Note: All photos purchased and used with permission from Brant Gamma Photography. 

Ryker ROCKED Stuart!  Simple as that.  He was very tight in his shoulders leading up to the event, so we were worried about the effects of the length of the trailer drive out on his dressage.  No worries!  Thanks to the chiropractic work of Matt Rose of Balanced Rhythms and Cavalor Free-Bute he was able to perform very well at his first sanctioned event! We got a modest 43.8 in dressage, he was tense but very obedient!  He tried oh so very hard, but there is still much to improve on.  
The Cross Country course was gorgeous!  Many good BN questions, but not too crazy for a first sanctioned event! There were many people who's jaws dropped to the floor when they heard that I had chosen Stuart as his first sanctioned event, and at 8 months off the track no less. But he proved at the schooling events that he was more than ready, the only change from those events was the atmosphere.  I don't think he cared until stadium!  The only tricky part of the cross country course for him was #4+5, the "half coffin" (AT BEGINNER NOVICE?!), it was a small log followed, about 4-5 strides later, by a small ditch.  They were numbered separately, but it was still a very difficult question to ask.  We trotted into the log, jumped exuberantly over it, and then broke back down to the trot, he was very good but propped at the ditch.  It wasn't that he didn't want to go, merely that he just had to look at it for a second.  He then jumped right over it and continued, it was called a stop (boo!) but, the reality is that at this point it's the training that matters and from a training perspective he was golden.  From that point he got bolder and bolder over every jump, trotting through the water eyeing the 2* question and attacking everything in front of him.  I couldn't have been prouder! 
 The stadium again was another huge test for Ryker.  It was ungodly hot (it was put your jacket on at the very last second, over your polo you had planned to wear, hot!), but he rose to the occasion. He questioningly went into the ring, and jumped around not really seeing the jumps until about 3 strides away, there was a lot to look at.  He knocked one rail, which was simply a greeny balance mistake, but got more confident throughout the course.  Again, although we didn't ribbon, I couldn't have been prouder of the little fruitcake! 

Ryker rocked the Hitching Post Schooling Event at Novice Level.  We finished out the of the ribbons, but at this point I really don't care! He was amazing, tense but trying oh so very hard in the dressage, to earn a 37.0.  He was amazing XC, making a small pause before going into the water (not a stop, just had to take a peek).  We decided to run Novice so that at Stuart the jumps would be the least of our worries (as Stuart will be a maxed Beginner Novice course), Hitching Post tends to be a small course for the level, as it is a schooling trials, BUT we were pleasantly surprised to see that Novice shared most of the Training fences! He ate them up, couldn't be prouder of him!! He also rocked the stadium course, conquering the same 24' one stride that gave us trouble the weekend before at GMHA.  He is such a fast learner, and is really figuring out the game! 
Yes, I know I changed his name again... we'll find the right one eventually! It is now "The Butler", and may become "The Butler did it" in the fall (still not 100% sure on that one yet) -- The reason for the change was that I wanted it to be a little closer to his Jockey Club name (Lake Butler), since OTTBs are getting so much publicity now, and because we're going to be taking part in the Career2 initiative. 

Ryker is a rock star, there are no two ways about it.  He has put his best foot forward in the last three outings we've had and I hope we can continue forward with fewer and fewer green-y mistakes! 

The DerbyCross was both a major success and a learning experience!  We had two stops in the beginning of the course, at brightly colored stadium fences with planks (I  don't blame him! He hasn't seen very many of those!)  From there he jumped everything in front of him, and the XC jumps were the least of our worries.  We finish in 6th, which was more than I could ever ask for, and did the course a second time just to gain more experience.

The Jumper show at Tamarack Hill was wonderful, exactly what we needed.  Just another outing with lots of new horses an a ton of new jumps.  He was certainly green throughout the three courses we did, from 2'3" - 2'9", but he never balked at a single one, he only took a rail down in each course, mostly from not paying enough attention! He was also getting a little careless with his front end, solution = jumping with no boots for a while. 

From there we went to the GMHA starter trial, where he absolutely rocked. He was tense in the beginning of his dressage warm up, but then slowly relaxed throughout his test, enough to earn an 8 on his free walk ( to everyone who says race horses are just too tense to mark well on dressage, especially in the walk, TAKE THAT!).  We scored a 34.8, which is pretty darn good for a first test! I was just hoping we were going to stay in the ring, and somehow manage to complete the movements, I'd say we far surpassed my expectation!  Stadium was immediately before XC so we warmed up for both.  He was great in warm up, responsive, bold, and jumping well.  Our stadium round went pretty well, he didn't look at any of the fences until fence 4A,B, which was a 24' one stride, vertical to 0xer.  Now if you've been reading since the beginning, you'll know that Ryker's only real nemesis in the jump ring is the one-stride.  Not because he can't do it but because that is where he finds himself less confident about where he should put his feet.  He simply pays attention to the second element, and when he has an awkward jump in, does not have enough time and space to figure out what he should be doing with his feet.  The placement of 4A,B in the ring just made it that much trickier for us, as the judges booth was right on the landing side of the oxer, and the 24 feet (which is LONG for a 2'6" one-stride, and especially long for a starter trials) gave him just enough space to get lost with his feet and try to duck out.   Now for a more schooled horse, this would've been no big deal on the first approach, but it threw Ryker for a loop.  He did however buck-up and jump the whole thing upon re-approach (What a good racehorse!).  Our  next jump was wonderful, and the oxer that was number 6, simply came up quicker than I think he expected and he deer hopped it, taking down the back rail.  All in all I am very proud of him, every mistake he made was simply a green mistake and will hopefully happen less and less as time goes on and his footwork improves (lots of grids for the boy!).  Our Cross Country course was, however, spectacular.  He was a little wiggly and not 100% sure over most of the fences, but he listened to direction and tried oh, so very hard!  He jumped everything clean, including the unmarked water crossing which he jumped so big I lost my stirrup upon landing!  The easiest jump on course was the ditch! (so nice to not have that as an issue!).   He is becoming a XC machine, and finished the event in 6th place, ready for more. 

This coming weekend is the Hitching Post Schooling Trials, which will hopefully be just as successful. We're running Novice, so a little tougher but certainly not out of his ability, and at this point it will be a good preparation event for Stuart. The key with him is to keep his confidence up, and to do so by allow him to make the mistakes while offering soft, but proper guidance so that he learns to be quick on his feet and not 100% dependent on me to get him out of situations. He is well on his way to being a pretty cool event horse, fingers crossed!