My weekend in jumperland

When I entered the HJEO Summerfest show, I was expecting to have a good time and come away with lots of satin. After all, y’all gave me some good advice, I had great outfits, and my horse is a good jumper. I have now emerged on the other side, totally exhausted and with less satin than I expected.

I dropped Moe off at the show grounds on Friday night and headed to the show office. I’d met the show secretary at a dressage show earlier this year, so I spent some time chatting with her about what I could expect throughout the weekend. She gave me a schedule that had class entries on it, and told me to figure on 2.5 minutes for each over fences trip, 10 minutes for a flat class, and 15 minutes for a ring drag. I went home, did some math, and estimated my ride time at around 7 PM. This seemed entirely wrong, but spreadsheets don’t lie. Right?

Johnny and I headed to the showgrounds around 9 AM on Saturday. He walked Moe and let him graze while I cleaned the stall, refilled Moe’s water, and listened intently to the announcer uttering incomprehensible nonsense like, “We’re 8 trips and an eq away from the Academies, that’s 8 trips and an eq away from Academies.” I consulted my schedule and realized the show was moving at a rate of about 4 classes per hour. Last night’s mathematics were affirmed, so I tucked Moe back in with a pile of hay, and went home.

Grazing is Moe's favorite part of showing.
Grazing is Moe’s favorite part of showing.

I tried to relax at home, but I couldn’t shake my growing paranoia about missing my classes. The .95 meter jumpers were the very last classes of the day, and the math and my own rough calculations at the show during the morning bore out a start time of 7 PM. Johnny grilled green chile cheeseburgers for lunch, and I ate one. I thought about taking a nap, but my paranoia got the best of me. I put on my show clothes and headed back to the venue around 3 PM.

I watched hunter classes for a while and tried to determine what division was running. Once I figured it out, I realized that yes, Stephanie, the math is still correct, and you’ve got four hours to kill. I considered going back home (my house is about 5 minutes from this place), but figured I’d just get more nervous. Instead, I took Moe out to graze and walk. When the sun finally got the best of me, I put him away and went back to watch hunter classes. I tried to remember the tenets of horse judging I learned in high school and placed the classes. The judge and I mostly agreed, although I tended to place faster, scrappier horses higher than she did.

I checked several times to see if the jumper courses had been posted yet, but by time I felt like I needed to get tacked up, they hadn’t been. There were two classes left before mine- an equitation class and the hunter derby. I got Moe saddled and got on around the time the derby started. It was a big class, and I realized riders actually had two trips each- a regular round and a handy round. I was now faced with two hours before my rides, which would occur around 8 PM. I figured I could just walk Moe around; he felt on edge, and I thought he might relax if we walked. He was fine, if a little too alert. I walked into the ring area to find that the jumper courses had finally been posted, so I spent the next half an hour or so attempting to learn them. Moe’s nerves began to fray at this point; he didn’t want to stand still, and took every opportunity to shy sideways when another horse came near him or wheel around when the crowd applauded a ride. I finally hopped off him and handed him to Johnny, while I returned to the board to learn my courses.

We totally looked the part with our Professional's Choice boots.
We totally looked the part with our Professional’s Choice boots.

For eventing, I need to memorize a dressage test, a cross country course, and a stadium jumping course. I feel fairly confident in my ability to memorize, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t get these damn courses to stay in my brain. The first course was 10 jumps in a winding pattern full of rollbacks, followed by a jump off round of 7 jumps. I panicked for a moment when I saw “Table II Section C” (or whatever it was), but another competitor kindly informed me that you simply did the 10 jumps, stopped and waited for the judge to tell you to proceed if you hadn’t had any faults, then jumped the other 7. This made me feel more panicked, because I was having a really hard time keeping the first 10 straight.

I got back on Moe, who had totally gone off the rails. Here’s the thing about riding the same horse for years and years: I can feel the difference between good “on edge” and bad “on edge”. It’s a fine line. I like him to be a certain amount of excited and energetic, but when he’s crossed over the line, he’s a nearly unmanageable mess.

I got him over a few warm up jumps, then went to wait. When it was our turn, I went into the ring, nailed the first four jumps….and stopped. In the middle of the arena. I could not remember where the fifth jump was to save my life. I glanced at the judge, said, “I’m hopelessly off course, I’m just going to excuse myself, I’m sorry,” and walked out. Moe jigged nervously while I tried to commit the second course to memory. When we went back in, we sailed over the first four jumps, and stopped again. I had an agonizing, wretched moment of total confusion and embarrassment before I suddenly remembered the rest of the course and sent Moe on. We had miserable distances and pulled two rails. To add insult to injury, I felt as if I’d ridden very poorly, and collapsed in a heap on Moe’s neck after he jumped me out of the tack over every fence.

I walked Moe back to the trailer to untack him in complete mortification. I felt nauseous and ill (though that was probably due to the cheeseburger).  I’ve gone off course before, certainly. I totally skipped a cross country jump at a schooling CT last fall. I had an error in a dressage test on Gina earlier this year. But this stung worse, for whatever reason. Pride comes before a fall, or something, I suppose.

I woke up Sunday with renewed determination. After Moe was taken care of in the morning, I vowed to stay away from the show grounds until the last possible minute. My calculations put my ride time around 5:30 PM, so I stayed at home all day. I did a load of laundry. I finished a book. I took a long, luxurious nap. I finally got dressed and headed to the show grounds at 4 PM.

My courses for Sunday.
My courses for Sunday.

The jumper courses were posted and seemed much easier than Saturday’s. The first round was a power and speed class; I distinctly remember several people explaining it on my blog post, but couldn’t remember it for the life of me, and I’d left my phone back at my truck. I asked a trainer, who said it was basically like yesterday’s jump off- I’d ride the first 8 jumps, then pause to get the judge’s signal to continue if I’d been clear. The whole course was mercifully short (1-8 for the power section, 9-14 for speed), and I managed to walk it while the show was waiting for medal class entrants to show up. I felt much more confident than I had on Saturday.

The announcer told me they’d had several scratches, so I only had 5 trips until my ride! I scrambled to get Moe tacked up, jumped on (using a stepladder, as someone had absconded with the mounting block in the warmup area), and popped him over two jumps. He felt very eager and alert, and not as if someone had replaced his brain with a stick of dynamite.

The power section went very well, and we were clear. I slowed him down to a walk after the last jump, waiting for the judge to whistle me on. Instead, she yelled and gestured at me to just continue. I made a confused circle, said, “I thought you were going to signal! I’m sorry!” and proceeded to jump the rest of the course. We got an ugly distance to a couple of jumps, pulled a couple of rails, and obviously finished with some time faults.

The next class’s course was the same as the power section of the first class, but it had no weird stuff. Just 8 jumps, fastest time wins. This I could handle! I took a deep breath, sent Moe on to the first jump, and he soared over the fences, wheeled through the rollbacks, and saved me from a couple of biffed distances. His time was good, but we were beaten by our lone competitor, a 6 year old Thoroughbred gelding.

 


Since there had only been the two of riding, Moe and I ended up reserve champions. I didn’t mind, though. Moe was very good, and I felt like my riding had been much better and more confident. My competitor shook my hand and told me how good she thought Moe was; I laughed and said he was doing pretty well for an old man. Someone nearby asked me how old he was, and her jaw dropped when I said he was 21. It always makes my heart happy when someone says they can’t believe how old Moe is; I feel glad knowing that other people can tell my horse is enthusiastic and healthy and still likes his job!

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Jumperland was quite the place. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back- the “hurry up and wait” mentality makes me crazy, and having two rulebooks fixed in my mind seems like more than enough! But everyone was mostly pleasant to me, Moe had a good time, and I gained a newfound respect for all you hunter/jumper riders out there! (How do you keep all these courses straight?!)

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

35 thoughts on “My weekend in jumperland”

  1. So glad you had a good outing, despite some early hiccups. I always give people mad props for crossing over into different types of shows. I would be so lost at a Dressage show or Event.

    1. Everyone was very kind to me when I told them I was an eventer who hadn’t been to a jumper show in 10 years! They eyed me with this mix of fear and pity, and spoke slowly and loudly to make sure I understood, LOL.

      I was really happy with Moe, who was very good when I could keep it together! I totally understand why people do “warm up” rounds now!

  2. I do NOT understand how people live with it! Is this why everyone goes to the show with their barn? So they can always have someone keeping track of what class is going??

  3. Hate the hurry and wait, love those turns.

    That is a fun facility. They used to use it a bunch then there was a falling out and hardly got used until summer fest picked it back up.

    1. We use it for dressage shows a couple of times a year- it’s kind of pricey, but the facility is pretty nice. You have a covered warmup, good footing, and decent stabling. What more could you want?

      I didn’t mind the turns once I was doing them, but boy did I have a tough time remembering them!

      1. I think that was it. The price. I remember hearing that it was a different price for western people…cheaper…

        1. I’d be interested to know about that! It was about $6,000 for us to rent it for a weekend for our rated dressage show a couple of months ago. I’ve heard it’s under new management (as of last year, I think?), so I’ll have to ask around.

  4. ha that sounds strangely similar to our outing to a jumper show this weekend. sounds like all in all a good weekend (tho yea i agree about the ‘hurry up and wait’ being way too stressful lol)! way to go Moe!!

  5. Man, once you come from a world of scheduled rides, anything else drives you nuts.

    LOVE that satin though! So pretty! Congrads!

  6. Congrats on a successful foray into H/J land! The hurry up and wait drives me nuts, too, but it can also have the added benefit of making you so annoyed that you forget to be nervous!

  7. Ok, so the dressage shows are sounding better and better!!! Or maybe, I’ll just stick to foxhunting where everyone starts together!! You are awesome for venturing into the unknown!!!

  8. I usually snap a picture of the courses on my phone, and then I walk each course as the course walks are available. Not just stand in the ring and point, but I actually walk the whole track and plan my entire ride from start to finish. That way, I’ve also already seen what the course looks like from inside the arena too. It’s definitely a lot harder if courses aren’t posted ahead of time! Most shows will post all of the courses in the morning.

    I can’t believe you managed without a trainer or at least a H/J buddy talking you through some of the different aspects like tables and such. I’d have been flustered too!

    1. That is basically what I did the second day! I took a photo, I went out and walked each jump (just like I do at events) and I felt MUCH more confident! I was SUPER impressed with the people who were just standing ringside, casually pointing and going, “Oh yeah, it’s the green oxer to the brick wall to the vertical…” I was like “HOW DO YOU DO THIS?”

      I don’t know how people go to H/J shows without a semi-aware friend! I have no H/J friends, so I was VERY grateful for the trainers who answered my (probably stupid sounding) questions like “What does a table mean?”

  9. He looks like he is having so much fun in that video! My old man was jumping me out of the tack this weekend, too. I love the “he’s how old??” comments, too.

  10. Hurry up and wait is the HJ land way of life. Though I will admit that my week in tryon was pretty on point. Classes ran pretty fast and the end gate staff were rock stars!

  11. The whole hurry up and wait thing would drive me crazy. I’m like you. I’d be there at 3 even if I didn’t think i was going until 7, because what if things changed through magic and I missed my classes? I’m just not mentally capable of doing these shows. I think might be better if I had a trainer who was there to tell me when I needed to be on/etc. Congrats on the ribbons though. Moe certainly looked happy whipping around the course.

    1. YES, YES, THIS IS WHAT I WAS AFRAID OF! Magic would happen and 20395820397 people would scratch and I would have to ride HOURS earlier than planned!!! This obviously did not happen, but it did not make my day easier.

  12. Now that I’m a hundred years old, I pick horse shows where my classes go first. Then I always know when I’ll ride! I mean, I can’t always plan it that way, but it’s nice when it’s possible! The courses can be tough to remember! I’ve mostly been doing hunters and equitation for the last many years, so I’m not even sure I can still remember a jumper course.
    Moe looks like he had a blast! I’m glad you finished on a great note! I’m sorry that other person told you to stop in between your power and speed. You’re supposed to just keep going if you’re clean in the power.

    1. I totally wasn’t mad at her (she apologized profusely after I came out of the ring); I should have familiarized myself with the rule book before going! I’m pretty sure the judge thought I was stupid, haha.

  13. Jumper land anxiety is REAL. I don’t think I ever could have gone home and waited. Knowing me, the calculations wouldn’t have mattered and someone, or a million, would’ve scratched and the class gone early and me miss it. I HATE hurry up and wait!!

    I share your memorization woes. It takes me a whole week to memorize a dressage test, and even then I sometimes forget halfway through. Jumper shows are usually awful for me, since I normally ride well BUT forget a jump or 3. Having 4 separate courses to memorize is terrifying. Its something I have no idea how to remedy!! If I want to continue as a jumper I really need to get on it haha.

    Moe looks fantastic though and I’m so glad you finished on a good note!

    1. Yeah, I mean, I can do dressage tests because you basically have all the time in the world to prepare! And you usually get a day or so to memorize your XC (and can walk it as much as you want, as time allows). And the stadium jumping courses seem a zillion times easier than these true jumper courses (not to mention no jump offs or whatever)! Maybe I am too dumb to be a jumper lolz

  14. Jumper land terrifies me. I don’t know how anyone remembers all the courses at once! Good for you for going in there and getting it done!

  15. I feel stressed out after reading this. 😉 All those courses with different little rules make my head spin! And hurrying up to wait is one of the main reasons why showing doesn’t appeal to me. Yuck.

    I hope you felt like it was a good experience, though!

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