The growing pains of eventing or How not to event – Jessica R.

Stone Gate Farm August Mini Trial Schooling Day – Tackling the growing pains of eventing
or “How not to event”.

How Not To Event
Employee and Team Big Dee’s Member Jess R demonstrating “How not to event” during cross country schooling at Stone Gate Farm in August

For those of you who have been following along with the progress of my 5 year old gelding Paladin – Despite a few growing pains we’ve had an enjoyable summer of eventing with lots of growth for both of us. The spring started out with placing 8th in the starter 2’ division at the Winona Horse Trials in May. After a brief tendon scare that put us a bit behind in June we moved up to the Beginner Novice division at the Hackamore Farm mini trial in July and scored a 4th place finish. Unfortunately due to the excessive rain the cross country course was shortened significantly and I was not able to get a good feel of his overall fitness to be able to go a full cross country course at our new level, but continued on with conditioning and entered the Stone Gate Farm mini trial which was held on August 2nd. Despite Paladins bravery at Winona, I chose to school Hackamore since we were moving up a level and in doing so I learned that my young guy still needs more miles and more exposure to the various obstacles that are found out on cross country at the 2’6” level. For this reason I also chose to school Stone Gate on the Saturday before the event.

Schooling day was a pleasant and sunny 82 degrees and as always Stone Gate Farm offered an enjoyable mix of people, horses and dogs to greet us. I had a couple close friends who were going to be competing in the starter division along to school their horses and we had a pup and two husbands to serve as our ground people. I flipped on the mycoursewalk app and we all set out to walk the courses and come up with our ride strategies. Upon walking the course I found jump number 2 to be a bit imposing, it was a cedar colored mulch top table that was set between two ponds. The terrain was a bit rolling and the approach was off of a bending line. I found the line I wanted to ride which would hug the right hand pond initially and knew that I would have to be committed to get him over it. The fence would be shared with the novice division with the addition of a rail on the back side, but the rail was down and I had my plan. The other fence I devised a strategy for was a very straight forward coop but it was positioned on the lower side of a gallop across a large hillside. I decided that for the coop I would to cross over the hill a bit early on then steady him up for a nice presentation over the fence prior to galloping on.

We tacked up and headed out to warm up and then set out to jump around the cross country course. I had changed bridles the night before and was not able to get the noseband snugged up and was learning straight away that he was significantly stronger and less sensitive when he is able to open his mouth and evade the bit. Fence 1, a welcoming hanging log (more like a robust branch) was easy enough, Paladin had already seen it when we had competed and winona and though the top would be raised a bit, he added a late step and got over it. On to fence two, the first of my questionable jumps, I found my line hugging the pond and got him moving forward to it. I remember thinking on my approach “boy this looks a lot bigger now!” and at the last stride Paladin spun himself sideways in an attempt to duck out the side and deposited me in a less than graceful heap on the ground in front of the jump. As I was falling I reached out in an effort to divert my head and body from hitting the jump itself and felt instant pain as my wrist accepted the brunt of the force from my fall. I got myself up and turned my attention to Paladin who had only walked a few steps before stopping with a “what gives mom?” look on his face. I took hold of his reins and walked over to where our convoy had congregated to witness my epic failure. After doing inventory of my limbs it was obvious that my wrist was injured but I could still hold the reins effectively and walked back over to the fence to get back on. After I got on I looked back down at the fence again and realized that the back rail had been added. I tried to lift it off from in the saddle but did not have enough strength in my hand to hang on and opted to just get him over it as is. With my confidence obviously rocked (always so much worse when we actually hurt after a fall) I rode him towards it again but in a more defensive position expecting a refusal and that is exactly what I got. I realized then that he is still such a baby, it is my job to be brave for him, and I need to ride it like I meant it. I quickly felt a sting of disappointment as I pictured our awesome weekend of camaraderie among so many friends was going to be over at the 2nd fence on schooling day. I bucked up and took him back again, spurred and cropped him on, yee-hawed and squalled at him and over he went.

Cross Country Jumping
Employee and Team Big Dee’s member Jess R successfully conquering the imposing fence #2

Everything in my being wanted to be “done” for the day, but the trainer and competitor in me knew that I needed to ask for that jump again and he sailed over with less apprehension the last time. As I approached fence 3 which was a bright blue brush box it was obvious that it was not just my confidence that had been rocked. Paladin ducked out again, and again, but we managed to get over it again and again (and again for good measure) and moved on. The next three fences were a hanging log, a tan and orange bench, then a little bit of tricky uneven terrain to a dark colored roll top with a slight bend that required a close ride along the edge of a planted crop. Those all went easy and I felt his confidence returning once again. We left the back field for the middle field via a shaded trail and arrived at fence 7 which was the palisades. This fence was also shared with the starter division but would have additional brush for added height on competition day. This was a cinch for him in the spring (not necessarily for me at that time) but was a non-event this day as well. On to our next questionable obstacle the big gallop over the hill and on towards the timber coop. He was feeling mighty fresh and was incredibly strong. I sat down, sat back, asked for a half halt in an attempt to collect and steady him over the coop, but he powered through my requests and sailed over at a much faster pace than I had been asking for. We continued on over a roundtop fence and after a few more strides I transitioned him down to a trot into the water. He went right in without hesitation, earning him a series of “good boy”pats! Out of the water there was a turn to the right then and up over a little log onto the bank complex.  Again he was really strong striding across the top of the complex and leapt off the drop without hesitation. I gave him another “atta boy” fot being so brave off the drop. Finally we had a long gallop back over a much less imposing mulchtop table which completed our course and I was so very relieved to be done!

Back at the trailer I was struggling to un-tack Paladin and my husband stepped in to help me get everything undone, cleaned and packed up to head back home. I was thankful that the day was over. I was looking forward to the next day but still feeling emotionally challenged to be brave at fence 2. My horse had been so very confident over jumps all summer that I started to forget that he was still just a youngster. I regressed to riding passively and letting the jumps come to me and being less technical about my position from approach to landing. This was my big mistake of the day. It is a subject that I struggle with, especially when trying to wear two hats (eventers vs hunters). Lesson learned. I need to focus on keeping my seat back, closing my hip angle, and keeping my leg just slightly ahead than that of the traditional ear, shoulder, hip and heel line on approach. I need to keep him energetic and forward to the fences and by no means let myself jump ahead of him. I had my game plan I knew what to expect and it was time to go home, bath him for the show, finish packing the trailer and then eventually work on doctoring my wrist. Stay tuned for my competition day blog!

Whats in my boo boo kit?
Regardless if you are hacking out on trail, going to a pleasure show or schooling cross country, cuts, scrapes, bumps and bruises can happen (to both horses and humans). It is important to have some first aid basics at the trailer and ready for when the unexpected happens. These items really do not differ from the necessities that every barn(med)box should have, and if you do not travel frequently or do not leave other horses at home you might be able to get away with just having one kit that stays with your horse. For me though I have a barn box that has a much bigger selection of supplies and a trailer box just the necessities and that way I know I always have what I need when I need it.

In addition to those items that you can only obtain and use in accordance to your veterinarians instructions, such as Banamine, Bute and Dexamethasone (I take these along if I am going to be away for more than a day)
Your trailering(med)kit should have:
4×4 gauze pads – One package is plenty enough to stock your barn first aid box and your travel tote, just grab out a couple inches worth and put in a zip top sandwich bag to keep clean.
Latex Gloves – again grab a few out from your barn box and stick in a sandwich back to keep clean.
-A couple cohesive bandages such as CoFlex which you can tear by hand.
-a roll of Duct Tape
-A blood stop powder such as Wonder Dust, SuperH or new Celox Pads.
-An easy to use boo boo spray such as Vetericyn or Schreiners (watch this one stings a little)
-A digital thermometer
-A Stethoscope
-A small selection of your favorite People products including band-aids, triple-A creme, advil etc.
Keep it all clean and at the ready in a zippered bag or hard case like our Ascot Box you can even add a custom decal to make it easy to identify!