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Show Recap: February 3rd IHSA Show

Show Recap: February 3rd IHSA Show

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 horsesand a handful of students to warm up her ponies!

Speaking of ponies… look, it’s Belle, the best pony around!

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’m smiling, but on the inside I was terrified, OBVIOUSLY.

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 divisionso 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 bitI 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 ridersall they had to do was just keep kicking and she did the rest LOL.

She’s 13.3 hands of pony perfection, look at those KNEES 😍

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. 😅

“who, me? i wud never do dat” #LIES

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!

Hoping that Raglan will be at a point where I can bring him next year!
Show Recap: November 5th Eagle Mountain Schooling Show

Show Recap: November 5th Eagle Mountain Schooling Show

I’m nicknaming this “the show that almost didn’t happen”. I was on my way to the barn at 4:00 in the morning on Sunday when my tiny Chevy Spark hit snow/ice/slush/gross while I was merging into my exit lane. I lost all control of my wheels and skidded right over the bumpy patch at the side of the road. You’re not supposed to hit the brakes super hard in situations like that, but there was also a guard rail coming up so I weighed my options and ended up screeching to a halt about five feet away from a crash.

Thanks, weather. Off to a fantastic start. #unamused

My part of the world barely sees any snow over the winter, let alone in early November. When I got out of the car and had to kick the snow off of the gates before I could get into my pony’s stall I wasn’t super psyched for a day of showing in 33° weather, despite having made the spectacular decision to wear thermal leggings under my breeches and a thermal long sleeve under my show shirt.

I am thankful that daylight savings gave me a much needed extra hour of sleep, though. (BarnOwnerK, on the other hand, came out to feed the horses an hour earlier than normal and was very confused 😄).

I got to the barn extra early so that I’d have a chance to lunge Rags and have a light ride on him before we headed for the show. I groomed him/took out his bands while he ate, then we got down to business. Our ride went super well, he was very calm and focuseda great confidence booster right before the show!

Rags loaded up like a champion and we started the short but snow-ridden journey to Eagle Mountain.

We pulled in just before 7:00am, with just enough time for us to make it to the arena right as it opened for warmup. We were the first ones in the arena and I used the time to handwalk him around the perimeter (it’s got mirrors, benches where spectators can sit, and an aisle of stalls behind one of the arena wallsplenty of things for a horse to be wary of). He didn’t look twice at anything, so we quickly moved onto the lunge.

I was just wrapping up the lunging when TrainerM arrived. We adjusted the irons and she climbed aboard Rags to take him for a couple of walk laps, but she only got about half a lap in before dismounting and declaring him “not ready”. She hopped back off and sent us to do more handwalking, but the moment he was back to power walking beside me he seemed bored.

“I think it’s you,” TrainerM said. “You’re his security blanket. I’ve only been on him twice; he doesn’t know me. You’re going to have to just get on him.”

I was wary (I’m a PANSY, okay?), but TrainerM talked me into getting on even though I didn’t feel super prepared. I went to ask him to walk forward and he immediately balked (“too many ponies out there, mom”), so TrainerM turned our warmup into a personalized pony ride instead.

TrainerM had me tighten up on the reins a lot more than I have been when I ride at KW. She chastised me for wiggling my hands too much (guilty) and had me find a “firm handshake” that connected me to the bit. Every time his head moved she had me lift or lower my hands to keep the straight line from my elbow down to the bit (AKA “finding my handshake”). She reminded me that my outside rein should be a still barrier and that I could squeeze my inside rein, but that I shouldn’t be using my hands to create a false contact.

Also, “more leg”, which I’m pretty sure is TrainerM’s favorite phrase.

We only got stuck once, and we just had to squiggle until our feet were moving forward again!

Another rider from my lesson program came into the arena with her horse right as I was starting to get comfortable, so TrainerM detached herself from us and we continued on alone. The snow had scared a lot of people away but there was still more horses in the arena than Raglan had ever seen before. They walked, trotted, and cantered past us and there were only a couple of moments where I felt him get nervous (one of which was when someone with a very lazy horse kiss kiss kiss kissed her horse into the canter right next to us), but Rags was a good boy and kept one ear cocked back on me whenever he was unsure. We even did a little bit of trotting jigging before the warmup hour was over! It’s all about those small victories, LOL.

Once warmup was over and classes were started (with the end of the arena sectioned off so that everyone not currently in the class could huddle undercover), we quickly discovered Raglan’s greatest weakness: waiting. He couldn’t handle it. He started squirming in place, threatening to back into other horses, and smashing his big head into anyone close to him (sorry TrainerM 😳). We ended up having to go walk around the grounds in the snow while we waited for our classes to come up.

At least all that walking in the cold made for some uber cute pictures

Luckily it wasn’t long before I was back on Rags and coaxing him out into the arena. There was only one other rider in my class (and I couldn’t remember if it was an eq or a pleasure class, soooooooo) and we giraffe-walked/trotted our way into a second place ribbon because apparently I missed my diagonal while the judge was looking. The judge and the ring steward really liked Rags, thoughthey could tell he was young and enthusiastic, plus they said he “looks like a warmblood” (AKA he faaaaancy).

We came out of our class and went right back to handwalking. I must have looked funny walking my giant horse around out in the snow. We ducked into the round pen every once in a while to dry off, but Rags seemed to legitimately enjoy exploring the ranch, so we spent most of our time outside.

oh my god I’m so bad at selfies 😨😨😨😨😨

We were the only entry in our second class, so the woman running the in gate waved us down to make sure that we’d be okay going in by ourselves (my response: “that’s actually preferable”) and then sent us in alone. Raglan marched out along the arena wall and happily strutted his way through the class. I felt a lot more confident, so I put more leg on and tried to get him to stretch himself out a little bit more (no luck, but he did jig a bit quicker in response 😂). We came away with a blue ribbon (duh) and a small sample pack of treats that he immediately jammed in his mouth once his bridle was off.

And just like that Raglan’s first show was a wrap! I’m super happy with how it went. He was very distracted, but he was sensible and whenever he felt unsure he paused to check in with me instead of reacting off of instinct. We didn’t have any incidents and, most importantly, I met my #1 goal: I stayed on the horse! When it comes down to it I’m actually kind of thankful for the snow, since it gave the show a small turnout that I’m sure was integral to our success.

Now we just need to go to 1,000,000 more of these so that he thinks they’re old hat.

Our ride was a little late picking us up, so we spent some time grazing out in front of the barn 😀
Show Recap: Sunday May 21st (Western) @ Cascade Pinto Silver Buckle Show

Show Recap: Sunday May 21st (Western) @ Cascade Pinto Silver Buckle Show

With only a couple of weeks of western experience under our belt, I knew going into Sunday that Ezhno and I were going to come out of it without ribbons. We managed to get him trained up enough for a transition bit by the time the show hit, but we’ve been focused on keeping his head down and his pace consistent, so… well, he’s a #goodboy, but he’s not very slow and it doesn’t help that I didn’t have a hat (though I did go buy a scarf and a very comfortable hairnet from The Hat Lady)!

Our first class (#322, OTAB Walk/Trot Horsemanship All Ages) was scheduled right after a bunch of driving classes, so it was a great chance for us to go out and see how well Saturday night’s carts-are-cool lesson went. He was still nervous, for sure, but he walked properly past themMASSIVE improvement!

Trainer A hopped aboard for a quick school (she looked super funny riding in my stirrup length with her long legs, like a jockey!), then passed him over to me.

We warmed up for our class by practicing the individual elements of the pattern: walk to jog, jog to halt, turn on the haunches, halt to trot, backing up, etc. There were cones set up in the outdoor arena, so we even practiced the pattern all the way through a couple of times! We got to the point where he was really knocking it out of the park (at least to the best of his current abilities), then we lingered in the shade while we waited for them to finish dragging the arena.

Of course, when we went in to do our pattern everything fell apart, LOL. We lurched off of the straight path, stumbled into our halts, didn’t really plant for our haunch turn, and backed super crooked… but, to be fair, neither Ezhno nor I are experienced enough to perform in the main arena just like we do while we’re practicing, I get super nervous and the change in environment throws him off. More experience needed!

After we were done I untacked and gave Ezhno a break while I watched classes, then came back for him a while later for class #341, OTAB Walk/Trot Pleasure All Ages/Types. I had no doubt that the pleasure class was going to be laughable, but it was even more comedic when I faux-jogged him into the arena and realized just how many horses were in our class.

Apparently everyone and their brother decided to use the OTAB walk/trot class as a warm up (can’t blame them, the OTAB classes were way cheaper than the Pinto classes!), so any chance we had to snag a ribbon flew right out the window. The super full arena also made it really hard to hide the fact that Ezhno’s jog clocks in at Mach 10. We had to pass a horse and then we never really found a place on the wall again. Pretty sure Ez thought it was a race and was super proud of himself. 😀

Personally, I was just super happy to get to take my chaps off and put a tank top on, because

I took a few minutes to organize some of my stuff and throw a few things into my truck (after I untacked Ezhno, topped off his water buckets, and shared an apple with him, of course), then spent the rest of my time at the show grounds watching the rest of the pleasure classes, the discipline rail classes (one of which Trainer A rode Midas in, the GIF to the left is them walking to the main arena!), and the ideal Pinto classes.

The ideal classes were very interesting! It started out like a pleasure class, then all of the riders dismounted, a whistle blew, and grooms ran in to untack and spiffy up the horses for the halter portion of the judging. Unfortunately, a few of the competitors from my barn got DQ’d from the ideal Pinto classes when their grooms came in wearing tank tops (apparently they have to wear long sleeves, go figure!). 🙁

All in all, it was a super fun (and educational) weekend! We were definitely outclassed by the competition, but we went into it expecting to get trounced, so no loss there. We’ve got a lot to work on in the next few months, but there’s a good chance we’ll tackle another one of these shows in the early fall if I feel like we’ve made good progress. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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