Henry’s first eventing derby!

This will be post 1 of 2 about this show, since there’s a lot to say. Today we’ll cover my part of the show, the eventing derby! (all the pretty, non-grainy, non-cell phone pictures in this post are courtesy of Lauren at She Moved to Texas)

You could say it went really well. This was a lot of firsts for Henry… first time going to a show by himself, first time showing him without a trainer present, first time showing out of the trailer, first time showing over jumps he hadn’t schooled over first, first time in a dressage ring, etc. Shoot, we’ve had ONE dressage lesson ever and ONE cross country school ever. I was a little nervous about how it’d go since I was asking a lot of him all at once. I slept very little on Friday night, going over everything in my head.

When we got there and started getting him ready I was a little concerned someone was going to think we’d drugged him. He was chewing his hay with his eyes closed while other horses lunged nearby. I had to jump up and down and wave my arms at him to get this picture.


I got on for dressage (my division went first and I was second in the order) and immediately knew that I had a little bit of a sluggish horse. There really wasn’t a good place to warm up though, and I figured that a too-quiet test was a lot better than a too-zoomy test, so we just walked and trotted and did a little lateral work. At one point I looked over and noticed that there was a horse that refused to go near the bright red tent that the judge was going to be sitting under. I walked over with Henry and offered her a lead, and Henry (who never even gave the tent so much as a look) led them back and forth past it a few times. After a few more minutes of walking around I wandered back over to the ring, where the judge and scribe were waiting on the first person. I told them that I didn’t think she realized they were ready for her, and they asked me if I was ready to go instead. Um… not totally, but sure why not?

So we trotted in to do our test. The first trip down centerline was great and we got an 8! I remembered my notes from my dressage lesson last week. 😉 The first trot circle was ok, a little blah (he was still a little tight in his back and not really engaged, since we didn’t have much warm up) and the first canter transition was a few steps late. I think he was still sleeping. I knew I’d get nailed on our free walk, that’s by far his weakest thing and we’ve only been working on it for a couple weeks – got a 5 on that. Ouch, but totally fair. When I started my trot circle to the right the judge blew the whistle as if I’d made an error. I was super confused because I knew the test forward and backward, so I walked over and sure enough she said I was wrong. After a few minutes of discussion between me, the judge, and another trainer nearby we realized that the judge had been given the wrong score sheets – she had the 2010 BN Test A, not the 2014. So after a little revision to her sheet she allowed me to start again from the movement where she’d blown the whistle. Of course, the whole time we were talking Henry stood there sleeping, so having to start again in the middle of the test wasn’t super ideal. Still he finished ok, no real bobbles but no real brilliance either. I was definitely playing it safe and just trying to get a good relaxed first dressage test. I thought that her scoring and comments were exactly on par with my impressions as I rode it, so I was satisfied with our score of 35. We survived, and we didn’t do that bad!


Once THAT mess was over (sorry dressage, I still hate you) we tossed on his breastplate, put on his boots, I put on my vest and spurs, and off we went to warm up for the jumping. Again, warm up space was limited so I just hopped him over a couple jumps then galloped him up and back a little space in the field to get him awake and out in front of my leg.


I thought the course looked pretty simple and forgiving. There were 7 jumps in the ring, then we went out the gate and into the field for 7 more XC fences. I knew the jumps in the ring would be fine as long as I sat up and got a good pace, especially since they were set on the low side. Henry’s no longer impressed by little jumps, no matter how bright or flowery. I did have a couple of concerns about XC though… the jumps were plenty small enough, but would he be balky at the first one since we were leaving all the other horses and going straight toward a busy road? There was also a little bank up, with 4 or 5 strides (depending on how you came into it) to a brush box that was on the skinny side. I knew accuracy and straightness were going to be important. After the brush box was a little ditch, and he’s been known to give those a good peek. So I just kept thinking – sit up, get him up and out in front of me, and just keep going forward.

first fences for every level – BN was the tires.
little bank up
to kinda-skinny brush box

Turns out I didn’t need to worry. We went in the ring, he picked up a nice forward uphill canter, and just ATE that course for lunch.

Ma, I’ve got this!
just loping over the little box


Then we left the ring and I pushed him into a bit of a gallop. I figured it was better to override the first one than underride, and then I could gauge how he felt and adjust my ride from there.


He never even blinked at anything. He just kept one ear on me saying “Ok, which one next???” and kept looking for the next jump. When we had to go past a couple of the lower level fences he actually tried to veer TOWARD them. I kind of couldn’t believe how bold and confident and professional he was. Later one of the other riders asked me how long he’d been eventing. Ha! He bopped right over the tires, down the hill to the little upright logs, through the dip to the pile of telephone poles (which was down by the busy road and I think every other horse in our division had at least one stop there). My plan was to trot the up bank but as soon as I turned toward it he locked on and picked up a nice polite canter so I just let him roll. Before we were even all the way up it he locked onto the brush box and took me right to it, then around the corner to the ditch (which he still cleared by many feet, but never hesitated at) and out of the field over the last tire jump. Totally clear with zero issues!

And well, like I said, everyone else had stops so guess what?


What a great first experience for him. This little show was the perfect confidence builder and perfect first intro to eventing – he exceeded all my expectations. Can’t wait for the next one. Hello dark side!

I also purchased a little something on Saturday night when I was basking in a post horse show high and had a couple ciders…

41 thoughts on “Henry’s first eventing derby!

  1. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! Soooooo excited for you and Henry! You guys look great in those pictures and I’m glad it was a good first experience for you both! And congrats on that satin 😀


  2. YAY FUN! so glad it was a success (Even without the pretty blue ribbon which was just extra stuff:). I wish we had things like that here (Derby) sounds fun.

    Yay for going first in dressage too. My last event they made me go first in stadium cause i was up there (Remus asleep per normal) and no one else was.SO what i am penalized for being up there early. I dont know if i could go first in dressage.

    And so glad you stood your ground on the test. That was very annoying being told you were wrong and you knew you weren’t!

    Henry looks a champ. Thanks for sharing.


  3. woo hoo – congrats on an awesome first outing! glad everything went so smoothly with hauling in and doing it all on your own. that’s a great dressage score too – i’m totes jealous 🙂 Henry looks like a total professional out there, perhaps there are more events in his future? 🙂


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