I felt a bit better about this after our Tuesday lesson where we ONLY put two strides in the two stride line. Ben has also developed that feeling of "This one? Or that one?" both out cross country and in stadium. It's really cool to feel the change. That same question he asked as we jumped up the bank out of the water to the wedge I could feel him asking in our lesson Tuesday. As we made a turn to a line, he asked about a different jump we were swinging past. Good boy!! It's a lot more comforting than this "will I? won't I?' shenanigans that he was doing to begin with. Spoiler alert, I ruined that feeling.
The 0.9m didn't start until 12:15, aka it was bloody hot. Ms. GY and I jumped second and third. We both had only taken a couple of warm up jumps because the warm up was horrifying. Side note - why da FUK can you jump jumps in both directions in H/J warm ups???** (Noted, this is not typical, thank goodness!!) Seems like a horrible idea. Ben jumped around overall quite well. Maybe a bit more forward and less lifting up than we should have had, but he jumped around clear and felt confident.
Then we stood. And stood. And stood some more. I should have gotten off of him and loosened the girth, but I thought it wouldn't possibly take that long (Mistake #1). When there were about 3 rides left in the 0.9m I warmed up again (Mistake #2). Ben was jumping great, feeling confident and forward to the built up oxer in the warm up ring.
But then the organizers did the waiting for two riders to take their sweet time, so two rides turned into 40+ minutes. This is a thing I know (and hate) about jumper shows. It had just been a while since I was reminded of this point. One of the riders was actually horrifying, and I am kicking myself for not speaking up. There were fireworks trying to get the horse into the ring. Then fireworks in the ring. For a funky distance or a missed lead change he would yank the horse's nose to his knee and whip and spur. The horse was then rearing because it had no other place to go. Not only did no one say anything, but he was allowed to add on another round chock full of the same behavior. I wrote an email to the organizers, asking what mechanisms were in place to prevent this kind of behavior, since clearly none were, at least not on the schooling day. I know hosting shows is a major undertaking, so I feel bad calling them out, but the behavior in the ring crossed from questionable, maybe the horse is just really difficult, to clearly abusive and spurred on by the rider's temper.
Finally that rider was done and they reset the course and Ben and I went in. I didn't want to go back into warm up because it was roughly five million degrees and warm up was super busy again (mistake #3). He jumped one, but knocked the rail. He jumped two, but again knocked the rail. Three was a short 6 stride line and we'd gotten there funky at the 0.9m and got there at the same short distance this go round, so he stopped. We circled around and jumped it. He stopped at 4 once. We managed to get over 5, 6, 7, sending who knows how many rails flying (I kinda checked out mentally, mistake #4). He stopped at 8 and jumped it on the second try. 9AB was a one stride and he jumped in, but stopped at B. At that point JT's assistant trainer called me out of the ring. She got on and hopped him over a warm up jump 2-3 times and then we hosed him off.
I feel awful, I should have spoken up for my horse. He and I are BOTH new at this level, and this was not the set up to try 1.0m. The course looked BIG to my eyes - Ms. GY, JT's assistant trainer, and I all though the 0.9m looked more like training level and the 1.0m looked like modified. But they were using a measuring stick while setting, so that may just be what my eye feels is big. Going into the ring thinking "Wow these look big" is not ideal. And it was 90 degrees and I'd been on the horse for 1.5 hours. Hard for both him and I. It felt like he was asleep to the first two, lost confidence because of the hard rails, and I wasn't there to give him the confidence he needed. I should have called it quits after it became apparent we were going to stand around in the heat for that long. Our warm up felt excellent and was still a big step for us. I was too focused about sunk costs though and thinking about the fact that I had already paid and that we had already waited x number of minutes to go in.
Ms. GY and JT's assistant trainer assured me this wouldn't ruin his confidence. I'm not positive on that point right now, but I suppose time and more positive jump schools will help. I do think the next time he moves up to 1.0m it will be with JT. He's not a horse you can be anything but 100% confident on, and I don't have that at the 1.0m height right now.