Executing the plan

I hadn’t shown since early May, so we were super excited to get back to the jumper ring. Plus, the prize money for the Timed First Jump-Off had been upped, so as long as we placed first, second or third, we earned our money back plus extra. Sweet!

GHHJA | 2’6″ Itty Bitty Jumpers | GSWEC

Goals: Execute the plan — turns included — that my trainer and I determine based on our course walk. Ride with a looser rein, and don’t choke Sabra up.

Friday afternoon, Sabra schooled great; she flatted nice and softly, and jumped everything clean with no stops, hesitation or dragging me after the fences. The verticals we left at 2’9″ – 3′, but the oxers I asked my trainer to drop to 2’6″ – 2’9″ after getting a little worried watching people gallop around and have stops at the 3’3″ fences. I feel like I’m much less nervous when we school bigger than the height we show at, especially at the show. At home, I’m finally comfortable at 2’9″ – 3’3″, but the oxers always look wider at a show!

Saturday morning, trainer and I walked the course and strategized. We decided when and where to make turns, whoa, gallop and slice jumps. Honestly, the strategy is my favorite part! I like all the options you have in the jumper courses, as far as how you can approach jumps and make your own track.

Anyway, we watched a couple of rotations and then tacked. We had a very short warm-up because Sabra and I were on our game. Trainer noticed that my saddle has fallen in the front (again!), so she rolled a small towel to use as a makeshift front wedge.

For the Timed First Jump-Off, we executed every turn we planned, yay! I was the only person (I think) to turn right instead of left and do an s-turn to get from jump 7 to 8, and I think it saved us quite a bit of time. Plan A was to turn before the blue stars jump, and plan B was to go around it, but both plans were faster than turning left and rolling back around jump 7. We jumped around clean, stayed in for the jump-off and had a really good round. We placed second out of 14, so we paid for this class and the next one, which I was really excited about.

For the Timed First Round, we placed third even with the rail. My reins were a bit too short and I came back a little too fast, so Sabra hit the back rail on jump 8. Our turns could have been a bit tighter, too, but it was still a decent round. We traveled at a good pace and had good distances.

In the Power & Speed, we again placed third. I should have rolled back a little tighter from jumps 7 to 8. Overall, though our turns were much tighter than they have been previously. Sabra is listening better instead of just galloping around, and I’m doing a better job of using my entire body (especially my outside rein) to turn.

Our second, third and third places out of 14 were enough for reserve champion!

When we warmed up Sunday, Sabra felt tired. She normally starts out really quiet when we’re flatting, and “wakes up,” or kind of grabs the bit and wants to go forward, at some point — either when we switch directions at the canter or after we’ve jumped 4 – 5 jumps. I thought maybe she would wake up once we got into the ring, so we decided to go ahead.

As you can see in the Timed First Jump-Off, Sabra was still asleep as we cantered up to the first jump. She jumped the first one like a hunter, slow off the ground. We still got around clean, though, and proceeded to the jump-off. Unfortunately, we had the rail at the first jump, but made super, super tight turns and made up A LOT of time — enough so that we placed third out of 13, even with the rail.

Coming out of the ring after our first class, my trainer’s feedback was to wake up Sabra. She handed me my crop and told me to kick her forward. I also needed to ride with a bit longer rein again. For the Timed First Round, I kicked and cropped Sabra as we galloped up to the first line, but then had too much gallop to make the inside turn from jumps 2 to 3. I made up a lot of time from jumps 3 to 4 by not going around the gray oxer, and then made tight-ish turns for jumps 4 – 8. It was enough to win the class!

I came out of the ring super disappointed by our Power & Speed round because it was starting out really great. We were making tight turns, I felt secure in the saddle (moreso than in the Timed First Round), and we were trekking around efficiently. Then I didn’t get out of Sabra’s way soon enough and she knocked the rail. Oh well.

Sabra’s and my first and third places still earned us reserve champion again. In previous shows, I did well one day and not the other, but finally we were able to put it together and consistently place well both days. Hopefully we can keep it up!

Reserve Champions!

Homework coming out of the show: Continue working on riding with a longer rein over fences. Get comfortable schooling big, wide oxers. Tweak my jumping position, which will hopefully be fixed once my saddle is adjusted again.

Speaking of which, next week the saddle fitter (a new one, the third one) is coming out to adjust my saddle for the fifth time in a year and a half. I spoke with her over the phone, and she seems like she knows what she’s talking about more than any of the others I’ve spoken to (count: 5+).

She said at most, a saddle might need adjustment every six to eight months, and that I definitely should not have to have it adjusted as frequently as I have (the first time a saddle fitter has told me this!). She also said Sabra’s back and hind end have probably changed a lot (true) as she’s built up muscle (true), and previous saddle fitters probably adjusted the front only (true) when they should’ve adjusted the back also. She said most saddle fitters aren’t riders or ride dressage only (also true), so they don’t understand how the horse moves over fences. She said my jumping position is probably more upright right now (true) because my balance and the saddle’s balance is off. So, I’m hopeful she fixes the issue permanently. Cross your fingers.

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