Area III Champs at Chatt Hills – Stadium

Well, you already know how this one ends: no ribbons and a big pretty RF on my record. Falling in stadium was definitely a disappointing way to finish the weekend but it didn’t take away from all the fun (and it was an incredibly fun weekend).

Nor does it take away just how awesome Gus was jumping. By far and away, it was our best stadium round to date (minus the fall of course) and I really do think we’re ready to up the height and the technicality. Our pace stayed steady, Gus was taking me to the fences instead of always waiting for me to tell him to go, and we were both making decisions instead of hoping for the best. It’s just unfortunate that I had some bad luck.

So what happened is this: we came off a long sweeping corner to big vertical and I knew right away that we weren’t going to have a good distance. Maybe the right decision would have been to push more forward but I was worried about getting flat and bringing the rail down. Instead, I asked Gus to give me a long spot. And he did. Gus has never jumped like he did over that fence, cracking his back and sending me flying out of the saddle. I might have been able to hold on except Gus also twisted in mid air and there was no horse to come down on to. I slid right off his side like I was doing an emergency dismount. My feet landed then I fell backward onto my butt before I just flopped down in the sand.

It felt like forever that I lay on that ground but it wasn’t even a few seconds. I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I had come off. But I jumped up and went to Gus, who was standing just a few feet away. This was not his fault, just bad luck.

But we both came out of it mostly unscathed. I did get a pretty nasty bruise on my leg, yanked my right shoulder muscles something awful, and probably had a minor concussion from something hitting me on the forehead (?!?) but nothing major. Gus didn’t even get a scratch. He got to enjoy a few well deserved days off while I downed Advil and tried to get through my work. I’ll trade with him any day!

 

Chatt Hills Schooling Show 6.10.17

If there’s one take away from the Chatt Hills Schooling Show this weekend, it’s that I am a lot better at this whole eventing thing than I sometimes believe. And I’m not talking about coming home with blue ribbons or even ribbons at all (though I did) but rather the fact that even though I looked at the XC course and thought “shit, those look big,” once I was out there, it didn’t phase me a  bit. In fact, I’m sort of wondering when I can start thinking about moving up again.

But that’s a different topic for a different day.

I did not take any time off from work on Friday which unfortunately meant that I was leaving for Chatt right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Luckily though, it only added 15 minutes to our trip. I love that Chatt Hills is so close to the farm! But with the heat and late hour it seemed like we really had to rush to get a quick ride in and then walk the XC course. Neither seemed to go great. Gus was acting like a lunatic and spooking at everything and I couldn’t stop thinking about one very big and very wide table on XC. Lovely way to end the night.

But, miracle of miracles, when I got on Gus the next morning to warm up for dressage, he was so so lovely. Even tempo, connected in the outside rein, soft flexion in his pole. He’s never warmed up quite like that before! Unfortunately, it didn’t last to the ring. We still had a nice lovely tempo and our canter transitions and circles were quite nice if I do say so myself. The bend, however, was gone and I fought for every single step of that test.

The judge was quite generous though and gave us nothing but 6/7s the whole way around. And we even got a 7 for our halt which included a big stumble. Oh Gus.

It didn’t show really in the scores but I do think that our dressage is improving. Now I am able to hold him together for a decent test despite his greenness. The next step is for him to actually stay relaxed when we go into the sandbox. We’ll get there.

Both of my jumping phases were right in the middle of the early afternoon when the sun is high and the humidity is at its worst and I was really feeling it. All I could think about in stadium warm up was how hot I was and how badly I wanted to just get in the ring and get my round over with. All because I was dying in this heat! Warm up, however, went really really well.

Usually at Chatt Hills I have done stadium in the entire big ring but this weekend they had it roped down to a smaller arena. This made things much more manageable. LT’s goal was to have us ride the whole thing with no chips. Forward. Forward. Forward. And that’s what we did. Okay, we did have one little chip to fence 3 but otherwise it was foot perfect. Even with a rail on fence 6 I think that’s the best course we’ve ridden. I was feeling really good going into XC.

There was not enough time to completely untack Gus between stadium and XC so I loosened the girth, stuck him in front of the fan and did everything I could to keep us both comfortable for the ten minutes before we had to walk the long path down to XC. I was exhausted and I thought for sure Gus would be too. Nope! I quickly found that I had absolutely no breaks and had to switch his reins down a hole on the elevator. Good thing I did not put the loose ring back on like I had intended! Once I had breaks, though, we flew through warm up and were ready to go.

So here’s the one thing that ticked me off this weekend. They were running ahead and taking people as they were ready. So I went up to the volunteers and said “I’m ready!” and they told me I could go after 251. There was one other person before 251 so we would be third up. That was okay. Perfect timing to just be done with my warm up and give us both a breather.

But then, when 251 went in, 244 said they were ready to go and since I was 245, I was told to wait. Well that was a little frustrating but alright. Then, just as 244 was leaving the start box and I headed over to get ready, they told me 243 was ready and I would have to wait again! When I protested they told me “It’s only 4 minutes” That’s when I got angry, I had already been waiting 12. If you are letting people go out of order and ahead of time, you don’t tell them they’re up next and then keep pushing them back. Even LT got a little miffed and told them that this was not fair to me.

Look, I know volunteering is a thankless task. Usually I am always there with a smile and a thank you for everyone I meet at an event whether you’re a volunteer or a fellow competitor (maybe not always if you are my ever suffering husband, sorry babe!). But this time they were actually hurting my chances. I had warmed up and done everything I was suppose to in checking in and getting in the order of go. I was miffed and, while I didn’t raise my voice, you better believe I berated them as I was waiting my next turn. I don’t even feel bad about it. We plan our warm ups carefully so that both rider and horse are ready to go when our turn comes. I don’t like this hunter hurry up and wait shit.

LT asked if I wanted to warm up again but I didn’t. I was running out of strength and I knew I’d need it on the course. So I walked away from the gate keepers and ignored their “try to have a good ride” wishes. You better believe I was going to have a good ride.

And then I let it go. I had a horse to ride and a XC course to conquer!

And if you watched the video… you’ll see that we did!

Like stadium, our goal for this outing was to go forward and jump the fences out of stride. While we had a few wonky steps we didn’t have any real chips so I am counting this as major progress. The wide table I was worried about? Not a problem for Gus Gus! We could have gotten it out of stride if I had put on the gas a bit more but by then I was exhausted.


Gus was also very hesitant about that bridge and once we were on it, he freaked out over the water. This was all very silly to me since we went over a bridge like this at Foxberry ALL THE TIME but that’s horses for you. We actually had to walk over it. Walking! On XC! I’m sure that will never happen again.

Due to the rail in stadium we dropped down to fifth but I was so thrilled with Gus and his willingness to just go for it all. He is really starting to grow up and I can tell he loves his job. This was exactly the prep I needed for Stable View H.T. in two weeks.

Bring it on!

Poplar Place Farm May HT – Video Round Up

I wasn’t able to share these two videos with you due to random things so I wanted to make sure I got them up on my blog!

The first is my trainer videoing my stadium course. You can hear her riding the entire thing with me which is so cute.

The second is my helmet camera from XC. It is fun. I love XC.

 

Poplar Place Farm May HT – XC

We had moved up to third after Stadium so you better believe I was determined not to get any silly time penalties for XC. Thankfully, I wasn’t worried about any runouts as long as I stayed focused. The course was a little weird but not particularly difficult. There were, however, a lot of faux baby keyholes and light/dark questions. Since Gus is usually very willing and we had just had our best stadium round the day before, I was feeling confident.

As long as I didn’t come in over time that is… because the way I walked the course, I was definitely going to come in over OT if I rode at the posted speed of 325. No bueno.

So what is a girl and her OTTB to do? Well, up the speed of course! Lol. I had all my minute markers mapped out and knew that I had to get a time over 5 minutes but under 6. That shouldn’t be too difficult on an ex-racehorse. And it wasn’t, the course ran fast!

I met my first three minute markers perfectly. We came out of the start box a little heated so the first fence was less than pretty but worked. Then came the coal box which we’ve jumped a million times before but Gus was not focusing so it surprised him. Again, no issue but at least it got his head out from his chest and we moved on to the third fence (a “double” coop between trees) and jumped it beautifully. That’s when the first minute marker rang right on time as we swung around to fence four a simple log into the woods.

Fence 1

The path to fence five from four was weird. We had to swing wide out of the woods and then back in. I actually rode my line completely wrong and almost missed the fence. Thankfully Gus didn’t think twice about the full sized house (complete with squirrels) and we went cantering into the woods. Our second minute marker was supposed to ring after a quick jaunt through the woods and right before we jumped fence six out of the woods and we hit it perfectly (and the fence out… though Gus did spook at the jump judge).

Fence 2

It was then time for the little squid jump and the weirdest BN water crossing I have ever seen. You could have ridden the water in this case without ever going into it. The quickest line was to actually ride as close to the left flag as possible and immediately make a 90 degree turn around it. So silly. I rode hard into the water and did a roll back. I didn’t want to risk missing the flag and we need the water practice. It still rode weird but whatever, sometimes you have to go with it.

Still doing well on time, we jumped a semi related distance of a lattice vertical and a table. Between those was our third minute marker. So far, so good but that’s where my luck ran out. Not with Gus being a superstar though.

Fence 3

The next fence was a “squeeze” and you had the choice of two different skinnies between three trees. I ended up taking the one on the left just because it felt better but I had no really reason for saying that. Either way, despite the squeeze and the dark, Gus didn’t even hesitate. I was still trying to be cognoscente of my time and took a wide swing around to the up bank combo but then I got confused and thought I was behind time and let Gus go a little bit faster to the mushrooms which was fence 13. We were still flying after that fence and as we came down the hill. That’s when I looked at my watch and went “oh crap, we’re going to get speed faults.”

Fence 14

We slowed down to a reasonable pace to jump a really pretty table (seriously, why do I ride like crap when I know my husband is photographing that fence?!) but took the inside turn to a little tiny log on top of a hill and had the worst jump of the day. Ugh. Then I knew we were going to need some forward momentum to get to fence 16 and it was indeed the only fence that Gus slightly hesitated at. I can’t blame him, it was a weird one and was supposed to be jumped at a bit of an angle.

Fence 16

We only had one fence left before the finish and I was under 5 minutes. Cue the major slow down. I think we were barely cantering and, as a consequence, barely popped over the last fence. But you know what? We came in at just over 5 minutes. No speed faults and under optimum time. Lol.

I was so happy when we crossed the finish line. While it definitely wasn’t as pretty of a course as Sporting Days, I felt like Gus had been a lot braver. So in that sense, it was a better course. Gus and I keep getting better each time we go out and our confidence keeps improving as well.

In the end, we did get our third place and I couldn’t be happier. Not only did we qualify for the AECs (which we’re not going to) we also qualified for Area III Champ Shows (going to but not competing in the champ division). That is two major goals on my list and it happened in our first two shows.

 

Poplar Place Farm May HT 2017 – Stadium

Let’s cut to the chase because I know you are all wondering: Gus and I rocked stadium. No joke, we owned that course. Okay, not really, there were places with issues but you would have never known that just two weeks ago I was seriously wondering what was so “fun” about this whole ordeal.

But I got into warm up and felt good. Probably being at Poplar helped since we have shown there quite a bit but also I really do think we both learned a valuable lesson at Sporting Days. I wasn’t the only one who rode hard to the fences, Gus was actually taking me there. He felt springy and happy and excited.

Super trainer, LT, and I had walked the course the day before when it was set for the Intermediate course. They took out several jumps and combos by the time they got to Beginner Novice so we walked it again when it was set at Novice. This course was all about testing whether or not you can ride a corner and keep your horse powered through that corner. A lot of fences came down at all heights due to this.

I was actually feeling pretty good though about the course because powering through the corner is something LT and I have been working on at home A LOT! Also, we ride and jump in basically a dressage arena so making these types of turns are second nature to us.

After a spectacular warm up, we rode right into the course and had an awesome round. I had to push a little bit to the first two fences as the switch from plain warm up fences to brightly colored and decorated jumps backed Gus off just a bit. But he was willing and by fence three, was raring to go again.

Because we rode so late in the day (I don’t think we actually got into the ring until almost 6:00 pm), there were a lot of jumps with light/dark questions. I made sure I rode hard to those because I didn’t want a stop over something silly.

And Gus handled everything like a champ. No rails, no time. We marched out of there so happy. Best of all, we both had a blast!

We have really been struggling with stadium recently but I think this trend of good sessions has really helped us find our footing again. I have to thank LT for that because I don’t know what would have happened to us without her. She has been so supportive and knew just the right exercises to get us both feeling confident again. I know she was riding every step out there with us and that she was just as excited for us to cross the finish flags.