Moe and I headed west to the Oklahoma City area this weekend with our friends Trista and Rookie to compete at the Thoroughbred Athletes benefit horse trial at The Woodlands. We elected to haul up on Saturday night and stable the horses, as I rode at 8:35 AM on Sunday. (If we hadn’t, I would’ve left my house around 4:00 AM on Sunday morning. No thanks.)
I signed up for the Novice division, and felt very confident as I walked the cross country course on Saturday evening. I uploaded the course to CourseWalk if you’re interested in the seeing the whole thing. It shared several jumps with Beginner Novice and I thought the whole thing looked pretty soft. The only jumps I thought might give me some trouble were jump 8, a small log on a downhill slope that went into the water complex and jump 13, a narrow rolltop. Moe is historically a little backed off jumping into water and the rolltop late in the course made me vaguely nervous for reasons I can’t explain.
Sunday dawned hot and sunny, but Moe was chipper and clamoring for breakfast. I got on to warm up for dressage later than I wanted to; I only had about 15 minutes before my test to get warmed up. I realized in warm up that I’d forgotten my spurs, but didn’t want to risk running back to the trailer to put them on, and figured Moe felt perky enough to do without them.
Our dressage test (Novice A- good grief there’s a lot of trotting!) went really well. Moe was quiet and on my aids as well as he’s ever been. Our left lead canter departure was above the bit and ugly, but our right lead canter transition was soft and lovely. Moe wasn’t particularly motivated to move forward thanks to my lack of spurs, but we eked out a 40.0 and the judge commented that he was a “lovely horse”. I was very pleased with the test, regardless of what the judge thought.
After I untacked Moe and took out his beautiful braids, he slurped down a bucket of water and I walked the stadium course. It was a tight and twisty course, but I didn’t anticipate any real problems. I got on about 10 minutes before my ride time to give him a quick trot and canter, popped him over two warm up jumps, and went in to do my course. Moe was fast and clean despite a couple of biffed distances, and we walked over to the cross country start box following our ride.
There was some sort of hold up at cross country; the Training division riders hadn’t started yet, so the other Novice riders and I spent half an hour baking in the sun before any of us started. Moe was quiet, and I let him graze while we waited. We finally set off well past our scheduled time and Moe took the first three jumps in style. He was a little surprised by jump 4, a ditch that was a little hard to read, but went over it just fine once he realized it was there. He took jump 5, a shark’s tooth, a little squirrely, but galloped easily over the brush box at 6.
Fence 7 was an odd zigzag fence. The sections were fairly narrow (6′ in length) and set at right angles to one another. I had decided to approach the rightmost panel, using a nearby Starter fence as sort of a runout rail. Moe approached it a little slowly, thanks to some deep sandy footing that preceded it. I don’t know if he was too busy watching the footing or what, but he stopped at it, completely surprised by it. I was surprised too, as I didn’t think this fence would give us an issue at all. I stayed calm and reapproached, and Moe stopped again. Frustrated, I circled around to the left side of the fence, and Moe jumped just fine. He never seemed frightened or overfaced; he just seemed confused about what he was supposed to be doing.
Moe also peeked at Fence 8, the log into the water, and I didn’t ride aggressively enough to get him over it. I approached again and went down one-handed and tapping him with my bat. He was clear over everything else, including the narrow rolltop, and finished strongly. We were both tired and dripping sweat in the awful afternoon heat.
Our refusals meant we finished near the bottom of the division, and I was disappointed in our round. Moe is usually a strong and reliable competitor; I understand I should have ridden more aggressively at fence 8, where I suspected we might have an issue. I was, and still am, confused about why he didn’t go over fence 7 the first time around. It could have been the deep footing, or perhaps he was tired, or maybe I needed to ride more aggressively to that fence, too.
This wasn’t our best show, certainly, but there were some positive points. I was very happy with our dressage test, our jumping round was perfectly good, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson about not taking my horse’s goodwill and skill for granted. Plus, the show’s proceeds benefited Thoroughbred Athletes, which retrains and rehomes off track Thoroughbreds- you can’t find fault in supporting that sort of group.
Moe will get a few days off, then we’ll be back to the grind in anticipation of the jumper show in a couple of weeks!