there and having a blast!! i’m also a big proponent of carrying a stick while competing (i almost never do schooling) and lately added spurs to the mix too. it’s not that my mare really needs it…. except for those very occasional moments when it’s good to have those tools immediately on hand. i find that it also lends me a little extra gumption bc i feel like i have more backup to get it done.


    • hellomylivia 08/25/2015 / 2:14 pm

      I know exactly what you mean- just putting on the spurs and carrying the bat gave me the extra “oomph” I needed, even when I wasn’t actively using them.


  9. Abby 08/25/2015 / 12:58 pm

    Congratulations! I was at Culpeper all week too! Wish I could have seen your round! I showed in the level 4’s and modified jumpers in the GP ring. We also had one in the Brookledge 1.45m on Friday. I’ve been following your blog for I while and really enjoy it! I’d love to say hello if you show at Culpeper again in September!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hellomylivia 08/25/2015 / 2:16 pm

      Oh my gosh I would love to meet up and say hi!!! I don’t think I’ll be showing, but I’m hoping to go cheer our riders on over that weekend- I’ll definitely have to mosey over to the GP ring and cheer you on too 🙂


  10. carey 08/25/2015 / 3:55 pm

    Nice job, first one in the books!


  11. heartofhope10 08/26/2015 / 2:16 pm

    So exciting for you guys! Another great show under your belt! 🙂 Cannot wait to hear about more shows.


  12. Tracy - Fly On Over 08/28/2015 / 8:28 am

    Sounds like while you didn’t win, you learned a lot! So glad you had a wonderful time. I love how positive you are about your experiences 🙂


    • hellomylivia 08/31/2015 / 7:19 am

      I definitely try to cultivate positivity 🙂 It’s easy to with such a fantastic crew of horses and people around me!


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