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We Are Flying Solo

September 26, 2012

Encore Goes Training!

Only without extended trot.

I can see your face now:  o.o

That's what mine looked like on Saturday too.  To be fair, one never does know what you'll get with a schooling horse trial, but I have been to a number of excellent ones in our area and never gave it a second thought.  This particular trial had its inaugural run this spring; the farm owner is lovely, gracious, generous woman, who allows us to school on her her amazing XC facilities and enjoy her gorgeous farm.  There were some hiccups (and 30 mph wind!) in what was Encore's first BN HT, not unanticipated given that this was their first go at putting it on.  I sent some email feedback on points that I LOVED and points that I thought could be improved to make for a smoother experience.  So I decided to give it another chance.


Our dressage test was once again a llama parade on downhill grass (Encore has not quite mastered the balanced AND round AND go down a hill thing yet).  Even though our score was slightly better than the one we received at Five Points, I was very unhappy with the test and my horse was tense and unhappy in the "arena."

The rather humbling downside of going to a schooling event in Southern Pines is that half or more of your division is probably made up of people who have, at one time or another, ridden around Rolex, or train 8 horses a day.  The horse before you and the horse after you will very likely perform a soft and lovely dressage exhibition that doesn't even have a whiff of llama hovering in the smallest corner.  You are certainly left with no false impressions as to how you stack up in the wide eventing world!!!!

Ride times were again so close together that you'd have to be a marathon runner to walk your courses and get back in time for your jump times, because locales were far apart.  Fortunately, I keep my bike in the back of my truck during eventing season; it helped some, but I was exhausted already when I finished the course walk and got on to jump.

The stadium warmup was.....uncontrolled chaos in a very small space.  Encore cantered around very nicely and jumped well, but at once point, we slid to a halt as the path in front of us was completely blocked by two horses leaping and spinning and we had no where to go.  My horse watched with much curiosity, like what is up with that???

The course itself had walked okay, but was taking down riders left and right with refusals and missed lines, many at the first fence.  I closed my leg to it and told Encore it was over or through and he did it all!  The lines were very twisty and difficult, especially for a green horse and we pulled the last rail, a big oxer off of a bending lines of 4 or 5 strides.  But I was proud of him for being in the half of the division that survived it and making 9 out of 10 challenging fences clean jumping efforts

Side note:  Even though we've been at this for a year now, because of my job and travel, much of Encore's training is still rough around the edges, so he still remains quite green about some things in comparison to a horse who is ridden and in training every day.  Finesse will come with time, but one of the hardest parts of being a working adult amateur is FINDING (usually MAKING) that time.  I almost feel as if I am letting him down a bit because he has enormous ability and I should be presenting it better -- I know that he doesn't know that, but I do.  And since I won't be able to ride after November for quite some time, we are out there, rough edges and all, while I still can.

Cross country  was definitely a tough course if you didn't have an honest, bold, and steerable horse.  Lucky me!  There was even a mini Stockholm slide (watch for fence 11, a small log with a drop slide behind it) that Encore was sure had no ground on the other side.  Fortunately, stumbling/walking over a  jump still counts as "jumping."  It was very different from any course I have ridden with several new challenges, so I really enjoyed it -- I could tell Encore was getting a bit tired, we did this whole event in 3 hours (0.0) but he jumped well to the end....and then fell asleep in his water bucket.  You can watch the helmet cam, but I advise you to tilt your left ear about 45 degrees to your left shoulder -- we had so little time to get ready for jumping, I just slapped it on the helmet, so the horizon is, well, unconventional.

Because of the complexity of questions asked and the rideability the jump courses demanded, I did leave feeling as if we had just completed a Training Level HT with slightly smaller jumps.  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  On one hand, yes, I am proud of Encore for finishing it!  On the other though, this fall was meant to be confidence-building mileage -- and I'm not sure bombing around sharp turns in showjumping is quite that.  I also don't really enjoy having to dash around the entire time like a headless chicken.   Efficient is great, but give me a chance to sit and eat my WHOLE granola bar at least and for my horse to get a snack and a drink, since we don't ALL travel with staff.

Again, the farm and owner are wonderful and it is a big, generous thing to open your land and private property so other riders can use the facilities you have built and I am always grateful for that.  I am a bit sad that it appears my feedback fell on deaf ears, but I am not an organizer (HUGE job) so there may be limitations of which I am not aware.

We all also have choices of where we go to compete and this has taught me that not all are the same and not every event will have the same expectations of your horse, even though you are the same level.  There were definitely lessons learned both positive and negative, so now we move forward to our next event, back at CHP, where I DO know what to expect and what is expected of me. 


  1. It's so tricky, especially with new shows. I have a rockin' old dude, so I don't worry about him so much, but I don't want to put me in a situation where I might end up harming him because I'm overfaced.

    Now you know.


  2. here's a llama
    there's a llama
    and another little llama
    fuzzy llama
    funny llama
    llama llama

    LOL, sorry, had to do it. The angle on your helmet cam was surely, er, unconventional. Bummer about the chaos, hopefully little man Encore will carry good experience from it all just the same. Don't worry about the rough edges, they'll smooth out before you know it and you'll remember these days with fondness. :)

  3. What the video smooshed or is this just a bad hotel connection? Why does blogger hate me now?

    Thanks for the encouragement -- it's so hard sometimes to operate in a relative vacuum where the only true test I get is a (FREAKING EXPENSIVE) horse trial. The juggling act of how I manage my horses training has far too many balls in the air!

  4. Chalk this one up to experience. I guess we always need to remember how lucky we are to have these wonderful partners even though training for our disciplines can be challenging and expensive.

    It was blowing hard here too - my horse took a little trip to crazy town on Sunday.

    I love riding along with you, especially Encore's ear swiveling back and forth listening for you on the cc. What a good boy, and yes - the video is smashed. ;D

  5. Its funny, I had a similar experience on the weekend. My mare was entered in her first Pre-Training (Canadian Novice equivalent) but this was also only her 4th event. The xc course featured mostly maxed out fences, a turning question (90 degree) at fence 4, a massive (wide, but REALLY deep) ditch for the level followed by a maxed out drop, which was actually the bottom of a set of steps... and located at the top of a hill. Oh, and a trakhener, a fence coming out of the water followed by a 6 stride combination, and several fences with odd lighting, footing, etc.

    I understand that at the end of the year people like to make the courses challenging, and that this event is known to be a harder one, but I too felt the questions bordered on being unfair.

    To be honest, I think your video displays what a common Pre-Training course for us would look like, but my theory is that its because Canada has Pre-Entry, which is like Pre-Beginner Novice. Our Pre-Entry courses tend to be a little more like your BN courses, and our Entry courses seem to be closer to a Novice level xc course. Though it depends on which event you're at. Please note, this observation may be completely inaccurate. I've never ridden in the US, and base this solely off of lurking other bloggers!

  6. I think I fixed the video -- please let me know if it is not working for anyone else.

    CFS, those are always interesting trips!

    Kate, that is a serious course! I don't think that ours was necessarily unfair per se -- I think I was just caught a bit off guard by the course challenges mentally, expecting a softer horse trial than it was.

    I thought everything on XC was fairly presented, I had a lot of fun riding it, and there was only one question that I thought was pushing the edge but if you messed up, you would just overshoot and run out, so still forgiving.

    The only real problem I had was the timing -- I just prefer to have a little more space to think and plan. It's not for everyone. Others prefer "one and done" with everything BAM BAM BAM and time to go home. Can't please everyone -- I just now know that if I return to this particular horse trial, to expect a higher level of course and to borrow someone's ATV!

  7. Sounds like a whirlwind weekend. Though tough it looks like you guys were up for the challenge. Great job!

  8. I have a xr100 (smaller dirtbike) you can borrow for the next one! The facility certainly looks gorgeous. I felt like I was deep in thought watching the xc run with my head so crooked. Oh well, I say chalk this one up to experience, give him an extra apple, and be happy he gave you such a great ride :) !
    Oh, the video looks, um, stretched (?) in some places, then smooshed in others, but still watch-able

  9. Yeah, Alana, I used the YouTube "shake reduction" thingy and it makes it look a bit weird. Since the camera itself has no preview screen, it's a reallllly long trial and error process and appears to change via browser, etc, it's making me CRAZY! Thanks for your kind offer though!!!