This post was submitted in spring 2023.
Since arriving in Aiken, I have completed two recognized events at the Beginner Novice (2’7” jumps) level with my lease pony, Ella. She is a very experienced pony, so I am so lucky to have the chance to learn from her and gain experience on such a wonderful confidence builder.
The first event we attended was at the end of January, and it was my first recognized event as well as Ella’s first recognized event in three years. It was a cold rainy day, but I had a great educational outing anyway. My boss was also competing two training horses at this event, so I was grooming for him as well as competing my own horse. This actually helped my competition nerves a lot since I was so busy with his horses I did not have time to get nervous about my own rides. In the first phase, dressage, Ella and I both got a bit tense. Our score was not what I had hoped for, but we got some good homework to improve on before the next event. We had a clear show jumping round, and then it was time for cross country! The second we got on course, Ella perked right up–even though it had been a while, she definitely knew it was cross country time. She was super brave through the whole course. Unfortunately, we did receive a penalty because I made a circle to make sure she was still listening to me and not just running, but I was still super happy with our round. The whole event was a great learning experience, and I took away a lot of good homework to improve on before our next competition.
Our second event was in the middle of February at another local venue. While our dressage score did not improve a lot, it felt a lot better than our test at the first event. I know we are headed in the right direction in our dressage training, but it takes a long time for horses to build good muscle to improve their dressage. I was a bit off my game in the show jumping, but Ella is so brave that she took total care of me so we still had a clear round. I was super happy with our cross country round at this event. Ella was just as brave and excited to go as at our first event, but she was also a lot more rideable and listening to me really well. It was a tough course where a lot of other riders had stops, but we had a clear round to move up into fourth in our division of 12.
After two great events to start the season, I decided to take a break from competing to focus on improving our dressage. Ella has been feeling great during this training period, and I am excited to get back out competing at the end of March or early April when I am planning to move up to the Novice (2’11” jumps) level!