Monday, July 2, 2012

Derby/Clinic Recap

Thursday seemed normal enough--I got to the barn early and spent time packing up trunks and loading the trailers to go. When I was pretty much ready, I pulled Cuna out for a quick hack. It was hot, I was tired, and I didn't plan to do much. After a nice, long walking warmup, I picked up the trot and noticed one thing:

Cuna was not sound.


It took an interesting circle of phone calls to a variety of people, but I and another client loaded Cuna and another show-bound horse up, hauled to the vet where we met the farrier, had a shoe reset, and we were off.

Completely unconcerned
Cuna took to the show grounds like the old pro he is. He is literally the least complicated horse in the world. Off trailer, into stall, happy.

Because our show organizer had broken her hand just two weeks prior to the big day, I had been helping her out with paper work and typing. We selected the first clinic group on Friday based more on who was going to be there at 8am (show is 3 hours from civilization) than strictly by ability level. Hence, Cuna and I were riding in a BN group with several other capable people, despite the fact we were entered to run the intro class on Sunday (2'3").

Ignore my position and note the tiny fences
I'll be honest: aside from a scary fall by one of the people in our group, it was boring. I mean, we were coming off the bomb diggity jumping lesson on Wednesday with rollbacks and angles and extension and collection and now we were jumping a nice little grid. I think the tallest jump was 2'9" and Cuna can do grids in his sleep.

Still, I knew I would be a little bored at this level--it's not the show jumping that's the problem. We hung with it and worked on tweaking little position issues.

Boss horse has got this

Again, because I was helping out the organizer, I didn't have a ton of time to wander the courses and get a feel for what Saturday and Sunday would be like. Ok, I really didn't have any time at all. I kept myself busy and when I was free, I'd get Cuna out and handgraze him.

Just hang on, Mom
Saturday morning came bright and early. I was nervous, but I managed to keep it all in my head. We talked about the basics of cross country riding--staying close to the tack, sitting before fences, staying behind the motion, and then we got started. The other girls went first--they were true BN riders, entered to ride it the next day. They went over a crossrail (position review), around to a little log (warm up), down a long stretch (develop rhythm), over a bigger, scary log, and then jumped a low section of fence out to the road (technical) and then back in to the field we were starting in.

It looked scary to me, especially the big log. I was sure I would just have to jump the teeny log a couple of times, but Steph sent us out to do the same course. I reminded myself to give Cuna a good ride and stay behind him. The crossrail was insignificant, the little log easy, the big log scary but he jumped awesome, and the road jump was tricky but good. I cantered past our working student on the road and she gave me a funny look but didn't say anything.

Paddling our way around the field
In the next field we jumped a cabin, a giant A frame coming out of a sunken road, and a gate with a rail over it. Then we did another A frame (with scary straw bales underneath!!), a ditch, and a coop. Then we did up and down banks (albeit larger than I had done before), water crossings, banks out of water, more ditches, and funny looking log jump. The other girls also jumped some sort of giant tiger trap thing. Steph asked if I wanted to, and I shook my head. "THAT is huge. It's a novice jump, and we are just doing intro."

So we didn't do it. After I got off, I decided that I probably should have because Cuna was jumping great and I was riding well and we could have made it, but whatever. Maybe next time.

Picture from SJ lesson
I spent a couple hours in the afternoon taking pictures of my barnmates' cross country lessons. Most of the jumps were already marked and numbered for the derby on Sunday. As I walked past the jumps, I slowly began to realize something...


The whole time, we were jumping novice fences. The ones I said no to (the tiger trap, a ramp, another coop) were actually training.



I waffled for a couple minutes, thought about how boring the show jumping was on Friday, and then decided to move up to beginner novice for the show. 

Super cute after dressage

So, on to Sunday. We were set to ride at 8.18 for dressage, one of the first rides of the day. Cuna warmed up great (for us) and off we went. He wasn't quite as forward as I thought he'd be, but he was mostly quite good and I rode ok. I thought it was a great test until I saw the video. Haha. What I think is "round" on him, isn't. We pony-nosed the whole thing. Oh well. We had never even ridden a practice test before, and we did all the movements in the correct order, so I was quite happy with it.

I then threw all my energy into volunteering until it was time to get ready to ride cross country. I needed to just not think about it for a while. After all, jump #6 was a huge roll top a few strides away from the water and I didn't know how Cuna would deal with it.

When I got on, we had a brief warmup in which he was completely super. He was a little up (for him), and definitely knew what game we were playing. Still, we did a lot of transitions and moving off my leg, then hopped over both the practice fences, and all seemed well. As I rode into the start box, I focused on my line to the first jump and the line after instead of the growing feeling of nausea. The whole course was pretty twisty/turny with just two big galloping stretches (in which I planned to transition down to trot and back to keep him from getting too excited.

Uh huh. We cantered nicely over the first jump and landed going forward. As we headed to the bank, I realized I'd never cantered one before, but he was locked on. Up bank, around a turn, into water, out of water, another bank. At this point we needed a roll back turn (nailed it) to get to the GIANT ROLLTOP. If all went according to plan, we'd have four straight strides to get there.


Cuna accelerated out of the roll back. I didn't want to take my leg off and pull back, so I went with it, jammed my heels down, and stayed well behind him. We had one straight stride, and then he took a MASSIVE FLYING LEAP. I gave a cowboy whoop as we landed and cantered through the water. HE WAS ON FIRE!!!!

The next field was easy enough until we started the galloping stretch and I realized just how ineffective a little Dr Bristol eggbutt is on a horse that likes to get strong on XC. My arms felt like falling off and we were only halfway through. Ok, no brakes, so roll with it. Since we'd conquered the giant rolltop, there was no way in hell I was going to circle (derbies follow SJ rules: circle=refusal). We booked it across the road, jumped the cabin out of stride, GALLOPED across the field, jumped the giant scary log, hauled ass through the sunken road, sailed over the cabin, and I very quickly had a problem on my hands:

The last four jumps were showjumping fences.

You know, narrow, they fall down, tight turns, etc.

And no brakes. We steeplechased over the first jump. I yelled "WHOOOOOA" and pulley-reined on him with everything I had, which was admittedly not much. We came back down to about 400 or 450 mpm, which is way, way, WAY too fast for itty bitty 2'6" jumps, but it was better than what we were doing. We made the next two tights turns and jumps in a way that was only non-terrifying because it was Cuna and he is a super safe jumper.

I had this great plan for the last jump (hard left turn to a max height scary gate, 4 straight strides). Ha. We made the turn(ish) but that left one one straight stride to a jump that might be spooky. I locked my leg on and yelled "You can do it Old Man!!"

And he did.

As we galloped through the finish flags, I dropped the reins and was instantly walking calmly across the field. His old owner was the EMT on site, and so she got to see the end of the course. I bragged about how super he was as I fed him peppermints, pulled his tack off, and thoroughly hosed him down.

I'm not saying our cross country issues are gone (and clearly I have a braking problem), but I had no idea what it was like to ride a horse who knew his job.

<3 Cuna.

Did I mention we won a ribbon? We totally did. I think we were 9th or 10th after dressage, but our jumping moved us up to 5th overall. Yay!We're keeping the streak alive of placing at every show. Ultimately, not a huge deal, but super fun for someone who was NEVER competitive until Mr. Matata came along.

PS Excellent news: I don't think there are any show pics, but there are definitely some awesome shots from our XC lesson. I'll keep you posted.

Cuna's old owner and us.


  1. HOORAY FOR YOU!!!!! Best post EVAR. :)

    I hope I can join you in the next one!!! GO YOU AND CUNA!!

  2. Yah! That's awesome. Cuna is such a good boy. :)

  3. Yay for you guys! I heard dramatically uplifting movie music in my head while picturing that XC run, you know the type, where the character is running a marathon after being miraculously cured of a lifelong paralysis? Cuna could be Disney's next blockbuster!

    Incidentally, the little orange guy paddles with the same foot in the exact same way, which you can see in the motorcycle turn photo from the Dressage show. My college professor would say "He's mixing drinks with that right fore!"

  4. YOU are a beast!!! I'm so happy to read this! YAYY!!!

  5. Fantastic! You guys rock!

  6. Loved it! I am new reader and even so was rooting for you through the whole post. Great job!

    I am adding your blog to my blog roll as your journey fits right in with my own. I'll be back for more!

    Karen @

  7. You guys rock!!!!! Sounds like quite a thrill :)

  8. WOW! Way to rock it! Great post...I was holding my breath to see how it all turned out!

  9. Fantastic, I was hoping you would move up to BN before you started, hooray! Now you know the awesomeness of running a XC course on a horse you can trust and loves it as much as you do. Priceless, ain't it?

    1. We can do the novice jumps, too. Hehe. Just need to learn about brakes a little bit.

      Oh, and maybe some dressage.

  10. Awesome post, I felt like I was right there with you!

  11. YAY! So excited for you! XC is funnnnnn! You're in good company, lemme know what bits y'all try to get that beast under control, we're in the same boat, obvi ;)

  12. Congratulations! Sounds like you and he both had a great time! What an amazing feeling. =D

  13. woo hoo! awesome and i love how much fun you both had!!! :)

  14. You are starting to make me super jealous with all the fun you are having with wonder pony! Congrats!

  15. Oh WOW! Congrats. You guys are awesome.

  16. Psh, dressage. That's always a project, never let that hold you back. The N and BN dressage are basically the same. So go Novice already!

  17. Too cool!! Have to laugh a bit. I remember one cross country course I had all planned out as to exactly how I was going to ride. There was a relatively steep hill going down into a good sized straw bale jump at the bottom. I figured I'd trot down. My Russell had entirely other plans. We did the hill at a full gallop jumped out and went on his merry way (not mine). Like Cuna, he knew his job far better than I did. That's the sheer joy of a really "made" horse!

    Congrats on one fabulous performance.

  18. "I'm not saying our cross country issues are gone." I think it is high time you can say this! No ones issues will ever be completely gone we are all a work in progress. But you did a BN XC no problem. You and Cuna did it!!! I think it was proven that you have no reason to fear cross country anymore, you guys did it! My one word of advice though would be don't get in a hurry to rush through levels. Get good at BN before you jump into Novice. Not that you can't jump Novice height, shoot Steady and I jump training like it is nothing but for events we did BN. I think it is better to build that foundation slowly and solid than to have a bunch of mistakes from moving up to quickly. I read something today and thoguht of you.
    "The worst impediment to expanding your comfort zone and ramping up that Loin hiding inside you? ("Oz never did give anything to the Tin Man that he didn't already posses") The biggest, worst impediment is a hot or though or unsuitable horse!!! Get one you can ride without feeling your toes and fingers clench!! The is my absolute BEST ADVICE." (75 year old Walt, on a good horse)

    I think you have done just that and the lion has emerged! I couldn't be happier for you and for Cuna to have a confident rider. I think with that you two can go far.

  19. This was a complete blast to read-I can only imagine riding it! Thanks for taking us along-Cuna rules!

  20. Very late coming in on this but WOW! The XC pictures are amazing. Look at you two! Kicking ass and taking names! You look totally rock freaking solid in the tack. Fantastic pics. This is just the beginning - you and Cuna are going to have some serious fun! W00T!!!

  21. I'm super late coming in on this but WOW! What a great account and the XC pictures are great. You are rock freaking solid in the tack. Big kudos to you on all you've accomplished!

  22. This has to be the BEST POST EVER!!!!!!! I'm so excited for you guys! You totally rock!!!!!!


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