I had signed up to ride Raven and Highboy as individuals in division A, at the galloping pace. Kim H. rode Rain while Kathy H. rode Dancer, and Carol rode Ladd. They were all together as a team in division C, at a trotting pace. Basically a pair pace is like a cross-country jumping round, but you can ride it as a team of up to four horses.
We set out at O-dark-thirty because it takes a little over two hours to get there from the barn, and I was the first ride of the day with Raven with a start time of 9am. Highboy was scheduled to ride at the end of the division, just 12 minutes later. Fortunately our crew consisted of morning people, and Kathy is visiting from Florida so she's still able to function on East coast time.
We got lucky and there was very little traffic that early on a Saturday morning. When we arrived I unloaded the horses with Kim and Kathy, while Sara and Carol went to walk the course. Sara was generously pacing out the number of strides in the combinations for me, and Carol was getting the lay of the land.
I hurriedly tacked up both Highboy and Raven, then left Highboy tied at the trailer while I rode Raven to the starting area. He was not amused that I'd hauled him all the way there, tacked him up, and then LEFT him at the trailer while Raven got to go have fun. The injustice of it all!
Sara was babysitting him while I rode Raven, and apparently Highboy made quite a scene while we were gone. All seventeen hands of him was leaping around and pitching a fit at being left behind. My thought is that the horses have to learn to stand tied at the trailer, regardless of the situation, so I counsel my crew to leave him alone to have his tantrum. Usually when he realizes no one is paying attention to him he gives it up. Not Highboy, though, not today. Various onlookers gazed at Highboy with raised eyebrows, and one asked Sara if he was a warmblood due to his vast size. She said no, that he's ALL hotblood. Then they asked if she rides him, and she again said no way, this was her trainer's horse.
Meanwhile Raven and I had a brief warmup, and then they gave us the all clear to start. She had gotten herself all jazzed up in anticipation of running, and when we started the course she was jittery. I reminded myself that she is still new to all this, and I took her over the smaller fence options for the first portion of the course to boost her confidence. Once she realized what we were doing she got down to business and galloped around well, and she jumped the larger options of the last few fences. The hardest part for her was jumping down the banks. We haven't done much of that, and she was still remembering her objection to walking over ditches on our camping trip the week before. By the end of the course she was stepping down nicely, though. Improvement is all I can ask for!
I was sure I started the GoPro on Raven's ride, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have recorded any video. After Raven and I finished I hustled back to the trailer to switch horses. Sara helped me transfer my lanyard for my air vest over to Highboy's saddle, I switched numbers, and I remounted as quickly as I could. Once I was aboard Highboy we trotted over to the start, several minutes late for our 9:12am start time. The starter said they thought I'd scratched, but I explained I had to change horses and I was indeed ready to ride.
He counted me down from ten, and Highboy and I were off! He was super excited to be out doing his favorite thing, and it resulted in some big bucking after fences one and two. I can always tell that it's dramatic to watch if I can hear the jump judges gasping or swearing. Thankfully Highboy put his brain in gear after the second fence, and he jumped like a champ the rest of the course. I did get GoPro video from his ride, though I didn't start the video until after the bucking was over.
Highboy and I headed back to the trailer, where I untacked and got both horses cleaned up. Sara reported that Raven had been good while I was gone with Highboy, probably because she was a little tired and knew she was done for the day. Both horses happily napped and snacked at the trailer for the rest of the morning while we waited for Kim, Kathy, and Carol to have their ride. It was such fun to have both of my best horses there competing, I enjoyed the feeling that I am doing exactly what I love with my two favorite thoroughbreds. I also really loved being done early.
The hour or so quickly passed and soon it was time to get the next group ready. The riders tacked up their horses, and then Sara and I helped the riders get dressed themselves. Everyone was thoroughly prepared and dressed in safety vests and helmets, and additionally decked out in orange! (More because it's Kim H's favorite color - we didn't need to be concerned about hunting)
We got everyone mounted, and Sara stayed to babysit the thoroughbreds while I followed Team Orange to the start so I could play photographer.
They rode the course incredibly well. They stayed together, they communicated well, they waited for each other and alternated who was leading depending on how each of the horses was behaving.
Kim and Rain did so well. I loved watching them do the course, I was so proud I wasn't sure what to do with myself. They have worked so hard together for so long, and this ride was absolutely an accomplishment and big goal reached.
Kathy and Dancer did extremely well, too. I've known Dancer since she was a yearling, and she's about twelve now. She's probably one of the best educated horses I have on the property, she rides dressage, jumps, trail rides, works cattle, and is incredibly athletic. I've been using her for riding lessons all summer, but her favorite rider of all her students has been Kathy. Visiting from Florida, Kathy just met Dancer on Wednesday. She took riding lessons on her Thursday and Friday, then rode her in the pair pace Saturday. Dancer has taken Kathy under her wing and really kept her safe on this ride.
Carol purchased Ladd precisely for this type of activity. He spent the summer in training with me learning to jump, and Carol has been practicing with him at home since. This was their first public jumping activity, and they definitely looked good! I love how Ladd remembered his good jumping form, and while he found his inner-arabian temperament he still listened to Carol.
Team Orange emerged from the course victorious! Everyone had fun, rode safely, and was proud of her horse!
Once the orange team was done riding and untacked we all took a few minutes to have some lunch. Eventually Kim H. and I decided to go check out the scores to see how I had done in Division A. It was the most difficult division and had the fastest optimum time to meet. To my surprise when we got to the whiteboard, we saw Kim Leonard/Colorado High had won the whole thing, with a ride a minute and a half over optimum time. All the other rides had been slower, meaning I'd been closest to optimum time. We stared at the board, then stared at each other, then stared at the board again. Kim asked if that meant what she thought, and I confirmed in disbelief. Another look at the board showed that Raven had come in fourth out of seven rides.
I went over to the prize table and discovered Highboy had won a leather halter to go with his blue ribbon! I have to say that it was a terrific surprise to have him do so well in the most difficult division, when we have been working for five years to get him to this point. I've grown so accustomed to simply evaluating my horse based on the ride and whether he did better than he has in the past. This was a fabulous reward for five years of hard effort. It was also a great prize, considering Highboy had eaten his old leather halter at the last event we attended and I still needed a replacement. He's made progress, but he's still a goofball.