Monday, March 12, 2012

Welcome to Jumperland

Calgary is famous for the Stampede, a huge rodeo held every year. But if you know me, you know that I couldn't care less about rodeo... or cowboys... or country music (shudder). Instead, I am thrilled to now live so close to Spruce Meadows, a world-renowned show jumping facility that I have seen a million times on TV but never once dreamed I'd be able to actually visit.

I was able to actually go to the Masters, a huge international show at Spruce, last fall. Going there was overwhelmingly amazing. I didn't expect to be able to get so close to these riders who have always been my idols. Even the arena seating... you can actually sit right on the wall to the arena just like any other horse show. I wasn't expecting that.

At any rate, having Spruce as such an integral part of Calgary's identity means that the vast majority of english riders out here are jumpers. And I do mean the VAST majority. I personally am not a jumper rider, I've been almost exclusively a dressage rider for many years now. Dressage is a passion of mine. I evented in my younger years and it was fun, and Gia and I were heading toward the hunters, but it has never been my "thing". In the last several years I haven't jumped any higher than 2'6", and other than eventing (which I did through Training level which I believe is 3'3"), I have never competed in a jumper class. I've shown hunters, but never jumpers unless it was the show jumping phase of an event. And I haven't evented since 2001 or so.

So, needless to say, I am a big weenie when it comes to jumping :D

I have met up with a great group of ladies out here who all compete in the jumpers at various levels from 2' all the way up to actually competing at Spruce. Over the last few weeks I've ridden a variety of horses which has increased my confidence level greatly. They put on a weekly jumping lesson on Thursday evenings which has been a blast, and has really pushed me beyond my comfort zone, with various levels of success.

Robin and Sam at a recent jumper show

Me and Wall-E, my normal jumper night buddy

When in the midst of a group of riders, it's much easier to be brave :) While I've had my bad days (my last jumper night consisted of convincing three - count 'em, THREE - different horses that refusing was the best option), in general I've impressed myself by at least PRETENDING to not be nervous over jumps that I would never attempt on my own. Not that they were major, but when you haven't jumped in years, a 2'6" brush box is a pretty scary thing.

So I guess I am officially becoming a member of Jumperland, after many years in Dressageville. The other major surprise?

This is Stella. AKA Red Stilettos. And she's my birthday present.

How did this happen?? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure :) I had no intention of getting back into horse ownership so soon after moving. I am not nearly settled here yet! But here we are, and how can I complain? She is just so lovely. She's a 16-ish hh TB mare, 8 years old (if I recall). She was bought at auction, dumped by someone who really did a number on her. She's quite an anxious mare, expecting to be punished when she's ridden. Luckily my experience with Gia (and many other hot horses before her) makes me the perfect type of rider for horses like this. (Which is good because that always seems to be the type of horse I end up with, lol...)

I can't wait to see what we accomplish! Right now my goal with her is just getting her to realize that I'm not going to ask her anything she can't handle. I see lots and lots of boring trotting in our future, until she realizes she has nothing to worry about. And then... we'll see!

I will, of course, follow her progress here on the blog. A chestnut TB mare? Should be an interesting ride :)

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