It was a Sunday-funday at Full Gallop this past weekend. Eight riders, two coaches, a couple of moms, and one diehard “I caught the Eventing bug, don’t have a horse, but I want to tag along” new friend loaded 8 unsuspecting ponies into two trailers and drove up to Aiken for a fun-filled day. Of course, as I mentioned in my previous post, I just can’t do anything without a little side adventure. I hauled Johnny and Archie from my barn, and we stopped to pick up our new friend enroute. Keep in mind we’ve never met M before–the night before, I get a call from one of my other friends and it goes something like this:
K: “Hey, do you have any room in your truck?”
K: “There’s a girl, M, she’s wanting to come see the XC schooling, and she lives in Savannah. Can I have her meet you on one of the exits along your route?”
Me: “Sure, that will be fine.”
Neither of us had ever met this girl, but it was someone wanting to get into Eventing, so we folded her into our herd. That’s what I love about our sport–it’s such a ‘we’ll fold you into the flock’ kind of community. But, I digress.
Somewhere around the South Carolina border, TomTom throws up a little warning message: Traffic Delay ahead. There’s nothing I loathe more than sitting in stalled traffic with horses in the trailer. It’s on the top of Johnny’s dislikes list, too. What TomTom told us was a 7 minute delay turned into more like 20-30 minutes with no chance of an exit. We started out ahead of the other group coming from Guyton and ended up getting there around 20 minutes behind them. (If you’re keeping a running count–this is adventure #2; picking up a total stranger for a 2.5 hour road trip is #1.)
Thankfully, we arrived without further incident, unloaded the horses, and proceeded to tack up. The other group was two other friends of mine–also trainers/coaches and their students, so RB and I didn’t feel rushed to join them. We cruised around the course, leisurely walking around…oh who am I kidding?? Johnny power-walked ahead of Archie who was a nervous wreck surveying all the open space and strange horses not quite close enough for his comfort. We made our way over to the main group, and RB put Archie to work to settle him down. I took advantage of the hills–trotting circles up and down the inclines, lateral work on slight inclines, and finally cantering up and down the hills before popping over a couple of BN obstacles to warm-up. We made our way around the course–starting with a small drop before heading to the water complex. And here’s adventure #3–I’ve competed at Novice level. I’ve schooled Johnny up to prelim (don’t get excited–they were the easier ones), but I can’t keep the color-coding straight. For some reason, I got it in my head that the white on black numbered obstacles (they were still numbered from last week’s competition) were actually Novice. Heck, all I remembered was black and white–why on earth would the next level up be the same colors?? So, I got out there and saw the prelim questions and thought, “Wow; I thought we were ready for training, but we’re not quite ready to school those questions yet. Maybe we’ll just school novice today.” Keep in mind the first prelim question I saw was an upbank of about 4.5′, one stride to a coffin (about 4.5′ deep), one stride to to drop of about 4.5′. So, when I decided to try the training level water question, I thought, “Hm. I didn’t think they could do obstacles with a drop into water at Novice. Dang, maybe I was wrong. I need to go re-read the rulebook.” We trotted up to the log (with a much smaller drop–more like 2.5′ or so), he took a glance and popped right down into water. I cantered him across the pond to the upbank and he locked on to the fairly large solid coop. He took one look at that and gunned for it–I knew he thought he could just run hard at it and leap like he’s done in the past. I should have sat up a little better, but I honestly don’t think it would’ve made a difference. He just didn’t want to listen. Neither of us committed to it at that point–I knew if he jumped it at that speed we were set up for a rotational fall, and he figured it out last minute and ran out. I circled him back around, and started my half halts to rebalance him before we started our approach. This time, he was more inclined to listen to me, sat on his butt a little more, and leapt beautifully over the max height obstacle. I immediately circled around and re-took the water complex, this time at a canter, and as we approached the #6, we again had a runout. I wish I had a video of us–I’m not sure what happened. Maybe we needed a little more impulsion? So, I circled back around, entering the water from the side this time since he had no issues with the drop, cantered up the bank and jumped beautifully over #6.
Next up with a false trahkehner sitting at the top of an incline. No sweat.
We moved on to coffins after that, and since all the other ponies were deathly scared of the water-filled coffin, one of the coaches asked me if I’d pop Johnny over it and let the other horses trail him. I walked him up to it and was planning on letting him leap from a standstill (as he’s done in the past) to let the horse behind him follow. Instead, Johnny thought we were on a trail and proceeded to step down into it. Fail. So, we trotted around and popped over it again and again…we’ve got coffins nailed (see what I did there???).
From there we proceeded to jump several more obstacles–working on our partnership as Johnny learns to listen to me in front of fences (“Maybe I can’t just run at these things…she seems to know what she’s doing. Sigh. Okay, mom.”). The full helmet cam video I posted yesterday.
It wasn’t until we were all gathered around the table at our favorite Aiken Mexican restaurant (Maria’s, for those of you familiar with the area) that I mentioned how disappointed I was that we weren’t as ready for training level as I’d thought. The girls were like, “what? You guys were jumping all those training level obstacles.” Suddenly I simultaneously was super proud of my pony and felt like an idiot for not realizing I’d been jumping training level. And that’s how you know you’re ready to move up–when the training obstacles start to seem normal and the prelim stuff is now only a little intimidating.
Full of Mexican food and cupcakes (it was one of S’s students’ birthday), we loaded up and headed for home. Somewhere along the no man’s land, dead cellphone territory SC highway, we saw brakelights up ahead. I let off the gas, thinking someone was just taking awhile to turn onto a driveway. And then I realized that car was stopped, and I started applying brakes. As we pulled up, I saw a tiny flashlight beam waving at us and realized the car in front of me was sideways in the right-hand lane. I asked if anyone had been hurt, and the guy waving the flashlight told me that there was a lady hurt in the car down in the ditch. I’m not medically certified in anything, but I spent enough years dressing wounds as a vet assistant and have had combat lifesaver training enough times to be able to assess a situation, apply pressure to bleeding, and basically prevent any further harm until paramedics arrived. I grabbed my first aid kit out of the trailer, left RB & M with the horses and ran down to assess the situation. When I opened the passenger side door, I saw a panicked woman in her mid-40s/early 50s trying desperately to get her keys out of the ignition. Recognizing she was in shock, I began asking questions to check for signs of a concussion. She was able to tell me her birthday, today’s date, etc., so I asked her if she was hurt anywhere. She mentioned her neck, back & right leg, so I began the process of trying to get her to remain still and relaxed. I supported her head and neck in my hand and talked to her until the paramedics arrived–not much else I could do.
Once first responders were on the scene, all we could do was wait until they cleared the road. Thankfully, the boys were exhausted and had hay–they didn’t really care that we were stopped. We were pretty proud of them for not flipping out with all the sirens, flashing lights, jaws of life sounds, trees falling, shouting, and people milling around.
By the time we dropped off M, (who, by the way, turned out to be super nice and pretty cool–I think we’ll keep her), unloaded and fed ponies, unhooked the trailer, etc. I think I crawled into bed sometime around midnight.
If you made it this far down, congratulations, and thanks for reading the full story! Johnny & I are entered in our first Training level CT tomorrow at Paradise Farm (in Aiken), so I’m sure I’ll have another adventure to share!!