Monday, October 27, 2008

Hunter Pace 10.26.2008

A picture of Panzer, with Shauna (who was kind enough to hold him for me so that I could take the picture).

Yesterday I rode in the Hunter Pace event that I had mentioned earlier in the week. I knew that it was going to be fun, but I don't think that I truly appreciated what a total blast it was really going to be. I can't imagine having more fun. I arrived at the barn early, early, early to help with all the barn chores before we could leave. I worked putting out horses, hauling water, picking stalls, throwing hay, etc. for three and a half hours! I was exhausted before the day even began. Finally we were loading the horses around 10:30 AM -- it was funny, Panzer had been loaded, but Ro's husband apparently hadn't been quick enough to secure him from the front, because the next thing I knew, he had run out the other part of the trailer and was running down the road! So, I got a little extra exercise running down the street chasing a loose horse. Sheesh!

I had the pleasure of riding to the event with two other adult riders, Sandie and Shauna. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to get to know some other adults who ride. Both women are extremely nice and I was so happy to be with other horsey, like-minded people. We arrived at around noon or so and got ourselves registered, tacked up, mounted (can I say that I am proud to have been able to mount from the ground? Usually I use a mounting block), got sorted out and started off. Shauna and I and a friend of Ro's who is a seasoned eventer, Amelia, decided to all ride together since we were riding in the same division. Shauna has been riding at the barn for about a year and Amelia used to ride there, before she bought her own horse property. I was the unseasoned member of the group, but was in pretty good company. Anyway, they let us out of the starting "gate" and we just started trotting easily down the road. We hadn't gone even ten feet before we got to a big puddle, I just directed Panzer to it, figuring he would just trot simply through. Well. Instead he took this huge, unexpected leap over it. I almost fell off! Managed not to, but lost both stirrups and murmured to myself, "well, this doesn't bode well."

When we got to our first jump (a stone wall with a tree trunk topping it) at the edge of a field, I realized that I was in for trouble. The fence was pretty freaking big! I skipped that one, but started jumping some subsequent "HUGE" fences that we came across not too far beyond it. I didn't want to get to the end realizing that I hadn't given jumping a try. I didn't want to be a wuss and I knew that I used to jump stuff like this, so I figured, what the hell. Added to my unease was the fact that I had only ridden Panzer once before and had only hopped him over a little cavelletti or something a couple of times. Anyway, so I took him over a series of two or three fences strung together and realized that he jumps really, really big! It feels like he gives himself a good foot of extra space over obstacles. And he jumps really round too. "Round" meaning that he really rounds his back and moves athletically through the jumping motion. It's beautiful to watch a horse who jumps this way, but it sure is harder to ride through. You have to be right there with the horse and when the horse is on the back side of the jump (coming back down from the jump) it almost feels like he disappears out from under you. Anyway, over every fence that we took, I could feel the expression on my face, eyes wide open, big and round, mouth wide open in a big, round "O" -- kind of like a silent "OMG!!!" (As in, "OMG, I can't believe I'm doing THIS!!!"). After the first series of fences, Panzer just kind of took off -- galloping after Amelia's horse (who, by the way, is an off-the-track thoroughbred -- former racehorse. Uh, Hello!) And so I expended a lot of energy getting him back under control. WHOA! It was wild. Anyway, after that series, we all decided to take it easy and pick and choose what we wanted to jump and to ride easily on the parts between all the obstacles. Amelia jumped everything we came across and Shauna & I picked and chose what we felt comfortable with. I jumped so much more than I thought in the beginning that I was going to. Amelia's encouragement helped, I really appreciated her input and I guess I just got a little brave. Jumped lots of BIG, solid fences (each complete with the "OMG" expression on my face). It was so exhilarating! Now, looking back on the day I am both proud of myself and wishing that I had tried a few of the fences that I had bypassed (out of about 29 jumps, I jumped about 8 or 10 of them). Still, I wanted to end the day in once piece, so it seemed smart to be a little conservative. In between the jumps, we all did a lot of chatting. Amelia shared a lot of her eventing experiences and advice and we all bonded over similar interests and appreciation for each others' input, experience and abilities. I was proud that I could keep up and participate with these two.

We finally finished the course about three hours or so after we started. It was an absolutely gorgeous day (almost 70 degrees and brilliant sunshine on October 26th, that doesn't happen too often) and the perfect thing to be doing on such a lovely Sunday. When we made it back to the trailers, we hooked up with our other group who had been entered in the easier division and had finished a few minutes before us.

Ro told me later that she had heard that I did very well and that she knew that they had kind of thrown me into this. So I'm very glad that I ended up being up for the challenge. The size and the difficulty of the obstacles I jumped give me the hope that I'm actually capable of more than perhaps I've been thinking I am. Amelia and a couple of other people that I talked to actually assessed the difficulty of the course as eventing trial level of "Novice" (which is harder than it sounds, the levels for a recognized eventing start at Beginning Novice, it takes some serious work to get to "N" status). Anyway, the height for most was around 3 feet, much bigger than I had been doing these past two months, that's for sure.

All-in-all it was a fantastically fun, exhilarating day. Exhausting, but so. much. fun. Panzer was a trooper too, a big enthusiastic lug-love of a horse.

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