Hawley Bennett is so cool. And Coco loves jumpers.

Last weekend we were fortunate enough to have THE Hawley Bennett-Awad in town (thanks to Sally Spickard, who is also awesome). It was such a great experience to be able to ride with someone of her caliber. She really reinforced that Coco and I are doing everything right.

Check out the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZy-T22-tJ4

We started with an easy warm up with emphasis on getting lead changes and continuing straight after the fences. Then we did a little course and even got to jump a training jump, which Coco did like a champ. We went to the water and did banks into water (which Coco and I hadn't done for a while... and it showed). We did a mini course by the water. Then we moved on to the bank complex and did a bank down and a bank up in addition to a few other jumps in an S pattern with emphasis on going straight after jumps again. Finally, we did ditches and worked on going both ways over ditches and added a jump between. Hawley ended cross country with a speech about the importance of wearing air vests on cross country (hers had saved her life twice) and writing hand-written thank you notes to people for the clinic (which I have already completed and put in the mail). 

Stadium day was great. Hawley said that after a day of cross country, when horses are tired, their strides tend to shorten. Everything was set up as a 9-foot stride (which totally worked for me and Coco). We started with a grid, then did the grid to a 4-stride bending line (which could go to the left or the right), 5-stride lines across the diagonals, a 6-stride line along one outside line, and a series of 5 1-stride jumps along the other long side of the arena. We just played with different combinations of the obstacles until time was up. It was a blast, and Coco was an absolute rockstar. We talked to Hawley a bit about moving up to Novice, and she said Coco and I would definitely excel there. It also came up that I'm trying to lose weight before AEC's and she said something along the lines of "You're too good a rider to let that be what holds you back." and "You already have exceptional balance, losing weight will only make your balance even better." She said that next year, when she comes back (she made it seem like it was obvious she would), she expected Coco and I to be competing novice, ready to go training, and me to have lost 50 pounds. Hopefully I don't let her down! Overall, it was an amazing weekend. Coco and I learned a lot and we have a lot of fun exercises to take home.

A week later, Coco and I were off to play at the Great Plains Hunter Association Fun Show at Olympia Equine Ventures. We had been taking some lessons with Amber Mazza of Iron Horse Hill Farm and having a blast with our throwback to the jumper ring. We decided to register for the 2'9" Hunter Derby and two 2'6" jumper classes (one traditional jumper class & one power & speed). We schooled at OEV on Friday night and Coco was a champ, as usual. Sophie and I stayed at Chris's house on Friday night and we got up early to get to the show at 9am on Saturday morning. We didn't even bother bathing the horses, because the outdoor arena (where I would be riding all day), was super muddy after a night of rain. I had forgotten how much hurry up and wait there is at hunter/jumper shows. It was 3pm before I even started getting tacked up (Taylor even found plenty of time to nap in the bed of the truck... See the pic below). We did the hunter round of the derby and were having trouble getting leads and suppressing our jumper roots. We were sitting in last place going into the handy round, but it was OK, because we were just there to have fun. The handy round went well. Again, we were having trouble with leads, but I thought it rode well. We finished in 4th place.

On to the jumpers! Our first jumper round was great, we left all the rails up and immediately moved on to the jump off, which we rocked. Coco and I got 2nd place. Then we did power and speed. We went balls to the walls, took all the tight turns, and had a blast! We were flying (controlled, of course), and I don't think Coco or I would have had it any other way! We ended up 1st in that class. Overall, we tied with another horse & rider pair for champions of the division. I mean, I know Coco is a champion, but it's kind of nice to be reminded every once in a while! We got some pretty ribbons and a new container of horse treats (which Coco approved of) and headed home (not before grabbing some delicious barbecue at Snead's in Belton before heading down to Butler). We got back to Chris's house, fed the ponies, ate BBQ, and I drove home (while talking on the phone to stay awake). It was a good day!

Check out the compilation video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFXuVd_ntTw

So... on the horizon... we have the American Eventing Championships at the end of September, Heritage Park Horse Trials in Olathe, KS at the beginning of October (which I have already entered to go Novice), and Windmere Horse Trials at Longview Horse Park in Lee's Summit, MO at the end of October. The end of the season is going to be a whirlwind, and I'm so excited to share it with Coco and my barn family. There will definitely be more blogs to come, so stay tuned!

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