Jump To It

Sometimes, I feel remarkably motivated to sit down and write a blog. Then, after a couple of lines, I realize it’s a beautiful morning, and I really can’t stand another moment in the house. This happens during the spring and fall more often than any other time of the year, when I have lots of exciting things going on to write about, but beautiful weather (and all these exciting things) keeping me from it.

Since my last blog, our weekends have consisted of Jumper shows, cross-country schoolings, and of course, horse trials! Most recently (and notably), all three horses I took to Windridge Horse Trials won their divisions! I felt like a Hunter/Jumper (or maybe just Phillip Dutton) bringing home THREE blue ribbons, I have to say…but of course, only one was for me to keep, as one went to the Hamiltons for their lovely “Malibu Will,” who won on his dressage score of 31.0, and another went to Kathy Ashrafi, who was unfortunately in the hospital and could not attend to see her little Appy win her second attempt at Novice level! Jaz had a lovely dressage test and put in the calmest show-jump and cross-country rounds of her career to date, and I’m so proud of the little mare, as was her momma. The third blue went to MY little mare, Gracie (now “Three Days Grace”), the super cool Jumper who came to me in August and has now won her first event on her dressage score of 31.4, thank you very much, with several 8s on her test. (By the way, I may have been just as excited to get an 8 on riding on all 3 of my tests as I was to have had all 3 of them win, mostly because it’s much easier to score that on The Pirate than it is on The Greenies…small victory dance, not gonna lie, before I remembered the highest level I rode all weekend was Novice).

Three wins at Windridge! Gracie, Jaz, and Will.

In the lead-up to Windridge (which, by the way, is a LOVELY event that I highly recommend), our weekends included a Jumper show, a cross-country schooling, and Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Horse Trials, another event I always enjoy with young/green horses and students. Tryon went really well as a first (recognized) outing for Ashley and Eros and was also a great weekend for both Jaz and Rachel! Both the girls ran Novice, with a 7th place finish for Jaz and a 2nd for my Rachel! Although, I shouldn’t really call her MY Rachel, as Jamey has somewhat claimed her; he does love that mare. Since retiring from his days as a steeplechase jockey, he’s resorted to riding my event horses on occasion, which I believe he expected to be a yawn but has proven otherwise. I somehow talked him into riding his Rachie-girl in a Jumper show in September, where I had a handful of students to laugh when he forgot his course in the first round, and cheer him on in the next one when he got a 4th! My students kicked some butt, with a handful of colorful ribbons to bring home (including blue!), and the 4 horses I rode all did really well, with Malibu Will in the ribbons, two 2nds for Gracie the Jumper, a 3rd for Rachel (I rode her after Jamey, just to make sure he hadn’t ruined her, of course), and some serious winnings for Bigtime Hullabaloo, who owned some Jumpers up to 3’9″, with THREE firsts and a 2nd – woohoo! I felt super bigtime. Actually, I just had a blast, and I believe the Hamiltons are happy to let us play around in the Jumpers a bit, and probably let us get out and event again sometime if we feel like it. Fat Louie is always fun!

Three Days Grace, a.k.a. Gracie, at a Jumper show, warming up for her very first event season!

The cross-country schooling at Gibbes Farm in September was also a blast, with 10 horses jumping around and every one of them having a great day! I only rode 3 as I was mostly there coaching, and at the end of the day all of my students were already asking when we’re going back, as tends to happen with everyone who goes to Gibbes. Pirate was notably absent from the mix, but this was because the babies had more of a need to get out than he does right now, not because he couldn’t go. I am beyond thrilled to announce that he is working for REAL again, jumping REAL fences and doing REAL dressage! Every time I get on him for a REAL workout, my world just feels right…and HE just feels amazing.

A year ago, the months ahead of us had seemed like an eternity. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before he came back, but I knew even missing just the end of the fall season seemed like The Worst Thing In The World, and that missing the spring season as well would be The Even WORSE Worst Thing In The World. It all seems so silly now, but when your heart is set on one thing, and then an entirely different thing happens without your permission, it’s easy to be irrational and overly dramatic when you should really just be thankful you have a brilliant horse standing in your barn…even if all he can do, at that moment, IS stand in your barn. A year ago, I would have given anything to send off another entry for him, rather than call event and withdraw our entry due to injury. Now, I find myself hesitating to do the very thing I’ve waited a year to do.

There is something both thrilling and terrifying about the thought of running my Pirate again. I feel as if my life and future is based on what the two of us will do together. It seems an unfair burden to rest upon the (big, bay, handsome) shoulders of any horse, particularly one I love so…but as I have so often had him prove to me, one he wants to carry. The first time in over a year I pointed him at a fence of height, he almost seemed in disbelief that finally, there was a real fence in front of him that I wasn’t trying to drag him away from. When we landed on the other side, he felt like my Pirate again…and, like a little girl on a pony, or perhaps like when he finished his brilliant cross-country round at AECs last year, I cried. Yep, total girl. But just having him back, the Pirate I know, made my life feel a lot more together.

Pirate proves he's ready for real work again. Thanks for playing jump crew/photographer, Brooke Webb!

On one hand, entering an event and getting on track to upper level eventing again, makes all feel right in the world. And on the other, I am terrified of the “what ifs” – what if that leg isn’t quite ready (even after all the extra time, and the go-ahead from an awesome vet), what if it hurts and he won’t tell me, what if the leg just won’t hold up, what if we have done as much as we will ever do? What if our career is over before it ever got a chance to properly begin? I sound awfully dramatic, but high suspensories are hard injuries to come back from, and I cannot help but fear that “what if” that’s bugged me from the beginning – what if he is never 100% again?

There is always that one fence on cross-country that bugs us, one that we give a little extra thought as we lie in bed visualizing our course the night before (you all do that too, right??). The next day, you gallop up to it and have two choices – to chicken out and sit there like an untrained monkey just waiting for it to happen, hoping the “it” is the fence being magically cleared, not the refusal/fall/run-out, or whatever it is you’re afraid will happen; OR, just get over it, both literally and figuratively. You do your homework ahead of time, schooling similar fences, or exercises that will help both you and your horse prepare for whatever question is being asked. And then you must trust both your horse and yourself to get it right, when it counts.

I’m scared but yet I know Pirate deserves more than being cantered around a field for the rest of his life. We have every reason to push on and try again. His leg is giving nothing but positive signs, and I know he’s ready to get back out there, just from the wistful way he stares at the trailer when everyone loads up but him. He is still young, and shouldn’t be galloping around the field with 21-year-old Laddy as a show of defiance when they’re left behind. He looks great. He feels grand. And I have got to get over it, and give him the chance he deserves.

Time to jump to it! Pirate may carry me over a fence that makes me want to shut my eyes and kick, but he hasn’t quite mastered filling out an entry form and writing a check. Some things, I suppose, he can’t do without me.

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