Friday night I hardly slept. I kept picturing our last go at a horse trial, which was at the same farm, in the same arena, performing the same dressage test. In case you didn’t get a chance to witness that sliver of glory, this is where I literally leg yielded my poor horse out of the arena at A because I was hell bent on picking up our iffy left lead.
I finally gave up on sleep around 6:45 in the morning, so only 5 1/2 hours to go until my ride time.
About an hour before my ride time, I got us both ready and then took him for a powerwalk around the farm. He was a little on edge, but not outright spooky, so we just walked…and walked…and walked at a brisk march all around until he took some deep breaths. He warmed up really nicely after that, save for the left lead canter, where he would be good then bulge out and then get super forward for a few seconds. I’m sure it was something I was doing.
We went about 14 minutes ahead of our ride time because of some scratches and I really just wanted to take my jacket off. It was so hot. Besides, you can’t over-warm Pilgrim up or he becomes belligerent.
Our dressage test was incredibly average with no dazzling brilliance, but I was thrilled because I let him stay in the arena and we executed each movement correctly. Our best scores were for the halt, which for once was perfectly square and balanced, and irony of ironies, our left lead canter transition. But we ended up with a 37.9, which is one of our worst scores ever. I’d never heard of the judge, but was told she was tough, though I thought her comments were pretty spot on. She said we lacked bend, and he was on the forehand in the downward transitions. Pilgrim was so quiet in the test that I really should have pushed him a bit more. Although during our free walk on HXF, he was really strutting it and so I added just a little bit more leg to really show it off (he has a great walk), and he thought I was asking for the trot, so there was some jigging. Ugggggghhhhhhh.
We had about an hour and a half before stadium, so P went into a stall to munch on some hay and I got changed. Then we tacked up for stadium and headed to warm up with Trainer L and her other student who was riding Trainer L’s young horse Walter, and was also in our division.
I picked up the trot and headed P for a little vertical. Usually landing from the first few jumps he explodes upon landing, so I made sure to keep my hips open and keep contact on his sides throughout the whole jump. P landed…in the trot.
A couple more jumps and I could hardly keep him cantering. Trainer L was yelling at me to wake him up, and I was trying, but short of pony kicking him (which I finally resorted to), he was just super quiet. So we went in, I trotted the first fence so I didn’t screw with him too much, and we literally trotted stadium. Ummmm, ok then.
We stayed to cheer on Trainer L’s other student, who went after us, and P just stood there like a statue, even after they were done and the volunteers started taking down the bright purple tent right next to us. NOW I was a bit concerned for XC.
They were running behind on XC so we had another hour before we had to get out there, so P went back into the stall to rest and eat hay, and I changed into my XC gear. Finally free of jackets for the day. The look I got from Pilgrim when I brought his jump tack back into the stall was one of pure loathing. I also had added spurs to my wardrobe. We got ready and headed out (with the other student on Walter) to XC.
Every time I take Pilgrim to Paradise and we go XC schooling, he practically runs down the road past the pastures to the XC course. Not this time. Even when the ponies in the pasture came running towards us, P hardly even lifted his head. NOT really the horse you want to be taking XC and for once that weekend, I was glad the jumps were tiny.
We got to the warmup area, which had some stadium jumps in it, then one BN jump, one N jump and one T jump. We hopped over the stadium stuff first, which P was, again, super quiet before and after. Then we headed for the BN jump, which was a hanging log on a platform. He was still way too quiet and came slowly to a stop, so we circled, I used my spurs and we flew over it a couple of times. Then to the N box a couple times, then Trainer L directed us toward the T jump, which looked like the one below on the right, except with no openings and it was green.
That thing looked doable from the side, but heading P up the hill to it, I wasn’t sure for a split second. So I pretended I was Boyd Martin and put my leg on and we sailed over it. Then we did it one more time for good luck and headed to the start box for our
speedbump starter course.
Now P was a little amped up, so we walked through and around the start box while they counted us down from 45, and then we were off! At a trot. P jumped the first jump fine, but then when we rode the bending line right to the 2nd fence, he could see that Walter was not following him and he was so distracted that he almost didn’t see jump 2. He finally did and jumped it awkwardly, then we headed at a trot down the hill towards the white gate with the brush, where now P could really see that Walter was back at by the start box. He was drifting right, I couldn’t get him straight so…refusal. Damnit. He stopped a few feet away so I made him leg yield over so we were facing the center and then kicked him forward. Then it was up the hill to the left and over the house, which he jumped just fine. As planned, I brought him back to the trot towards the water and as soon as he saw the water, his little ears pricked forward and P turned into the XC machine I hoped he would be.
He started rocking around the course and all I had to do was point him at the right fence and sit down a few strides before to keep him on the ground instead of taking flyers. The one jump I was a little concerned about with the brush underneath, he did give the hairy eyeball too, but as soon as I sat down about 3 strides before, he locked on and went over. It was absolutely fantastic and I was laughing as we crossed the finish line, which the photographer managed to get and is now my favorite picture ever.
We ended up packing up and leaving that night because we were both exhausted and judging by how tired P was, I didn’t think it was fair to stay over another night to school the BN XC course the next day. He definitely deserved a day off.
All in all, it was a great experience and as soon as he pulled his brain away from Walter, he really was a rockstar on course. My doubts about him have mostly been my concern that he doesn’t like XC. While more time will tell, he definitely seemed to be enjoying it on Saturday. So we will now say farewell to starter/maiden/tadpole/any other name for a tiny course and head on to (slightly) bigger things!