Monday, May 16, 2016

Eastside Hunter Classic

I don't know if that's what this show was specifically called, but it was the first in a series and that's what the series is called. It sounds fancy at least. The series is all local barns, and the shows are split so that the first half is Open--anyone can come and party--and the second half is for lesson students where the trainer is allowed to go in the ring with them if need be, and basically hold their hand a little more than in the Open. Because it is a hunter show. Ringside coaching is happening anyway.

I trailered over with three other girls from the barn (and BM of course) at 7am for the Open classes. The show didn't start until nine, but in this strange discipline it's all about getting in the ring as many times as humanly possible before actually getting judged for things.

I opted out of the early schooling. My logic was that when we finally return to eventing, I won't have the luxury of schooling my course ten different times before going in for my round. We were doing the hack division first anyway so that would be my time for ring familiarization, and there were jumps set up in the indoor to warm up over. Besides, this is Bobby. He shows up to new places and gives zero fucks. I wasn't concerned about him freaking out about the sights and sounds.

snacking while watching warm up...or more likely just playing on facebook.

Spolier alert: That was not a good game plan.

"rawr, i am so fast! the fastest of all these horses!"

I got signed up for all my classes, went back to the trailer to get myself and Bobby dressed, and then finally joined everyone else in the ring. The hack division (apparently a made up thing for local shows that is basically a division just for flatting) was the biggest of the day. I'll be honest, I thought I was going to be showing against two of my barn mates and maybe a couple other riders on dopey lesson ponies.

No. I was not. Holy shit, these were some nice horses. The barn that was hosting the show does real hunter shows and most of the riders we were up against were on way better movers and rode a thousand times better than I do. Not ashamed to admit it, just the truth.

bobby as dubious about this experience as i was

We finally get everyone corralled and begin the first class. Bobby is powering along, gnashing his teeth and generally pulling the fucking stupid leather reins out of my hands (I fucking hate leather reins with a fiery fucking passion.), while giving stank eye to any horse that comes near him. As we pass BM, she tells me to try to let his neck get a little longer to see if it helps any.

Spoiler alert: IT DOESN'T.

this is how all our flat classes looked

He actually mostly held it together until was time to canter.

And then he lost his shit completely.

Bobby was pretty fucking sure the point of this exercise was to be the fastest racehorse, and whoever wins the race gets to jump the jumps afterwards. Winning that class by a mile!

just gnawing on this horse's head who is probably freaking out about something
bobby or S just did. reppin' the barn in style.

Fortunately (?? Sorry everyone else.) Bobby was not the only horse having histrionics. A was riding BM's horse who took great offense to anyone getting within twenty miles of his personal space and would have a mild bucking fit because feelings.

Here comes the absurd part:

bobby: WHAT is THAT over THERE?!
me: trying not to kill you. trying really hard not to kill you.

We actually beat people. We won our first class. Then we got third, fifth, and sixth. Uh, yeah. Seeing a downward spiral there? I honestly have no idea how we snagged that blue ribbon. I blurted out, "What?" when they called my number. Whatever, hunterland. Thanks for the satin.

I did do one smart thing this whole show. (Literally only one thing though.) When we got back to the trailer to wait for our o/f division, I switched out Bobby's plain eggbutt for his slow twist. I should have done that from the get-go.

After putting my winter coat back on over my jacket--having originally been dressed in heavy sweatpants, a wool sweater, and my coat to battle the 35* temps and 40mph winds--I went down to the ring to hang out with A and to see how many people there were going to be in the two divisions between us going again. There were only three kids in the 2' and four in the 3', so I naively thought we'd coast right through those two divisions.

Go ahead and get your laughs out, hunter riders.

so little media from this show. 

I ate half a lunchable and got back on Bobby as the last rider did their 2' round. They decided to run the flat for the 3' division first which barnmate A had decided to do, so I took Bobby out to watch her go. After about two seconds of Bobby spinning around in circles, I hopped off and made him stand at the rail with me while waited for the class to start.

And waited. And waited.

Finally, the woman they were holding the class for (fucking hunters) showed up leading her horse, casually got on, entered the ring only to have her horse spook, and then immediately took him back out because she decided she wouldn't do it after all. No one else seemed fazed by this and the class finally started.

I got back on Bobby and attempted to do some work while the above rider longed her horse in half of the tiny box of an indoor arena for the next fifteen minutes. They finally left only to be replaced by someone hand walking their horse also in the tiny indoor in the opposite direction the rest of us were going.

The ring finally cleared out enough that there was only one horse parked in front of the two jumps instead of three, but it left me enough room to go over the 2'3" jump a couple times each direction. Bobby was a star now that I had the braking power of the slow twist, and finally, nearly an hour later, they called our division.

did this tiny X for the bridle path hack. we had to trot it because bobby couldn't
canter in a straight line. or really at all by the end of the hack division.

I handed off my nice, warm coat to A and let Bobby make big circles outside the ring as the rain started turning to snow. After two ticketed warm ups (Seriously, what is with you people? You already jumped the course for an hour before this show even started!), and three people doing their first rounds, it was finally our turn.

I could barely get Bobby near the gate as he started flinging himself sideways, but I finally channeled the sideways into the ring. BM was there to tell me to pet him and talk to him and don't pull on the reins. So I gave him a scratch, started telling him he was a good boy, and got him walking in a straight line before asking him to trot down the long side of the ring to get past the oxer before picking up the canter.

He launched upwards the second I cued him and picked up the wrong lead which upset him greatly. I brought him back to the walk and tried again, this time getting the left lead. He settled down then and cantered off on a nice long rein in a straight line.

We turned in to the first fence which seemed like a mile away, and I stared it down. And started pulling. Bobby obediently kept making his canter shorter and shorter as I picked and stared and panicked and blanked out, until finally we were underneath the fence and he lurched over from almost a standstill. I got flung up onto his neck and all I can remember is staring down at the ground thinking, "I can't do this. I'm going to get hurt. I can't jump these jumps."

bobby: i got this jump, dumb lady. just let me do the thing.
me: ohgodohgodohgod

I halted Bobby after the jump and made myself take a breath. "You're okay!" I heard BM call from the gate. I thought I could just trot all the jumps because that might be less scary, but as I made the big turn to the next jump, the big, blinged out blue oxer, all I could picture was Bobby chipping in to that jump too, throwing me up on his neck again, and me getting hurt again.

So I finished my circle by the judge and asked to be excused.

sorry, horse.

Bobby nearly plowed BM over as we left the ring as he instantly went back to a jugging idiot, and while I sat there and had a crying pity party, BM tried to get me under control. "This is a big ring and he got a little unglued, but it wasn't even that bad. It was a long approach, and you pulled, and that's what's going to happen. I can't show him in jeans, but if you take him to another one of these, I'll be ready to get on him if you need me to."

I nodded and blubbered to her to scratch me from the other o/f class but that I'd at least come back out for the flat.

I immediately went back into the indoor and made myself jump the 2'3" vertical again, and then circle right back around and do the 2'9" jump beside it. I let Bobby open up, I didn't pull, and he took both out of stride without a worry in the world.

After waiting another 45 minutes until our flat class ran while I basically used my time to run through my dressage tests for this weekend to keep my psychotic brain busy, we went in and did what I thought was a really, really good flat class. And we came in last.

horse doesn't care. horse just wants cookies and
not to be seen in this outfit.

Obviously I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in myself. I didn't do things right the whole day. I didn't give my horse the best chance to succeed. I didn't step up to the plate when I needed to. I didn't force myself to make use of a good schooling opportunity.

Bobby was fried by the time we finally got to do the jumping. I was on him for way too long, and he's not used to being ridden aimlessly around a bunch of cantering, jumping horses for hours on end. Yet he still behaved himself. He listened to my half halts, and even when they put him in an awful spot he got us both over the jump without even touching the rail while I just sat there and hung on his mouth.

Do we aim to do better next time? I don't know when the next time will be. I'm too scared to jump off property right now. I'm too worried about things going wrong and getting hurt again. I don't believe in my horse, even if he's proven he can be trusted to do his job. This is shaping up to be a much longer road than I anticipated.


  1. What a tough show. :( I have no helpful comments, just internet hugs.

  2. :( Big hugs from me and better yet a big glass of whiskey from me and a slice of pizza because why not. That is tough and I don't know the right answer either.

  3. Hunterland is weird. So weird. Half the things you describe as weird are still weird to me, and I've been doing it forever. Give yourself a pat on the bat for what you did right, and don't worry about the road being long. :) It'll be okay!

  4. There is no quick cure for fear. Just takes time. Give yourself time to heal mentally and emotionally without beating yourself up.
    Best wishes from a former dressage rider! :)

  5. I've been there, done that and it sucks. Just know you're not alone.

  6. I've been in your shoes! I have all this pride, and "I can do it" thoughts, but really I'm a HUGE GIANT CHICKEN SHIT. What finally helped me was having my trainer do a class on my horse before me. Not because I couldn't do it. Or my horse couldn't. But because it helped me a ton to SEE my horse do it first. Plus the awesome school with my trainer doesn't hurt at all.
    Not sure if that's something you would consider, but it might help ease your fears a little.
    The front of my brain is super chill, and knows all the things. But there's a panic button somewhere in the back that likes to get stuck in the on position. I really wish I could have that thing removed.

    1. I second having a trainer school your horse at a show! Totally worth it!

  7. I went through a few years where I was terrified any time a horse started to speed up without being asked after a really scary fall, but eventually if you just keep doing and push through a little more each time, it gets better.

    1. But I totally understand feeling crippled with fear and like you just can't do the thing. It's awful.

  8. I'm sorry the show didn't go well. As I am also currently terrified of 2' jumps and insist on trotting everything, I can certainly emphasize with your fear. I hope you go to the next one though. Don't let the fear stop you.

  9. Hey hey hey! Welcome to Aimee and Emma's club of "well we went to our first show and that sucked a lot".

    Uh. It sucks. Try not to stick around forever cuz it's a shitty club.

  10. Hey its ok! You still got some badass satin. You are still doing great

  11. Aw, been there before <3

    Hugs to you.

  12. I think we all can relate to the fear issues. It's very real and can be paralyzing. Sucks some balls for sure. Sending you internet vodka to help, because you are right. It takes TIME to work through it.

  13. Man I know how you feel and I haven't gotten to the 'it gets better' part yet so I don't have any sage advice. But hey - you have loads more guts than me and I am seriously impressed. You'll get there. I believe in you more than I believe in myself haha.

  14. So will it make you feel any better to hear that your show was still more successful than mine this weekend? Ugh. Horses. Ugh horse showing. I'm not even that scared any more (even tho now I have actual justification). Just ... Ugh. Commiseration is all, I guess. Solidarity

  15. Sorry about the show and especially the fear. Inside our own heads can be such a crazy, impossible place. Hopefully you come up with some ideas, but also just try to be kind to yourself - fear of getting hurt again is legit!
    Glad Bobby at least mostly tried to be a good pony for you

  16. You've got nothing to prove, neither does Bobby :) I'd be looking at leaving the jumping portion out from the "smart decision for horse I had on the day " perspective and that's that! Congrats on your (well deserved) ribbons!

  17. Dude, Hunterland is the weirdest thing ever, it's like an alternate universe of horse showing where nothing is logical or normal. But look at it this way: you didn't fall off, you didn't crash through any jumps, and you scored some satin, so I wouldn't beat yourself up too much! Have yourself some candy and an adult beverage (or 7), and chalk this show up to a learning experience. Whether you're jumping 18" or 3'9", you're still a bad ass. Remember that.

  18. Ugh. I think we've all been there, I know I certainly have! But the good thing is that you can get past this slump of doubt and fear. Badass Carly is still in there!

  19. Hey lady! I'm sorry you didn't have the best first show of the year, but it's ok! You are going to schooling shows to learn - and you did! I know the feelings suck, but showing is a learned skill - this isn't even your chosen discipline. There is going to be roadbumps.

    It was a great suggestion above to see if your trainer can hop on Bobby at the next show. Do like the Hunters do and sip a Diet Coke ringside while you watch your trainer school your horse ;)

    And it doesn't sound like you are too scared to jump off property - it sounds like you jumped the 2'3" and 2'9" vertical in the warmup just fine.

    I second being kind to yourself. Maybe take some pressure off yourself? It sounds like you're being really hard on yourself :(

  20. Not sure how those hunter people do it, but I think having a meltdown and crying ringside is a part of the whole "look", so in that respect you won reserve champion:) You'll get your mojo back, and Bobby is too experienced to be testing your patience!

  21. Ugh. Hunter shows. I'm agreeing with Niamh. Pretty sure sobbing ringside is actually a judged class. ;)

    I think you did great focusing on the good things Bobby did in the class (Didn't murder any infants today, Bobby? GOOD BOY!), and great picking out places where you both had weaknesses. Huge step in the right direction, even if it doesn't feel like it. Hugs and liquor and cheese to you. (Because, really, what else do you need to feel better about your life direction?)

  22. Everyone else has already said lots of things way more eloquently than I can. Big hugs. This shit is hard.

  23. Confidence is a fickle bitch. She takes a really long time to get and you can lose her in less than a second. Keep on keeping on, and never be ashamed for taking baby steps or asking for help.

    We all have to crawl before we can walk, and we all have to walk before we can run.

  24. The man thing I was thinking the entire time reading this is "oh thank god it isn't just me!". We definitely all go through phases of fear. Right now novice looks giant to me. But luckily it sounds like your BM has your back, and I think she'll bring you back to having fun again. In the meantime, sending lots of positive, badass type vibes your way.

  25. So sorry, that sucks. But you did win satin. And hopefully you drowned the sorrows in sweet red wine and pizza, my favorite combo for those kind of days. You will get it back cause you are a badass.

  26. I literally hate hunters with the equal amount of fiery fucking passion that you hate leather reins and won't even attempt a hunter show anymore. Major props for the satin.

  27. I'm sorry, you had such a crummy show to start things off. Fear is tough shit to deal with, take all the time you need. And I find that eating an entire bag of Swedish fish helps almost any situation.

  28. You made it out there, you got on and rode and made it through jumps. Even if it wasn't all of the jumps in the class, you still rode Bobby over jumps. Off property even. Give yourself a pat on the back. Because that can be enough for that day.

  29. Hunter shows suck (sorry, hunters, but seriously) and it didn't help that you were all in your head, but you survived, your horse is fine, and you'll be back to do the next one. Don't feel bad about crying ringside, I'm fairly certain it's a requirement. That's just my opinion, judging by the last hunter show I attended. I totally relate to your fears, you're not alone! You're a good rider and Bobby is a good horse when he remembers how to horse, so you guys will get back on track.

  30. As a hunter rider I can assure you our shows are ridiculous. Crying, long waits, and screaming trainers are part of the shindig. so not only did you survive all of that, but you kicked some ass in the flat class. (satin is satin) And you schooled your horse. Major wins.

  31. Okay first of all, the paragraph that ended with "No one else seemed fazed by this and the class finally started" required a spit warning. I SPIT MY AFTERNOON COFFEE. And I treated myself to the $4 latte. Thanks Carly. Thanks a lot.

    All I can tell you is I 100% have been in these shoes. If you can get yourself over the mental aspect of this whole situation, I will have so much unlimited undying respect and admiration for you. And if you decide this is just too G.D. stressful, you're in good company. I have done this. I have done this over and over and over. You're not crazy, you're not alone, you're totally allowed to be disappointed and frustrated. But you're also a great rider, who happened to get in her own head a little bit that day. Don't forget that part.

  32. I think that you and Bobby did really well. You were frightened but tried it anyway. I have fears too, different then yours but still crippling at times. I can only do one breath at a time

  33. Such a tough show, I'm sorry. Everyone has fears, and you can get yourself over this eventually. You're a great rider - you survived and so did Bobby.

  34. Honestly it doesn't sound that bad. Yes your nerves got in the way but look at all the things you were able to do. You may not have finished a round but you went in the ring and jumped a jump off property. That's a huge step forward. Good for you for trying. and congrats on the the satin!


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