Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Schooling Show Success (with video!)

On Sunday, we loaded up McKinna and headed about 15 minutes down the road to Triple Crown for a Hunter/Jumper schooling show. (This is one of the reasons our barn is awesome. 12 minutes from one trainer, 15 from the other, 15 from our Pony Club's home base barn, and 15 from this barn. Central location!)

I figured it would be a good check-in before the Eventing Rally next weekend, especially since jumping was our, uh, problem phase at the Horse Trials. Remember the horse-eating piano? Yeah. I'm convinced that little fiasco was a product of McKinna being stuck in a stall for 5 days and her brain just being completely fried. But I digress.

We arrived and got to watch some crossrail and 2' hunters, which is always cute. Love the little kids on saintly ponies who just truck around knowing their job. McKinna just hung out at the trailer, steadily devouring all the hay in her hay bag and generally settling in like she owned the place. This laid-back attitude pretty much continued for the entire show.

The lower-level hunters kind of all cleared out en masse, leaving virtually nobody in the 2'6+ hunters or the jumpers. I, signed up for the 2'6, 2'9, and 3' jumpers, tacked up and wandered over to the nearly empty arena, where McKinna proceeded to stand with a hind leg cocked and relax while I memorized my courses. (I hate doing Course A for one course, then doing Course B for the next, and then having to go back to Course A.)

By the time I actually got on to warm up, there was one other person riding in all my classes with me. Talk about low-pressure show environment!

Our flat warmup was gorgeous. Relaxed. Swingy. Beautiful transitions. I mean, it's the kind of warmup I'd be thrilled to have before a dressage test. And when we started jumping warmup fences, I'm pretty sure angels started singing. Soft, round, beautiful canter. Perfectly steady rhythm to the fence, which she jumped quietly and neatly from a perfect distance, and cantered away just as nicely. That happened TWICE! Then I decided I was done with my warmup and went back out of the ring to wait for the start of the classes.

Our rounds weren't *as* perfect, but they were still pretty darn good. Probably the best courses we've ever had at a show. We obviously retained a lot of the canter work we did in our last jumping lesson, because our canter during the course was much better than it's been in the past. I think it could have been a little bolder, because we took a lot of short spots, but she also volunteered to take the long spot where appropriate, which impressed me. That means we're moving in the right direction, because she won't take the long spot unless we've got a good canter and she's feeling confident.

In the lower classes, our distances were more accurate. I wonder if this is just a matter of adjusting our collective eye to 3'ish heights? Probably it will improve with practice. The best part is that no matter what distance we got, McKinna calmly jumped out of it. We didn't have any rails at all, though she did get one or two rubs. When she's calmly jumping from any spot, I know we can continue working on jumping at that height over courses and grids until we adjust our eye.

Here is our 3' class:

You can see we ended up chipping in at several fences, and taking a bit of a longer spot on some. I think I need a bit more of a rolling canter - but it's always a work in progress. We've improved the canter to where she can jump out of a weird spot, so now we just need to improve the canter (and experience) to where she can hit a perfect spot almost every time.

Another cool thing? The 3' course all looked easy, even small! This is good news. I don't think we'll push things over the fall, but as we come back into hard work in the late winter and spring, I bet we'll be able to start working up to 3'3 successfully.

We ended up with two firsts and a second - impressive in a class of 2, I know! Still, she jumped clean, and she would have gone plenty fast in the jumpoffs if I cared to ask her. We did pull off one neat little inside turn in the 3' jumpoff, which she handled very well.

Here's the 3' jumpoff, where again we get some funny distances but the last three fences were great:

I couldn't be happier with my rides this Sunday. McKinna had a great attitude and was jumping out of a really nice, balanced canter. The whole thing made me feel a lot better about the upcoming Eventing Rally, where we'll be going Novice. I'll have much more competition there...this time, there will be TWO other riders in my division ;-)

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