“Easy, Killer!” Some reflections from my first three-star

Ema & Bendigo

 

“Easy, Killer!” Some reflections from my first three-star

This weekend marked an exciting one for US eventing, with the test event for WEG happening in Tryon. I decided to enter Chattahoochee Hills instead, due to conflicts with my university schedule. It was my fourth Advanced start with the boisterous “Bendigo” and just the second go at the Advanced level for “Joker’s Win.” Bendigo contested the CIC3* class while Joker went in the slightly easier national Advanced class.

There are lots of things that can go wrong at an event, or leading up to one, and many of those things went wrong for me. I had a disastrous dressage with Bendigo, which all started with a flat tire on the 8-hour journey to Georgia from North Carolina. Because of the delay, we arrived at the event after the dressage rings had closed for schooling, so Ben never got a chance to get familiar with the ring (overlooking cross country, which is never a good location for a horse like him!). Then, a few other factors kicked in, with the show changing the dressage test from B to A on Friday because of a mix-up with the FEI schedule. I learned the test that night and had never practiced it. Finally, to put the icing on the cake, the start times on my packet were different from the initial ones I had read online, so my warmup was 20 minutes shorter than it should have been. Suffice it to say that the horse was not tame at all when it came time to perform! Lessons learned: school in the ring, practice both dressage tests, and triple-check your ride times.

 


 

When this happens, it’s pretty tempting to want to throw in the towel. But the course looked fun and jumpable, and Bendigo isn’t getting any younger, so we decided to learn as much as we could from the rest of the weekend. He warmed up well for show jumping, feeling fairly relaxed. In the arena, he almost jumped me out of the tack. A double clear round cheered us up a little and I looked forward to the cross-country.

I was lucky to walk the course with a fellow pony clubber and her coach, Clayton Fredericks. In this sport, you have to remember that every piece of preparation is important. Getting tips from Clayton really helped me ride forward and purposefully on course. Bendigo took care of me when I didn’t do everything right and kept hunting for the flags. He finished pulling and I finished smiling. We completed our first three-star with no jumping penalties. It is nice to have the first one out of the way. My less experienced horse, Joker’s Win, cruised around the cross-country easily. I had a wonderful time on him.

But perhaps my most important reflection from the weekend was not related to me at all. When I was walking the course with my Mum one afternoon, the Training level rider division cross-country was running. Most of the folks we watched were adult amateurs, on horses of all shapes and sizes. They seem to chat incessantly with their horses, as if the animals spoke English. One rider in particular, on a big, slow horse, jumped into the water complex shouting, “easy, killer!”. She had jumped into the water off the pace of a western lope, with the horse in a fat snaffle and a loop in her rein. I laughed a little at this exclamation because her words didn’t match the picture of her horse. The point was that she was really concentrating; I could see it in her body position, her voice, and her eyes. It was funny but also really sweet to see. This sport has room for everyone. Every level is an accomplishment. Everyone can set a goal and achieve it. My goals are to get better at three-star, on horses we weren’t sure would do anything above Preliminary or Intermediate. Here’s to a fun, and sometimes frustrating, sport, and trying to figure out how to be better at it.

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