Heritage Park Horse Trials

My first show without Kris, my trainer! I had never been to a horse show before I got to college and started riding with her. She has been at every show I have ever attended, so this was going to be weird for me to be there without her.  

I went with Amity Farms and their trainer Amanda.

The weekend started out on late note. We left the barn about an hour and a half later than expected. I also felt bad because they ended up having to back a 6 horse trailer all the way down CEC’s driveway. We made it work, though.

Then, to top it all off, the trailer got a flat tire right after we get into Kansas. Luckily, it was one of the wheels that had one right next to it, so it was easy to change. We were back on the road after only 9 minutes to change the flat and fixing minor damage to the trailer itself.

We got to the show grounds and immediately started doing cross country course walks. Amanda and Rachel went first to walk the Novice course. Then it was my turn.

It was so cool!! We used a meter wheel to figure out where every increment of 350 meters was and made note of that on the course map so I would know when I should hit the minute marks. I have never done that before and was amazed that people get that detailed. Usually when we do course walks with Kris, we look at the jumps and say, “Hey! We should jump that!” :p

Then we rode. We had an incredible dressage warm up. We actually looked like we knew what we were doing! However, we could only do it on progressively smaller circles. At one point, I asked how to steer while keeping Coco in the nice dressage frame with bend, and Amanda said “it’ll come with time.” I was alright with that, until I started thinking about how I was going to actually do my dressage test the next day. I guess we would figure that out when we got there.

Walked the course one more time before I was totally exhausted and then we went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse, which was extremely crowded, even at 9pm. I called Terry, a friend I was supposed to be staying with, as soon as we were finished, but he was having trouble with his boyfriend and I didn’t want to be an imposition. My mom was also just getting to Olathe, so I called her to see where she was. I met her at her hotel, we went to iHop (because she hadn’t eaten yet), and then went to bed. I was absolutely exhausted!

Got to the show grounds around 8am the next morning and pretty immediately went to the dressage ring to watch Amanda and her horse Parker ride their Training dressage test. Waited around for a while for Rachel, another rider with Amity, to ride her Novice dressage test. Walked my cross country course one more time. Then we started to get ready for our dressage test. We had another really good warm up, though again on a small circle.

The test went pretty well. The first half (the trotting and circles part), went pretty well. Then we walked and lost it right after we did our free walk right, before we cantered. The canter the first direction was fine, but after I used counter bend (out of habit) to get the canter lead, I couldn’t get him back onto an inside bend and from that point forward, he was either on the bit and in the middle of the arena or on the correct track with his head in the air.

I walked out of the ring feeling defeated. I knew we hadn’t done well, but at least he didn’t kick out at the canter transitions like he had been and we had good bend for some of the trots. We definitely didn’t do as well as our best test ever or as bad as our worst test ever, so I guess that’s ok. Sure enough, we had a 42.9. It was ok, though, cross country and stadium are our strong events!

We had a few hours to wait until we would run cross country. Coco got a flake of hay, some electrolytes, and lots of water to keep him company while I went to watch Rachel (I had missed Amanda because she did cross country 10 minutes after my dressage test). Rachel did great! Jonah looked at the water, but was great about everything else that I was able to see. She went clear!

Our turn to run cross country. We had some practice jumps. Amanda was great about teaching me to get off Coco’s back while he’s galloping and sit right before the fences. She also mentioned that if I keep my hands high before the fences, Coco can’t look at what’s in front of them, like scary red flowers or weird designs on the jumps. Coco was totally ready. Excited but not crazy.

We walked calmly out of the start box, starting our gallop a few feet after, which was good for him. Took the first fence, no problem. He wasn’t sure about the second jump, because it was in a weird shaded area and around a turn, so it kind of snuck up on him, but he took it just fine. Then we got to 4, an easy ramp on a slight uphill after a slight downhill. There was no way Coco was even going to look at this jump. Too bad horses always make us into liars! Sure enough, he refused it- OUR FIRST XC REFUSAL EVER!!!! He took it just fine the second time, when I was more stern with him to remind him that I was in charge here, not him. Five was fine. The combination at 6 could have been scary, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. Seven, the step up, was easier than I had expected it to be. Eight was also better than expected because I was able to get a better approach to it than I thought from the course walks. Nine and 10 were easy. Then we got to the water. The water was basically a puddle. It looked like they had set up a nice area for a water complex and then just forgot to start filling it until it was too late. So there was an outer ring of normal looking gravel, then a ring of bright white gravel before the water actually started. Coco acted like Tantor from Tarzan with the water, and we sidestepped around the edge until we ran into a bush and were forced to get into it. The rest of the course rode awesome and we ended up 2 seconds below optimum time. That watch was soooooo cool!!!!

After lots of hose downs and walking, I got to practice my hand at poultice before Coco got to be free from me for the night. We went to dinner at Ruby Tuesday. My mom didn’t want to come- she doesn’t like eating out and was extremely tired, so I took her back to the hotel first. Then after dinner, Amanda offered to feed Coco so I could go to hang out with my mom. We went to Target to get water and Gatorade. Then Terry wanted me to come hang out with him at the salon where he works. I showered and got ready then headed over there.

It was awesome to see Terry. I felt terrible that I was so exhausted and didn’t really feel like doing anything. After the salon, he and his friends were talking about going out, so we went back to his house so he could get ready. I definitely fell asleep while he was getting ready. I felt terrible, but I ended up driving him back to his car and then going back to the hotel with my mom.

Another early day on Sunday. We got to the show grounds around 8am. Watched some people in the upper levels do the stadium course before we started to get ready. It was frustrating because they didn’t have the course up for the different levels, just one course posted and they took some of the jumps out for the different levels.

During our warm up, Coco was acting like he was asleep. Amanda said that I would have to make sure that I keep leg on him between the jumps to keep him moving forward. As we went into the ring, he woke up. Suddenly, I couldn’t stop him. The course rode fabulously, until the turn from 9 to 10, the last jump. Coco (and I both, probably) dropped his shoulder to the right like crazy after the jump. I tried to straighten him out before we made the turn, but we had already made the majority of the turn and he didn’t realize that the next jump was so close. He wanted to take the long distance to 10, but I made him take the shorter one and we dropped a rail. We ended the weekend in 14th place (out of 17 who finished) and a score of 66.9.

Loading the horses was easy and the ride home was quiet, except for our stop at Burger King when Pricilla was forcing us all to yell colors every time she burped… Long story. They were able to drive the trailer down the hill this time and back up in the trailer spaces and unloading Coco was easy. He was definitely ready to be home.

Overall, it was a great learning experience weekend, we didn’t get eliminated, and we survived our first horse show without Kris!! YAY!!!

Next, we get to try our luck at Dunnabeck in Carbondale, IL September 17-18. The only way we can go is up!!! :D

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