Saturday, November 1, 2014

Measuring up

I am officially finished holding out on you after this post.  It's been torturous not updating on our progress, but I was really disinclined to either spoil it or jinx it, and I can't wait any longer or I'll explode!  Though I technically made the vaguest possible allusion to my plans recently, I'm so excited to share that Jazz and I did our first show this past Saturday!

As a quick aside,  I want to note that I'm purposely pretty anonymous. I'm just not comfortable sharing too much personal information on the internet, so I tend to err on the the side of saying less. That said,  it's probably quite obvious I'm young. While I'm still not being specific,  I'm young enough that I'm still in pony club. So,  when my pony club leader sent out an email back in August about some shows coming up, I thought to myself,  "Hm, October 25th... I think I could be ready by then."  So,  it's been a couple months of accumulating proper show attire (a jacket, show shirt, bridle,  new bit without the fancy sides, medical armband, etc.), and working with my awesome trainer on show prep to do the trot poles, and it all came to a head Saturday.

The day started bright and early, with a 6am wakeup, and the show team headed to the barn.  A friend, K stayed over to come and help out at the show, and we went to catch the horse while the slaves  helpers hooked up the trailer.  Just after I'd caught a very confused Jazz - "Why are you here? It's dark and stuff"-, K said, "Are there supposed to be horses there?" while pointing to two horse-shaped silhouettes over by the barn.   I assumed it was the barn manager, who had told me she would be there about that time to load her horses for a different event she was going to.  I told my friend, "It's probably just [barn manager]'s two horses."  At this point it was tactfully pointed out to me that this was three, not two horses running loose in the yard, and the barn manager's car was not there yet.  At this point I called the barn manager and my friend hurried to close the perimeter gate.  I ushered Jazz into the barn where she would be out of the way of the loose horses (all of which were strangers to her).  Meanwhile K was trying to herd or catch the horses back into their pasture, the six  kittens were running around in the dark, and it appeared as though both lights had burned out in the rather dark barn where I was walking around my half-asleep horse (plus my half-asleep self).  Not the start I had pictured for the day. 

Before long, the trailer was hooked and parked in the yard (with the perimeter gate still closed), the horses were herded back into the nearest empty pasture, and the barn manager finally arrived.  Then all that remained was to load the horse.  Har har.  An hour, more than a couple tears, a few scary rears (thanks, young horse attitude), many failed bribe attempts, and much more struggle than could be considered necessary, the horse was on the trailer, and I was trying not to consider the fact that my classes were due to start 55 minutes from the time we got into the truck to leave, with the show being approximately a 50 minute drive.  I was not happy at the prospect that all that work, time, effort, and money may end in missing the show (thanks, early morning start times for baby trot pole classes), and mostly held it together as I also tried to figure out how to do my hair (the show hairnet/clip I had bought was defective and broke a few times before I could rig it servicably), changed, and attempted not to freak out some more.  My trainer was waiting for us at the show grounds, and she had let the officials know we were coming at least.  

This was the beautiful sunrise on the drive over, another welcome distraction.

We pulled in, finally, at 8:52.  Eight minutes to go.  I pulled on my boots (which co-operated and went on correctly for the first time in probably a month.  I really need to sort something out for my boots), and by the time they were on,  my trainer had found us, K had unloaded Jazz, and she was getting ready to tack her up when she asked, "Hey, where's the brushes?"  I said they were just in the back of the truck, and opened the tailgate.  Nope.  "Oh," I said, "I guess we must have thrown them in the trailer tack room." Nope.   "Hey, did anyone perchance grab the brushes from the (dark) barn aisle when we went to load the horse?" Nope.  In a burst of extreme luck, Jazz was spotless (seriously, she is never that clean), and we didn't have to beg the people at the trailers nearby to use theirs, because she was more than passably clean, and there was not a speck of dirt on her saddle patch.  Then my trainer pointed out that I should go start memorizing my course, and the lifesavers grooms got to work tacking up my horse for me.  I read the pattern and then went to walk the course with my trainer who suggested where I could cut corners and where I would have to go around.  Then, the ring stewards kicked us out and called everyone in my division for tack check.  I ran back to the trailer and found a (thankfully) tacked up horse and thanked everyone about a million times before briskly walking back to the ring with horse in hand, and tightening the girth as we went.  

Naturally, based on the course of events of the day so far, I was the first rider to go.  I was registered in three classes, the easy trot poles, the challenge trot poles, and the walk/trot equitation.  

First was challenge trot poles because the show officials accidentally put it first before easy trot poles. Jazz went into the ring nice and easy,  and I decided to trot a little circle before the timer like I always used to do at gymkhanas, but she spooked at one of the jumps. It was a Halloween show,  so there were all kinds of spooky obstacles and decorations. The jump at the front gate that was causing the present issue had two large tombstones leaning against the front standards,  and a skeleton propped up on the back one. Apparently she didn't get the memo that it wasn't really haunted. 

Either way, it was a minute or two before we were ready to actually start the course. Technically, I did try once before we actually did start, but she backed up (apparently the first jump was just as scary as the skeleton jump).  By the time I got her over the first pole,  I was so stoked about starting that I completely forgot my course and where to go. I knew which pole I was supposed to go to next,  but I was not lined up for it at all,  so I circled. Jazz also thought this one was scary,  so she backed away,  at which point the officials in the ring thankfully reminded me I was supposed to approach from the opposite side. Oops. After that I mostly remembered my course, and Jazz paused to consider a few more obstacles (there was one with a big fake spider she really leered at, and I don't blame her. Spiders are creepy). We survived,  and before I knew it we were exciting the arena. 

At this point Jazz decided to pull out her inner rock star and be the chillest chill horse while we waited and watched the other riders. She was behaving really well,  so I left her with K while I went to go figure out my second course.  It seemed much easier, basically a big loop of the arena with a figure eight in the middle.  While we waited, I watched the other competitiors, and talked to the girl next to me, who was riding an adorable little bay pony dressed up as a wizard.  He had a little wizard hat on, and the little girl riding him was wearing a long velvet cape.  Talk about a good pony!  I also noticed at this point that Jazz was, for probably the first time in her life, the tallest horse in the arena.  She looked positively huge compared to all the ponies.  If she's really stretching, she still might not brush 15 hands, but she's been doing so well lately, really starting to use her muscles better and coming into herself, that, odd as it may sound, she just feels bigger when I'm riding her.

After all the riders had gone and I had remounted in preparation for the second course,  they announced the placings.  I came in fifth, and I'm fairly sure the girl on the wizard pony got first.  I was thrilled, as I knew I wouldn't place high since I'd gone off course.

 Almost immediately after the placings were announced, I found myself back in the ring.  I tried to stay nice and relaxed, while still being prepared for spooks.  As it turned out, that was relatively unnecessary, because Jazz kicked into gear and ROCKED IT!  It was probably the best trot poles course we've ever run (to be fair, I did a limited number at home, and they were all bumped up in difficulty to prepare for the highest level of technicality at the show).  Before I knew it, I had crossed the electronic timer eyes, and I was done.

K remarked to me after the second course that my horse was calmer at this show than her very experienced show horse (whose last show was a national finals with her previous owner) was at any show she'd taken her to (so naturally, I had to brag a little about that here).  Our next class was equitation, so my trainer gave me a few tips as I double checked her girth and watched the last few riders do the trot poles.  When the class was over, they announced the placings, and WE WON! I couldn't stop smiling.  What a good pony!

It was at this point, with probably 45 minutes of very patient waiting, that Jazz started to get a little antsy. In fairness it was largely my fault for getting on too soon.  The jumps crew were still moving poles to get the track around the rail clear for the equitation when I mounted up, and Jazz was ready to go right that second.  Of course, considering the fact I literally drove up eight minutes before my classes started, I hadn't been getting on until right before I had to go for the previous two classes, so me being on her and not directing her to do something right then was a little confusing.  I did a little movement, circling and the like, until she chilled out a little, and then hopped off.  Naturally, about 45 seconds after I did so, they welcomed the riders into the ring to walk around and warm up until the judges were ready (the officials were also waiting for a rider who had just gotten there and wanted to make their equitation class).

Jazz went in nice and steady, and when I tried to subtly ask my instructor over the fence how I was supposed to manage passing, one of the officials kindly helped me out.  All the little ponies in the class were awesome and quite well behaved, but moved a little slower on their shorter legs than Jazz, who was energetic but still listening perfectly.  She was just in that perfect sweet spot where she was neither lazy nor raring to go.  Apparently my plans to have 45 minutes to warm her up to that perfect degree (you know, the ones thrown out the window because of the trailer debacle) were unnecessary.
The equitation class was overall quite good.  I felt pretty centered and balanced, and my legs were feeling fairly solid.  There were a few tiny hiccups when I had troubles with speed and distance between the other horses, so I circled through the middle and kind of got stuck.  It took a few tries and redirects, but I eventually ended up back on the rail.  There were a couple of little hiccups where I would apply a little too much leg and Jazz broke to the trot for a couple steps, but overall I felt great about it.  At the end, we lined up in front of the judge, who commented that everyone had very good leg position, and every rider had occasional issues with contact.  She then told us the results would be tabulated and the results posted soon.

We walked straight out the door and across to the racetrack once the class was over.  I probably should have mentioned the show was being held at a racetrack that had been closed a few years ago. I'd had grand ideas of messing around on the track for a while before cooling down, but the ground was pretty hard, so I opted to dismount as soon as she was cooled down sufficiently.  My trainer, and everybody else for that matter, asked how we'd done and what the judge had said, but we were still waiting for the results.  We took a few more photos and headed back to the trailer to get Jazz some food and water.

Demon pony has glowing eyes.

I know I already have this picture at the top, but this was her expression for the entire show.  What a great horse.

I left her with K to go find water and return my number, and headed over to the officials' table to ask where I could find a hose.  Immediately they asked my name, and handed over my ribbons before I could even ask about the water.  They gave me the already expected 5th place green ribbon and 1st place red ribbon (from trot poles), and also a shiny blue 2nd place ribbon from equitation! I was thrilled because I honestly couldn't have expected better considering the little bobbles we had (the short breaks of gait and when I got stuck in the middle of the arena for what felt like forever).  I handed back my number and headed off in the direction I had been pointed to search for water.  The lady at the officials' table had thought there would still be water behind the bathrooms, but most of it had been shut off for the winter already.  I tried the bathrooms, but I couldn't fit the bucket into the sink, and I couldn't even get enough water to cover the bottom of the bucket.  I went outside to wander some more when C came looking for me.  I showed her my ribbons and we were excited about that for a few minutes before remembering that we had no immediate way to get water to my horse.  I suggested we might be able to get a cup or something that would fit under the tap in the bathroom and just dump it into the bucket, and we found a long abandoned water bottle that would fit that bill.  Once I had filled it up in the bathroom sink and dumped it into the bucket four or five times over, C went around the corner and said, "You know there's a shower here, right?"  Oops.  We were sure to let the officials know so no one else would do anything quite that stupid in search of water.

I arrived back at the trailer to an untacked horse eating hay happily as a crew of slaves grooms brushed her.  Jazz was less than impressed that I wanted to tack her back up for photos, but there was no way I was leaving my first show without ribbon pictures with a tacked up horse.
Unfortunately all of the pictures with just the first place ribbon turned out pretty awkward.

Awkward pony and rider are awkward.  Plus return of the demon pony. 

Luckily the ones with all 3 ribbons mostly turned out better.
Of course, the awkward wasn't gone for good.

This one was definitely my favourite. 

 After all that, the drive home was pretty uneventful, and Jazz was back in with her friends before most of the competitors at the show had even ridden.  The perks of riding in baby classes.

It was no sunrise, but my view on the way home wasn't half bad either.  

p.s. I'm hoping to get the videos functional soon! 



  1. HUGE congratulations! Sounds like you were both rock stars at this show! Your big smile in those photos is priceless. :D So glad you had fun!

  2. congratulations!! what a wonderful first outing - sounds like you got the complete show experience - the highs of a first place ribbon, the lows of trailer woes and rushed start times... love the pics, you two look great :)

  3. Congratulations, what a great first outing!! :D

  4. Congratulations! I'm glad the day ended out well despite a late start.