Last weekend was my last serious competition of the season. The Fall Harvest show was the hottest event I’ve ever attended. The day time highs peaked around 34 degrees Celsius, but the humidity made it feel closer to 38. The judge excused show coats, and, for once, I was happy that my classes started at 8:30 in the morning.
Moe jumped beautifully in the 2’3″ and 2’6″ heights – we earned a reserve champion ribbon in the Open 2’3″ division and finished third overall in the 2’6″ division. But by the time the 2’9″ classes rolled around, my poor horse was completely spent. He wanted nothing to do with the bigger oxers, and we barely made it through the course. I’m disappointed in our poor performance (particularly since Moe is jumping 3′ at home with ease), but I can’t say I blame him. Every horse and rider came back to the barn dripping with sweat. I ended up scratching from the division instead of tormenting Moe further.
The wash racks were a swamp from the continually-flowing water, and pails of cold water and wet towels crowded the shedrow. We added electrolytes to the horse’s grain and made sure each horse had two full buckets of water available at all times. I think Moe drank about 20 gallons of water each day. I’ve never seen him sweat, drink and pee as much as he did that weekend.
Some days I think the show schedule should start with the highest courses and then decrease in height from there – the fences will get easier to jump as the day wears on, not harder.
My right drift was back at Fall Harvest. When I was warming up on the Sunday of the competition, my coach placed two poles on the ground in front of our practice vertical. They formed a sort of chute, guiding Moe straight down the middle. I had to keep a feel on my left rein while riding up to the fence, and then release with just my right rein upon take off. I’m struggling to keep a soft contact on that left rein without pulling. If I hold it too tightly, I’ll bend Moe’s neck to the left and we won’t jump cleanly. But if I don’t keep that soft contact, he’ll canter up to the base of the fence and then drop his right shoulder and slice the fence towards the right. I’m hoping I can completely eliminate this problem over the winter so it doesn’t resurface again in the show ring next year.
I’ve learned a lot this summer, and I think Moe and I have really improved. Thanks to my coach and her excellent training program, Moe has become more athletic. He really uses his hocks and hind quarters to propel himself over the jumps, and he’s snapping his knees up close to his chest. I’ve worked hard on my own riding, and I’m now able to “see” a distance (the number of strides between me and a fence, and where the horse will take off from).
My equitation his also starting to look pretty good. I have a stronger base of support – I keep my legs under me while I’m jumping and don’t let them swing back. And I follow my horse’s mouth, instead of burrying my hands by the whither:
Now Moe and I have several blissful months to relax before we need to start worrying about horse shows again. Hopefully I can find some creative way to display this season’s spoils.