It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, which is bad of me. Mostly because despite two very good lessons with Carol and Kelley leading up to it, our first real event of the year, doing BN at the MDHT starter trials at the end of May, was a total disaster. Our dressage was a tense mess after I let the dressage judge honking her car horn at us to start, as we were passing C, frazzle both of us and get me in a bad place mentally for the rest of the day. The high point was showjumping, where we had one sloppy rail after we got quick and flat through a turn, but was otherwise fantastic. Then XC was just a mess, as she was looky, not focusing, and stopped hard 3 times in the shadowy fences back in the woods. We ended up getting the Big E, and I was left wondering why I was doing this, and if we were ever going to get around nicely enough.
But I was already entered the Waredaca Starter HT for this weekend, so I figured I’d suck it up, and go and see if we could do any better. To prepare, we took advantage of the Schooling Day on the recognized competition course, as Carol took a big group of us over to school. Cally felt fantastic, really doing great with the water, which had previously been our problem. We also schooled quite a few light/dark/shadow questions on jumps in the treeline. Then Friday we had a lesson with Kelley where we worked on our focus and precision to jumps.
All of it paid off in spades on Sunday. Our dressage was maybe a little tenser and less supple than I’d have liked it to be, but it was quiet and accurate, leaving us in 5th place with a 38.5 after scores were tallied. Not our best, but I’ll take it. We had a good bit of down time between dressage and show jumping, so I went and walked the SJ course, glad to see how nice the footing in the ring looked after all the rain we’ve had. Then, because it’s Waredaca, I had to have a cheeseburger for lunch. I figured if nothing else, that was going to be my good for the day.
But I needn’t have worried. Though footing in warmup for SJ wasn’t great and I didn’t jump much, we didn’t need to. She went in and put in a solid SJ round that I was very proud of. Once again, we had a flat, sloppy rail out of a tight turn to a vertical, so I think working on that’s going to be our summer project, but she was focused and forward, even to Fence 7, which seemed to be catching a lot of people out due to the puddle right next to the landing spot on it. I was feeling pretty good at that point, walking out to XC.
We did one warmup fence for XC, a simple palisade, just to make sure she was locking on and going to solid stuff. No problem there, so we headed to the start box. Unfortunately, Daisy distracted Liam at just the wrong time, so he missed us heading out, and there’s no video of our XC! But she felt fantastic. I really let her roll for the first three fences, a feeder, barn, and rails, which were simple enough that I just wanted to get her mentally forward, locking on, and going confidently. We circled between 3 and 4 to rebalance, since 4 was jumping downhill, then had a nice roll through 4, 5, and 6, and along through a little gully to a log at 7, then up the bank like it was nothing. Two rolltops at 9 and 10 were no big deals, though they looked big when I walked the course. It was Fence 11 that had terrified me when course walking. It was labelled as “mound” but was a log up the mound to a big drop down which looked, to me, like we were heading off the Hickstead Derby bank. So on course, we trotted into it, and on landing, Cally took 2 strides, saw the drop, and slowed herself down; I gave her a pat and some verbal praise, and we walked down that bank like we did it all the time. I imagine the 12/13 combo of a fence before the water pass through, to a log, caught some people out, and Cally did look hard, but kept going right through, with just a little wiggle as we went into the water. After slowing to pass through the mucky footing in the woods, I let her roll uphill to 14, make a big sweeping turn (almost too sweeping….oops!) to 15, and gallop downhill and back up over the final log at 16! It felt amazing, and I was so thrilled with her.
She felt pretty proud of herself strutting back, and I felt elated. I didn’t even care where we finished, though of course one always hopes for something to take home to show for your efforts. So we cooled out, cleaned off, packed up, and while Cally got lots of carrots, I rewarded myself with a strawberry snowball. Mmmm, perfect on that very humid day. There was apparently a lot of carnage in our division of Beginner Novice Rider, with less than half the starters finishing, and only one score under 40. We ended up in 4th, our one rail in stadium keeping us out of second. I was beyond thrilled with that placing! It was the confidence boost I needed to know that we’re on the right track. What we had problems with–a getting flat from a quick turn in SJ–is something we can work on over the summer, and add in some more XC schooling, and we ought to come back to eventing in the fall better than ever.