Another year, another collegiate show! IHSA shows are unique in that all of the riders draw horses at the beginning of the day and then compete with different mounts throughout the show. They don’t get any time to practice beforehand, but they do get to watch the horses warm up and ask questions about them before they go into the arena. As coach of the University of Washington’s western equestrian team, TrainerA always brings a few horses—and a handful of students to warm up her ponies!
Last year I jumped my first 2’3″ oxer with Belle during the warm up. This year I was just excited to get to jump at all! I haven’t really jumped for a good six months+ (tiny things with Rags don’t count LOL), so when TrainerA invited me up to Lynden to warm Belle up over fences I was super pumped.
Lynden is about an hour and a half north of me, so I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to make it in time for the first warm up session of the day. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Belle had ended up in the intermediate division this year, which meant that she needed to be warmed up over a 2’6″ course! 😬
I took Belle into the 2’3″ warmup in hopes of settling my nerves. We hopped a couple of easy single fences and then I turned her towards a three jump combination set on a bending line. Belle cruised through that and I came out of the arena feeling pretty good. We waited for them to raise the jumps up a few inches, then went back in again. IHSA warmup standards requires each horse to jump every fence included in the course for their division—so I only had to survive eight fences, right?
We jumped over the one tiny fence in the arena, then came around and tackled my very first 2’6″ jump! I’m going to be real, three inches makes a big difference when you’re riding up to a fence. But, lucky for me, I was on the best wonder pony ever, which meant I could just jam my heels down in the irons and cling to her while she launched herself over the jump like a good girl. After that my confidence skyrocketed!
I lost an iron going into the three jump combo the first time, but made the decision to tell Belle to go anyways. I got knocked off balance after the second jump, but I managed to recover and make it all the way through without the iron, which I call a huge success.
We only jumped a little bit—I wanted to keep a lot of gas in the pony’s tank for her riders. The IHSA judge ended up being an hour an a half late (don’t get me started on the sleep I could have saved if I’d known she was going to be super tardy), but once things kicked back into gear the pony went out and was a superstar for all of her riders—all they had to do was just keep kicking and she did the rest LOL.
Once Belle was done I was about to head into the bleachers to watch the flat classes when an IHSA volunteer stopped me and asked who was tacking up Calvin, TrainerA’s giant breeding stock APHA gelding. Immediate panic ensued when everyone realized that we’d only expected Calvin to be used for western day, so he had no English tack! We ended up throwing Belle’s saddle and Boston’s bridle on him, and off I went to warm up another pony!
I’ve ridden Calvin once, back when I took my very first lesson with Ready to Ride! Obviously a lot has changed since then, so it was exciting to get the chance to get on the gentle giant (he’s probably 16.2hh or so, and he feels wider than Raglan). Calvin doesn’t get used for lessons very often since he has a full time leaser (CalvinL, who was set to come warm him up on Sunday for the western competition!), but he’s a very talented horse. He’s actually one of TrainerA’s old show geldings!
Calvin’s an older gentleman, though, and he’s accustomed to a certain level of consistency in his riders. I took him into the warm up and between my short stubby legs, my inability to remember to keep my calf on, and the fact that Boston’s bit was super under-powered for Calvin, we had a couple of small incidents. AKA Calvin flung his head into the air and went for a bit of an unsolicited gallop. 😅
Overall, the show went great, though! It’s always fun to watch other people ride horses that you know well, and I’m super proud of myself for being strong enough to jump 2’6″ for the first time in a show environment (CRAZY). Not only that, but Calvin’s shenanigans made me laugh instead of scaring me. I’ve come so far since I warmed horses up for this show last year!