Monday, November 14, 2011

In Which the Pony and the Child Become Jumpers for a Day...

Walking the course. 
Someone looks a little green around the gills!
Soph and Cookie have spent the past summer competing in the Short Stirrup Hunter and Equitation divisions.  They've worked hard and done well, and Soph's riding has improved to the point where they've been doing bigger and harder courses.  As both pony and child LOVE to jump, my trainer suggested that showing in an Itty Bitty Jumper class (2'-2'3") would be a nice reward after a season of diligent effort.

Soph was her typical confident self until the morning of the show.  As we drove to the showgrounds she started asking questions about the height of the fences, how many of them she'd be expected to have to remember, and about jump offs.  She was very concerned about jump offs and the potential GPS issues having to remember an additional course presented.  My normally uber-confident child had been replaced by a morass of nerves.  She didn't doubt her pony's ability ( if you ask Sophie, Cookie is capable of being a Puissance Pony) but for the first time ever she was having doubts about her own.

Pensive pony jockey...
Ah-HAH!  As our family's resident neurotic, I could empathize, and shared with her some techniques for getting over nerves, remembering courses, etc.  She liked the idea of naming the fences and making a song of the course. (Think of the kid's song, Dry Bones. Instead of "The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone," you have: The red oxer is connected to the blue vertical..." How can you possibly forget the course after immortalizing it in song?)  She outright rejected the idea of using my notebook to diagram the course. "Mom, I'll look like a dork."  "No arguments there,sweetie, but we memory- impaired do what we need to do, so let's not passjudgement."

"And the heels go down like so..."
Upon arrival at the show, it did not look as if things were going to go well.  The fences looked more like 2'6" than 2'-2'3", and during the course walk I could swear the child looked as if she were going to barf on one of the fences.  Annabel, our trainer, did her best to distract Sophie by teaching her how to "Walk the Course" -what I refer to as the Ministry of Silly Walks portion of the day - and count the striding she'd need between obstacles.  Now I was having a serious crisis of confidence, and had to keep reminding myself that Annabel would never put the child or the pony in a situation they could not handle.  She's quite adept at managing that - always challenges you to stretch your comfort zone, but never pushes you past your capabilities or overfaces you.

The pair warmed up well, and stood for a few minutes at the one end of the warm-up ring watching the early rounds.  As Annabel gave Sophie some more instruction, Cookie intently watched the action in the ring.  I could swear she was memorizing the course, and saying to herself, "Personally, I would have added a stride in that line..."  After a few more rounds, the child and pony trotted off into the ring for their first round.

The picture of concentration...

I'm not sure when and where it happened, when the nerves settled and confidence bloomed, but at some point it did.  Sophie and Cookie ripsnorted their way around that course and ended with a fault free round and big smiles on their faces.  Yes, BOTH of them were smiling. Annabel called it perfectly as they exited the ring, "That pony had herself a VERY GOOD TIME out there."  Cookie had her little pony strut in full effect, and was the absolute picture of pony satisfaction.

The pair didn't do the second class in order to give Sophie more time to memorize the course for the third class and the jump off.  Sophie and her barn buddy Emma spent a good bit of time in front of the board discussing the course (so they said -- the amount of giggling I saw makes me suspect otherwise) until Annabel went over to walk the course with her.  Sophie and Cookie took a few laps around the warmup ring, popped over a few fences, and then trotted off to wait their turn to enter the jumper ring.

Pony motorcycle! Wheee!

Their second round was a thing of beauty, or so sayeth the proud Momma.  Seriously, how can you not just grin when you see a kid and a pony so clearly enjoying themselves?  They had another clear round, much to the delight of their Entourage -Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Big Brother, Barn Buddy Emma, Emma's Mom, and fellow barn mate Tamsin. A clear round in this class meant it was time they were now faced with the dreaded jump off.

The first few fences went well, however things went cattywumpus when the future Olympic hopeful decided to do an inside turn to the last combination but forgot a key peice of information imparted by her trainer: "Show the pony the opening left rein so she knows where she's going." No opening left rein meant a drive-by at top speed, however the future Olympic hopeful finally showed the pony the opening left rein and they cruised back around for a successful attempt.  The look on Cookie's face when she realized what had happened was priceless - pure pony annoyance!  That pony  was seriously irked that her perfect performance had been marred!

Priceless Pony...

All in all, it was a very successful day.  Most importantly, pony and child had a blast together.  The child also learned a valuable lesson about managing nerves and handling new and challenging situations.  We spent the morning with wonderful friends and family. Mom and the Boy enjoyed some really first rate breakfast sandwiches, and Grandma brought homemade cookies.  Can't get much better than that!


  1. Great equestrian blog! Why not come to post this blog there too for more to follow,. Haynet is a new Equine Social Blogging Network with many members and many more blogs to follow! It would be great to have you there!

  2. Vroom Vroom, that pony was burning rubber. Such a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing.


  3. They look AWESOME! Tell Sophie she is my new idol. I am way too chicken to do the jumpers.

  4. I like the part where it all of a sudden comes together out of nowhere and Sophie and Cookie go from a bundle of nerves to having a blast. That's the stuff of magic - made possible by good preparation, of course.

  5. Thanks, Guys! Emme, those two LOVE speed -- gives Mommy fits! LOL @Bob -- you know what I think it was? I think she was nervous just thinking about it. Once se got to the DOING part, she was fine. I think with her, the body takes over and all her skills come in to play, and the negative stuff going on in the brain shuts down. Not articulated particularly well, but I hope you get what I mean.