So Hillcrest HT is in the books and I’m almost tempted to do the following:
I’m still alternating between bitter disappointment and being immensely proud…mostly immensely proud, though.
We left the barn around 9 AM and ended up taking a fellow barn mate and her horse with us so they could have an off-property excursion. Arrived at Hillcrest around 10, just in time to see one of our friends perform her dressage test. My dressage ride time wasn’t until 12:12, so we had awhile to go. Pilgrim was able to amuse himself by sharing breakfast with my husband. And my husband was able to amuse himself by dressing up Pilgrim.
I walked the xc course and felt like a real eventer. I was actually most nervous for dressage- the dreaded Intro C.
So I totally skipped Intro C in our dressage adventures earlier in the year. Our very first show I did Intro A and then went right to BN B. Pilgrim has never done a dressage test where we halt in the beginning and that part worried me a bit- he gets sticky once he thinks he’s done with work. We worked on it during lessons and while he got better, it was still not great. Also, Pilgrim has a great canter once he settles, but it takes him a few strides to settle. BN and Novice tests were great for him because you canter the long side of the arena in addition to the circle. Intro C has you trotting again before you can really find your rhythm. Just not the best test to show off my man.
Back when I was a WS, I would ride multiple horses in different levels. I have always struggled with remembering whether or not there is a halt in the beginning of the test. Someone would always stand by the in-gate and as I went in, would tell me “halt” or “no halt”. I’ve actually been eliminated- more than once- for adding or leaving out a halt. It’s a problem.
So I mosy onto my horse around 11:50 or so- 20 minutes before our test because we’re just THAT good.
Kept our warm up super brief. Trotted for about a minute in each direction, cantered a circle in each direction, and then walked until it was our turn. Then we trotted one way each direction around the outside of the arena so he could see the scary judge’s tent, and headed down centerline.
Video is below- please note that we trot proudly right past X where we were supposed to halt. Doh.
If the video weren’t so fuzzy (iPad video rocks), you’d see my face change into panic as I realize we were supposed to halt about 3 strides ago. Luckily, my awesome P halted with no hesitation and then picked the trot right up. I was really pleased with the test as a whole. He was the most consistent in the bridle that he’s ever been and we had some true moments of connection. The canter is still a little iffy, on the left lead canter my reins are suuuuuper long, but oh well. His free walk was nonexistent since we were free-walking right towards Tango, the horse that we trailered up with and that Pilgrim decided he loved with all his heart. But I LOVED that final centerline and halt. We ended up with nothing less than a 6 for any movement, and a 7.5 for the final centerline/halt combo. As I would find out later, we scored a 67%, or a 33. Woot!
After that we had an hour and a half before my division’s stadium time at 2:00. I was 7th to go, so we had a long while to wait. My husband grazed Pilgrim while I replayed my dressage test over and over and then watched videos of our previous jump rounds to convince myself that my horse could, in fact, jump. Finally it was time to start getting him ready and that’s when I got really nervous. It took 3 people to get Pilgrim ready because I was suddenly incompetent and couldn’t remember which way his xc boots went on (since xc was directly after stadium, we had to wear xc gear to stadium). Then I messed up his bridle straps after switching his bit from his dressage bridle to his jump bridle. Oh I was a hot mess. So my friends finally banished me to go get myself ready and then I walked stadium one more time. While I was stressing, my horse was falling asleep ringside and being dressed as a moose.
So I tried a new warm up technique for stadium, where I did zero flat work and just jumped a warm up fence, since I’ve never warmed him up over fences before and wanted to try something new. There was a small x-rail, a 2 ft vertical and a 2’6″ oxer available, so I picked up the canter and headed for the oxer, which he flew over. Circled around and jumped the 2′ vertical, then jumped the oxer again for good measure and waited by the in-gate for our turn.
Again, P was a superstar. Had a sticky moment when he was unsure about fence 2, but rocked the rest of it. I just love his expression when he’s super concentrated on jumping. Double clear!
So we headed right down to xc along the marked path and that’s where P started to unravel. Since they didn’t have enough jump judges, they were sending riders on course one at a time, during which time P made besties with the horse in front of us and also could not stand still for a nanosecond. When the horse in front of us went, he was positive we were supposed to go with. Yikes.
Then it was our turn. The starter person counted us down and off we went…the wrong way out of the start box! One would think I’d never evented before..
So back into the start box we went, counted down again and we headed off towards jump one.
Pilgrim was so distracted that even though we had picked up the canter, I actually slowed him to a trot because he was not looking at the jump coming up. He jumped it super awkwardly and we continued up to fence 2, which was an extra small coop.
Video of jumps 1 & 2:
No hesitation jumping that and then we headed towards 3 which, after fence 1 and 2, was gigantic in comparison. During the course walk I was almost tempted to grab a measuring stick because no way was it 2′.
I got the BEST picture over that jump because P actually respected it.
Jump 4…oh jump 4, how you mock me. Jump 4 was a bigger log than jump 1, but smaller than jump 2.
What you can’t see from the picture of this innocent looking log is that it was next to the water complex. Even though we weren’t going INTO the water, guess whose horse wouldn’t go near jump 4 because it was 20′ away from the pit of alligators?
Video of jump 3 and refusal of jump 4:
You can see him stop like 10′ away. I circled him and tried again, but no dice. So technically I was eliminated; however, the jump person there encouraged me to continue. This is why I love schooling shows. I asked if, instead, I could wait until the division was over and then school him over it and they said yes, so I walked to the side and waited for the other riders to go sailing over it.
Most did…there were quite a few refusals at that particular jump, but then they went right over. During this time, Tango had decided she had enough of standing on the trailer and began screaming, which of course upset Pilgrim because heaven forbid his lady be in distress.
So after lots of bouncing around while waiting, it was finally our turn again. After another 4 refusals or so, we finally made it over, hence the loud cheering from husband, friends, show officials and random bystanders who found our mishaps to be entertaining.
5 was just a tiny up bank and 6 was going down and into the woods, which I have no footage of because we were on our own out there in the wilderness.
When I walked the xc course, the one I thought I’d have issues with was jump 7. It was a log in between two trees and we had to ride from light to dark and back into light. So imagine my surprise when P popped right over.
Jump 8 was another log that presented no issues.
Jump 9 was the shallowest of ditches that Ptried to stop at but ended up jumping sideways over.
Jump 10 was a substantially bigger coop than jump 2, but again, no issues.
Then we turned left out of the woods and fence 11 was our gateway back into the field where we started and where we’d end. P took a look at all the people and horses there (you could see the rest of the venue from where we were) and had another stop.
Fence 12 was another log with hay scattered around the base. P was certain that meant he had to jump the hay and while I got left behind, I love the picture because boy, can my horse jump!
Then fence 13 was a small hanging log which he jumped just fine and we galloped through the finish flags!
I’ve never been so happy to get off a horse, I was so dead tired. Our xc course had an OT of 3:30 and we were out there for nearly 45 minutes, including the wait for the rest of the division. I was disappointed that we had gotten eliminated but thrilled that we still got to jump every jump. And I was eventing again!
So I cooled off P, packed my stuff and loaded up to go home. As we were starting to pull down the driveway, I realized I hadn’t gotten my dressage test and wanted to see what we had scored. So I ran to get it and found out we had gotten the 67% (33) which was great! Out of curiosity I looked at the standings and this is where the bitter disappointment comes in.
We had been in 1st place up until xc. In a field of 14, amongst 4 professionals.
Thus the alternating between disappointment and being thrilled. It would’ve been AWESOME to say we had won on our first event together- my first one in almost 12 years and P’s first one ever. But instead we ended with a letter. I can’t blame P- there was not one single time when he was refusing just to be bad, this was his first time on an xc course and he was scared. I’m glad I didn’t know our placing going into xc, it probably would’ve made me more frustrated because I’m a competitive person by nature.
So, there it is. Our first event in the books! Now time to school xc like crazy because I’m pretty sure we’re heading to Carolina Horse Park in 2 weeks.