Sorry this is so so late! I just got back from vacation yesterday in the early evening and then I had to go ride Ben. The night before ENYDCTA I tried to upload the virtual course walk but the hotel internet connection was being funky and was driving me crazy. Then I came home Sunday, fell into bed, packed all day Monday, and left Tuesday which left no time for typing this post. Sorry!
Saturday early afternoon, we headed up to the barn. There was a lot of traffic going up and we live a half hour away, so we got to the barn a bit later than we intended. I gave Ben a bath and we packed up the last minute things. We hitched up the trailer and off we went. At this point we were already an hour behind schedule.
The drive ended up taking us 3 hours instead of the 2 hours and 20 minutes it was supposed to. We didn't arrive at the event until 7:00 pm. We parked the trailer, found his stall, hung his water and put down bedding. Then we put Ben in there with some hay and went to walk cross country. The original plan had been to get there, walk xc to give him time to settle, and then ride him. It was getting dark so I just decided not to ride him, which was kind of crazy of me since this is Ben we're talking about. I had no other choice though, and so we started walking xc at about 8:00. The course looked really fun, there were quite a few beefy fences and quite a few tricky combinations, but there didn't seem to be anything we couldn't do. The two things I was worried about was the water, only because Ben is not so sure about man made water complexes yet and the ditch, which was huge for Novice. Everybody was saying how big a ditch it was for the level. It was at least three feet wide. Neither Ben or me had ever jumped a ditch that big before but I was determined that if I kept my eyes up, leg on, stick ready, heels down, seat and shoulders back, and hands wide, we would be absolutely fine.
Here's the course walk:
1 - Welcome Rails
2 - Brush Box
3 - Gray Coop
4 - Stacked Planks
5A - Bench
5B - Bench
6 - Ditch (Looks tiny in this picture!)
7A - Step Up
7B - Narrow Brush
8 - HVFS Barrels
9 - Roadside Rails
10 - Bales & Rails
11 - "Cash Splash" Water
12 - Palisade
13 - Table
14 - HVFS Log
15 - Feeder
Then we walked stadium which looked hard but good. I like hard stadium courses because that is a lot of people's weakest points but stadium is our strongest point. When there is a hard course it usually moves us up in the placings.
The course started as an oxer to vertical outside line with a long 5/holding 6. Then around to a vertical on the diagonal, bending line to an oxer on the centerline. Then around to a vertical off a short turn on the long side, 90 degree turn to a two stride, vertical to oxer. Right turn to a plank vertical on the short side, to a rolltop vertical on the long side, bending line to an oxer. It looked really fun.
The next morning we got there at about 8 am. I fed him his breakfast, picked up my packet, took him for a walk around the grounds, and braided him. Then I tacked up, got dressed, and lunged him. Then we headed up to warm-up where we warmed up for about 25 minutes, then headed in to do our test. He was so good in warm-up, and so relaxed. We were cantering by horses and everything and he didn't even think about bucking.
I had made it my plan to just go into the dressage ring and keep the relaxation and not worry about his head. I figured that it was better to make a nice, relaxed circle and get a 6, then to try and get an 8 and end up with a 4. That was by far the best dressage test we have ever had. He was relaxed, quiet, had an awesome rhythm, was working through his back, and was just great in general. Unfortunately, we ended up with a 43 and I have no idea how. That put us in 9th out of 12th which I was okay with, I just thought we deserved something a little better.
This is a picture of us in our dressage test that I absolutely love, despite me looking down and having my hands in my lap... :
Then we moved on to stadium. He warmed up really well, was really bold and going for the longer spots as usual. Meanwhile, the course was eating people alive and rails were flying. All of the verticals were very upright with minmal groundlines and the oxers were all maxed out. And whose horse was one of only three in the division to not knock any rails? Mine was! Unfortunately, we did pick up a stop at the second to last fence. In his defense, however, every single horse either looked at the rolltop and had a rail there, or stopped at it. Also unfortunately, he stopped so hard and so fast, that his head flew up and I got his neck into the right side of my face which ended up giving me a wicked headache, a cut on the inside and outside of my lip, a couple of loose teeth (which have returned to their normal state now, thankfully!), and a whole lot of blood. Luckily, he didn't get the middle of my face or he would've most definitely broken my nose.
Then came cross country. To get to the start box you had to go down two really steep hills that crossed over the xc track so Ben was kind of silly about that. By the time we got to the start box he was ready to explode so we just went into the start box and parked ourselves in front of the back rail until we got counted down.
First fence went wonderfully, as did the second, third, and fourth. The benches were a really long two strides apart, and we were really going so I decided to jump in and push for the two. He couldn't do it though so he ended up chipping to the second fence and landing in a trot. We regrouped and headed for the ditch. I did everything I was supposed to, kept my eyes glued up into the trees, heels down, etc. We got up to the ditch, he took one look and said no way. He proceeded to do this two more times and that was it. We were eliminated.
I was so annoyed with both myself and him because I knew that there was absolutely nothing that I could have done better. I wouldn't have ridden it any other way if I had the chance to do it again. It was also frustrating because ditches are just one component in a huge picture that is eventing that is keeping us from doing well at the level. Well, and dressage, but we're working on that! Plus, if we had run around cross country clean, we would've been 6th, so obviously dressage isn't the biggest factor.
So we need to work on ditches and a lot of them. Unfortunately, he will jump any kind of simulation of a ditch without an issue, so we can't use that to school. He will also jump any ditch 2 feet wide and under which all of the ditches I have available for schooling are. The one at Apple Knoll was an exception but that was only because I looked at it. So we are going to have to figure this out.
The next event for us is Frazier Farm Horse Trials on August 7th. That is a very easy, straightforward Novice which will be great for us. In the meantime, we're going to a dressage show on Sunday to do Novice Test B and Training Test A just for fun and experience. I guess we will evaluate and go from there but I also have to remember that he is still green and we've only been working together a year and half. And even though it feels like I've been competing him forever, ENYDCTA was only his 8th event ever and only his 6th Novice ever. Sometimes I just need to take a step back and look at the big picture.