Today was, in a word, amazing.
Ben was the best I could have ever asked him to be from behaving himself in all three phases, to standing like a gentleman tied to the trailer, munching on hay (which he never, ever does. At least not without pawing himself into a hole and trying to climb on the trailer).
Dressage was awesome. He was spot on for everything. Its amazing to me how far this horse has come. He now knows that he has a job to do in the dressage ring. Sure our test had a couple of little bobbles, like a few canter strides added in to the left trot circle, and flipping our nose in the left canter circle a bit, but considering at the beginning of the season I considered it a good test if he only bucked once or twice...I think it is safe to say that we are making progress.
We went into the ring to score a 31.7, the best score I gave ever gotten in dressage on any horse, ever. I was ecstatic. We had five 8s! In my entire show career, on three different horses, I have gotten three eights across every dressage test I have ever ridden. So five in one test is pretty amazing to me! We were in fourth place after dressage out of twelve people. I have never been in the top half after dressage. Never. Usually I'm happy if I'm not last. I've never been in a position to say "Well, if I just jump clean, I'll definitely get a ribbon." I've always had to hope that if I jumped clean I would move up into the ribbons.
Of course, the pressure was kind of on for me then! I wasn't about to mess this up now that I had finally gotten the opportunity to see what it felt like!
So on to cross country we went! The course looked like it would be a blast! He warmed up fabulously and we headed over to the start box...where it proceeded to start raining and thundering and lightning. They sent me off anyway, and I must say it was pretty awesome to be galloping cross country along to the claps of thunder!
I finally, finally remembered to get pictures of the course! So I'll post the picture of each fence and write about how it rode:
This was a very simple, straightforward log on an uphill slope and winged by other jumps on either side which helped to minimize his wiggliness. We had a bit of a long spot and awkward jump here, but I'd take too bold any day over sticky and not confident.
This was a very, very cool fence although it was quite odd that it was only the second fence on course. It was a bank up, one stride across the top, bank down. Ben jumped really boldly up on the bank and was in for quite a surprise when he realized he had to jump down again! But he handled it pretty well, even though he kind of launched off the bank a bit, which he doesn't usually do. I just hung in there and let him figure it out.
This stone wall is off a long uphill gallop and rides like a bank up, even though it is a jump, because the landing is significantly higher than the takeoff. Ben jumped really nicely up here, although he took off a bit long!
This fence is tiny, but it comes off a fairly steep downhill quite soon after fence 3 and there is a pretty decent drop on the landing. We just popped quietly off the edge and galloped on. Of course, the exciting part happened on the turn to fence 5, when he launched himself into three huge bucks. He was having a little too much fun!
This fence is uphill, straightforward, and well-winged and Ben just kind of took charge and motored on over this one without any issues.
A fairly upright brush fence, we got a touch close to, but he snapped his knees up and had no problem clearing it.
A pretty narrow approach to a decent sized, but inviting, bank up. Ben pretty much was running away with me at this point, so I can't take much credit for the perfect spot we got to this ;-) This was followed by an extremely steep uphill, then to fence 8.
Not the best picture in the world, but this log was small and had a flat approach, considering you just came from the crazy steep uphill. Ben was long here but had no problems.
The reason I moved back up to Novice here, was because they didn't have a ditch. So imagine my surprise (and panic!) when I find this on my course walk. It wasn't terribly big, but it was indeed a ditch. And guess what? My horse didn't bat an eye at it. I turned to it, sat up and back, kept my eyes glued forward, and kicked on. And he just popped over it like he's not deathly terrified of ditches. Huh.
This was quite the pretty little fence, although a little spooky because of the shadows. We got a good spot here and jumped well. We then went through the clearing and turned left to fence 11.
I expected him to try to wiggle out to the right because this fence was off a blind left turn after the stone wall, but he saw the fence, locked on to it, and jumped it fabulously!
I really don't know why this picture makes this fence look so small because it is quite big. And its airy and has a bizarre groundline. Of course, this was the only fence we jumped really badly because you jumped 11, crossed a dirt road, down a little hill, then a sharp turn right to this fence. At this point, my medical armband decided to fall down to my wrist, so I was trying to get it out of my way while maintaining control of my horse. No easy task! He got rolling down the hill and I never really brought him back so we got close and he jumped over his shoulder a little bit which was kind of scary when this fence is as upright as it was! But we made it over and carried on.
This was up a slow, gradual hill going away from home so Ben turned into this field and balked sideways. He was nowhere near the fence at the time so it wasn't a refusal or anything, just an attempt to get out of doing more work. I took this as an opportunity to check my watch and realized we had more than two minutes left on the clock. To avoid speed faults I had to come in with less than 58 seconds left on the clock. Oops, wayyyy too fast. I never used to have this problem, but then my horse got really fit and really strong and I no longer have brakes... So I took his balking as an opportunity to kill some time and we trotted up the hill until a few strides out from this fence where we picked up our pace again and jumped this really well. You can see fence 14 just to the left of this photo.
This was quite a small fence because it had a bit of a downhill landing and a few strides later had a fairly big step down. He was good and put in the extra stride here and then actually listened when I asked him to trot to pop off the bank.
I don't have a picture of the landing side but this was quite the sizable drop down, probably close to three feet. So I trotted right off it to avoid any potential launching!
Last fence! A bit of a close spot but we made it out just fine and straight through the finish. Even with the balking and trotting, we still came in with 49 seconds left on the clock.
And by the time I finished my round, the rain had stopped, and the sun was back out! Go figure...
Then onto stadium which was a swamp of mushy footing and standing water. Yuck. It wasn't slippery or deep or dangerous, you just had to be extra careful around the turns. Novice goes last at this show so the footing has already been chewed up in front of every fence by 3 Elementary divisions and 2 Beginner Novice divisions. You kind of got sucked down in front of the fences which led to some ugly, over the shoulder fences from Ben. Somehow, we still managed to jump clean! There was little moat with water in it that Ben decided he needed to jump over between fences 4 and 5. Silly boy!
So in the end, we placed 3rd! I was so proud of Ben, he was everything I asked for and more today! He'll get a bit of a break from showing for now. He won't show again until Mid-July although we are going schooling at King Oak in a couple of weeks to school every ditch on the property!
Here are all of the videos from today:
XC Part 1 (Fences 1 and 2): http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2FFUzksJdfa5c&h=jAQFPvrJz
XC Part 2 (Fences 13 and 14): http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2FgrwZgeztQ_4&h=6AQEthKs0
And for your cute fix of the day, here is a picture from the other day when Ben found a turtle in his paddock and decided to make friends:
As always, thanks for reading!