As in a regular competition, dressage was the first phase. I helped Sara and Dewey in their warmup, which was in a field with pretty good footing just outside the arena.
I love this photo of demonstrating relaxing and opening the rider's chest and shoulders. A deep breath and a good stretch will do wonders for both the horse's and the rider's balance and equitation.
Dewey had a good dressage test, fortunately it was the same test they had ridden just a couple weeks ago at a dressage show we attended.
Next was cross country! Sara had schooled cross country before, but this was her first time doing a full course at a show. The starter division jumps were ideal for a rider's first go. Very straightforward approaches, manageable sized logs, with optional water made for a super fun round for both Dewey and Sara! It's always great when both horse and rider finish more confident than when they began, with giant smiles.
The third and final phase was show jumping. This course was fun, too. It had several turns and the footing was excellent in the arena. Sara did a wonderful job piloting Dewey around both the cross country course and the show jumping arena, and it was immensely satisfying for me as their trainer to see them having such a great time and a positive experience at their first horse trial.
I rode Silver in the Beginner Novice division at this show. It was his first time doing all three phases, and while he was understandably nervous he really settled in well. He stood quietly at the trailer when he wasn't riding, and by the end of the day at the end of three phases he had realized that this wasn't a horse race after all!
Silver started out very racy in his dressage warmup, but I'm sure it was because he didn't yet understand it wasn't a horse race. I would pause every few minutes to drop my reins, praise him for trying, and ask him to relax by scratching his neck which is what we do at home. You can see how concerned he is in the first photo, and how he remembers that loose reins mean chill out and eventually he starts to breathe and slow down.
After talking him down he did have some super nice moments in the warmup field. He was pretty tense in his actual dressage test, but did his best to hold it together and we got it done.
Next was cross country. Silver has gone for many walks in the back forty with me, and he enjoys trail riding, so I expected him to like cross country. He sure did! He warmed up well despite the commotion in the warmup area. I love his form over fences, he's a very natural jumper. It's my main job to stay out of his way and give him confidence, and he always steps up to the challenges.
Despite having tires at home we practice over, he was a little concerned about going over this particular stack. I took a deep seat and we did this one steeplechase style.
But all's well that ends well, and the landing and departure from that fence were great.
By the time we headed around the final turn to gallop to our last fence Silver was happy and confident. You can see in his face how much he enjoys galloping and jumping. Not too shabby for his first real course!
Silver was also great in his final phase, show jumping. This was his first time doing a course like this in an arena at a show and he was awesome. By the end he had settled into a rhythm and was even getting the lead changes I asked for.
Highboy also went to this show and did the novice division. He was a very last minute add. I wasn't able to take Raven as I'd planned due to her getting clobbered because she harassed her roommate one too many times the night before. So after romping around in his paddock and getting his friends all riled up Highboy got his dearest wish of getting to hop in the trailer and go!
He certainly made the most of his excursion. I regularly quote my friend Trisha and say "If you can't do it well, at least be entertaining," and Highboy did not disappoint in that area. In the warmup you can see him planning mischief in the expression on his face.
Just before we went into the test I was reminding myself of the pattern for the test as I usually do. It appears Highboy was also planning his maneuvers, though his plans didn't align too precisely with mine.
His actual dressage test was reminiscent of his early days as a camel. Thankfully Kimberly Hale Photography was able to capture the very few moments when he looked civilized. She didn't get any shots of his phenomenal bucking during his twenty meter canter circles since she was so entertained by just watching us. Honestly, Highboy, all I ask for is approximately four minutes of good behavior, doing very simple maneuvers such as twenty meter canter circles. Must we turn everything into a circus act?
I couldn't help but laugh at him after the test was over. It's confusing to me why he thinks dressage is stupid, because I actually quite like it. The rhythm, repetition, emphasis on relaxation and fluidity makes dressage my daily meditation. Highboy, however, seems to just mumble "this is stupid this is stupid" through every test, or he launches into the air bucking in an attempt to keep the dressage judge entertained. The judge was kind with her remarks and told me I'd done some really good riding.
I'm still cautiously optimistic that he might outgrow this nonsense, perhaps when he gets to his late teens he'll be a decently behaved animal. Thankfully I've taken his training slowly in his youth, so ideally he'll be sound when his brain finally kicks in.
Cross country on Highboy was better. He of course loves it, so that helps. He'd never been to this course before, so all the fences were new to him. I took him over the smaller option for his first fence, and though he stopped to stare at the first couple he figured out that this was "galloping and jumping time" by fence three and we were off.
Because of the tight timing between dressage and cross country with me riding two different horses in two different divisions, Highboy only got to pop over a couple small fences in the warmup area before cross country. Because of this he was unsure of whether the ditch was to be jumped or conquered as cavalletti, so he compromised. He put his front feet in between the logs, and jumped it with his hind feet.
The show organizers had also told us that the water was deeper than is common for this area, so I slowed Highboy down before we went in to make sure he would stay balanced. He was happy to splash through and take the log on the other side.
Show jumping was really as cartoonish as it gets. Highboy just couldn't get himself to think and go straight to the fences unless they were in a line. It's a hazard of having a really scopey confident horse that he knows he can jump most anything from any angle, so he doesn't feel like it's important to approach the fences while listening to his rider. He did his own thing, regardless of how firm or clear I was. So it ended up being a spectacle for the audience to watch as entertainment.
We went over the first two fences, and for some reason Highboy decided to stop and back. It wasn't a refusal, because we weren't aimed at any of the fences. We were simply going around the short end of the arena en route to the next line, and he decided it would be fun to show off his backing skills.
Once I got him going forwards again he approached the next fence sideways (why, Highboy, why?!) and cleared it with plenty of height to spare but it was NOT pretty. Be sure to zoom in and check out the expression on his face in some of these photos.
Here is a panorama with the entire progression of nonsense up to and including a jump.
It was a super fun day, however. Silver and Dewey were amazing, and I was so proud of Sara for setting a goal to ride in her first horse trial and completing it. Silver ended up taking fourth in his beginner novice division, and Highboy somehow managed to pull off sixth in his novice division. This facility is hosting another Big Mini-Trial in a month at their place on 10/19, and we're excited to return!