I set a goal to enter a recognized horse trials with Willow this fall. So when I came across the Chestnut Creek Schooling Horse Trials Series in Salisbury, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to get Willow out to a three-phase event and see how she goes. I coerced my barn pal Katie into coming too, and Cortney came along and hung out and took pictures.
We entered the 2-foot Maiden class; I know she can do cross rails, and I wanted to challenge us both a little. It was really great to have a goal to work towards during daily schooling once I’d entered. Willow gets stronger all the time and is just so clever and cool!
The day of the show just could not have gone better. Katie had great rides with Bravo, who has a history of being a bit of a pill away from home. And the pony was a superstar. She finished on her dressage score and showed a real aptitude for showing and eventing. Not only was this our first three-phase together, this was my first full cross-country course in seven years, the last being Preliminary level at Poplar Place with Sam. I’m glad to report that I still know how to do it, and it feels good to say “I’m an eventer” having actually recently evented.
Show time? Nah.. I’m pretty sure it’s nap time.
Chestnut Creek was a really awesome venue. It was adorable, well laid out, and the atmosphere was really relaxed and learning-oriented.
How cute is this barn?!
What was really special for me was having so many friends with me in spirit at this event. We had the bridle Katy Carter gave us for my birthday, the gloves Naomi gave me, the girth mom got Willow for Christmas, and the embroidered saddle pad Hannah gave us for Christmas.
Srsly. Nap time.
In hind sight, I might should have given Willow a slightly longer warm up for dressage, but it was going to be a long, humid day, and I was more concerned about good performances over fences than winning on the flat. There was a lot to look at in the warm-up, with Pony Clubbers grilling under a tent right at the fence, horses coming at you from the opposite direction, trees and uneven terrain and such, but holy moly she had some nice moments and settled into working fairly quickly.
There was some discontent regarding the judge’s comments on some rides… she certainly wasn’t giving scores away or being “schooling show friendly”… but I was very pleased at how we were judged. As we came down the centerline and Willow’s head got higher looking at the shadowy blue tent ahead, the judge had that “bless her heart” look on her face.
Walk/trot tests are easy, but cantering and staying focused is really hard! I totally flubbed the first canter transition, but we got the second (eventually). Willow was a little tense yet showed moments of pure brilliance. She got a couple 7s on trot work and an 8 on the final turn up the centerline.
The judge wrote on our test: “Super talent. Continue to encourage confidence and relaxation with an elastic connection. Continue to improve prompt canter departs with more lateral balance.” I wholeheartedly agree and love the “super talent” part. In the collective marks, Willow got a 7 on her gaits and I got a 7 for rider with the comment “well handled” which made me laugh.
Show jumping was nice and inviting with a bit of a terrain challenge. Willow was great and I don’t even care that I got laughed at for talking to her the whole time. Double-clear and adorable!
On to the most fun part! There had been tons of rain the day before but it had been steady, not a torrential downpour, so the footing was actually great. The only place where the footing was iffy was in front of the first fence, unfortunately, and though she jumped it a little awkward, when she looked and I kicked, she said “okay!”
By the time we went over this mound and pointed to number three, Willow was ready to canter. “Why are we going so slow?!”
By the end of the course, Willow was confident in her distances and taking me to the jumps. There were a couple fences early on where I should have been less “passive,” which is a bad habit I have in my attempts to not micromanage. Otherwise, the course flew by (there were only 10 jumps) and I was so stinkin proud. She never acted like she wasn’t going to go and seemed to have a really good time! We even timed it right, coming in four or five seconds under optimum time.
We were one of two in a class of six to finish on our dressage score and got second place! Chestnut Creek was a great experience and we will be back for sure! I’m feeling very confident in entering Windridge in October at Beginner Novice now. I’d like to get a couple lessons in with a trainer in Tryon and school cross-country at FENCE, and hopefully we can find another schooling show to get out and do some more dressage tests, too.
I had a silly grin plastered on my face the whole day and was totally over the moon at every moment. I’m obsessed with this pony and having such a fun time with her! Thank you Amy Keller for letting us play and to all our friends for their support.