So yesterday was the big day - my first show jumping competition ever! As I mentioned before, I rode one of Marina's lesson horses (the fabulous Vent) since Starbuck's still not 100% back in condition after her long rest due to achey back lameness and also so I could safely indulge in any of my own nerves and jitters about the competition without compounding them with hers about the van and being in a strange place. And the course I jumped was only 60 cm (just over a foot and a half), so most of my co-competitors were little girls under the age of ten - in fact everyone who finished the course without their horse refusing or knocking over a jump was considered a "winner" and got a ribbon (like ME!!!). Although I felt a little silly for being so cautious (especially since I shared my horse with an nine-year-old), I think in the end it was a really good strategy and I was bolstered by the fact that four of my adult friends from the stable were also competing at the same level. Also, instead of freaking the $*&# out I was able to focus on things like having a terrific time, jumping the course neatly and learning as much as possible for next time.
So here are the most important nuggets of wisdom I took away from the experience:
- You have to wake up really, really early on show day, especially if you're using hired transport. And we're lucky enough to be only 20 minutes away from the club that's hosting these "Winter Social" shows, I can't imagine what it'd be like to go to a show on the other side of the island. As it was my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. to get all my stuff together and be at the stable to load my horse by 6:30. Thanks to my mom I have a fabulous porcelain "to go cup" to truck my coffee around in, and I had most of a leftover almond croissant to munch on, otherwise I wouldn't have had breakfast. Next time I'll prepare a little better so all I have to do is get dressed and grab coffee and a duffel bag on the way out.
- The order of the jumps is easier to remember than I thought it would be. Honestly one of the things I was most worried about was forgetting the order and being eliminated for jumping the wrong one, but after walking the course once with Marina coaching us and giving us tips on how to best negotiate each one of the jumps, walking it again on my own and then mentally going over it a few times it ended up being a piece of cake.
- Things go a lot quicker than you expect. When you're watching a show and there are 30 participants in one class, it seems to take forEVER. But when you're waiting on the sidelines for the little girl sharing your horse to finish, then walking the horse back to the tying posts to change his tack because the little girl's saddlepad color doesn't match your fabulous new shirt, then realizing you left your keys with a friend back at the arena so you have to run up to the arena and run back down to the tying posts, then tacking up as if possessed by speedy demons, then trotting back to the warmup area where your instructor is yelling "what took you so long", time moves really quickly. Wisdom to take home - either don't share your horse or wear neutral colors, and have a "car keys strategy" worked out ahead of time.
- The warm-up jumps are one-way only. People either get angry or laugh at you when you jump them the other way. 'Nuff said ;)
- As I actually suspected at the back of my mind but superstitiously didn't want to mention beforehand, I didn't feel nervous or get "stage fright" at all, at any moment (even after I jumped the warm-up obstacle the wrong way). Being in front of a crowd focusses me and generally makes me perform better than otherwise. I remembered to salute the judges, to take Vent by the possibly scary yellow jump at the end, and was even able to remember most of Marina's great advice - breathe and count strides between jumps, outside leg and outside rein and listen for the horse's hind hooves going into a jump to make sure he's squared up. And as a result, I am really proud of the way I jumped the course.
- Show jumping is FUN! The songs they had playing during my course were "In the jungle the mighty jungle" and "It's a small world after all" and at one point I thought "this is just like an amusement park ride". And my first thought after finishing the course and giving Vent a nice neckrub to say thanks was "I wanna go again!!!"
Next stop, coming up November 19 - doing the 60 cm course with Starbuck and the 80 cm course with Vent or another one of Marina's lesson horses.