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After a two week vacation (you can check out some of the adventures on the other furry family member’s Tumblr), during which Cally was ridden by Susan and got a few dressage lessons, I had a lesson on Tuesday to kick us back into jumping shape and get us ready to head to the starter horse trials at Seneca this weekend.  She felt fantastic in the lesson, during which we worked a lot on bending lines, balancing in the corners, and really getting straight and steady.  I felt ready!

This was my first time doing Seneca, and I’m a bit sad I waited so long!  It’s a nice venue, all of it on grass, very old-school XC jumps, an actual steeplechase track circling the facility.  She felt great in the dressage warm-up, though I think I let her cook too long; we could have done with half as much and she’d have gone just as nicely.  But the bigger problem was, apparently, the potted mums sitting on either side of the entrance at A.  They were terrifying and Not To Be Approached.  So while waiting on our turn to go into the ring, I just made a lot of circles down there, to the point that she seemed to be, if not quite relaxing, at least a bit less electrocuted squirrel.  Alas, this was not the case, as she practically stopped at the entrance to the ring, and refused to go anywhere near A during the course of the test.  Considering it was BN-B, where practically the entire test takes place at that end of the ring it made for an…interesting test.  There were some really nice moments, and we did get quite a few 7s, and an 8 on our final halt.  Frankly I thought the judge was kind in giving us 5s for the movements where we frantically tried not to pass A.  You can only judge what you see, so the 40.5 we got was actually a bit better than I expected to see.

We hung out and relaxed for a while, since we had almost two hours before show jumping.  It was a lovely day, but that didn’t prevent an accident on the beltway from blocking the progress of World’s Best Boyfriend/Videographer.  So off we went to show jumping without him arriving.  Warmup started off all right, a little tense but she seemed to settle a bit once she realized we were jumping.  First two fences were good, but then she took off a stride early to the oxer, and grabbing the strap of the breastplate and slipping the reins (and some luck!) was the only thing that kept me on.  She took out the fence, so after it was reset, we came back around and jumped it perfectly politely, from a nice distance.  All right, we’ll go in with a hard rail and then one clean fence, should leave her in a good place to keep the fences up!  The first few were fine, but I didn’t stay out well in the turn to the vertical at six and she took a flier again, and landed rolling along, which resulted in her not rebalancing the way I needed her to to make the turn to fence seven, so I ended up making a circle.  Not the decision I’d like on course at a show, but sometimes you have to do what’s safe.  The scores didn’t seem to count it as a refusal though–I didn’t see a SJ fault.

I was, frankly, a bit worried headed out to XC.  She was being a little less responsive than she has been, and while lately she’s been great, she was not being great today.  I was fully prepared to retire on XC if she got at all squirrely.  Fortunately, we had a few moments to regroup before going out, as there was a loose horse on course, and I had to flag down the newly arrived WBBF/videographer and direct him out to the course.  I’ll learn to be a little more specific on where we’re heading next time, because the poor guy was clueless on where we’d be coming from and what we’d be jumping.  Perhaps even a “fences with yellow numbers” would have helped him.  Oops!  Because this is the only “good” bit of video we got, of the last third of the course, with one wandering pan of sky/grass/fence/sky edited out.

I tried to find a happy medium of taking it easy on the hard ground, and really trying to keep her cantering.  We walked the water, because I didn’t want it to be at all suspect, and had no issues.  We also trotted through some odd footing/terrain changes on the way to the ditch.  There was one stupid stop, that if I’d ridden a little better we probably could have avoided, going from a big ramp jump at nine to a little log at ten–she almost seemed confused and wanting to pull away to something bigger, like the fenceline itself, as if she thought the log was too little to be on her course.  Circle and a little tap, and away we went to finish up the rest of the course with no problem.

It wasn’t quite the “finishing on our dressage” outing I’d been hoping for, but we hadn’t even been XC schooling since July, and had never been to Seneca before.  For the most part she jumped well, and I feel like the bobbles we had were things we can work on pretty easily.  This actually felt like the best she’s gone around XC, very confident and bold and like she Got It.  So I think she’s earned herself a chance at a recognized outing at Waredaca the end of October.  I’ll have to sort out how the EventEntries process works for that, and look to get stuff together to send in.

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