So our jumper show was this weekend- and it was pure awesome. It was only our second time doing jumpers, and if you remember the last time we did it, it was kind of a hot mess. This time, it was so different in the best possible way. You know that scene in The Matrix where Neo figures out he is “the one” and everything mentally comes together for him? Yeah, that was me this weekend.
We were just hauling from the barn right over to the show before our classes, as the horse park in Conyers is literally down the street from the barn. So I arrived over at the show at about 7:30 to check in, get my number, and begin my initial freak-out over the courses. But, as I am an overachiever, I started my internal freakout as soon as I heard in the office that jumpers were to be in the covered arena- Ollie had never shown in one before. FANTASTIC.
But, as soon as I went over and walked the two courses I was to do, I was feeling surprisingly zen about it all. The courses flowed nicely, and there weren’t any real red flags for Ollie that I could see. So we hauled over and arrived just as they were ending the 2’3″ jumper- perfect timing! I had just enough time to go in and warm up a bit before my 2’5″ class started.
Oh, warm-up ring. How I loathe thee. It actually wasn’t too crazy busy at this point, which was great. So we trotted and started cantering, and Ollie started taking off like a bat out of hell – highly unusual for him. I immediately felt better, though, when I was informed there was a loose horse galloping around nearby – so there was my explanation. It was still highly possible that Ollie had retained his brain for the day. We then started going over some jumps, and then it happened. Ollie pulled his favorite stunt: exiting stage left. Or stage right in this case.
I was trying to turn him to go to the jump in the middle of the ring, and he popped that shoulder and gave me the finger, pulling me out of the ring. I tried and tried, but there was no stopping him. But then the hilarity began. In his effort to get out of the ring, he didn’t pay attention to where he was going – there was a kind of shallow ditch-like area with very uneven ground. He stepped in, and lost his balance and tripped, and started to go down. He right himself, and then buckled those legs again – I really thought we were destined to hit dirt.
But, somehow, he managed to save himself. Nicky likened the visual to a hippo on roller skates. As soon as we were upright again, Ollie’s demeanor indicated that he immediately regretted his decision. “I’m sorry, mom. I made another miscalculation. That was wrong, wasn’t it? OK, back to work.”
After that, things were great. We went into the ring for our 2’5″ round. Ollie walked into the covered arena and immediately said, “THIS IS DIFFERENT. I THINK THAT MEANS I MUST GO FASTER.”
But he listened, and that was the most important part. And everything went awesome….. until I second-guessed myself on the course flow coming off a line.
“That jump isn’t in the course here. Wait, yes it is. No it’s not! Yes it is. OK, no it’s not. OH CRAP, IT IS.”
By then, we had gone past the jump, and I had to circle around. We got over it and were immediately heading into a one-stride. My discombobulation resulted in us not having enough impulsion, and we got stuck in the middle of the one-stride – so we had to exit and re-do the combination. BALLS. But Ollie was a super boy throughout, and I felt OK knowing that the mistakes were mine, not his. I could do better for our 2’7″ round.
And we did! Went clear, and I got to do my very first jumpoff. Woohoo! And I had a Neo moment there. For the jumpoff, we were to go over the first jump, and we were to skip what had been the second jump on course. So Old Bad-Riding-Freaked-Out Wendy would have just meandered around the long way, having a martini and relaxing by the fire. But on Saturday? I went over that first jump and hung a sharp left right in front of a jump that was on another part of the course, and went directly to that second jumpoff jump. I WAS ON FIRE. Sarah later told me that she and Nicky exclaimed, “What the hell?! What is she doing?!” It was unfathomable that I would take such a turn, even though it was what most other people would do. It was just so…. un-Wendy. My balls were like elephants.
Everything went well until we got to that pesky one-stride again. I didn’t pick up the pace soon enough heading into it, and we almost got stuck in the middle again. But sweet, sweet, ass-saving Ollie HEAVED himself over that second jump, but took out a rail in the process. He was an absolute saint to keep going. Actually, he was a saint for most of the course. I think I let out quite a few, “OH MY GOD, YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD BOY” exclamations along the way. He was so sweet.
So heading out of that one-stride, I passed my barn crew and exclaimed, “Ha, WHOOPS” and headed into the last two jumps. Ollie was losing steam, and I gave him a giant poke in the ribs. Apparently, that woke him up – he took the next jump with his knees to his eyeballs with a ton of room to spare. Wish I could have seen it from the ground!
So I was proud of us and our performance. We have come so far in the past eight months – SO FAR. Mucho credit to the wonderful Nicky Buckingham for Operation Un-Weenie Wendy and all the help she has given me and the Olls. A year ago, I would have laughed in your face if you told me that in 2014 I’d be competing at 2’7″. But somehow, here I am.
When we were hanging out ringside afterwards, the mom of one of Nicky’s students gave the most accurate description of Ollie ever. She said to imagine that a little girl had a stuffed animal horse that she loved so much that she just willed it to become alive – and the end result was Ollie. He’s like a big teddy bear/puppy dog/real-life stuffed animal. I’m so glad he’s mine and with me on this journey to become Real Eventers. Best. Pony. Ever.