January 2011 - my Eventing in Color blog has been created to chronicle my adventures moving forward with eventing for the 2011 season and beyond. To give you some insight on my eventing experiences and competitions up to that point, here is my brief history:
My first eventing lesson was in May 2009. I'd had practically zero experience jumping, and exactly zero experience in dressage. And, no, I hadn't had any hunter, hunt-seat, or jumpers experience either (my background consists of saddleseat, bareback riding, trails, trail class, and western pleasure, but that's for a different post). I started riding with Taurie Banks of Kings Corner Training Stables in Fillmore and soon became a regular once-a-week lesson-taker, with extra lessons before events.
As for eventing competitions, I've done five combined tests/derbies in the year and a half that I've been in this sport. My first three were before my debut with Spirit. The first was in August of '09 on a lovely French Warmblood gelding named Max (show name: To Knight's Attraction), who I'd been taking lessons on. We got through our combined test in the Intro Beginner Novice division (the lowest division possible, with jumps up to 1' 8") and somehow got second place. We also did the jumping portion only of Easy Beginner Novice (jumps up to 2' 3") and took home a blue! Max was a great horse for my first foray into eventing - he'd been there, done that, and was just as nice as could be. I had been expecting to come in last since it was my very first event, so I was happily surprised to get some ribbons (and I won some Trader Joe's truffles - YES!). Our barn then had a home-based evening clinic/seminar with Daniel Stewart for his Ride Right program. I learned some really nifty tricks specifically for competitions, and of course they apply to pretty much all "crunch-time" life scenarios, not just eventing.
I then did two combined test schooling shows at my trainer's barn in January and February 2010, and I was focused on using the techniques I learned from the Daniel Stewart Clinic. I rode my trainer's broodmare, Soda (show name: Yours for a Knight), a fun little paint. At the first show I got eliminated on my first round (fell off in front of the entire barn, my friends and family, and a bunch of strangers), but then won my second round. I was competing against a group of kids aged 12 and younger, but I was darn proud of myself (those pre-teens are good!). At the second schooling show we got either second or third - and no falls ;).
Around that time I was paired up with Spirit, who was pretty young and green (my first several rides on her were nicknamed "bumper babies" to practice steering) and started riding at least two times a week. Originally I was riding her just to help my trainer out and give the mare some mileage (I wasn't scared of her acrobatic bucks), but it wasn't too long later that I was riding her in my lessons and thinking about some shows. We started off at local ETI hunter-division shows, and we managed to snag some ribbons from each one we attended. In March, we headed to the local eventing facility, The Meadows of Moorpark, for a schooling (picture below). In June came our first combined test: we skipped over Intro Beginner Novice and went straight for Easy Beginner Novice (who's fancy now?). I believe we placed 4th or 5th, but really would have been 2nd or 3rd if my dressage score had been calculated correctly. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way about the 30 minute contestation rule (and also to always go get your dressage score sheet yourself, even if you have a broken toe!). It's not about the 10-cent ribbon anyway - it's about doing your best under pressure, and learning from each experience to make the next one even better.
In July we did our first multiple-day show (alas, not an event) which was the ETI National Convention at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. Going 4 days in a row at a new location, getting introduced to the equidome, and doing our first set of jumpers classes was a tiring but very rewarding experience for both Spirit and myself. By fall we were ready for some more eventing. In September we schooled cross country at RAM TAP in Fresno (picture below!). It was exciting to actually travel out for eventing! In October we did another derby at the Meadows of Moorpark, and entered into full on Beginner Novice (up to the incredible height of 2' 7") and we very proudly took home third place.
In November 2010, it was time to make a change. I had a healthy sit-down with my trainer, then began taking some lessons with other trainers. It didn't take too long before I found the fantastic Laurie Canty. I took some lessons to make sure we were mutually compatible, then started to make arrangements regarding Spirit. Meanwhile, I had a blast riding two fantastic, completely trained horses owned by some of Laurie's clients. I really enjoyed riding them, and hope to still take some lessons on them in the future.
So that's the scoop on my year-and-a-half of eventing so far! I feel like I made steady improvements in my skills and understanding of the sport, and I felt more and more confident about each derby. I can't help but wonder if my first entrée into eventing is similar or different to other peoples' - how long does it take most people to reach their first true horse trial? Do most people start off on an old schoolmaster horse? How much time (or how many schoolings or events) do people spend on the baby levels below Beginner Novice? I'm sure its different for each individual, but from most other blogs I've read, people seem to jump straight into BN or even Novice! But most people seem to have some previous jumping background...I haven't found other adults with no jumping experience starting out in eventing. It's me and the pre-teens, and even they have more experience jumping than I do!