My riding club had arranged a Pay&Jump. That's essentially a non-competition jumping meet - there is no placement list or winner, you don't get any rosettes or anything, but you do get to jump a proper set of fences in a new environment, so for many people it's good training before the season begins. The rules are a bit more lax too, in a regular competition you aren't allowed to continue if the horse has refused a fence more than three times but at the P&J it's up to the judge how long they can be allowed to try. Also you can get help to get the horse across (e.g. by someone leading the horse or egging it on), or get a fence lowered a little. Since quite a few horses have learned to count to three, knowing that after the third stop they get to go out and won't have to jump anymore, it's very useful to let them continue on. Some of them looked very surprised indeed...
There was one incident with a horse that kept baulking at the fences, where the rider got frustrated and started using her whip too much. You're allowed to use the whip as an aid; that is, to indicate with a light touch that the horse should do something. This rider got frustrated and unhappy when her horse refused fence after fence and gave him a sharp touch with the whip after he'd refused. I told her to use the whip only as an aid and not as a punishment, and she got over the fence on the fourth try. When she rode up to the next fence she started whipping the horse on the way up to the fence, and as she did it without switching the reins to one hand, she was also pulling on the rein on the side where she held the whip. The horse, unsurprisingly, refused, and she used the whip again. At that point I had to tell her that since she kept using the whip in the wrong way I was excluding her. I let her jump one more fence - without using the whip - so they wouldn't end with a refusal, since that is a bad memory to leave the horse. She was of course very unhappy, but I feel very sure that I ddi the right thing. After all, she will want to go to actual competitions later, and that sort of thing will get her thrown out of those, too - better to learn early and in a non-competitive environment!
When it was all finished, I got a ride back to our own stables (the event was held in an arena several kms off). I got to meet my darling Diamond again. I wasn't sure he'd remember me, after all he's still young and it's been five months since I saw him. When I came to his stall and opened the door, he walked up and put his head against me and demanded to be skritched behind the ears and on the throat, just as I've been doing since he was a few days old. He kept bumping me with his nose and wanting more skritches and seemed very happy to see me again. So was Skutt, by the way. He was at the P&J, and while he and gnapp were in the collecting ring he heard my voice, and immediately turned towards me. That was nice.
The horse I fell off of five months ago also remembered me. When I went to her stall, at first she came up and was all "oh, there you are, cuddles now plz!" After a few minutes of that she decided that no, she didn't like me because I'd abandoned her, and went off to the other corner of the stall to sulk. I do look forward to being able to work with her again - so, I suspect, do most other people in the stables as she's been getting to be difficult to handle due to her being bored from not getting to work. Her owners have started working her a little, but they really don't have enough time to give her the attention she wants, so it'll be nice for everyone when I get back.
After that, I went with gnapp and her husband to have dinner at one of our favourite hamburger places. One of the staff also rides and she came over to talk about horses and accidents. Then they drove me home and I got back shortly after 8 pm, having been gone for twelve hours.
In all, it was a lovely, lovely day!