Chapter 5: A Triumphant Return to the Hunters

So when we last chatted, Addy and I had a fantastic lesson on Wednesday after her full week of vacation, and we had decided to tag along to the local hunter show over the weekend. I got the thumbs up from Owner Lady and started gathering my things.

I have a theory that something needs to go wrong before we head to the show, and this time I forgot my show shirt and coat. Oops! Thankfully D’Arcy had an extra shirt in her car, and my trainer keeps roughly 20 coats in the trailer dressing room. So I got to fulfill my dream of wearing a green coat, albeit one that didn’t fit exaaactly right. Beggars can’t be choosers.

This show started at 8am instead of 9am like the other civilized shows in the area, so we wanted to get there with plenty of time to school in the ring. Which means I was up at 4:30am, at the barn at 5:15am, we left the barn before 6am, and we were mounted and warming up before 7am. I’m writing this recap a day later and I’m still recovering!

On the bright side, we were the first ones there so we had the ring to ourselves. Trainer had us warm ourselves up on the flat first and then pop over all the jumps at least once. It was like a mini-lesson without any of the chaos you usually encounter in the warmup ring. Addy was feeling very soft and relaxed over everything in our warmup, so she popped back on the trailer while I got us registered.

We were in the first class of the day- a 2’6″ benefit hunter class. This class had a 2′ and a 2’6″ option so it was pretty popular, but I just wanted to do one of these as a warmup before the 3′ division.

I wish this had been 3′! This was one of the nicest flowy courses I’ve had with Addy to date. She was quiet, soft to the jumps, relaxed, and had her focus on me the whole time. I even had to leg her up a little in one of the lines! She really looked so hunter-y in this trip, I walked out of the ring beaming (was also beaming because as we walked by the judge’s stand she called out that she wanted to take Addy home with her! So glad someone else appreciated the Beastly Unicorn).

We decided not to do the other O/F or the flat class since Addy clearly didn’t need more work in the ring. But we won that first class out of 15ish which was enough to tie us for reserve champion in the division! We lost the coin toss to see who got the actual ribbon, but Pretty Girl will always be 2’6″ Benefit Hunter Reserve Champion in my heart.

Time for the 3′. Again, there are practically 0 people who do 3′ at these local shows, so it was just me and D’Arcy in the Working Hunters again. We had a sticky spot in the same line during both O/F classes where I put 4 in a 5 stride, but other than that our courses went well. I just didn’t sit up enough in that line to ask her to pat the ground for the 5. We did have a couple long approaches that went extremely well though, so I was glad we didn’t charge at any jumps! I was also glad that they measured the jumps- a lot of these local shows put the jumps slightly lower than advertised, but these were true 3′ with some nice sizable oxers. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sailing over a spread with the DragonMare, she’s such a fun ride 🙂

Our flat class actually went quite well! We got a little quick during the canter and I had to keep a stronger feel on her mouth than is traditionally hunter-y, but she stayed soft and listened well the entire time. It probably wouldn’t seem like a success to someone on a different horse, but I was very very happy with how Pretty Girl did!

We did end up pinning 1st in both O/F and 2nd under saddle (continuing our streak of last place in flat classes, I’m weirdly proud of that), which got us champion in the division. I’m a little torn about this.

Addy isn’t torn. She’s thrilled to have her ribbons.

On the one hand, this was the first show that I felt truly represented our abilities. I was able to ride the way I do at home and not have her zooming around like a roller coaster off its tracks. Not perfect by any stretch, but the mistakes I made are mistakes that I’m conscious of and actively working on. So that’s a really really good thing, since in general I’m pleased with how we do at home.

On the other hand, I’ve mentioned that very few people do the 3′ on our local circuit and that was the case here. D’Arcy and I as well as our horses are very closely matched in ability, so we just seem to take turns winning. She got champion last time and I got reserve, and this time we swapped. Whoever is having the better day wins. This is a nice low-pressure way to put miles on Addy, but both D’Arcy and I would love to have some more competitors. We want to see how we’re doing against other people, not just against the person we ride with several times a week. We already know how we compare to each other, we swap training woes all the time!

Regardless of who was or was not in any of our classes, I was so thrilled with Addy’s willingness to sit back and let me lead at this show. I think having the extra leverage from the pelham really helped keep her attention on me when she needed the reminder, and I was able to be soft with her mouth when she was giving me softness. Something else that made a huge difference was remembering to breathe. Every time I remembered to take a deep breath in and out on an approach, we got a beautiful distance. When I didn’t breathe consciously, we chipped or took a flyer. I think breathing also relaxed my body language, which in turn relaxed Addy.

It was a very relaxing confidence-building day overall for the Beast; she got tons of cookies and grazed for a couple hours while we waited for another rider, so she got to learn that showgrounds aren’t necessarily stressful places. It was fun to just sit in the grass and watch the ponies go around while my snuggly mare grazed next to me! She was having an especially affectionate day and kept standing right by me for scratches and ear rubs. We took leisurely walks around the grounds and even took a nap together on the trailer when we wanted some shade. I also think our relaxed warmup helped- she was able to ease into a new place without the distractions of other horses running her over.

She was my puppy dog on a leash, just hangin’ out with me and mooching for treats.
POV of my trailer nap. Shortly after this Addy drooped and took a little snooze with me.

I think that in general we are more suited to the jumpers, but I’m so glad we went back in the hunter ring! I learn something new during every excursion and I know that I can apply that to our next foray into the jumper ring. My goal for Addy and me is to build trust so that she will wait for me to tell her what we’re doing- jumpers, hunters, equitation, hacking out in a field, walking around bareback, you name it. She’s so smart, I think mixing things up and exposing her to different venues and styles will be very good for her and keep her entertained.

Now, I gotta start saving up for some rated shows so we can have a full 3′ division!

D’Arcy’s mom was lovely enough to get videos of 2 of our rounds as well as some pictures, so I should be able to share those tomorrow! Stay tuned to see the tamed DragonBeast.

Do you try out different disciplines with your horse? 

PS- I tried on tall boots, and I found a pair that fits me like custom! Does anyone have experience with the Mountain Horse Sovereign Field Boots? Or Mountain Horse in general? I tried these on a whim and they look like they were made for me. I did need to order to get the slim-tall in, but I’m so excited to pick them up!