That’s right. I am without a doubt the proudest sister on the planet right now. As some of you may remember, Jen (my sister) and Luc rocked their very first cross country schooling a few weeks ago. It was a huge confidence booster for them heading into their very first three-day event. You can probably guess by now why I am claiming to be the proudest sister on the planet. That’s right, Jen and Luc excelled on competition day – and I finally got to pay my fabulous older sister back for letting me ride her amazing horse for free all these months by being her slave…er , I mean groom…for the day.
My day started at 6:00 a.m. (way too early for my poor brain to function), and we arrived at the barn a mere half hour later. Luc was not at all impressed when we dragged him out of the field at such an ungodly hour, only to force him to stand still while Jen tried her hand at button braids. They looked fantastic, especially for a first attempt, and Luc looked so dapper all neatly braided and sparkling clean. Unfortunately for me, it was my job to keep him that way. It only took two baths and several spot treatments over the course of the day.
Luc loaded onto the trailer like a champ, but it turns out he got a little bored on the drive over to the show grounds. He managed to completely undo his hay net (which was actually clipped on and tied) and when that wasn’t entertainment enough, he decided to dismantle the chest bar, and then proceeded to tear a hole in it and pull out a good deal of the stuffing. My sincere apologies to the wonderful woman trailering us. Needless to say Luc got neither hay net nor chest bar on the ride home.
We arrived on the show grounds and Luc was a little looky, but settled much better than he did the last time we took him off property. He did have a bit of an issue calling to all the other horses, something that continued throughout the day, including during their dressage test. Oops! I held Luc (this turned out to be a theme for the day), while Jen headed down to the ring to watch a few rounds before it was time to get Luc tacked up and into the warm-up ring.
He surprised me by being cool as a cucumber in the hectic warm-up ring, even when another horse plowed into him from behind. He did call a few times (again, a theme for the day), but when it was time to get down to work and head into the dressage ring he showed us that he really is a superstar. Jen and Luc did so well in their test that I was close to tears by the time they were finished. Luc floated and Jen guided him through the moves with precision and perfection. It was far and away the best I have ever seen them look. They finished dressage sitting in a very respectable fourth, which shocked the heck out of both Jen and I since neither she nor Luc have ever had any formal dressage training. Then it was back to the barn for some spot treatment to keep Luc sparkling, and to take out his braids.
The two hours between dressage and stadium jumping flew by – but that’s probably because I spent most of that time painstakingly taking out Luc’s braids and spraying down his mane so that we didn’t have a curly mess on our hands. Luc was great in the warm-up for stadium, but the ring was behind schedule and he ended up having to stand around for a good 10 minutes before he and Jen could enter the ring. After they had already entered the ring (with permission) they were hauled up because someone hadn’t walked the course yet and was putting up a fuss (we were first in the ring – but already 10 minutes behind our scheduled start time). Then as Jen was leaving the ring for the straggler to walk the course, that person decided they didn’t need to actually walk it, so Jen and Luc had to turn back around and get right down to business. It did not go as planned. What we thought was going to be the best of the three phases turned out to be the worst. Luc was backed off and they managed to hit practically every fence on an off stride, making for some very uncomfortable moments as a spectator (especially when they put three strides in the two-stride). Thankfully the fences weren’t very large, at pre-entry they top out at 2’9”, so Luc managed to keep his feet out of the way and jump cleanly. Their lackluster performance did not inspire confidence heading into cross country, where they really needed to be on their game.
An hour after stadium jumping, Jen and Luc headed up to the cross country schooling area. Less than halfway into their warm-up another rider came off, which resulted in a flurry of activity, and more waiting around for Luc. I’m happy to report that both horse and rider walked away not severely injured. Then of course it was time for us to get going, so Jen jumped a lone fence before trotting up to the start box. They were counted down from 10. Three, two … wait, why is that woman walking right in front of them when they’re about to leave the box? Yup, that’s right, a spectator who wasn’t paying attention wandered directly into Jen and Luc’s path just as they were set to start. Rather than running the elderly woman down (which was the recommendation, jokingly, of the timer), Jen and Luc waited a few seconds before heading out on course. Thankfully it wasn’t long enough for them to incur time penalties at the end of the course.
I watched with breath held as they headed down to fence number one. They soared over it! Luc was back on his game and eager to jump everything in sight. I hurried to the finish line and hoped that the rest of the course went as smoothly as the first fence. Let me tell you, watching cross country was the most nerve wracking part of the day for me. Mostly because I couldn’t see much of the course and I had to trust that Jen and Luc were still sailing smoothly towards the finish line. I breathed a sigh of relief when they rounded the last corner and cheered ridiculously loud when they crossed the timers. It was another clear round for the superstars! Following the final vet check Luc was in excellent shape (the vet was very impressed with how well he finished), but was more than ready to head home.
We took Luc back to the trailer and waited for the results. Being first in the division meant the wait was LONG, but totally worth it in the end. Jen and Luc finished fourth in their eventing debut! Of course, if you ask me, they really finished tied for second since the winner was a pro (they combined the open and senior divisions) and Jen had the same number of total penalties as the second place finisher (who ultimately beat Jen with a higher dressage score). Either way I couldn’t be happier for them. It was an incredible, albeit very long, day. Luc surpassed my expectations in every way and really proved he is the level-headed guy we like to tell people he is.
By the end of the day I was exhausted and dirty, Luc was tired, but still clean, and Jen was beaming from ear-to-ear. Luc hopped on the trailer (well more like dragged Jen onto the trailer), and once we unloaded him and turned him back out trotted off to see his friends. Yes, there was a great deal more calling!
I really can’t express how proud I am of this pair. They have come such a very long way from the horse who refused to move forward at all just a few short years ago (unless of course I am riding, and then it was just a few short weeks ago!). They proved they have what it takes to be competitors. Now just wait until it’s my turn! Maybe next year it will be me blowing away the competition. A girl can hope!