This season we will be brining you competition recaps straight from the mouths of our very own Area VI Riders! Marissa Nielsen is the trainer at Black Diamond Equestrian in Wilton, CA, and she wrote in to tell us about her weekend at the Fresno County Horse Park Horse Trials, where she had two horses in the Open Training and one in the Open Beginner Novice. For full competition results, click here. If you’re interested in learning more about training and coaching with Marissa at Black Diamond Equestrian, please email her at email@example.com.
“It’s supposed to rain on Saturday” my mom warned me as I was pulling into the Fresno Countyt Horse Park on a sunny Thursday afternoon. “Right,” I said, noting the beautiful blue sky and 85 degree reading on my truck’s temperature gauge. “We’re in our 4th year of a drought and it’s almost May.” Boy was I wrong!! Eventers are tough and we braved the wind and rain on Saturday to enjoy the fabulous cross-country footing on Sunday. It turned out to be a wet and muddy Saturday, but a great show nonetheless.
Often times at the smaller shows now the show organizers offer both dressage and jumping schooling rounds the day before the show. For those of us on baby green horses, or when I have a nervous student, these schooling rounds are a godsend. I drove down Thursday night to take advantage of the opportunity to school. I arrived about 6pm, got the horses all settled in, and went for BBQ with a fellow trainer, some old clients (I recently relocated from Woodside to the Sacramento area and so all of my clients had to go to new barns) and some friends.
Friday morning at 9am there was a long line waiting to sign up for the schooling rounds. I was riding a young 5-year-old mare fresh in from Germany in her first show, so she needed a dressage and jumping round. It was a great way to get her out to let her figure out what this new place was all about.
The drizzle woke me up at 4am on Saturday morning, and soon my trailer was reverberating with the sound of pouring rain. I figured it would rain for a little bit and be fine by the time dressage rolled around. Wrong again. It POURED rain from 4am till about noon, so all of the Preliminary-Novice divisions rode dressage in pouring rain. It didn’t matter what your braids looked like or how clean your horse and tack were when you left the barn, there were definite challenges in the warm up and show rings. The dressage court was about 6 inches of slop, it made trot and canter lengthenings a challenge.
I had two horses in Open Training. First, an older horse that did a few Preliminary competitions last year but this was his first show for the 2015 season. He can be a bit tense in dressage on a sunny day, so the rain and mud didn’t help his relaxation. Despite that, we put in a respectable dressage test for a 24, and even though I briefly forgot my stretch circle and had to backtrack I was happy. My second horse, a 6-year-old mare that is pretty green and just moved up to Training at Twin was surprisingly nonplussed with the mud, raincoats, and umbrellas, and likewise put in a pretty good test for a 27. The warm-ups were tough in the mud, but everyone, in great Area VI fashion, was courteous and made it work out.
I was pretty worried about the jump courses because the arena looked so soupy, and I wasn’t convinced that I was going to jump. The event organizers did a great job digging channels to drain as much water off the ring as they could, took out the tight turns, adjusted the time allowed and asked everyone to jump safe and calm in the mud. I was still pretty convinced that I was going to scratch my horses, but watched the first few riders successfully negotiate the course, which seemed to be riding well. No one slipped and the course was pretty inviting in the mud. I knew that with Saturday’s rain the cross-country course was going to be PERFECT on Sunday and I really wanted to run that course, so I decided to go for it. Two double clear rounds closed out my Training level day.
At noon the sun came out and I saddled up for my Beginner Novice dressage ride. My super green mare was a bit tense, and the quickly drying but still visible mud puddles didn’t help, but hey, we kept all 4 feet in the white sand (mud) box and we moved onto jumping. Another green and wiggly but clean show jumping round ended my Saturday.
Thankfully I have the best horse show Mom in the whole world and she came down to help me with my 6 rides, and to make sure, like only your mom can, that I cleaned the mud off all of my tack before leaving for the evening. I have a great new owner, Laurie, who owns the Beginner Novice mare, who pitched in despite having the flu to help get the mud off everything, with the exception of my white breeches.
Sunday morning rolled around and the sun was out and the cross-country footing was perfect. My first Training ride was my gelding. He was kind of confused about the slower (not Preliminary level) training cross-country speed, so we had a bit of an educational cross-country ride, but he was clean and jumped well.
My Training mare was phenomenal and I had such a blast out on the course. I really enjoy producing horses through the levels and I started her at her first show at Beginner Novice last August and boy has she come a long way since then! I have some high hopes for her so I’m trying to take my time through the levels and not skip any steps in her training to end up with a really solid upper level partner next year! (fingers crossed).
My third ride was the Beginner Novice mare. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go as she just came into my program 3 weeks ago and has only schooled cross-country twice. After a wild ride in the warm-up, which always makes the warm-up feel like an eternity, I finally got to the box. She proved to be quite the little cross-country machine and she ate up the course the whole way around.
In the end all 3 horses finished on their dressage scores, which is quite an accomplishment for this crew. A HUGE thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who stood out in the rain to made the show run! As always, Ride On Video was great and had a live feed of Rolex cross-country on their big screen TV. With 6 rides on Saturday I didn’t really get to watch any of the Rolex, but at least every time I walked by they would update me on how our West Coast riders were holding up in Kentucky. I had a great show and I couldn’t do it without my wonderful sponsors, owners and the greatest horse show mom!! Next stop for Black Diamond Equestrian team is Woodside. See you all there!
If you are interested in sharing your recent competition experience with us, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!