As I'm in London, I was able to catch a ride with some fellow competitors from Western to make the trek to Guelph. It was an early 4:30am morning and despite my plan to sleep during the trip I spent most of the time swapping stories with the Western riders in the carpool. We speculated about the horses we might draw and swapped OUEA stories.
It was a frigid day at OOF, but you can't expect much more from Canada in February. Even with all the layers I felt frozen before even paying our captain for entry fees!
I borrowed a book which holds the draw information and was instantly relieved and content. I think over my time in the OUEA I've developed a little bit of anxiety around my over fences draw. I definitely have a nervous mind at shows and a few iffy experiences with some draws in the past leaves me a little anxious about what I might have to ride and try to contain over fences. I know OOF has several great Open division horses that are super reliable, but this isn't the case with all facilities. We occasionally select riders we know are extra sticky in the saddle for certain shows where we have had past exciting experiences with draws. All the open horses donated and provided by the facility yesterday are wonderful and we had the luxury of getting some super competitive well broke mounts.
Anyway, I had drawn my favorite OUEA horse, an absolute superstar and equitation horse pro. This is my second time drawing him this season, our round from the early January Guelph show can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWGZcutM_GY&index=1&list=PLUNYVCr4TRuCxrmyOcki7g8aAtZRTkjCX. We were 3rd in a very tight class, and he always leaves me with a super feeling. This horse is a star with a lot of show miles under his belt and the patience of a saint. He was actually my first ride ever in the OUEA during my first year! Outdoor pictures are from 2013 from my first OUEA show
You can see our round from the UofT show this weekend (February) here:
I was on him second, the first rider did 5 strides in the bending lines. It looked super nice but it was too much for a small indoor arena and it had walked closer to a 6. I went with bowing out and waiting which presented more polished corners after and was more consistent with our general pace. I let my reins get a little long after the trot jump which resulted in my hands being down in my lap but he listened and waited for me beautifully. This horses jump is so smooth, soft, and lovely and I don't feel any hesitation when I ask for something from him. We didn't take the inside turn in our rollback, I always land thinking so slow and straight as a result of my hunter past and kind of missed the opportunity to ask him to turn. I was pleased with our round, a few wiggles and a few slightly tighter lines. We were 6th, I was quite surpised with that as I was super happy with our round and hadn't seen anything too impressive in the other rounds. I was expecting more 2nd or 3rd. I'll be the first to tell you I'm a bit of a sore loser, and get quite competitive when I think I have a good chance so please excuse my whining! I realize this is a subjective sport with human judges, and some days I'll get a ribbon I don't deserve to balance it out.
On the flat I had a lovely well broke draft type mare who had turned in some nice over fences rounds for her riders. I thought I was in for a lovely treat in our flat class! Turns out this was one smart mare and once we reversed direction it was like trying to keep a super caffeinated child standing still. This resulted in a little bit of an explosion when we cantered. I lightly nudged about the same pressure as the first direction and was given a buck instead. I think she was offended that I was 'telling' instead of 'quietly whispering' since she already knew the game plan. Either way, it was a much stronger reaction then I expected and ended up slightly on her neck but quickly sat back up and pressed on to a nice canter. Too bad it was right in front of the judge. I did my best to sit the canter and keep my hands up while trying not to look like a potato rider. We did perform a lovely turn on the haunches and extended trot that I think helped null the explosion and we were 5th. I was quite surprised I got a ribbon, and didn't expect one even without the explosion.
It was a long frigid day, the kind where you give up on feeling your toes and think you might have frostbite on your legs that don't have snowpants on. I think the cold makes us all stiff and tight and poses an extra challenge when you go from freezing to riding your course, back to freezing within 5 minutes. Hopefully our last show before finals in March will provide some relief from this winter showing! While I wasn't happy with our placings and my ranking will suffer a bit, I'm happy with the way I rode.
Overall the team was great! We all got a ribbon and did decently well in all divisions resulting in high point team! Go UWaterloo! I expect this will move us back into first as a team for OUEA West.
We returned to London, arriving around 6:30pm, I showered and crawled into bed to finish defrosting. I could sleep for an age. Next show is March 8th!
Something I've been considering writing about is the horse situation in the OUEA. You might of noticed both times I've written about OUEA shows, its been horses I seem familiar with and may have ridden 2-3 times already within the past year. Is it truly a level playing field if the more time I spend in the OUEA chances are I have already ridden most regular donated horses? Can we call it catch riding if the host barns have even taken lessons on these horses and have known them multiple years?