Since I have pretty much zero media besides an iPhone video of stadium and some random pictures, I’m just going to cram everything into one post.
Friday P and I headed to Trainer B’s for our regularly scheduled session. P warmed up well over a couple jumps, and I was feeling great because we’d had fantastic rides all week.
Because the SJ at Windridge is on grass and pretty much all the jumps are either uphill or downhill, we rode in the field to work on balance to and over fences on terrain. Well….P was not too happy about Trainer B moving the jumps around and making them look different, and stopped at the first fence, a lattice gate with a pole. Same jump we’ve jumped many, many times before, just 3 feet from where it originally was.
After getting him over it and doing it a few more times, he then stopped at another jump. And I was frustrated.
Trainer B: Do you want me to get on?
Me: ::leaps off horse and brandishes reins::
Long story short, Trainer B rides much more positively than I do and does not give in to P’s hesitations. Besides one initial stop, he had P jumping around the course, then got off and offered me the reins back.
Trainer B: He’s a lot more forward now. Don’t take that away.
But we jumped around it successfully, called it a day, then P & I headed off to Windridge!
P settled in like the champ that he is and I went off to hook up my trailer at the campsite, which luckily wasn’t too far from his stall. Then I hopped on and we went for a long walk to stretch his legs. One of the best things about P is how he takes in chaos. Horses unloading from trailers, tents being set up, golf carts and little motorbikes zipping around…nothing much fazes him. The only thing that really ever gets to him are loose horses (but I can forgive that).
Saturday we had a dressage time of 11:52 and SJ at 3. I lightly lunged P at 9, then went up to get ready. The dressage arena was in the middle of nowhere and I was told it was a 20 minute walk on horseback, so I got on at 11 and headed over.
Well, it was a 5 minute walk and they were running late so I had a long time to go. P and I just hung out under the trees for awhile and watched tests and some of the crazier warmup riders (highly entertaining as long as you don’t have to dodge them).
Then when we were 2 riders out, I did a little reinforcement of forwardness, trotted a few minutes, cantered a few big and small circles, and we went in!
By the time we finished, I had a gigantic grin on my face. There were moments that I knew we’d lose points on- his left lead canter depart was a bit, uh, expressive, and there was a moment where I felt him want to break to the trot (but didn’t), and our first centerline was a bit wobbly. BUT….he was rideable the entire time. He wasn’t exploding through my aids nor was he dead to the world. It was the most fun in a dressage test that I’d had on him so far and really thought we did well.
Apparently the judge didn’t agree.
While this is the worst dressage score he’s ever gotten, and I definitely don’t think our test was nearly THAT bad, apparently the judge had equal disdain for my entire division.
Now we’re no stranger to being at or near the top after dressage. So I wasn’t surprised (except at how bad the score was) but I also wasn’t optimistic that we’d keep the lead. 2nd place was only 1.5 points behind me so that meant if we wanted to stay in first, we couldn’t have any refusals.
SJ was indeed on grass and very hilly. Trainer B wasn’t kidding when he said every jump was on a hill.
I believe this was set at BN when I walked it, as my course didn’t have a 6B.
P warmed up great, so I kept it short. I didn’t bother with the cross-rail and just did the vertical once each lead and the oxer twice each lead. Their SJ/XC warmup area is great because it’s on a pretty big hill so you get to really practice riding up and down hill…a must for riding at this venue.
Then it was our turn!
I trotted P in and headed straight to jumps 3 and 4 so he could get a look at them. Then we were off.
It was Husband’s birthday, so after Child #1’s football game that morning, he and the kids drove up and got there about 10 minutes after my dressage test (good timing there, Husband). P was happy that his treat minions were there:
Then we headed 20 minutes down the road to Tryon International Equestrian Center for the $86,000 Grand Prix! It’s one of my (and Husband’s, believe it or not) favorite places to go, but about 1.5 hours from our house, so we don’t get to go that often. It’s a fun place to be no matter what, but if you HAVE to bring kids, they have a ton of things for them to do.
Then they dropped me off back at the barn to do night check while they headed home. Husband’s back isn’t in great shape right now and since I was camping, I didn’t think a truck bed air mattress would be a good idea.
While I was dumping his poop at the muck dump and refilling water buckets…everytime I turned around, P had somehow flipped the hay bale and then looked at me like, “Wut?”
The forecast called for rain and t-storms starting at 11PM and lasting all day Sunday. Trainer B had asked me if I had studs and no…I don’t. P’s not even tapped. Apparently Windridge gets slick and like SJ, all the fences are on hills. So I figured I’d play it by ear. My ride time wasn’t until 1 PM, so I’d have plenty of time to watch other riders and see how it went. If it was slippery, I’d scratch. I’d rather withdraw than go out and make a mess of XC- P needs confident runs, as do I.
When I woke up the next morning, it was still dry, so I headed off to walk XC one more time, then hung with P before going to church.
When the stall guard is up, we conserve our hay.
Halfway through mass, I had this terrible feeling, like I was missing something. And sure enough, when I got back to the truck and looked through the XC fence pictures I’d taken, discovered that I’d MISSED A FENCE. Just completely walked from 7 to 9, and had NO IDEA where fence 8 was. Uhhhhhh.
So I sped back to the grounds and ran to fence 7 to figure out where 8 was. And while I had to make a slight adjustment to my planned track, it wasn’t too bad…I must have just walked right on by it on both my earlier course walks. Genius, I am.
So I went to go lunge P again for a few minutes and that’s when the rain started.
And I felt…relieved that I might have to scratch. Because while sure, those jumps are small, most were pretty wide, a few were set on a steep up or down hill, and let’s be real- this is P we’re talking about. P has yet to make it around an XC course without a refusal. And I totally know this is stupid, but I’m uber competitive and to go from first to either last place, or even be eliminated (totally realistic possibility here) would suck.
But then the rain stopped after maybe 15 minutes or so, and I couldn’t NOT go. So I went to get ready and then suit P up.
We headed to warmup, hung out for a bit and watched some riders go..and fail. Most had a refusal at jump 2 and one got eliminated there. Great for my already delicate psyche on my stopper.
Then we were 2 out, so I popped him over the vertical, oxer and log pile a few times, and we headed for the start box.
I didn’t wear my helmet cam for 2 reasons: 1) it was supposed to rain, and 2) why would I want to document refusals?
I regret everything.
Also, I was going sans watch because 1) it broke and I didn’t have time to replace it, and 2) we probably weren’t going to get very far anyway.
A new watch is currently on its way to me.
Most riders that I watched were trotting out of the start box and over jump 1, which you got to pretty much immediately after leaving the start, then not having enough momentum to get up the hill and over 2, which was at the top of the hill. So I planned to get out of the start box and get going as forward as possible to build on that going up the hill. P was all, “why we going so fast to start” but listened well and jumped it perfectly.
When we were here in June for XC schooling, P stopped at jump 2 twice and eventually needed a lead over. And it was giving others problems. So I told myself to sit back and kick. P hesitated when we got to the top and saw everything that was beyond it- jump judges, golf carts, etc. but I stuck to my plan and put my leg on and he popped right over.
Then we headed down the hill to 3- sideways. There was a lot to look at and P was looking at everything except the jump I needed him to see. I finally got him set on it a few strides out.
We landed off 3 and P was like, “I gotz the zoomies” and took off. I pointed him up the hill towards another roll top and he was all over it.
Jump 5 was one of the boogy fences I was concerned about. It was a ramp, which he’s never seen, at the top of a steep hill, and the most solid looking jump on the course. So I planned to give P a good boot up to this one as soon as we got straight.
I would actually come to regret the extra leg, because after this jump we were supposed to arc out to the right to get straight to jump 6. P didn’t hesitate at this and we flew right past where we were supposed to turn. We wiggled back on track and he leapt over. I forgot a picture of this one, but it was just a raised log with a bunch of big stones under it.
Then it was a straight shot down the hill to the cabin in the woods. The cabin was low, but wide, and had a little cut out in the middle with flowers in it. P definitely looked at it, but again listened when I put my leg on.]
Then we rolled back and went to jump 8, on our newly planned track. This was a step thingy and I needed to turn about 2 strides after landing. P was back on a roll by now and steeplechased this one.
There was an option for going through the water, which I wanted to do, but a jump judge was parked in the way of my track so we had to skirt the water and get to jump 9. It took everything I had to turn the freight train that was my horse by now, and he just soared over 9.
Then it got a little hairy. P landed and was off again…but we needed to be turning left down the hill. He had locked onto that Prelim jump beyond jump 9 and was hauling ass towards it with his ears pointed straight for it. I couldn’t slow him down or turn him, so I finally one-reined “stopped” him which really just got him down to the trot. Then we turned and trotted down the hill, and when we reached the flat part, I asked him for the canter again so we could go uphill and to the right to the bench out of the woods, another one I was concerned about. I shouldn’t have been.
We galloped over the green box thing-y.
Then it was a straight gallop to the last jump, a wide table, aka another jump he’s never seen and another one I was worried about.
P was pounding over the ground, flicking his ears at all the jumps and trying to figure out which one was ours. I probably could’ve pointed him at any one of them and he would’ve gone. But I got him locked onto ours and while he definitely peeked at it, he went right over and we were through the finish flags!
You run into the woods shortly after the flags and P wasn’t about to stop so we circled like 5 times before he finally dropped to the trot. One of the volunteers was staring at us wide-eyed, and I had the feeling we’d had some speed faults. I said to the timer, “Feels like I just saw you,” and he said, “Yeah, definitely wasn’t that long ago.” So, oops. I mean, the course was only 300m/m and we were flying, no doubt.
BUT. Besides the slight steering issues, P felt incredible. While there were times on course I thought that we were definitely going too fast for our division, I didn’t want to fight with him over speed. He was jumping the jumps, I’m not messing with a thing! So even if we got speed faults, they weren’t refusals and that’s what matters. P strutted back to the barn and I may or may not have shed a few tears on the way because HE DIDN’T STOP.
And it turned out making him trot down the hill (vs jump the Prelim fence) was the best decision ever because we beat the speed fault time by 2 seconds!
And finished on our dressage score for the FIRST TIME EVER!