The big day came this weekend – a first competition for Reggie. He was entered for a Combined Training with a walk/trot test and 50cm jumping. For me, this early in his ridden career (the competition was 6 weeks to the day since he arrived), the outing was about getting out there and doing it, not about the size or difficulty and I wanted him to have something well within his comfort zone to attempt in the ring. The day is about so much more than a test and a round of jumps. Everything from bathing to plaiting to being tacked up and mounted in a strange place to warming up with other horses, going off alone to compete, the judges car…. the list of ‘new’ things is endless. The actual competition is really a minor part of the day.
We’d done as much home work as possible. He’s quite spooky about new jumps – he tends to stop and look then overjump them – so I’d made sure he’d seem a few different things at home. It’s due to natural suspicion and lack of experience rather than anything else and I think he’ll grow in confidence as he gets a bit more under his belt. On one hand it’s nice that he has such an exciting big jump, but on the other hand I’d like him just to pop over the smaller obstacles, not feel compelled to give them 4ft of air clearance. I’d also decided that depending on the course I’d make my mind up on the day whether to jump or not. I knew they’d use the bright Jump 4 Joy fences with the spooky filler which are a huge eyeful compared to the plain dull poles we have at home.
Bathing and plaiting was accomplished fairly easily. He’s used to being washed off after work and had a full trim and today and mane/tail pull a couple of days before to make things as easy as possible on the day. He’d also had another trailer practice the previous evening as he hadn’t been in it for over a week but he went straight in so I was confident about that too. Again, he loaded perfectly on the day and when we arrived I unloaded and took him for a little walk round in hand to see the sights. Then it was tack up and get on and warm-up for the dressage. We were in a large grass field with loads of room but the other entrants in the class were mostly 12.2 and ridden by under 8s so their warm-up etiquette wasn’t always perfect. We felt a bit like giants in comparison, but it’s all good experience.
He did a super warm-up – a bit of mooching about in walk, then picked up for 15mins of trot, back to walk, stand and chat for a bit then 5mins more work before going in. I made sure to take him round the judge’s car a couple of times for a look before the bell went. The test was a little tense, manifested by shortness in the neck and stride, but we did all the right things in the right places and he scored just over 60% and got some really positive comments. I suspect the judge would be shocked if she knew that he was completely unbroken 6 weeks ago!
My husband said that we ought to do the jumping, and I thought the course was OK for him, though a lot of the fences had hideous fillers either side. We had a chat with the judge when we went in and asked if we could have a trot round before the bell went (partly because I didn’t know the course yet) and if we could just take our time with the round and use it to school a bit if necessary. At small low-key events like this one people are usuall happy to help you out if you have a word with them first. He jumped much better than expected. He did stop a couple of strides out to look at the fillers a couple of times but it’s very much a ‘just give me a second to work this out’ rather than a ‘no’, and when he’s had a look the ears go forwards and he’ll pop over. So it was more a schooling than competitive round but a very good experience for him for his first time jumping away from home. He’s going to be a cracking jumping horse when he’s just got a little more under his belt.
So a very positive outing and he got a lot of nice comments from people there. I’m going to find him a few more walk/trot tests and clear round jumping to do as I think he needs to build his confidence a little bit away from home now. I probably won’t be reporting every week at the moment but will update every time we climb another step on the staircase to producing an eventer!
Don’t forget that he still needs a posh name – entries are open until midnight tomorrow (Wednesday June 19th) on our forum and if your suggestion is chosen you can win a gorgeous jacket and matching socks from Mountain Horse.