I’m not an eventer, but I’ve always wanted to try it and I follow a lot of blogs that revolve around eventing. One of my favorites, ‘Fraidy Cat Eventing, is hosting a a contest involving bingo cards, creative writing, and hilariously unlucky eventing stories… so I picked up a card and decided to spin up my own tale of eventing woe!
Slog the project pony, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so enthused. She was a large pony—the cute, athletic kind that would sell for a tidy sum after I put a show record on her—and she had the pony attitude to match. She was that horse in the warm up ring: bucking, kicking, bolting… name a vice and she probably had it, which was why her purchase price had been so cheap in the first place (much to my delight).
It didn’t matter, though, because I had her number—or so I thought.
Out in the warm up ring, I gathered my reins and hopped up the steps of the mounting block, eager to start riding. This was Slog’s second event, and I knew from experience that she needed a long warm up before she went from “ferociously adverse to feedback” to “only somewhat disgruntled by cues”.
“Nice and easy,” my trainer called. “Remember, think forward and stretch!”
I pretended like I couldn’t see her nibbling on her fingernails and jammed my toe into the iron.
Half my weight was up on Slog when she suddenly leaped forward—Lipizzan status. I crashed back to the ground, striaght into the only puddle in the field that hadn’t been eaten away by the morning sun yet. I had a good grip on my reins, though, and Slog spun around when she hit the end of them.
I hauled myself up to my feet, mud everywhere. Slog glared at me, her cute little white tail swishing.
I gave my trainer a thumbs up.
I gathered my reins back up, glanced at the mounting block, and then scrambled aboard without it, much to Slog’s displeasure.
We pranced forward, Slog giving it every valiant attempt to unseat me. She lurched about like a malfunctioning automaton, her joints stiff and her acceleration sudden and unexpected. It didn’t take long for her to move to the bucking phase of her little test when she realized that my seat was seemingly made out of glue (or maybe just a healthy layer of sticky lederbasalm that my trainer had slathered on my saddle for me). I ignored the stares and gave her a couple of kicks—then one more for good measure, since my legs were long and I could barely reach her belly with my heels.
Just when we were ready to start truly warming up, my trainer waved me over. “You’re up.”
I looked into the arena just in time to watch the horse that was finishing its pattern rear up. The rider went crashing to the ground and I grimaced—a fall in the dressage round for the rider ahead of me wasn’t a very good omen.
We got one last canter in before we had to head down the centerline, but I could tell Slog was feeling fresh. We managed to halt at X, albeit not for very long. From there we careened through our test at mach speed. We picked up an error or two when we spook-squeal-bucked our way off course and we blew every lead, but we made it through and I remembered the whole pattern, which I thought was pretty impressive for Slog’s second test ever.
Imagine my surprise when our score card came back with an 8 for our 20m circle and notes that we were “in harmony”! Too bad the ring steward came over and gave us the right card—our highest score was a 4 (for our extended trot!) and the judge had written things like “out of control”, “disobedient”, and “freewalk not shown, not even attempted”. Still, my trainer was proud that our score was six points better than our first show had been.
We did a quick tack change and then headed over for cross country. Slog hated dressage, but she was great over fences and she loved a good gallop.
“Don’t forget to aim for the finish flags this time,” my trainer said, her face grave.
I saluted, then headed into the start box with a grin. Slog was so excited that we spun in circles while we waited—champion reiner in the making, I’m telling you. It was a good thing we’d had an okay halt in dressage, because I had a feeling I had no brakes now!
The first two jumps went well, but the third jump… HOLY LONG SPOT! We launched all the way down into the water feature and I got soaked. At least it washed all of the mud away, though.
Then we Superman-ed down the bank and gallopped into the woods—where we got lost twice. We came out of the woods ever so slightly off course and spooked another horse (whose rider took a spill mid cross country course, whoops sorry!). But we made it through the finish flags and only almost ate the camera man a couple of times!
Slog was usually better in the arena, though, so when we came off of the course I tossed my crop aside and went straight towards the arena for my stadium round. Boy, would I regret tossing that crop…
“You’re doing great,” my trainer shouted to me as I passed. “Everyone has had a clear round in stadium so far. You’re going to breeze through this, just make sure to ride her all the way to the base.”
“How was my cross country?”
“You came in under time. Way under time—like twenty penalties under time.”
Wow, that was a lot! I didn’t know how I hadn’t been eliminated yet. We really needed to slow down. But that was something to think about for next time!
Ironically enough, in our stadium round we came up to the first fence way too slow. We barely made it over! My leg was still way too long to reach Slog’s belly, so I had to kick off my irons to get her over the next couple of fences. At one point she halted right at the base of the fence (it was the squarest stop we’ve ever had!) and we launched over it from stop! We started to go off course at the end, but Slog really pulled it together and we ended with our stadium round clear.
We ended the day with last place, but it was a huge improvement for Slog! I was confident that in our next competition we might even place in the ribbons. 🙂