Early Days


This past weekend, Hemie and I competed at the Fresno County Horse Park horse trials – our 2nd time competing at Beginner Novice level. With the exception of a few minutes during our dressage test, the entire weekend went very well and we both had lots of fun.
Friday – Arrival & Practice Ride

We trailered up mid-day, with the afternoon to settle in. Fresno had unseasonably stormy weather, but we were able to get in a practice ride before it started raining. Laurie had to pony us up the hill from the stabling area to the riding area, but we got some good work in and overall we were both relaxed and down to business.

Brought the pups this time

Later on it started pouring. I frantically moved hay and show supplies to shelter. Meanwhile Hemie enjoyed a face-shower. Silly pony.

Saturday – Dressage & XC
Saturday morning I arrived at the showgrounds to the story that my horse had repeatedly unlocked and opened his stall door. He didn’t go anywhere, though – apparently he just wanted his door open! Oh, silly pony.

Its nice to show with friends

I had plenty of time to feed, clean, walk and wheel my XC course, watch my barn-mate TK’s ride, and braid before Dressage in the early afternoon. My show nerves were pretty minimal, and I just kept thinking of my mantra Fun Relaxation Fun Relaxation.

Super husband Rick ponied us up the hill to the dressage warm up, where we proceeded to have our best dressage warm-up to date at a HT. Hemie was amped, but we just focused on stretching and and relaxation and pretty soon we were getting some good work.

We circled the arena and I was feeling great. I had a big smile as we came down center line. My main focus was to have him stretching down (avoiding our giraffe impression) at all times; I just wanted a nice relaxed ride. The test starts off with work tracking left, and overall I felt good about it at the time. After watching the video, though, it doesn’t look as good as it felt – we were hurried and I really should have done more collecting to get him using his body better.

Our free walk to change rein to tracking right wasn’t great – it took me a while to eek the “freeness” out but at least we didn’t start jigging. Unfortunately he started drifting right so I used my right leg to try and keep him straight, and that is where things went down hill. The dreaded right shoulder block. Hemie tensed up quite a bit and I’m sure I did too. We picked up the trot and Hemie really wanted to canter instead. We broke to canter, then came back down to a very uneven trot/tranter.  We stayed on our pattern but our canter got very unbalanced, and when I tried to keep him together he let out a big buck!! Ay yi yi. Back down to a trot didn’t go great – very uneven and tense. I walked to our halt at the end.

Here’s the video:

After the halt, the judge waved us towards her. My heart sank, and I had horrible deja vu. Yep – she said that she was going to finish scoring our test but that she had called the show vet to come over because she observed unevenness when we tracked right – specifically shortness of the hind left leg. She thought we needed “an injection or something.”


Hemie was fine after the test – not anxious. The vet came over, the same one from the last time we showed at Fresno. Luckily (?) she did not remember us, and she had me walk and trot out Hemie for her right there in the warm up area. She said some interesting things:

  • “I think I see just a slightly short step every 5 or 6 steps.”
  • “He has white markings on only that leg, which can play tricks on the eye.”
  • “These dressage judges are very good, so they are on the lookout for any sort of unevenness.”
  • “It’s a little string-halt-y”
  • “I don’t have any suggestions of where to start with a lameness exam for your normal vet. Just keep an eye on it.”
  • “You’ll get dinged more for any sort of unevenness the higher level you go, so you better get it straightened out.”
At the end of it, she said that while she did observe very minor, intermittent short-stridedness on the hind left, it wasn’t enough to prevent us from continuing on in the competition from a medical perspective.

My placing after dressage was 11th out of 11 competitors. Ouch.

And yes, it was the same dressage judge as our last time at FCHP.

During all this hubbub is when the lovely Paola met up with us! It is always fun to meet up with a fellow blogger, and she helped keep my nerves in check. We headed back down to the barn to relax before cross-country.

Paola kindly helped me get ready for XC. We suited up in black & magenta of course!

My plan was to ride very positively to the first few jumps, as those are the ones he questioned at the schooling. I also wanted to be sure we got some good gallop stretches in, as this would be our first XC going 350 mpm. We had schooled 100% of our course (plus a few more Training jumps than I had thought!), so overall I was feeling pretty good about XC.

Warm up was great – I focused on having him moving out, forward into the bridle and then collecting. We did forward and back a few times. Jumps were perfect – we did just a few before calling it good. Laurie ponied us to the start box. Hemie knew what was up. He was excited, but remained a perfect gentleman.

We were both happy to be leaving the startbox. Hemie didn’t question a single jump, and was game for galloping while still coming right back to me when I asked to rebalance. Hills, no problem. Water, no problem. Unfortunately we didn’t have any banks or ditches, but we did have 16 total jumps. We came in about 30 seconds under time, for a double-clear round! That moved us up to 6th place! I’ll post the full video as soon as its available, but in the meantime here’s the first 2 jumps:

Also, here’s 2 photos of jump 15 from 2 different angles, thanks to Paola and my husband!

Sunday – Stadium Jumping 

My plan was to channel as much XC energy into the stadium jumping as possible – forward and bold with a good connection. We did our warm up for Stadium much like our warm up for XC (and our plan is to give that a shot for dressage next time too!). It was crowded and Hemie was a little tense, but overall we kept our cool.

Crowded warm up!

Here’s the video:

Overall I am happy with the round. Hemie got a little looky-loo and it resulted in 2 rails down, but we had no refusals and still made the time.

We got to take home a nice pretty green ribbon for 6th place!

I’m still processing the show emotionally and mentally. Physically I’m happy to report that I’m not sore or overly tired – a first for me after a horse trial! But our pups were certainly dog-tired…

21 comments on “FCHP HT Recap

  1. Congrats! You guys looked great :)


  2. Congratulations!


  3. Congrats on your finish. Sort of surprised you continued on with your horse being off though? Will you have a vet evaluation done now?


  4. Yay ribbon! I watched the dressage video and the stadium video pretty closely. I would agree with the judge that he looks pretty off to me in dressage, but looks much better in stadium. Might be a mix of things, but hopefully you and your vet can figure it out.


  5. Hope everything with his hind end is up something simple. Congrats on the pretty green ribbon!


  6. Sorry to hear about the unevenness trouble. hopefully you can get that worked out.


  7. Thanks – it was nice to meet up with you again. Thanks for all your support and help!!


  8. Congrads! Sounds like a great event!


  9. Personally I can see some weirdness at the start of the test, and then when things started to “fall apart” he does look sore in his hocks. But that could also be because he fell apart. Congrats on the placing though!


  10. Thanks. I wouldn't have continued if I thought it was a physiological problem rather than a behavioral one. Though it is VERY concerning and I'm still deciding between various ways to explore it and move forward.


  11. Thanks, and yeah I agree.


  12. I sure hope so! Thanks


  13. Yeah seriously.


  14. Heheh, thanks.


  15. Yeah I'm trying to focus on the positive rather than get consumed by the negative (although I take the unevenness issue very seriously). Thanks!


  16. Thanks, yeah its a little bit chicken-and-egg: is he uneven because he's sore? Or does he look sore because he's uneven? That's the major question that I'm exploring how best to sort out.


  17. I understand completely…sometimes uneveness can be related to the acceptance of the bit and not lameness. Wish you the best of luck.


  18. Well sat on the buck! Sounds like he's turning into a xcountry machine. Go, Hemie!


  19. Finally found it, Sarah … I got a little lost somehow. :0)

    Hemie loves to jump, of that there is now doubt! The dressage work was looking good until you tracked right, and I could definitely see what the judge saw. I can't blame her too much as he does look funny on that right hind, but it is more likely just tension on his part.

    If he isn't reaching with his hind leg it's because he's tense and his back is tight. Once he gets more relaxed, that should all loosen up. On the cross country course, there is somewhere for his energy and tension to go: FORWARD. He gets to move and stretch whereas in the dressage court he has to stay at that slower trot rhythm. I am proud of how you rode that buck! Dang, Dude!

    A ribbon with so many riders is something to be proud of. Once Hemie gets more comfortable with his dressage work, that green will be closer to blue. :0)


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