I was super excited for Pine Top. Everything I had heard from people was that it was a great event and that they loved competing there. I’ll admit, I was a little over whelmed when driving up. The facilities, while perfectly fine, do not have the same sort of gravitas that a place like Chatt Hills does. Still, the scenery was beautiful and we got lucky with wonderful weather. Especially considering I do sleep in my open aired trailer!
My dressage time was mid morning which I was happy about. We had a good warm up where Gus felt light and on the aids. When our turn was up we began circling the dressage court. I was ready to go, Gus was ready to go. The horn sounded and I turned Gus into the gravel court and suddenly, Gus felt like he was going to fall down.
It was as if the life got sucked out of us. It took half the test and way too much work to get Gus going forward and supple again and, by the then, it was really too late. We did have some moments that I was proud of and I got both canter transitions so I was pleased with that. Gus was also willing and not overly distracted like he was at Poplar.
All in all, I wasn’t thrilled with our dressage test, but I wasn’t displeased either. There was nothing egregiously wrong with it. I figured we would score decently but not particularly low and I was right. We got a 37.
My trainer had never ridden at Pine Top either but she experienced the same loss of forward momentum going into the dressage courts. She had thought it was just her boy being a bit tough. But that sudden change from grass to gravel really sucks the forward momentum out of the horses. I wish we had known that going in so I could have ridden for it, but that’s part of the game I suppose!
At least there was stadium to look forward too. I thought that the stadium fences were set pretty soft, which surprised me after everything I had heard about Pine Top, but the course was trickier than it looked. There were a lot of rails coming down due to the smaller ring and a few tricky turns. I felt confident though after having a great warm up… sound familiar?
The first three fences rode well. We had a good forward pace to the first fence but I was very surprised that Gus felt like he wanted to back off. I kept my leg on and road the pace through the first tight turn to the second fence, the biggest oxer on course. But as we took a slightly bending line to the third fence I could feel the power waning.
Fence four and five were on a related line and my trainer had specifically told me to ride it in a forward, bold, seven… DO NOT GO FOR THE EIGHT. But we had lost all of our pace coming into four. As we landed I knew there was absolutely no way we were going to get the seven. So I decided I was just going to go for a nice quiet hunter-ish eight strides.
But Gus was so incredibly backed off and he was not listening to my leg. I had forgotten my spurs and Gus was taking full advantage of that. I should have gone to my stick but I wasn’t thinking. So we got to fence five not in seven and not in eight. Instead we put in a really puke of a half step and brought the fence down.
We got through rest of the course though I really had to sit and kick out of the two stride combination at 8. I do feel like I managed to get things together for the last fence which was something and we only had one rail which was kind of a miracle.
More than anything, I was surprised with how backed off Gus was. These fences were not high and were not overly decorated. They were really quite plan all things considered. But that’s where I have to be more aware and quicker to respond. I need to be proactive instead of reactive. I am a better rider than that and, more importantly, I want to be a better rider.
Sadly the rail moved me down from 7th to 9th but it did take the pressure off for XC since I figured I was firmly out of the ribbons.