I was able to hook up the trailer fairly quickly with a minimum of pushing and swearing, Royal loaded fairly well, and we were on our way. The first wrinkle was that while the same group that put on last year's Hunt Cup organized this event, it was being held in a different place. Instead of the central location of the hunting club, it was being held at the polo fields. I've never been and the GPS took us there in a very weird way, freeway to highway to county road to dirt road to... a stable? Okay... where are the jumps and the rest of the entrants? I looked a little further down the road and saw what looked like jumps in a big field, and slowly drove in that direction, before seeing another trailer turn into a driveway down the road. Phew! The guy at the driveway directed me to the trailer parking, which faced the track and warm-up jumps. Royal unloaded, looked around, and decided he was hungry. I let him survey the facility and get acclimated on the ground. My friend and fellow Parelli student Anna arrived with her mare Piper, and we warmed up together. The organizers had set up a cross-rail and a vertical as warm up jumps, but added a steeplechase flair by filling them with brush. Royal, of course, was initially of the opinion that the brush was hiding demons and was not safe to be jumping. I let him sniff the cross-rail and he decided that
When we were ready, we went to the "line" to take our practice run. The problem was that this was right by the starting line, and he could see the horses on course running and jumping, which caused him to start throwing a tantrum. "Why are we standing here, mom? Why aren't we out there RUNNING and JUMPING?" He started pacing and piaffing, making me think we should be trying to go to Grand Prix dressage. We were in a crowded area, so I tried my best to keep him in a relatively small area and dance himself out, but he was in the state of mind where "calm" is less of a mental/emotional state and more of a philosophical concept, like the sound of one tree clapping in the woods. When it was our turn, the timer woman grinned at me and said "You'll probably be going pretty fast, right?" I said, "You may be right."and we took our place at the starting line. We started off at a trot which would be right at home in a harness race and as we turned to the first jump, the right and left halves of Royal brain started fight. Right Brain started going "What is that? More brush? Are the demons hiding THERE?!" and Left Brain went "Oh boy oh boy oh boy a jump!" In the end, with a little help from me going "We are jumping this!" he went over! A little strongly, but he did it. The next five jumps were a bit of the same, which the pictures show, and he was pretty strong throughout the course. The next wrinkle was as we were heading toward the last jump, I heard "Coming on your outside!" and look back to see the other rider on the course galloping at us going towards the big side of the jump (every jump had a 2'6" option and a 3'3" option). I figured that at the speeds we were both going, we would be jumping the jump at the same time. While that would have been cool, it wouldn't have been safe, so I opted to circle to the inside and let her pass. She was doing her timed round and I was just doing the practice, so I could take the time hit. We finished okay, but I was kinda disappointed. I had hoped to be able to improve my position over fences, and since I was concentrating so hard on getting us around the course, I could tell that had gone out the window. Royal had quite a few unique jumps and only my experience with his "special" moments kept me aboard. And the professional pictures (kudos to Sam Stern/Photo Esq. Photography! :) ) confirm it.
Giving the equation devotees a heart attack
A "how in the world did I stay on?" moment
So, yeah, less than happy. Anna rode after me, and Piper was impressed by all the jumps, but they did very well. Afterwards, I sponged off Royal's sweat and played with him on the ground to try to help him organize himself. He did, sort of, and we went back to the start line. This time, there were a lot less horses and people there and we started pretty quickly after we got there. I think the combination of all those helped us have a much calmer second round. This time, I really tried to make sure my leg was more stable. Linda Parelli has a great way to think about it: instead of jamming your heels down and trying to lock them there, think about pushing your knees into your heels. That way, you have structure, but not stiffness. So, the whole way around, I was thinking about my knee going into my heel. And, seeing the pictures, I think it really helped.
Relaxed canter on a semi-loose rein
Alert, yet focused.
Much more stable leg.
Go, Royal, go!
Forward and responsive trot
Boom! Look at that leg! Much better.
A little left behind at the last jump, but a lot better than before
I was much happier with our second round. It was mostly trotting with a little cantering, so I don't know if we were going the appropriate speed. But, a calm, focused, and responsive ride made me extremely happy! Our first outing of the season, and we made a good change from start to finish. We also got a very nice completion ribbon that everyone got. Anna and Piper also had a very good second round. Everyone was a winner!
Aw, our hunt team is back. I think they're so cool, and that I need to give them names.