Greatest part of the day: Finding out we finished on a NUMBER, no letters here!
Sunday was utterly miserable. Last week Matt was pretty sick and Friday I started to feel it. Saturday I was pretty congested and felt generally like crap, but managed to get out to the barn to scrub the trailer spotless and clean tack. Felt awful though, so I didn’t ride and figured I’d clean the pony in the AM.
Completely forgot about the cold snap that happened overnight, so when I got to the barn Sunday morning at 8:00AM with a planned departure time of 8:30, I found out that the horses hadn’t gone out the night before. No turnout + no riding the day before + coldness = wild pony time! And I felt like death. I had no voice, was coughing like crazy and had to blow my nose every few minutes or so. Great day for a HT!
We finally pulled out at 8:45 and arrived in Aiken at 11:15. For the first time in the 4 years we’ve had the trailer, we pulled out the awning and it was nice to have a place for the kids to park themselves.
Matt did his horse-husbandly duty and took P off to graze while I set up my stuff.
Then I took the kids and we went go check in and walk stadium and xc. Stadium was running so we stopped and watched for a second and boy, that course was super spooky. We watched 4 rounds at Training level and each had at least one refusal.
So we moved on to walk xc. Walking xc with a whiny 7 year old and a wiggly 2 year old? I wouldn’t HIGHLY recommend it, but it could’ve been worse. My shoulders were KILLING me after carrying Noah on my shoulders the whole time. As far as the xc course went, the jumps were much more substantial than anything we’ve jumped before and the terrain was crazy. Nearly every jump was either right before or right after a hill so it was going to require a lot of half-halting and balanced riding. But it was still 2’3″, so I knew he could walk over if necessary.
Then we headed back to the trailer to get ready for dressage. P was super quiet and that made me hopeful that this would be the horse I rode in the test.
As soon as we headed towards the arenas, P got a bit nutty, We had to park pretty far from the show grounds in a back field, so while it was all relaxed back there with maybe 15 or so other trailers, the atmosphere around the arenas was electric. There were 2 dressage rings, 1 dressage warm up, 1 jump warm up, 1 stadium arena and then xc all packed together so you could see everything from pretty much anywhere. The dressage arena we were going into had xc on one side, barns on the other, dressage warm up behind us at A and a pasture with horses in it on the other side of C. Fun times!
Warm up was kind of a blood bath. People just flying everywhere, no one had any consideration for who was in their path. And everyone was staring down at their horses, not paying attention to where they’re going. So we walked around the rail and tried not to die. Then when we picked up the trot, I knew I was in trouble. P was so sucked back behind my leg, he may as well have been on another planet. And even though I had so carefully packed my spurs, I had forgotten to put them on. I was considering asking Matt to go back for them, but the poor guy was hanging onto two kids and it was truly a long way back, so I figured we’d just make do. He’s never failed me before in dressage, surely he wouldn’t start now?
We were able to make one track around the outside of the dressage arena before the judge rang the bell. So P got a good eyeful of the horses in the pasture behind C and I couldn’t get his brain back. We headed down centerline alright, but then it all kind of fell apart. I couldn’t get him to stay connected in the trot and we cantered too late, then broke at A, rather then between F and B. I could feel him start to break, but couldn’t get my legs to work fast enough to keep him going. Same thing at the canter circle at C. He broke right after C, rather than between M and B. I was so disappointed and was seriously questioning a good number of decisions I’ve made regarding P.
Should I have moved barns? When he was further away, I couldn’t get there every day so my trainer rode him 2x/week for me. Is he doing terrible because I’m the only one riding him now? Should I have scheduled the chiro to come out earlier? He was pretty stiff and the week leading up to the HT had been having issues with lead changes, which has never been a problem before. Do I not do enough conditioning work with him? Am I too lax of a rider? And so on and so on. Pretty much boiled down to I was sick as could be and making way too big of a deal of everything.
We ended up with a 40.8, which was 2 points higher than the first time we did BN A. I felt like the judge was way too easy on us, but she was right on the money with her comments that the canter was “labored”, that he was “distracted” and “not forward enough”. P scored a 7 for gaits, but then we got 6s on submission, impulsion and rider position. I thought the 6 for rider position should have been more like a 2- I was flopping around trying to keep him going and just felt terrible in general. She wrote at the bottom “athletic, capable pair, but needs more impulsion for higher scores”. At this point we were in 7th place.
When we got back to the trailers, I seriously considered going home. I just felt so sick and didn’t want to give him 2 more bad rides. But I really wanted to see how he’d do on xc, so ended up staying. I had to run and buy a pinny, which was a bit inconvenient and then started to walk stadium, which was finally open. I only got to jump 4 before we had to clear the course for the next division, so I stayed and watched some rounds. Again, no clear rounds out of the (maybe) 8 I watched, this time at BN height. So I headed back to the trailers to talk to Matt and make sure I shouldn’t withdraw, then headed to xc to walk it one more time, thankfully alone.
Have I mentioned how awesome my husband is?
But seriously. He is.
My stadium time was 3:36, I tacked up around 2:30- this time WITH spurs- and headed over to warm up. I hopped him over an x-rail to start because it had the brightest colors (ALL the stadium jumps were super colorful) and he was great, so I headed for the 2 biggest jumps, which were both 2’6″ oxers. He jumped one just fine, but the other one had a wider spread and he jumped super awkwardly the first time. So I circled back around and headed for it again, reminding myself the whole time to sit back. I sat back and counted the last 3 strides down (all the while sitting back) and then jumped, but almost without my horse, who decided to jump awkwardly again. So we circled around AGAIN, jumped a 2’3″ white vertical, which he did perfectly, and then kept the canter and came around to the big oxer again, which he then flew over like the amazing pony that he is.
Then I realized the DIVISION started at 3:36 and they were going in numerical order, starting with 93. My number was 103, so we had awhile to go. We watched the other rounds and again, no one went clear except one girl on a 28 year old horse who plodded super honestly over every single jump. So when the rider before me went in, I headed P to the 2 bigger jumps again and then it was our turn.
The video is super tiny and from far away because poor Matt only had his phone, but we had two refusals and so went over in time. I wasn’t surprised by one refusal, but I was really surprised that he stopped at the coop jump because we school over those a lot. Oh well, we jumped every jump and it was yet another good experience in the end.
We headed straight to XC after that and were told we had two minutes before we were up. So we jumped the little practice log 3x, which he was a little hesitant for at first, but then jumped beautifully the 2nd and 3rd time. We stood quietly in the start box and I started my super fancy $10 Walmart stop watch (complete with turquoise duct tape) and then we were off!
We trotted to the first jump because he was super distracted looking around, but he jumped it and we cantered off.
Jump 2 was a small coop that he sailed over.
Jump 3 he powered to and was an adjustable feeder, which he’d never seen before. He sailed over this one as well.
At this point, I was having a blast. Pilgrim was carrying me to these jumps and acting like he was having FUN. Then jump 4 was the ditch. When I had walked the course, it was sunny in that spot, but when we rode it, of course it was covered in shadows. As we cantered downhill, I could feel P’s confusion, so I half-halted pretty strongly and he hopped over it.
Then we cantered straight ahead and up a small hill to jump 5, which was a small-ish cabin.
Then it was a straight stretch to 6, which was an up bank that landed up a steep hill. P slowed way down as he tried to get a read on whether it was a jump or not, but didn’t hesitate as he hopped up.
Then we galloped to the top of the hill and made a hard right to the palisades jump. P has never seen this before, but he sailed over it.
We had to go through a gateway to the next field where 8 was. P spooked as we went through the opening, but came right back and I focused him on the bigger log..
We galloped up the hill after 8 to 9. 9 was a water option, so we had the choice of going through the water complex or jumping a cabin next to the water. During the course walk, I made the decision to try the water first, since this is usually not an option. It also offered the straightest path to jump 10. P focused on the water and I could feel him start to suck back, so I sat back and gave him a slight reminder with my spurs that he still had to go forward. He walked into the water (no refusal!) and picked up the trot halfway through.
Jump 10 was another log that we had no issues at.
And then jump 11 was a rolltop that he took a hard look at, but jumped anyway.
And then jump 12 was in front of us and we were just about done. I got slightly distracted for a second, hearing my husband and Justin yelling behind me and I let my reins get too long. P took another hard look at the flowers under this one and was too drifted right for me to straighten out in time. Of course we had a stop at the last jump! But we hopped over it and headed through the flags. It was the best feeling ever.
Both stadium and XC ended up claiming quite a few victims so even with our crappy dressage score, we ended in 8th place. Not eliminated!