One Step at a Time: Jessica R.

The 30th Running of the 2015 Winona Horse Trials.

In the past 13 years I’ve had many competitive streaks in eventing at the Beginner Novice level in our local Northeast Ohio Mini Trial Series. It has always been a very well known goal of mine to compete at a recognized event, but sadly I have never had the ideal opportunity to try. Whether due to health, family, finances or issues getting my full draft mare fit enough to submit an entry, there has always been something that kept me from taking that plunge into recognized eventing. After years of pondering what sort of draft cross I wanted, I decided upon breeding my mare to make a Georgian Grande. After 11 months of waiting queue the birth of my #dreamhorse Paladin. After years of dedicated prep, training to build his confidence and tons of shows to acclimate him to what I love to do, Paladin is now 5 and no longer a “baby, it’s officially time to get busy.

I’ve never been one to just enter a show unprepared, this particular show was much earlier in the season than I would have preferred, but, I figured it was just the incentive I needed to get busy after a long winter off, my horses are kept at home and I do not have an arena to ride through the winter in. After posting entry to the Starter division we got right onto a regular training schedule. The week of the event Paladin suffered a Kick to his shoulder that left him standing in the stall for four days, but the vet was confident that he would be patch up in time to compete. After Paladin pulled out his stitches and the realization that a year of maturity has done nothing for his disdain for dressage I started questioning my choice to compete and if it was truly realistic and fair for me to even try. I was able to get another 3 rides in leading up to the event and decided to just go and see what happens.

The morning of the event I turned him out to grass for a couple hours, brought him in, bathed and groomed him and started braiding. His mane is significantly thicker than last year and after a minor meltdown when I realized I had not left myself enough time to get him braided properly and quickly pulled them all out and stuck a hood on him. I pulled myself together, loaded up the horse, husband and toddler and headed down to beautiful Hanoverton, Ohio, home of the picturesque Stone Gate Farm. The day was unseasonably warm for early May with bright sun and striking blue skies.  The temperature quickly rose to a balmy 86 degrees, my ride times were mid-late afternoon and Paladin seemed dull and uninterested in applying himself to anything more than munching hay. Upon arrival I picked up my riders packet and headed out to walk cross country and study the stadium jumping course. Stadium was not of much concern to me as he had already experienced the brightly colored assortment of unique butterflies, sail boats and hot air balloon standards that are compulsory for shows held at Stone Gate. The cross country course was straight forward and welcoming with just one jump that I was a bit concerned about, and I found myself again questioning my decision to compete so soon in the season and whether I should scratch… after a quick glance at my watch I realized I again was short on time and told myself to take it just take it one step at a time, see how it goes, and hustled back up to the trailers to get dressed, tacked and warmed up.

Dressage was surprisingly good for him; he really managed to keep himself together 70% of the time. A rider error on my part certainly didn’t help our score, but the competition was formidable and even If had made the proper correction it would not have changed the fact that we were in last place after Dressage.

He seemed very sleepy at the trailer and I was not positive that I had enough horse to go on, but tacked up and headed on down to the show jumping ring. The course was a bit tough to decipher on paper when I went to look in the morning, but after watching a couple rounds I felt ready to warm up and popped him over a couple jumps.  I’ve never shown him over 2′ jumps, we had spent most of last year in cross-rails and 18” hunters, though I regularly school him between 2’3” and 2’6”.  It was our turn to go and he was still quite lazy as we walked through the in-gate. He managed to wake up by the third fence in and was a little impressed at some of the brightly colored decorations but by the half way point I started to feel much more confident in him and we finally clicked and finished up strong. We went clear with no time penalties and my concerns about cross country faded.

There were only a few minutes between stadium and my cross country start time for me to think through my morning course walk and set my watch.  As I had mentioned before, while walking cross country in the morning the second to last fence caught my attention. It was up hill, coming off a turn from a trail that I had planned to trot and it looked much bigger to me than it really was, I had my plan and the countdown started “3..2…1… Have a great ride!” and off we went. Once we left the box he turned into a completely different animal, he felt strong and confident to the jumps, I checked my watch after the 4th fence and we were making time easy, I had to back off a bit in a few places, but he rated easily. When I got to the trail, I knew that we were only 2 jumps from successfully completing our first recognized event. I spotted the opening to the field; trash talked that fence and kicked on! He sailed over easy and I was ecstatic with delight. After waiting with excitement on the final results I did indeed finish on my dressage score, and thanks to our clean jumping and XC rounds we were able to finish up 8th out of 10. I love this horse more than words can say, he may have his issues with dressage, but he tries his heart out for me and we’ve got a big summer ahead of us!

What’s in my Garment bag?
Ariat Aptos Show Shirt – Lightweight with clean lines, easy care!
Ariat Performer Knee Patch Breech – Great fit and supportive materials. (White by special order)
Charles Owen AYR8 – Excellent ventilation in a modern multi-discipline style. (Leather-Look by special order)
Treadstep Da Vinci Field Boot – Super Soft and comfortable with next to no break-in time!

Optimum Time Watch OE Series 2 – Smaller design allows me to wear all day, keeping me on time on and off course!