On Sunday, Moe and I ventured back out to The Woodlands in Edmond, Oklahoma for the inaugural Sport of Kings Challenge Horse Trial. The Sport of Kings Challenge has been around for a couple of years; it’s organized by a local Thoroughbred rehoming group, Thoroughbred Athletes, and it’s previously included competitions for Thoroughbreds in the disciplines of jumpers, hunters, and dressage. I was very happy to see that they added a 3-show eventing series this year and opened it up to non-Thoroughbreds, too.
This show didn’t have many entrants, so start times were a bit later than I anticipated. I was happy to see Moe and I would be riding dressage around 10 AM, show jumping around 11 AM, and cross country immediately following. I opted to haul up the morning of instead of the night before. I arrived around 8:20 AM and left Moe to eat in the trailer while I walked the cross-country course.
You may recall that we attended a horse trial at this venue last summer, and it didn’t go well. Moe surprised me by stopping at what I thought was a fairly-straightforward fence midway through the course. I was determined not to make the same mistake this year, and was relieved to see that the course was the same as it was back in August- that meant it didn’t take too much effort to remember it!
I hopped on to warm up for dressage about half an hour before my ride time. Moe felt excellent- he was quiet and relaxed, and gave me some very nice work. I felt confident when we trotted down centerline, and while we had some fugly canter transitions, I felt good when we left the arena. I entertained the idea that we wouldn’t be in last place after dressage for once!
I untacked Moe and walked the show jumping course, which looked pretty straightforward. The wind was gusting around 25 miles per hour, so I was mildly concerned a jump might blow down while we were on course. I got on Moe a few minutes before our scheduled start time; he isn’t a horse who needs a lot of warm up before jumping- the more he jumps, the hotter he gets. Moe felt very, very quiet. When he trotted over a jump (instead of breaking into a canter and jumping boldly), I started to get concerned. After a couple of cantered jumps, I did my stadium round. Moe felt just fine- he was quick and agile, and we had a lot of very good distances. I chalked his quietness up to random weirdness and tried not to worry.
As we headed over to the cross country start box, I ran through the course in my head. The first three jumps were straightforward: a couple of telephone poles and a brush box. The fourth was a ditch, which I wasn’t worried about. The fifth was a big chevron jump, followed by a brush box. After that was the jump Moe had been so weird about last year- a post-and-rail set at a zigzag angle. I thought about how I’d approach it from a different angle than I did last summer, about how I’d ride forward and not let it become an issue. After the bugaboo jump was the only other fence on course I was vaguely concerned about- a log with a drop into water on the other side. The log was only about 2’6 and hadn’t really given us trouble last year, but the water jump had been empty then. This year, it was full. The rest of the course was full of inviting, pleasant fences that I looked forward to jumping.
The zigzag fence and drop into water were in my mind as I set off from the start box. Moe cleared the first three jumps easily, rolling along at a gallop. He misread the ditch, but gamely hopped over. The ditch’s landing faced the start box, and upon seeing other horses congregated around it, only a couple hundred feet in front of him, Moe let out a grunting whinny as if to say, “HEY FRIENDS! I JUMPED THE JUMPS!” Moe’s divided attention caused an awkward turn to the chevron jump, and when he finally noticed it right in front of his nose, he slammed on the brakes, launching me over his right shoulder onto the jump.
I laid on the back side of the jump, gazing at the cloudy sky and wondering where I’d gone wrong. I decided, finally, that I’d let him come in too fast and not paid attention to what he was really doing; I was so worried about what was going to happen two or three jumps ahead that I’d forgotten a basic tenant of jumping. Ride every stride.
The poor jump judge, an older gentleman who I’m sure thought he would have a nice day watching horses jump and a free lunch, hurried over and asked me if I was alright. I’d landed on the back right side of my pelvis- just a couple inches below where my safety vest ends. I told him I was fine, but he anxiously insisted I stay laying on the ground until someone with a first aid kit showed up.
When I was cleared to get up, I limped back to the trailer with Moe. He walked slowly, matching my pace, and nibbled his hay net while I untacked him. He seemed no worse for wear, and loaded without a problem to head home.
He’s been totally normal since Sunday, so I’m not concerned that his unusually quiet behavior was some sort of sign. I’m also totally fine, save for a very large and painful bruise and a little hitch in my giddyup.
I’ll admit that I’m pretty embarrassed about how the show turned out; I haven’t fallen off at a show in years, and I should certainly know better than to go around cross country on autopilot. I suppose that makes this a learning experience, but it’s not one I care to repeat any time soon!