Sunday started ridiculously early. I worked until 10pm the night before and had to get up around 5am. I somehow managed to get all the stuff I needed in the truck and get up to Royal's place with no issues, He loaded pretty well and we were off. Traffic was really light, being early Sunday, and we got there easily. And ran into our first issue: one of the parking areas had been flooded with all the rain, so they were packing us in as close as possible. I decided to leave Royal in the trailer while I registered and walked the course. That way he couldn't get into mischief with the horses less than 5 feet away on either side. The jumper division had two classes per height, and we had to jump the fences in a different order (for instance, one jump was #2 for the first class and #7 for the second). The courses seemed particularly challenging this year, with lots of doubling back and sharp turns, and the ground was sort of slippery. I would have to be careful.
After unloading Royal, I let him walk around a bit to get used to the place, and I think he recognized the place. And I saw something horrible on a shirt: the logo of Third Reich Stables! What?! I thought schooling shows were beneath them, since less expensive local shows mean less money to mooch off of clients. And then I saw... her. The trailer at Third Reich Stables, hereafter referred to as Psycho McCrazypants. Psycho McCrazypants was yelling at her students/help near the warm-up area, although she wasn't calling any of them "stupid pig" or "worthless idiot", so perhaps she's mellowed out since we escaped. We managed to scurry back to the trailer to meet my parents, and get Royal all cleaned and tacked up.
We got to the warm-up area and it was NUTS. Just insane, almost unnavigable with people going every which way at all gaits and horrible slippery mud everywhere. Psycho McCrazypants had left but other trainers were still there, and yelling conflicting advice to their students. I almost didn't feel safe to do anything but walk, since we were constantly dodging people. Multiple times, I would move out of the way of someone who was cantering at us and into the way of someone who was cantering towards us from the other direction. And a few horses in particular were being particularly rambunctious, constantly having near misses. Then, all of a sudden, almost all the horses disappeared and it was just us with four other pairs and no trainers. Hmm, how interesting. But that meant we could actually do stuff without having to worry about crashes. I still didn't want to canter (too slick) but trotting went well. With a little bit of trepidation, I pointed him at the little teeny cross-rail (He has a tendency to refuse warm-up jumps) and he hopped right over! Good boy! He also went right over the little vertical, the big vertical and the oxer, all completely confident. So we plowed through the puddles and to the jumper ring, and I realized why the warm-up area had emptied out: all the trainers were jockeying for position on the call list, so those of us who came late were just going to have to sit and cool our heels. So I let the poor hassled ring steward know we were read, and she let me know it was going to be a long wait.
So, we waited. The horses who had been difficult in the warm-up were pacing around the in-gate area, which got Royal kind of tense. But I just hopped off, clipped my reins to his noseband, and let him eat. No point getting him all worked up when we wouldn't be riding for a while. I got to watch a lot of rounds, since the trainers (Psycho McCrazypants among them) kept haranguing the steward with "My client has to ride in the dressage/hunter ring soon, so s/he needs NEEDS to do their round next!" so those of us without "connections" just kept getting pushed back. I was very annoyed by what I saw as a power play. I mean, really? They just realized that the client was competing in another ring soon and unless they do their round NOW, they'll miss it? Come on. The ride times for dressage were available before the show, and the hunter ring is fairly flexible. There were no scheduling surprises, and no need to constantly muck up the jumping order. It really reminded me of a horse who constantly nibbles at you, trying to see what you'll let them get away with before you back them up to the end of the line and make them stay there. I could never be a ring steward at a h/j show: the instant a trainer tried to pull that crap with me, my response would be "Too bad. Next time, plan ahead. For right now, Suzy is still fourth in the order. If she needs to do dressage/hunters, she can do her round afterwards." And I would get fired within the first hour. So, it's not a job I'll ever volunteer for. But I digress. I saw a lot of very unprepared people, and all the horses were barely in control in the warm-up and the in-gate were absolutely horrible in the ring. There was a lot of balking and bolting (with one person rocketing around the ring like they were being chased by zombies. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they finished unscathed) and a couple horses refused to jump anything altogether. But after about 45 minutes of waiting (during which Royal tried to steal someone's hamburger. Naughty boy. :) ), it was our turn!
I memorized courses through walking them: I retrace my steps from walking, remembering to turn right after the yellow jump or left after the blue oxer. So, when we started the first round, I jumped the first jump (Royal popped over with no hesitation whatsoever) and turn right instead of left, heading towards the #2 jump for the second course. Oops. I realized my mistake about halfway there and had to double back to the correct #2 jump. The rest of the course went very smoothly. Royal looked a few jumps (especially the bright yellow double combination) but went over everything without stopping, giving us our first show-jumping round with no refusal penalties. Unfortunately, my little brain-fart gave us a bunch of time penalties, but the judge was nice and let us do the jump-off round anyway. I somehow managed to remember the jump-off course (1, 11, 3, 4, 12, 8, 9) and we rode clear, even up the little bank.
We then had to wait another 45 minutes ("She has a dressage ride in 20 minutes! We NEED to go next!"), and then it was our turn again. My dad got video of it:
The course started well. I knew we would have to jump the bank so I rode Royal up to it, going "See? It's a bank. You know how to do banks." The whistle blew, and we were off. The first jump had some scary filler, so I decided to trot it. The related line went really well and he went up the little bank like he'd been doing it all his life. #5 was a new jump and he went right over. He drifted a bit over the combo and you can hear him tap the B element. 7 and 8 went well, even with the sharp turn and then the bank. I wanted to give him the opportunity to figure it out, so we trotted it. I never felt him waver or wiggle; he hopped right up. We just had to tackle the related line to a clear round! I looked at the in-gate and saw the next person trot in. So, no jump-off? Did we knock the rail down? The judge stopped me, told me I was clear and that I could do the jump-off. She told the trainer to get her student out (guess who the trainer was? That's right, Psycho McCrazypants.), and I started my jump-off. It was really well (other than a bit of head shaking between the first two fences), but he got a little strong on the bank-to-oxer line, and I didn't think I could get him rebalanced for the back. If there's one obstacle I never want to tackle unbalanced, it's a bank. So, just a little circle, re-balance, and give a shot. As you see in the video, no problems with the bank or the last two jumps! Yay! The video ends with me talking to the judge. She told me she would have to give me 4 penalties for the circle, since I crossed my tracks. I agreed that was fair, and she gave me some nice advice about how to circle without incurring penalties. And, here's the best part, said that Royal and I looked good out there.
Maybe she said that to everyone. Maybe she was just trying to be encouraging for everyone and give everyone something to be happy about. But I was ecstatic. A judge, who obviously knows her stuff, told me that me and my horse looked good! At a show! Yeah! I was so happy.
All in all, it went much better than I could have ever hoped. Our first jumping show with no refusals at all. Not over the warm-up jumps, or in the competition ring. I think taking him to lots of different facilities has really increased his self-confidence. We keep going to new places and jumping strange jumps, and he keeps improving. I was so incredibly proud of him.
It was such an awesome experience.