Monday, October 29, 2012

Almost a Hunter (almost)

I can only summarize the weekend as a big giant, fun success.  Plenty to work on, sure (right lead anyone?) - but overall I was astounded with Prairie's mindset and performance all weekend.  Starting with our schooling ride on Friday and ending with our lazy walk through the fall leaves on Sunday, she really stepped up.

Major failures are limited to:

- a total lack of lead changes from the left lead to our right
- a total lack of blue ribbons (not actually a concern)
- and (sadly) a total lack of pictures.

The Boy did manage some quick video clips, which I'll share, but sadly photographic evidence is limited.

The weekend started off with my best parking job yet of the truck and trailer.  Everyone else seems to tell me that goosenecks are easier to park, but it's still harder for my brain to maneuver than the old bumper pull.  I'm sure I'll figure it out someday, but so far I feel like a moron.

So you can imagine how pleased I was when I backed the rig into a nice little angled park job.  If you could actually see the big muddy ditch on the other side, you might be more impressed.  It's definitely the tightest spot I've managed so far...
Following that success we tacked up the mares and headed to the indoor to school.

(again, I am mystified by the fact that in Hunter Land you are allowed to school in the show ring over the jumps.  Makes no sense to me, but from a teaching/learning perspective I like it).

I opted to pop in the corkscrew D that we used at Octoberfest back in September anticipating a need for brakes, but I'm not actually sure it was necessary.

Prairie was alert but not unrideable.  She didn't flick an eye at the end of the ring with the big, lit up office/lounge that had people milling about in it, instead the only distraction was at the other end where she strongly disliked the sounds of the footing hitting the metal siding of the ring... Other than that, she didn't spook at people walking by open doors, any of the jumps that were set, or strange noises outside the ring.

She warmed up light, forward and responsive to my aids and carried that attitude forward over fences.

All in all, I was probably on her for 90 minutes (lots of standing and watching other horses) which Prairie was oddly willing to do.  No pawing, no snorting, no anxiety in general.  The course was set with 11' strides (TINY!) which was a bit of a struggle for us, but Prairie tried really hard and replicated that nice, balanced, adjustable canter that we've been playing with all week.  Our only sticky points were getting the right lead when necessary - but we opted to not drill that and risk introducing unnecessary stress.  I was way more interested in having an awesome, relaxed school away from home in a new big indoor.

We put the jumps up a bit (2'9"ish) and popped around some courses, figuring out which direction Prairie's natural "home" beacon was pointed and also working some of the possible rollbacks and bending lines we might see in our Eq classes.

By the time we were done I really couldn't have been more pleased with how well Prairie was going and how different she was from our schooling ride at the September show.

We untacked, fed some hay and then scooted off to feed ourselves some margaritas as a reward.

Saturday saw us at the show bright an early since our barnmate was competing for the very first time (YAY!) in the crossrail division.  She did awesome and managed to come away with a reserve champion in both her Hunter and Eq classes and a new found appreciation for why people justify the cost and ungodly wake up times associated with going to shows.
Prairie says that a Venti wasn't big enough...
The upshot of the facility we were at is that all the classes took place inside.  The corresponding downside was that all the warm up took place outside... in what turned out to be nearly 2" of rain.

Since we had such a nice ride Friday I wasn't anticipating needing much warm up, and the rain solidified my intention not to get on before the division before me started their flat classes.  I can assure you that even only planning for 15 minutes of warm up I was the only one in the warm up ring when the time came.

Prairie was a bit more amped up in warm up, but I didn't blame her given a ton of crap to look at, the splashy, muddy footing (she hates that) and a brisk wind blowing all sorts of smells around.  I was thankful for our Rambo Competition Sheet which went a long way toward keeping my legs warm and dry while we slogged around in the slop.

We popped over a few jumps which went well, although my brakes were somewhat diminished from Friday's ride.  Not wanting to haul on her mouth S just had me school some halts after each fence and then we called it good.

As a side note, I opted to warm up without the running martingale, which I'm proud to say we didn't need.  I did put on a standing, but I don't think Prair ever hit it.  Standings always seem like more of an accessory to me than a functional training aid, but that might be the old eventer in me talking...

Before we knew it it was our turn.  There were only three people in my division and since we didn't come home with a champion or res. ch. ribbon you can guess where we finished.   BUT, aside from placing below two bratty, lesson horses, I was over the top thrilled with how Prairie did.  Our first hunter course went pretty well,  I nit picked my distances which resulted in a couple chips, but those are chips that I couldn't have even asked for a month ago.  Also, the 11' strides meant that I had to keep Prairie at a lope in order to fit everything in, and that took me about half the course to really figure out.  But, the bright sides were that Prairie was forward and eager to every fence, didn't spook at anything, and most importantly had zero intention of landing and scooting off or ignoring me in the corners.

Steering and brakes! who knew!!

The second course was a very thrilling variation of line-diagonal-line-diagonal, but we got to start on a diagonal.  wild.

It was quite a bit cleaner, but I still wasn't able to get any of my right lead changes without going through the trot.

Then we started our Eq courses.  The first had some great rollbacks which we are MASTERS of.  We only missed one lead and got all our distances, so when we still placed third after one of the other ponies bucked, and her rider lost a stirrup and bobbled around in a horrid closing circle I was a little confused.

The second Eq course was pretty fun, and I actually have video.  A few bending lines (which we rocked) but you can see our issue with leads and I bobbled a distance or two so again, bottom of the pack.

Clearly not an ideal Hunter round, but look how much quieter and more controlled the big mare is. 

Then we had our two flat classes for the division which went ok.  Prairie managed to stay pretty tuned in and was very mindful of my half halts.

Apparently in our HUS class in my attempt to get her "long and loose," we ended up "long and low" which would have been awesome sauce for our dressage tests, but a little too low for Hunter Land.

We placed second, which was nice.  Although the snarky side of me was a bit confused since the other two horses were above the bit the whole time, not soft or supple and had pretty horrid movement.

The Eq class was potentially 45 minutes long.  Which seems unnecessary when you're just watched all three of us jump four rounds and ride a HUS class.  The judge did ask for a good amount of sitting trot as well as some trot/halts and surprised me with a halt/canter which we ROCKED.  We cantered for no joke 10 minutes and Prairie was a very good sport.  I never leave her in one gait that long, but she managed to stay balanced and only started to get irritated with me at the very end. 

Again we pinned 2nd, apparently because I have a tendency to sit at the vertical during my canter work.  It's hard to beat the dressage out of me I guess.  My only grievance with that class was that one girl lost a stirrup and the other broke from her canter like 3 times.  Also, they both were in two point for the canter which I thought was a no-no in equitation classes.  But I did like the halt/canter.  That was fun.

finally we closed out the day with a quick Medals class that was a really fun course.  It started with a pretty wicket rollback, went to an outside line, another right rollback and finished with a bending line (to trot the second fence) and a halt after the final fence.

I think this was our best ride of the day.  Prairie was totally with me on all the broken lines and nailed her leads (except for the first rollback which we jumped from a cross canter).  We barely eeked out the trot for our last fence, but her halt was decently prompt and without fuss.  We got another 2nd.

Here's the video for the medals class. I'm seriously so proud of our trip around this course:

I mean, compare that to this gem of a moment from the last show:
neither of us look like we're enjoying it....
I remember that ride.  That ride sucked.  After that ride I was so frustrated at Prairie for totally tuning me out that I threw her at The Boy and he went off and did groundwork with her while I took deep breaths and tried to coax some feeling back into my gnarled hands.

Thankfully there was no hint of that ride on Saturday.  At the first show, if I half halted lightly, it didn't do anything, if I hauled on Prairie hard enough to get a response, we risked trotting (which we did, to like half of the fences).  But this weekend, the only fence we trotted was the one we were supposed to in the Medal class. (win!).  All of our opening and closing circles were balanced and contained.  And Prairie was adjustable from start to finish on every course.

Yes we need lots of help with our leads, and I could use some better Eq - but holy wow.  What a difference.

After putting in such a nice effort, I promised the mare an easy Sunday.  Usually I'd give her the day off after a show, but it was sunny and since this is Seattle I was going to take advantage of that.  We only stayed in the sandbox for about 15 minutes.  Just enough to loosen up some easy lateral work at the walk and do some long and low work at the trot.  I finished by popping into the canter a few times - and since Prair was totally willing, steady and balanced, I called enough enough and we headed outside for a stroll.

Our barn has a great "outside track" around the property that circles all of the barns, arenas and paddocks.  It's not exactly a trail ride but it's close enough and it takes about 10 minutes per loop.  We did three laps and there was enough mud, branches, small ditches to cross to keep it mildly interesting.  Prair was good for all of it.  She was alert, but relaxed and interested in swinging her giant head around to take it all in.

It was the perfect ending to a really fun, really productive weekend.  Can't complain about that.


  1. You guys look awesome!! What an improvement. The medal round was lovely--as far as I could tell from the video, lol. The downside of indoors: it's so dark. So glad you are enjoying P2.

  2. I am SO proud of you!!! You totally kicked ass. Please don't ruin your seat for hunters. Take it from a girl who is trying very very hard to kill the hunter perch and it just WON'T DIE.

  3. Yay so glad that it went well!!

    Ugh I hate it when the judge doesn't know the do's and don'ts of the Under Saddle and Eq classes. Def had that happen many of times at schooling shows. Hey it's part of the process though I guess :)

    You guys look great!!!

  4. Wow, what a difference! That medals course looks great, especially considering where you've come from. I mean, has Prairie even been jumping a year?

  5. Wow you guys look FANTASTIC!!!!!! I can't believe you didn't get any blues. Dumb judges lol. :D I'm very impressed with how far you and Prairie have come in such a short time. Keep up the awesome work and congrats on an awesome weekend.


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