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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: February 4th & 5th IHSA Show

Show Recap: February 4th & 5th IHSA Show

Back at the start of fall Trainer A took a position as coach of the University of Washington’s western equestrian team. The team competes in special shows organized by the IHSA where riders are required to compete on mounts they’ve never ridden beforeso riders draw from a pool of horses in the morning, watch the horses get warmed up by their owners, and then have a brief chance to ask questions before they mount up and are sent into their classes.

It’s an awesome (and unconventional) idea, so when Trainer A announced that the last collegiate show of the season was happening in Lynden and she needed warm up riders, I jumped on the opportunity. I would’ve loved to take Ezhno if he was sound, but Belle the Pony loves horse shows and was more than happy to be my partner in crime for the weekend.

So the Show Buddy and I woke up at a ridiculously early hour on Saturday morning and trekked up north to the same place we competed in November! We found the horses chilling in their stalls at the fair grounds, had the horses tacked up, and then grabbed Belle and Boston so that we could ride in the over fences warm up.

The Pony jumping in one of her classes and a good, sweeping view of the course setup.

We accidentally went into the arena when the jumps were set for the open division (2’9″ is SCARY), then ducked out until the jumps were lowered. Boston was entered in intermediate (2’6″) and the Show Buddy has only jumped him a couple of times, so she was nervous to warm him up over them, but they sailed over the red jump with the brick wall without any problems. Unfortunately, Boston made a solid decision throughout the day that the pink jump was the spawn of Satan, so…

The Pony was in novice (2’3″), so we made it through our warm up with only a bit of trouble at the oxer (I lost my guts at the last second, she almost stopped at the base and then jumped anyways LOL).

Boston’s hated pink fence and my nemesis the oxer (totally my problem, not the Pony’s)

From there the classes kicked off! It was a lot of fun to answer questions about the Pony’s quirks and all of the riders that drew the Pony were ridiculously friendly and enamored with her tiny cuteness. Plus I was super proud of the Pony because she did a great job of taking care of all of them, even if they hadn’t jumped in a few months or were super nervous.

Since Boston and Belle were used in the jumping portion of the day, that left Ivy and Coda for the flat classes. I tucked Belle away in her stall and then went back out to the arena to watch the Show Buddy ride Ivy in the warm up, plus check out the other horses. It was really interesting to see the variety of horses that had been donated to the show, and by the end of the first day of the competition the Show Buddy and I had picked out at least two horses each that we wanted to take home with us.

Yes, I’ll take Bob the Giant and Flint the Hunk home with me, please

After an awesome dinner and a night spent talking with the Show Buddy, we were pulling back into the fair grounds for western day! There was a mix up about the warm up time, so the Show Buddy and I got there just in time to rush in and mount up (after a frantic change of tack, since they’d managed to mix up saddles on almost all of our horses). The Pony and I walked/jogged/loped our way around the arena while people cooed over how cute she looked from the bleachers.

The western classes were organized so that the competitors participated in a standard rail class, then lined up at the end to perform a pattern. The patterns for the advanced riders were complex, requiring counter canter circles, halt to canter transitions, and no stirrup work. It didn’t matter, though, because our horses were kicking ass and taking names on Sunday; every time we sent a horse into the arena, their rider came out with a first place ribbon!

Unfortunately, we only had the chance to get through the first five or six classes of the day before the snow outside started piling up. People started to get nervous and soon we were milling about in the warm up arena, waiting for news on whether or not the show was going to be cancelled while the staff rushed to get through all of the classes that affected regional placings.

Waiting for the snow verdict and walking around to keep the Pony warm

Once they officially called it, chaos erupted. Stalls were stripped, ponies were untacked, and equipment was hauled out through the snow to the trailers. I came outside to find my tiny car entrenched in snow and all of the trailer doors frozen shut. Then Trainer A had to fight with her truck’s four wheel drive and we all had a moment of horror when we finally got the trailer opened and realized that snow had gotten into the trailer through the windows.

It was all a bit of a nightmare, but we got the horses out safely and, despite the ups and downs, I had a fun time and wouldn’t hesitate to go to one of these IHSA shows againso long as it’s not in Lynden in the depths of winter!

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