2017 Pine Top Thanksgiving HT – Day 1

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.

November Poplar Place HT 2017 – Stadium

For as much as I hate Poplar’s Schooling Show stadium courses, their recognized courses are always a lot of fun and tend to really suit Gus. When there are big open spaces between the fences I tend to let him get long and strung out and we pull rails. Twisty courses are much more our style and this course was all about the turns and the approach.

That being said, stadium is still my weak point. I’m getting better, and I was pleased to see that the Novice sized fences looked normal sized, but I still struggle with confidence issues. Especially when things start getting hectic in warm-up. There were more falls then there should have been at this level. The icky weather might have had something to do with it but I was still surprised at the carnage both in the warm-up and the ring.

Even with a refusal at the oxer in warm up (I hope we’re not developing a complex!) I felt pretty good when we got into the ring and I rode hard to every jump. We may have gotten a little crazy to some of the fences and Gus wasn’t really willing to be soft, but we made it through with only one rail. Jump 7 was an oxer set on its own with a long approach, see above but I let Gus get long and we pulled it down. Darn.

Coming into the two stride, Gus wanted to refuse and we got right up to the base as I pushed him over it and then kicked my way out of it. I know we knocked the rail there two but it did stay up and that’s all that matters!

After we finished, I took care of Gus and high tailed it down to watch a couple of team mates ride the Beginner Novice course. I was stunned at how little the fences looked. And I say that not take away from their accomplishments or anybody riding at that level but rather as a marker for how far I’ve come. Just a few weeks ago I thought those fences were huge and scary. Now they look like speed bumps.

This sport continues to surprise me in how much of a mental game it really is.

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.

 

Poplar Place Farm 7.9.16 Schooling Show – Stadium Jumping

I really don’t have a lot to say about the rest of the day. After dressage we went back to the trailer, cooled Gus out, and I changed into shorts so I’d be more comfortable walking the XC course. Also because I do not need to be wearing white breeches for the rest of the day. Changing into tight breeches is not the easies thing to do in my little hot and humid trailer but I wanted to be cool.

PoplarSS23

The XC course had been shortened due to the heat and was only 13 fences. I also don’t think any of the fences were maxed out. There was  nothing on course that looked scary to me but I could see where I was really going to have to ride certain types of fences. I was excited to get out there.

PoplarSS25

But first was stadium.

Stadium was a shit show. Gus warmed up really nice. I am getting a lot better with my riding but Gus was spooking at EVERYTHING. So I knew it was going to be a tough round. And something about having poles in every cup is a little unnerving to me. They didn’t look big but they did look very solid.

Gus thought so too!

PoplarSS26PoplarSS27PoplarSS28

In the end, we got through it. Gus did not spook at the judges tent this time so that was an improvement. There were also two fences that Gus probably should have gotten a refusal. The first was the brick jump and I felt like he came to a complete stop but a) you can’t tell in the video and b) it was going towards the judges so they couldn’t really tell. The second fence I don’t have a picture of but you can see in the video. It’s the American jump and he swerves really hard before it but I drag him back to it and we go over.

PoplarSS30PoplarSS31

PoplarSS32PoplarSS33

There were some really good things though too. Gus had no issues with the combination and had some of his nicest looking jumps to date. Guess they just need to be a little more impressive to get him to pay attention.

That unfortunately ended our day because just as we were getting ready to go out on XC it started to storm and they called the show. Boo. I was still happy with the Gus boy though so we packed it up and headed home. It was a good experience and hopefully will set us up for Chatt Hills in a few weeks.

Poplar Place Schooling Show 12.12.15

I have to beg your forgiveness for not letting you all know that I was going to be taking Gus to his first one day! The last time I was this excited about going to a show was when I tried to take Dandy to the one day at NWEC and we all know how that turned out…

PoplarPlace_Schooling-38

I’ve known for a couple of months now that I was going to sign up for this schooling show but I didn’t really tell anyone. The only people that knew were Eric, my mom, and one really good friend. But I was so freaked out that Gus would pull a 180 just like Dandy and I didn’t want any added pressure. You are all so supportive but I just couldn’t stand to tell you things had gone south.

Luckily, I don’t have to report that.

In case you don’t want to read a long recap, here’s the spoiler alert (highlight to read): Gus was an old pro, didn’t care at all about anything, went double clear, finished on his dressage score, and was fourth!

Okay, the long story:

Poplar Place Farm happens to only be about an hour from my house, but the barn is sadly an hour in the opposite direct so it was a two hour drive from the barn to the show grounds (plus an hour out to the barn from my house). So even with a 10:31 ride time for dressage, my alarm went off at 4:45 in the morning.

But the drive was foggy and uneventful and we arrived with plenty of time to check in and get ready. Gus was a good boy when he stepped out of the trailer. I think he was surprised to be somewhere new, and he did call a few times but  after a few minutes, he calmly munched on his hay and stood at the trailer like an old pro.

Once tacked up, the real test was about to start: how was Gus going to be once I got on. Or, really, would he even let me get on?

Yes! Thank God! I got a yes answer and a perfectly behaved baby OTTB. I know that OTTB’s see lots of scary and weird things at the track but Dandy really did a number on me. I wasn’t going to believe that Gus was going to be a good horse until I saw it.

PoplarPlace_Schooling

Since I didn’t know if I was going to get a well behaved horse, I gave myself a lot of time to warm up for dressage. This was a good and a bad thing. The good was that I really did get some great warm up. Gus was relaxed, quiet and really willing to work with me. We got some great stretchy trot and some good canter transitions. At first.

I tried to take several breaks so that I wouldn’t wear Gus out but also keep us warmed up enough to have a good test. I think, though, I ended up with too long of a warm up as Gus was just not willing to stay focused by the time we got in to the actual ring.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-3

It started well. We got a 6.0 for our entrance. But things sort of disintegrated as we moved on. We had to ride the Intro C test which is just the WORST. I couldn’t get Gus to accept the right bend so we quickly got a 5.0, a 5.5, a 4.0, and a second 4.0 all to start.

Not our best! The bend also kept us from picking up the right lead canter and we were then super disorganized and I couldn’t bring Gus back to a trot in time.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-17

Thankfully we redeemed ourselves with a 7.0 for the “Change rein, working trot rising” and then 7.0’s again for the trot circle and the stupid left lead canter circle! Then we finished out the test with solid 6.0’s. The judge had nice things to say for our collective marks but thought we needed more work on getting the correct bend (um, duh?).

Gus and I scored a 40.5 which isn’t wonderful but considering how well he was behaving and how it was all my riding that led to that score, I’ll take it. It was enough to have us tied for sixth out of 12.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-20

I was happy to get off after dressage but there is no rest for the weary. Despite the hour and a half I had, I was so busy. I hurried to walk XC and got completely freaked out by the table at fence five (I don’t know what it is, something about those sharp corners and the flat top). Then, Eric ran back to tack Gus up while I walked stadium.

I’m so lucky to have such a sweet horsey husband.

Stadium was a bit of a disaster from start to finish. I have a, probably not unusual, mental issue in that whenever people start watching me jump I sort of freeze up. And the warm up was busy with trainers and other, better riders. My lack of riding led to Gus almost refusing a tiny little cross rail and me almost falling off. Ugh. But after that I sort of got my act together and we managed to take a few good times over the verticals.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-22

I had watched the 18″ rounds, and walked while they were raising the height, but walking in to the actual ring to start stadium I felt like I was looking at jumps that were three feet at least! I think it was that they were rails four rails in each set of standards. I didn’t think anything looked too spooky, the jumps were pretty standard. But I still tried to do a nice wide circle and take in as much of the scenery as possible. Good thing I did because Gus thought everything was scary.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-23

We managed to get over every single fence but it was a very ugly ride. I had to ride Gus hard and we often got right up to the base before he flung himself over it. It didn’t help that he spooked at almost every fence. I think I was probably close to falling at least three times.

I don’t know if it looked better than it felt or if people really just thought I needed the encouragement after such a terrible looking ride but I got applause at the end and a few “good ride!”s from random strangers. Whatever, I’ll take it! And the water that my wonderful finance was there to hand me the minute I came out.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-26

Because I had already done my walk, we had a few hours between stadium and XC. I took it to relax and forced myself to eat something even though I had no appetite.

Finally, it was time to tack back up and get ready for XC. I thought I was going to be sick.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-31

So I focused on the fun stuff, getting all the orange on! Being able to use color, and bright color at that, is one of the little perks I love about eventing. But I still want to be tasteful about it. What do you think? Did I manage to tastefully use orange?

PoplarPlace_Schooling-42

I was so nervous walking down to warm up and then actually in the warm up. They had your normal warm up jumps set but they also had a BN hanging log out as the natural fence. It looked terrifying. But I knew I had to jump it. If I could jump that, I could get over all the jumps on the course.

Well, it wasn’t pretty but we did get over it. My heart in my throat and a death grip on Gus’ mane. They were taking people as they were ready and I was the only one in the warmup. I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

Time to go.

Despite my worry, Gus didn’t care at all about the big hedge around the start box. He stood quietly while we were counted down and then quietly trotted out of the box like we did this all the time.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-49

The first little log was fine. We picked up a canter a few strides before it and calmly popped over it. Then Gus saw all the crazy upper level jumps and scenery surrounding the second log. Holy scary scenery! It was all I could do to get Gus to even go over the jump, he was so busy looking at everything else that we almost ran right past a 12″ log! Thankfully we got over it.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-50

The downhill approach to three was hard. Gus really wanted to bore down and balancing was out of the question. So we came into the coup pretty tight. Four was the natural roll top, five was the Lincon Logs. They both rode fine because I was too worried about what was coming up next to think about it. In fact, I barely remember jumping number five!

PoplarPlace_Schooling-53Before I knew it, fence six was there in my sight. The scary table. I gave a quick half-halt to get Gus to sit back and put my leg on. Gus flew over it without even blinking. Then, I was so busy praising him, that Gus shied hard at a mushroom jump off to the side. Oh GusGus.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-54After that, I wasn’t worried about the second table. We calmly popped over another log at seven and then rolled down the hill towards the second coop. Again, we had a lot of trouble balancing down the hill but we got over the jump. The second table should have been the scariest jump on the course as it was a jump we shared with the beginner novice course but it was our best jump. It felt awesome!

PoplarPlace_Schooling-56

I almost missed jump ten. I completely forgot about it and almost rode the turn too wide, but I was just about home free. I had to keep telling myself, ride the last fence, don’t stop riding until you’re past the finish line!

When I did make it across the finish line, I thought I was going to cry from happiness. There were so many feelings running through me. But mostly I was so proud of Gus and so proud of myself. I overcame every fearful thought I had that day and came out on top.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-58

And we came home with a pretty white ribbon to add to our collection.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-63

So what’s up on Gus and I’s plate next? Well, in the schooling department it will be dressage and grid work. I also think that a dressage only show is a must! We both need more practice in the sandbox.

PoplarPlace_Schooling-61

But don’t worry, you’ll see us back out on the XC course soon. Probably at BNov!