Chatt Hills Schooling Show XC Pictures

There wasn’t an offical photographer at the Chatt Hills schooling show a few weeks ago but the photographer that was going to be there for the Connemara show the next day actually got some XC pictures! I am so happy that I have a few since my normal photographer wasn’t there to help me out (how dare he ditch me for a bachelor party!).

These were the last few fences on course so by this time we’re both a little tired. Still, I’m happy with the effort even if it seems we got a little too close to the base of the fence. One step at a time right?

Plus I really think my black/white/orange set up for XC is kind of rocking it right now. Classy yet still bold.

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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!

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Since it has been quite some time since I actually rode in this show… let’s just sum of the day.

Dressage

This was by far and away my worst dressage test. Not so far as the numbers went but because nothing was going right. New trainer thought Gus looked off in his left hind but we managed to work out of that until we got into the ring where I completely threw him away and rode miserably. This was entirely my fault but I do have an excuse.

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You see, as we were marching down the middle, all confident after a wonderful warm-up, the judge stood up as if she expected me to halt. We were riding BN A, there is no halt. Or is there? She suddenly had me wondering if I had memorized the wrong test! So, with basically no preparation, I came to a halt. It was a terrible halt.

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And yes, there is no halt in BN A. Or BN B. But honestly, I think the judge forgot! Because I did not get a technical error the halt and, in fact, the comments actually sound like she firmly believe there is a halt in that test.

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But either way, it threw me off for the rest of the test and it was mediocre at  best.

Jumping

No surprise, the NQRness that new trainer had seen during dressage warm up (and the test) was amazingly gone when it was time for jumping. GusGus just doesn’t want to prance around in the sandbox. Warm up went really well and we had some nice fences.

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I was really excited to get in the arena to actually do our course though I knew there would be some scary to Gus fences. Chatt Hill’s arena is HUGE and beautiful. And not boiling hot because it uses white sand instead of the black footing that Poplar does. Ugh.

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But anyway, going in I did my best to trot around all the scary jumps. Sure enough, Gus spooked at the flowers under fence two. Made the mental note to ride that one all the way through. So what did I do? Oh yeah, gave up a half stride out and, sure enough, had a stop.

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We got over it and continued on our course. I had a few really pony club up moments. Over or thru. There is no stopping.

XC

So after that, I sent the  boy up to add Gus’ XC gear and while I hurridly walked the course. It was so hot and humid, I was ’bout dying three fences in. There were a few things I was worried about, namely the bank and the arc jump. The  bank because, while I love them, Gus has never seen one this big and we had a second jump only three strides after it. The arc because it was the same fence we ran out of at the Stephen Bradley clinic.

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And of course a storm started rolling in.

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I am so thankful to have a trainer to warm me up now. It helped tremendously. The first two fences were beautiful. The third fence was a run out. It was not one I had been worried about. Just a hanging log on top of a box. I guess I just let Gus look a little and didn’t put enough leg on. The rest of the course rode fine though I did let him get a little strong to the arc. He flew up the bank fine, though, and rode past a very spooky group of fences.

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While it wasn’t our best ever outing, I think we both learned a lot from this course. Now though we are taking a break while I get through the next two weeks.

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Stephen Bradley Clinic – Day 2: XC

The temperatures came down for day two of the clinic but the humidity seemed to go up so it didn’t feel much different than the first day. We were at Chatt Hills for XC, which I have never been to, so that was exciting. Also exciting was that it was only an hour from the barn.

I’ll take what I can get!

By the time we got to Chatt Hills, storm clouds were coming in which thankfully brought a little bit of relief. They were running early so I hurried to tack up and get out to the field. Good thing I did because we didn’t have long for the clouds let loose!

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Out in the XC field, Gus was super excited but pretty well behaved. We trotted out to the field and he was basically floating. Several of the riders in my group, along with Stephen, commented on just how nice he moved out when he was using his hind end. Yup. That’s why I bought him!

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We warmed up at the trot and the canter a bit. I was honestly a little afraid I wouldn’t have enough breaking power with the loose ring snaffle but once we got going, Gus was very polite. The first exercise Stephen had us doing to warm up was trot over a little log, trot through the water and just keep repeating until he said to stop. This was no big deal for any of the horses and Gus happily plowed through the water.

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Then we got to move on to the actual jumping. There were four houses set up in a row from amoeba to novice. We were told to jump any size we chose three times. We could stay at one size or we could move up but we could not move down. I started with tadpole and felt pretty good about our first two jumps so I was going to move up to the beginner novice cabin but Stephen wanted me to bring Gus back to a trot to get him back on his hind end and then canter it one more time so I didn’t move up.

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What Stephen noticed with Gus, besides his green moments, was that he really wants to lean at jumps and I have to be careful to keep him up and balanced (since he can’t do it himself yet). I also have to be careful that I don’t get a head of him. Slower, but still forward, is better at this point.

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Then we started stringing jumps together. We did the small amoeba coop to the tadpole cabin we had just done and then had to come back around and jump a beginner novice round top and then our choice of the tadpole or beginner novice coop. Both of the beginner novice fences looked so dang big. I didn’t know how I was going to handle it! I got even more nervous when the first person out in the group (with probably the most experienced horse) had a refusal at the round top.

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I’m sorry to say that my nerves got the better of me and I pretty much failed at the very first little coop. I threw myself at the fence and Gus ALMOST refused. Somehow though we did get over it, I recomposed myself and carried on. I rode hard to the round top, kept my leg on and got over it. And then I chose the beginner novice coop as well even though it was scary. But I have to keep pushing myself if I want to move up the levels. I knew we had jumped higher the day before so I kept my leg on and rode it.

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It was AWESOME.

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I don’t really even remember what the next combination of jumps were except that it involved another big beginner novice roll top. I think we jumped the big round top in reverse, rode through the water over a little cross rail and then came over the roll top. The roll top looked even bigger. Gus had a really green moment to the round top but I rode it and we popped over it. It wasn’t pretty though so Stephen had us do it again just to help build Gus’ confidence.

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Little did he know he was building mine as well.

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By this time, it was lightening and thundering pretty hard but still not near us. We knew it was coming close but we wanted to keep riding. So ride on we did. We eventers are pretty hard core.

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The last exercise in this field was going in and out of water over a little jump. Gus was very confused by this and gave everything a really hard look. I did not let him say no though.

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At this point, we rode down to a different part of the filed, hoping to beat the rain and do a few more exercises. Stephen wanted us to jump over a little fence, ride through an empty water jump and then jump these little arks. At that point, it started POURING. We didn’t care, we rode it anyway.

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At this point, I did have a refusal. I wanted to build on my confidence in jumping the higher jumps so I chose the beginner novice ark instead of the tadpole ark. It was raining and it was a weird looking jump and Gus just said no. In most cases, we would have represented and schooled but since it was raining, Stephen had me just go over the little ark. I’ll have to make sure I come back and school the bigger one sometime later.

Since we were all soaked, we took off back through the fields and this is where Gus earns a gold star and best baby OTTB of the year award. One of the green horses in this group basically bolted. Gus wanted to go with him so badly. I let him open up a little bit until I heard one of the other riders in our group screaming that she had no breaks. I turned Gus hard and asked him to slow. He did! We cantered with the other rider as I talked her through stopping her horse (one rein, pull him up a steep hill). We came to a stop at the top of a hill and we dismounted to walk back. Gus could see his other buddies galloping off without him and I could tell how badly he wanted to go with but he stayed with me.

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We didn’t get our full session in XC but it had been such a good session that none of us were that bothered by it. We all certainly would have kept riding had it not been raining but by that point, we were soaked through, our tack was soaked through, and the horses were soaked through. Stephen gave me a grid exercise to work on and I feel a lot better about where Gus and I are at going into this weekend.

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Stephen will be down in Aiken at Full Gallop this November and I am going to do my best to be there too!

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