So, yeah, that didn’t work.
Eddie, who jumps just fine, really. Photo courtesy D and G Photography
You may recall yesterday’s blog about the impromptu test run of the air vest. This scientific foray, of course, caused me to be eliminated from the horse trial competition. After cooling Eddie out and freshening up as much as a change of clothes and a deodorant shower in the trailer tack room can offer, it was my time to do that groveling walk of shame to the President of the Ground Jury (POGJ) to ask for permission to ride showjumping the next day.
“So, how’d you get eliminated?” sayeth the POGJ.
“Well, I inadvisedly opted to put the 6th stride in the 5-stride bending line to the corner and then saw a good chance to test whether my inflatable vest works, and, sure enough, it does.” (Rules of begging permission from the POGJ: 1) completely own your stupidity, 2) a subtle bit of humour earns bonus points.)
<all knowing, tolerant chuckle from the POGJ> “Ok, you ride after the last Prelim horse and if you have even one refusal, you must retire.”
“Sure thing, thank you.”
So this morning I warmed up with the people actually still in the competition. Eddie was really very good. I executed all the skills that I and Kyle Muckler of Maffitt Lake Farm have been installing in the last few weeks. Eddie was jumping beautifully. I couldn’t miss a distance. I was fired up for what I thought would be a very nice showjumping round.
We walked up to the show ring and Eddie started to get tight. And I mean tight. Clicking his teeth, tight in his back and neck, short strides. I did some bending exercises and he improved. We went into the ring and he went feral. No button I was pushing worked. There was no bend, no yield, hell, no true canter. There was a skittering, scared-puppy-peeing-on-the-carpet feeling underneath me. I thought he would get better as we got moving, so I went on and cantered down to fence one, a nice square oxer, which he is great at. I made sure I was riding well down to it. He jumped it very well in front, and pulled the rail with his back hooves. “Seriously?” thinks I. “That’s a gimme for you.” Fence two, he jumped in stride, but also pulled the rail, jump three the same. He crawled over 4a, the oxer and of course, pulled it, put two strides in the one stride line and jumped pretty much through 4b.
I was pulling him up to retire when I heard the whistle blow, which of course, was the POGJ telling me to quit scaring the spectators, and also to assist the jump crew by exiting the arena now since they were going to have half a day’s work to put my flying timber back up. Sorry.
So, we went back to the warm up arena and jumped a few jumps which went perfectly fine. Clearly, the atmosphere was the problem.
Back when he was learning to event, I spent 2 years at Novice level to get him to relax.
I remember his first novice level event. The spectators laughed appreciatively at his deer jumps and audible expressions of tension. They cheered lavishly when he completed the course, and I grinned in thanks to them and praised Eddie like he won the Olympics. Everybody’s ridden a greenie around a course and most can appreciate the palpable victory in simply getting the frightened child horse around the course. I had a lot of fun bringing him along, so I actually forgot why I spent so much time at the lower levels with a 17 hand thoroughbred who could jump a small house.
I did it because Eddie needed it. In the interim sunshine of the success we’ve had at Prelim, I forgot his basic nature.
Then, the two years he had out of competition have allowed his confidence to atrophy. His jumping is fine, as evidenced in warmup. I had no show nerves since I wasn’t competing today and really had no dog in the fight. So, I’m not going to wear the direct riding fault for this one. If there is a fault, it is that I forgot Eddie’s general nature.
Had I reviewed where we started, and suspected he may have needed a ramp back up to prelim, I would have started him back at a lower level of course. I need to remember his nature. He needs to remember he is a star.