Because I have SO MUCH to say, I’ve broken this post up into two parts. This post will be about June, and the next one will be about the actual event and FEH experience.
We loaded up and left Wednesday morning for our 11-12 hour drive. That’s right. I was driving up to 12 hours for an FEH class. Living in Idaho makes these sorts of drives seem normal. It was HOT for much of the drive, but Sarah’s trailer had great ventilation and June looked perky and happy at all our stops. Since this was a two-day event for all but the FEH classes, we were pretty much the first to arrive besides the organizers. June settled in like a champ and I have to say, she’s already pretty much a pro about traveling and going places by herself.
Thursday was going to be HOT, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ride June early, or later, when there was a bit more atmosphere. I ended up lunging her in the AM and she was a good girl. I think she was happy to get out of her stall and stretch her legs. People began to arrive and so I decided to hop on her around 11:30. I think that because so many people were arriving, and there was more going on, June was a bit more antsy. I decided to lunge her before hopping on and wouldn’t you know it, she had a few bucks in her… She bucked so hard that she got away from me and cantered back to her stall. Lucky for me, the woman who caught her said “Same thing happened to us last year.” Eventers are the nicest.
I had planned on riding by myself, just hacking around and doing some walk/trot work, but now I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t have the horse I knew back at home. So, Sarah happily came with me, and I ended up having an impromptu lesson. June was basically perfect in that she wasn’t spooky, didn’t buck and handled the going ons with no issue. There wasn’t an arena, so I was a bit nervous to canter-I’ve never cantered June in the open before. But, as we settled in, I opted to do some canter work.
It went ok except for one thing. I could not for the life of me get June to pick up her right lead canter. This hadn’t ever been an issue. She was solid on her leads. I think she’s maybe once picked up the wrong lead? So, we worked for a while and got it. Then got it again, and called it a day.
I checked my ride time again Thursday afternoon and was excited to see that there were two more people entered in our division. I became less excited when I realized they were both seasoned, upper level, professionals, but still, it would be nice to share the arena with other horses.
Our ride time wasn’t until 3:40 on Friday so I spent the morning walking June around and just letting her see everything that was going on. Last thing I wanted was for her to be surprised there were a lot of horses and people here now. I braided her at the trailer since our stalls were far from us, and I didn’t feel like hauling all my crap down there. She was distracted and a bit antsy but we got it done. She looked pretty damn cute all braided.
When I hopped on June to go warm up, she was a bit high. There was only one place to warm up/ride on the entire property. Because there was also a dressage schooling show going on, and people were riding their horses on their own, the warm up area was
a bit chaotic. June got down there, threw her neck and head high up into the air and took it all in. Then I proceeded to make her walk around the arenas and by our second time around, she was cool as a cucumber. Love her brain.
There were horses coming at us, bikes riding by us, children screaming ( I may have imagined that) and I was trying to steer and listen to Sarah through all of it. It went ok. She was super fussy in the bridle, tossing her head, but paying attention. Canter left went ok. (In that I didn’t run into anyone or run away). Canter right was not happening. I think I tried 8 times to get the correct lead? And I couldn’t get it done before we were called to begin the class.
At this point I got a chance to see the other horses in my class. My first thought? “Well, we’ll still be happy with 3rd place!” Honestly. I really didn’t pay much attention to the other horses or riders, but it was VERY clear they were much further along in their training than June was. They were round and on the bit. One, who ended up winning, was stunning. Beautiful mover and clearly this wasn’t her first show. The other was a really good-looking OTTB who had filled out nicely and looked to be a solid citizen despite only having come off the track this spring. I found out later that the winning horse was entered at Novice (but moved down to BN) and the OTTB was entered Intro. They came in 4th and 2nd, respectively, in their divisions. These were really nice 4 year olds!
But, really, my goal was to get a regional championships qualifying score, and that would be based on my horse, and how we did, not on the others. So, we entered the dressage arena and began to show our horses off at the walk. And then the trot. And then we changed direction. June was fuss busing the entire time, I couldn’t really get a good connection or get the trot I really wanted. But that was ok, because we were staying in the arena and she was not spooky or completely distracted by her environment.
After the walk and trot, two of us were asked to exit the arena so the one horse could canter. She was asked to pick up the canter on a 20 meter circle.
And this is where I began to panic.
I haven’t done any work at the canter on a 20 meter circle. I thought we would be using the entire arena. I thought we would be essentially doing an equitation class. Had I read this somewhere? Had I made it up? I don’t know. What I did know was this would be our very first 20 meter canter…
It wasn’t great. We got to go left first (thank God) and June picked up the canter, and then fell out of it coming out of the corner. We got it again and kept it. But it was long and strung out and not the canter I wanted to show off.
And then we went right. Before the class I asked Sarah “So, I just keep trying for the correct lead, right?” She said yes, but we both knew there was a chance June may not show off her right lead canter.
She didn’t get it on the first try.
She didn’t get it on the second try.
And right before the third try I whispered to her “June, please don’t do this to me.”
And we got the correct lead.
We veered around that circle and there was zero pretty about it. But, we got the correct lead.
The woman on the OTTB also had difficulty with her horse getting the correct lead but she was far faster at resolving the problem. She did it in one stride, it took me 2-3 to get June back to the trot, and then try again.
And then we were asked to remove our saddles for the conformation portion. June was a good girl for this, but at one point she cocked a back foot and I was like “Uh, no, you can’t be lazy right now,” and made her stand with all four feet on the ground.
At the end of the class, when the three of us were standing with our horses in a line, the judge came up to us and told us we should all be very proud of our horses for handling this environment as well as they did and that was so pleased to see 3 very different, but very nice, horses. She said something nice about each horse, and for June it was something like “She was a bit green today, but she is a lovely, athletic, type.”
Yup, she is. She’s also quite green. Which is why we entered an FEH class. But more on that later.
June was such a good girl and I am really happy with how well she behaved and how she took it all in stride. I had no idea what to expect at her first show, and I learned that I can ask more of her, she’s not going to be fazed by all that is going on around her.
We did come in 3rd place, but we were more competitively scored than I expected. And, we qualified for championships, which was my goal!
June had a good night, and she traveled home like a champ. She handled the long travel days really well and today was happy to go out on pasture and eat as much grass as she wanted. She’ll have a couple of days off and then we’ll be right back to work. This mare is so fun and I can’t wait to continue learning with her.
I have SO MANY thoughts about this event, and I can’t wait to share them with you in my next post.