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Cally and I made what felt like an even bigger step up today, doing the Adult Amateurs (combined with Children’s, it turned out) at McDonough’s B-rated Zone 3 Stirrup Cup finals.  This was great for two reasons, first that it was a slight step up in game from the MSA C show, and secondly that the points we won there were to count double towards our year-end Stirrup Cup goal.

I’ll admit that I was a bit worried, mostly about the weather, since for those not in the MidAtlantic, we had an enormous line of storms roll through that were the remnants of a tropical storm, which led to two rings of show being moved in to one ring of indoor.  So, we got pushed back, an even that I was initially grateful for, but even I really mistimed.  I woke up, got her cleaned up and braided, and got there around 10.  And proceeded to wait and wait and wait, and take advantage of open ring schooling, and wait and wait and wait.  The waiting was especially problematic, because the horrid greenhead flies were driving poor Cally crazy.  I mean, to the point that I had to untie her from the trailer and let her have a bucking fit trying to get rid of one (several?) of them, and had to actually take her fly sheet off, because they were flying up under it.  Poor thing was even more miserable than I was sitting around in the heat.

Eventually, based on when the Jr/AO combined division started, I dressed up and headed to warmup, only to find that because they’d combined Adults and Children, the Children’s medal class would now run first, and I ended up in the second group to do their rounds.  Awesome, more waiting around.  Exactly what I hadn’t missed about hunters; I’d never been missing Eventing/Dressage’s ride times so much as right then.

Finally we got to the ring, both of us a little hot and cranky and tired, if for different reasons.  We headed into the ring, and chipped massively to the first fence, which led to us being a hot mess going into the corner, which was important NOT to be a hot mess in, because I knew we basically had a blind turn around from fence 1 to fence 2, which the horse wouldn’t see due to ring/fence layout until we were about 4 strides out.  Which Cally didn’t, and said “HELL NO.”  It took two tries to get over, but I think she was just so freaked out because the fence was basically part of a Y shape made with #1 (think of #2 as being the other arm of the Y, if #1 was the left one), so she really just had no idea what she was cantering towards, coming around the end of the ring.  This is where the bigger outside ring at MSA was an advantage; we had long, clear approaches to everything.  This was just mentally hard for her, and she was already tired and not so thrilled.  But then she nailed the rest of the course, including the 2 stride, like no big deal.

But then again, in round 2, we had the same problem, as we had to start with fence #1 as the base of the Y, which she coudn’t see until we turned to it, in between the outside line and diagonal.  Not the friendliest approach, and again, for a horse that likes to duck out to the right when the going gets tough, practically an engraved invitation.  But after the stop, we got around there again, and she felt so wonderfully relaxed and forward on the long gallop to the next fence, a single oxer set off the diagonal.  That’s where it sort of clicked that it was the approach that she had the problem with, not the fence itself.  She had plenty of time to gauge and set up for the oxer, because we really had most of the diagonal, and she jumped that fence fantastically every time around.  Duh.  So I was sort of close to tears of frustration coming out of round 2, because so much of it was SO GOOD, just like round 1, but she was just tripped up by fences she couldn’t prepare for mentally.  So our goal going around for round 3 was just to jump everything the first time around.  And man, did she nail it.  Landed all her leads, hit every fence, made the two stride her bitch, to the point that it almost felt like the easiest part of the course!  Definitely not a lack of ability or skill, just a lack of comfort with the questions being asked by the course in a few ways I didn’t anticipate, because who expects tricky blind turns to fences on a hunter course?  It was almost like a jumper question in a hunter round, and I watched everyone go around, and I rarely saw good jumps to those weirdly set fences.

Thankfully, there were only 6 in the combined division, so we at least came home with something; a pile of 6the place ribbons for two of the over fences and the hack, but for that round that nailed it?  4th!  I was really delighted with that, because it totally felt like it came together there, and we really did get rewarded for it.

Sometimes 4th place is winning!

I was happy to head home on that note, and make plans for our final Stirrup Cup qualifier of the year.  But both of us are definitely ready for a break during this hot weather, and some more work polishing up our skills at more challenging things.  I mean, obviously she just needs more work with it, because after one lesson where we spent 10 minutes working on a two stride, she nailed it every round this weekend.  So it’s just a matter of gaining more practice and more experience as we go around.  And that’s just something that comes with time, and getting out.