Emma once again shared some strategy with me and I set off trotting and cantering the crossrail, then trotting and cantering the small vertical, then cantering each the big vertical and the oxer.
With each jump, Griffin seemed to wake up and come alive. Jumping is what he loves most and he seemed to be all too pleased with the realization that he now would now get to jump instead of flatting.
Emma called out multiple times, "He looks great!" "Good job!" "You all look awesome." To each, I grinned.
|Happy pony. Also, need to put my stirrups up at least a hole! They've been long as I've nursed yet another ankle injury...|
This horse truly loves jumping. And so, without much else to prove, we headed down to check in with the steward and await our turn.
Admittedly, in preparation for this event, I was more concerned about the jumping phases than dressage. Griffin is pretty proven with jumping at home, but new-to-him jumps can sometimes be a cause for pause. I really wasn't sure how he'd handle all of those stadium jumps since they were so much more substantial (fill, etc.) than anything we had at home. I merely hoped that with some verbal encouragement, leg, and the whip, we'd make it through.
When we were allowed to enter the ring, I trotted him in and around a few of what I thought may be "scarier" jumps to let him see them. In mere seconds, the bell was rung to signal us to begin. I knew I had a few more seconds to spare if I needed to let him see things in the ring, but he'd been pretty calm, so I turned him toward the first jump and we were off!
Grif handily tackled the first few jumps with little issue. He gave them a healthy look-see, but mostly, he was obedient and forward. He knew his job and he went at it.
Around the 4th jump, I realized I needed to really sit up and ride more to help him out. I mean, I was riding before, but I was spending more time encouraging and praising - which wasn't a bad thing! - I just needed to, you know, be more present in the riding sense, too. (Admittedly, the whole experience was overwhelming in the most exciting of ways and my squirrel brain wasn't keeping up.)
And so I got with the program and gave him more leg to push him more forward over the jumps.
|Hunt that jump, Grif!|
|I wondered how he'd take this fan jump...total nonevent! He was in the ZONE at this point.|
|He didn't like these colors. NO TOUCHY!|
It was basically The Most Fun. And honestly, it was over a little too soon!
(Video thanks to Emma's friend Rachael who joined the entourage after her Novice round.)
The whole experience only widened the perma-grin on my face. This horse, you guys. <3
Amidst congratulatory words from Austen, Rachael, and Emma, we headed straight to the warm up for XC and I put Griffin over a few solid jumps.
He was totally game for these and even gave a small buck and squeal which garnered a giggle and, "He feels really good!" from Emma. Yes. Yes he does. Welcome to Griffin the Jumping Horse. He's a different animal, for sure.
Twilight events host a fraction of the people that the same venue's starter trials do, which was a big draw for me. The second draw was knowing that the XC course would be setup so that each division's jump height was in a line at each obstacle. A rider could choose to school any height. As such, during our course walk I had picked a few higher option jumps. (Griffin is very confirmed over higher jumps at home, but the "question" of XC jumps were something I didn't want to push unless it was very friendly. See primary goal 2: Give the horse a feeling of success at his first show.)
Only two fences on XC gave me pause during our walk: a friendly log that had been hollowed out to allow for plants to be grown, and a painted jump with some very threadbare fake brush extending from the top. I had a feeling that the log with vegetation would end up being a nonevent by the time we got to it and had a feeling Griffin would give the janky brush jump a pretty hairy eyeball before considering going over. I didn't fret much in the moment though because I was committed to this being a schooling experience for time and miles. If we had trouble, we'd school it.
Wearing my perma-grin with a healthy dose of Holy Shit I Can't Believe I'm Finally Doing This, we checked in with the steward who gave us the go ahead, and headed out on our first XC course.
The first two jumps were the most basic of basic. Griffin hesitated a titch, but was still forward and game.
As we cleared the second, we had a bit of downhill dip before a very mild uphill approach to the third. No stranger to working on a grass or in a field or on varied terrain, Griffin powered forward into a strong canter on the downhill and I let him carry it toward the third jump.
In this moment between jumps, cantering on this horse that I've trained from the ground up I couldn't help but tear up a little as I smiled at the realization we were out here doing the very thing I'd dreamed of doing since I was a child. I felt a lot of feels in those few seconds before reining myself in to focus on the task at hand.
The third jumps were all stained a near-black. The elementary jump was a simple log and the others were all coops of appropriate height for their division. As much as I wanted to opt for a bigger height here, I was worried Grif would find the dark color surprising, so decided we would stick with the low option so he didn't have to process more than necessary.
In anticipation of him needing a bit more processing, I slowed his canter a notch approaching the dark jumps. He did indeed take an extra moment to process the jump but decided quickly that it was okay and powered us over it amidst copious praise from me.
We accelerated our canter up the slight hill as we headed to the next jump and the subsequent "jump", a quick up-down hummock that Griffin slayed. #endurancecrosstrainingFTW
The next several jumps were easy breezy and the only notable thing between them was that Grif accelerated into a nice hand gallop that had me giggling all the while.
Jump 7 was a hanging log that had been hollowed out in the middle to allow for the installation of flowers. I wondered if this would bother Grif at all to only be proven that nope, he didn't give a flying damn about it. Over and onward we went to, eventually approaching our first water complex where he absolutely took pause to ask, "Um, I'm thirsty, can I drink this?" No, buddy, you can't drink right now, I'm sorry, but MOVE forward. C'mon!
From the water, we headed to jump 10, the one I thought may bring Grif the most pause of any jump on course because it wasn't a natural color (it was lavender) and it had the jankiest "brush" fingers extending from the top of it.
Sure enough, son gave it healthy stank eye and balked a bit as we jumped it. But we were over and off and that's all that mattered!
Between 10 and 11, Grif felt more downhill than he had the whole course. In review of the video, this was because he was taking a dump! Well, I'll take that! Any horse that can take a crap at speed is okay with me.
Jump 11 was a complex of very inviting logs, so I opted for the BN option here and Griffin jumped it the same as he'd jumped the majority of jumps on the course. He was rollin' at this point and it was no big thang.
From 11 to 12, I needed to take a wide approach to hit my line. I, uh, forgot this until the last minute and whipped out and around to make up for it. In the process of taking this wide and laughing at my near folly not doing so, I looked up to see Austen and Rachael and the orange side-by-side/Gator/ORV that had seemed to maybe be following me during the course - a fact I'd dismissed in my focus on Griffin. In these few seconds of reconnecting with the world outside the one of me riding my horse though, I recognized a particular fluorescent pink/orange in the side-by-side... Emma?!, my head questioned, but I quickly dismissed the thought and focused on the upcoming jump...
Jump 12 was similar to the janky lavender finger brush jump at 10, so I wasn't too concerned about a refusal from Grif. I clucked and added lots of leg and over we went!
We were through another water complex for 13 with less hesitation than we'd had at 9, picking up a powerful canter as we exited and headed for the final jump where I ended with the BN option once more.
From the landing of the final jump to the finish, I congratulated and praised Griffin, my smile bigger than it had been all day. That. Was. AWESOME.
What a freaking thrill! I am honestly not sure who had more fun, the horse or me. Remember how I noted that Griffin came alive during the stadium warm-up? That "aliveness" only grew in an exponential fashion as we proceeded from the stadium warmup through the stadium phase into the XC warmup and finally through the XC course. I had an inkling of an idea before we'd ever tried our hand at this sport that Griffin would be one of those horses that lives for XC, and I feel pretty confirmed in that hunch now that we've tackled our first event.
Ohmygoodnessgracious. Seriously. SO much fun.
Austen, Rachael, and Emma (IN THE SIDE BY SIDE) quickly met up with me at the finish, everyone smiling and congratulating Griffin and I. We all laughed at the fact that Emma had been stalking me the whole ride in the gator like a #creepstar3000 #helicoptermom
So let's review my goals for this outing: give Griffin some show miles, ✓ ; confirm his confidence in this sport, ✓ We tackled each - with ease! And then we went on to go double-clear and finish on our [sub-40] dressage score to boot! All of this resulted in us finishing SECOND of NINETEEN competitors in the elementary division.
Um, WOW. Completely and totally unexpected, but I'll take it. Griffin doesn't know or care where he finished; he only knows I'm PSYCHED with him right now for doing something he really enjoyed. Damn, do I love this horse.
We've got our next even lined up in the very near future, so look for another recap soon. I am, once again, only shooting to give Grif a positive experience, so cross your fingers he has as much fun as he did this time.