National Junior Championships – Part Six
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   20th Aug 2011   •   5,261 views   •   13 comments
Those of you who have been following my Junior Champs articles should remember that the 14th was Day 1 of the showjumping.

National Junior ChampionshipsTo recap, it ended on a positive note. Bronze – who is notorious for his lack of courage and tendency to stop at the bright, spooky poles of showjumping – so unlike the cross country jumps he so adores – chose to put his best foot (Or hoof) forward. He went in confidently, and came out the same way – having jumped a bold, impressive round. He took one pole by no error of his own – nor mine – just one of those unlucky things, perhaps because he was feeling the 90cm was not quite challenging enough. Indeed, it is very small for him. All the same, he jumped confidently over a course of bright, unfamiliar jumps – leaving me feeling very positive about not only the rest of the show, but also his future as a showjumper.

Then it was Finola’s turn. As you remember, she has had her problems over the years, and we went to the show terribly unprepared, and jumping only on the fleeting hope that her problem would have resolved itself, and left her keen and ready to jump.

After that first day, I was left thinking that lady luck was on our side for once.

I admit, it was not a perfect round, but it was nothing to be ashamed of, either. Finola took a while to find her stride, and we had a few poles down – but she jumped confidently. She did run out once – but it was an innocent mistake, rather than a refusal. Certainly, it was among our worse rounds – but just the fact that Finola had reached the end of the course was enough for me. Thus, I couldn’t wait for the next day of the show, since I knew that things would only get better!

Or rather, that was what I thought I knew – for this was where it all fell apart. 15 December 2010, the day that Finola’s and my dreams were crushed for the umpteenth time.

15 December 2010

In the morning, after feeding them breakfast, I took both horses for an early walk – looseing them up, hosing the ice tight off Bronze’s legs, and letting Finola have a pick of grass.

She was jumping early in the morning, so after her walk I tacked her up right away, and took her into the warm-up. It was wet and muddy, and milling with keen, energetic horses awaiting their turn in the highest class of the show.

I am proud to say that I did not allow my incurable fear of the warm-up arena (If you don’t share this fear with me, please read my article regarding the horrors of the warm-up arena, and rethink your foolish bravery.) to paralyze me. I found my space, and urged Finola into a trot, letting her get loose and warm.

Once I felt her moving freely under me, we picked up a canter, and I worked on getting her strides big and powerful, and riding her into a light, firm contact. Her canter was as powerful as I’d ever felt it, and before long I was grinning from ear to ear.

This was Finola. This was my top horse, my partner, my better half...My key to victory.

She felt fantastic, striding out with eager, powerful strides – fighting for her head, and full of that burning spirit that I have – from experience – come to associate with a brilliant show. I pointed her at the cross, and popped her over a few times – finding myself grinning even more by the end when she sprung over on spring-like legs. We moved on to the upright, and though I struggled to weave my way in between all the other riders, we managed to meet the jump on a good stride, and ping merrily over.

National Junior Championships

I jumped it once on the other rein, then put Nola over the oxer a few times. This was trickier, since I kept getting tense trying to avoid the other riders swarming around me, and this annoyed Finola and threw her off her stride. Still, we managed to get some nice jumps, and headed off to the arena feeling stressed, but prepared, determined, and positive.

Walking into the arena, I remember thinking "This is it. We’ve got it, now. Finola’s back." I pushed her into a canter, and as we turned toward the first jump – her ears pricked forwards. Finola has always had a tendency to flatten her ears, so this was a sign that she was truly loving life. He felt light and springy as we moved toward that first jump. We met it on a perfect stride – in sync with each other now, unlike the previous day. We were certainly on the same page – working together toward one sole goal: Winning.

The leap she gave me over that first jump left me grinning, and again, I remember thinking "Here we go. Finola’s back!"

She raced gamely on to the next jump, and flew over it easily, in perfect form.

On we went, picking up impulsion, Finola feeling like a coiled spring under me as we approached the third jump – a triple bar, which has been both Finola’s and my favourite type of jump for as long as I can remember.

I closed my legs around her sides, waiting for the beautiful feeling of harmony I’d felt over the two previous jumps.

And that was when it all fell apart.

At the last minute, Finola seemed to lose heart, and she slammed on brakes. She skidded into the base of the jump – hocks nearly touching the ground – and ended up with her front legs hooked over the front bar of the triple bar. The momentum of the slip kept her moving forward, and her neck knocked down the middle bar – leaving her standing momentarily straddled over the front bar, before she scooted backwards and lifted her legs over the pole.

The bell rang to stop our time, and I trotted her around, making sure she was okay. Thankfully, she was unhurt, and she felt as powerful as ever beneath me.

I picked up a canter, and they rang the bell again.

I presented Finola to the jump, but this time she wasn’t even pretending. She stopped a few strides out, and no amount of force or encouragement would get her to take a step closer.

It was the same old story: Finola beginning a course feeling like she’s on top form, then stopping for no apparent reason, and refusing to go any further.

The same thing had happened time after time before, and I knew that it was over. I retired, and rode her out of the arena. I scratched her from the rest of the show. Taking her there had been a gamble, and we lost.

It was Bronze’s turn next, and his round was something of an uplifting one after the devastation of Finola’s breakdown. He was confident, eager, and raring to go! Bronze was still gladly living up to the new nickname he had earned in his cross country: ‘The Tank’.

Indeed, he tanked me around the course. It was an A2 competition – one round on speed – and boy did Bronze show speed! He took on that puny little course in a good gallop, swinging around the corners and springing forward over the jumps. At one point, he dropped a stride unexpectedly, and threw such a massive leap that I was caught by surprise and flung out of the saddle. Still, I stayed on board, and we zoomed on to the next jump.

When we reached the second last, I took a time-saving, but risky turn – and it didn’t pay off. Bronze dropped a hind hoof, and clipped the pole – leaving him with a great time, but 4 penalties.

Still, it was a fantastic round, and I was very happy with it.

Lady luck did not smile upon us that day, but though our moods were dampened, the show was not yet over – and I vowed to myself that, no matter what, I would not leave empty handed.
All That Jazz  
Great article, as always!
  Aug 20, 2011  •  4,415 views
Wow!Great jumping!Lovee it! ♥
  Aug 20, 2011  •  4,437 views
Great article!
  Aug 20, 2011  •  4,407 views
Purple BITS  
Very well written!
  Aug 20, 2011  •  4,443 views
Stay Untamed  
Good article! I'm sorry about Finolo,I hope it gets better!
  Aug 20, 2011  •  4,439 views
Great series!
  Aug 20, 2011  •  4,424 views
Brilliant as usual
  Aug 21, 2011  •  4,408 views
Polo the Weirdo  MOD 
Thanks everybody. :) I'm finally almost done with the series! XD Haha! I'm so behind on my writing... *Facepalm*
  Aug 21, 2011  •  4,412 views
WOW!!!! love the pictures that go along with the article!
  Aug 24, 2011  •  4,425 views
You are a great writer! Lots of details, I love that!
  Aug 25, 2011  •  4,422 views
RoyalCrownEstates  MOD 
Great Article, awesome Reading !
  Aug 29, 2011  •  4,437 views
Yeah! hope Finola gets better.
  Aug 31, 2011  •  4,451 views
Phyxius  MOD 
Very well written
  Sep 3, 2011  •  4,586 views
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