I didn't start the day off too confidently when I picked the course map up and realized the ditch was fence number 5 headed away from home. I believe the exact words were "Oh s&*t, the ditch is number 5!" ;-)
But we're getting ahead of ourselves, let's start with dressage. Warm up was bad, then good, then bad, then the test was okay. He started off per usual, head in the air and checking everything out. Then he settled down and started looking really good. And then Lilly, his girlfriend, came over to warm up for her test. And then he wouldn't stop screaming his head off and was paying no attention to me at all.
I will say the test went better than I expected. He didn't call at all and once we trotted down centerline something seemed to click in his brain and he tried really hard to listen to me. To make matters worse cross country was running in the not-so-distant distance.
Both of our centerlines were decent although on the turn off the second one he fell on his face. Oops. Both out trot circles were pretty decent although the flies were really bad so that warranted some head flipping. The judge seemed to realize this was fly head flipping and not behavioral head flipping which was nice because we got sevens on both the circles.
Our trot walk transition was good but we get knocked all the time for being inactive in the medium after the transition and before the free walk. I hate to walk and then kick him forward because then he tends to jig in the free walk. We almost made it all the way down the diaganol in the free walk without jigging but Ben decided he NEEDED to jig the last few steps so that was an automatic four.
The transition from walk to trot was the only time Ben felt he needed to see what was going on over in the big field with the jumps in it (of course!) so that transition was pretty horrendous. Then for our canter transition Ben decided he needed to show everyone how smart he is by performing his transition a quarter of a circle early with zero input from me. I just rolled with it instead of pulling back and then transitioning again.
Both canter to trots weren't great but were okay and we got 6s on both which I was pretty pleased with. The right canter circle was pretty good and got a 7! That's new! His halt was perfectly square but he likes to add some sass and swing his hips to the left so that along with the fact that he needed to get another look at the cross country course meant we got a 5 on that.
I got a 7 on Rider and on Impulsion which I was very pleased about with some very nice comments from the judge about doing a good job keeping him on track and riding well. Overall we scored a 40 which is our best recognized dressage score ever. Just can't break into the 30s though! 0.1 points off! This left us tied for 9th out of 14 so I was pretty pleased.
The stadium course was really fun. It was a bit tricky which I LOVE because Ben rocks stadium so when the course is hard, Ben usually jumps a clear when others don't. He didn't disappoint this time and jumped clear to move up to 6th. We had a close moment at fence 3 when the rail literally came out of the cups and dropped back into them again... I had asked him for another stride, which he listened to, and he just couldn't get his knees up quite enough. Even if the rail fell, I wouldn't have minded because he listened to me instead of blowing me off which was nice! Number 7 was a very spooky fence with a brick wall filler and some fake flowers sitting on top of that right under the rail. Ben peeked pretty hard but I expected such and rode accordingly. I love how well we know each other.
Then came cross country. When I first walked up to the ditch on course I wanted to throw up. It wasn't huge or anything. Probably about three feet wide, I could just barely step over it with a little extra hop. It was probably only a couple feet deep. It was in a treeline so it was winged on either side. But it was a real live Novice ditch and I was terrified. But I sucked it up and trudged on and honestly, I felt pretty good about it after stadium. I talked myself down by forcing myself to stick to the plan.
Sometime between getting on and walking to the start box it started to rain pretty steadily. I was actually happy because the ground was a touch hard for my liking. I jumped one oxer really nicely in warm up and headed to the start box.
He headed out and over the first jump like a xc machine which hasn't happened in a while and I was very pleased with that! This picture is actually the back of fence one, I was having camera difficulties in front of it and my course walking buddies were leaving without me!
We turned to fence two and his head went between his knees and we threw in some bucking for good measure. That's apparently a new thing now... The cons of overly fit horses...
Fence two had some weird gentle terrain changes in front of it and then landed ever so slightly downhill.
There was some more attempted bucking on the way to three but I was ready for it that time!
Number three was very sketchy. I cut the turn a little too close to it, as it was a right hand turn after two. He looked a bit at it and we jumped like a deer over it sideways. But he went and that's the important part! My horse a few months ago wouldn't have done that, especially since this fence was actually quite sizeable.
Then there was a left turn to fence four, a hanging log, that I made sure we had a good ride to, because the ditch followed.
Then came the dreaded ditch... I cut the turn short, kept my eyes absolutely GLUED forward, kicked my feet up on the dashboard, threw in a growl for good measure and OVER we went!!! YES!!!
He got a ridiculous amount of praise and pats and I had a ridiculous smile on my face for the next three fences. Honestly he could've bucked me off right then and I wouldn't have cared, I was just so happy with him!
We galloped on to fence six a nice little cordwood:
Then we headed to this little log which had a sizable drop on it, I was actually surprised that we shared it with Beginner Novice:
Then came the water which he went right into (I guess we don't have water issues any more...), then a few strides to a tiny little ramp out which we wiggled A LOT to. He still has a hard time with fences out of the water, he gets transfixed on going through the water and has difficulty focusing on jumping jumps so soon out of the water. But we made it and that's one more good jump-out-of-water experience in the experience bank.
Then we made the turn to a nice red house that we jumped well:
Then came the very fun up bank, few strides, down bank which we got good practice with at Frazier last month, with a much harder version of this! He was really good although really flung himself off the bank again. If I trot and pop off the edge he just pops down quietly, if I canter off, he flings himself... silly horse.
Then we galloped a short way to a big, ginormous, airy oxer in the treeline. Again, the pictures never do big jumps justice, I should've had somebody stand next to it but it was most definitely maximum height. It was one of those awesome fences where you see the perfect distance about 10 strides out, your horse locks onto it, you feel how powerful they jump it, and you land perfectly and gallop on. Those don't come often but they sure are incredible!
A little ways on to 14 A & B, a bending line of tables. The first table was maxed out and the second was slightly smaller. It was an 8-10 stride bending line depending on how you bent it. I believe we got 9. It rode really well for us.
Then we went down a little decline to fence 15, a bench, but not before we spooked at a jump judge's umbrella... horses.
We then galloped on to the smallest fence on the course where I think I had the stupidest stop of my eventing career. The tree was in the middle to make the jumpable part narrow and he did spook at it but the log was 2'3", we should've been able to jump it. But I lost control of his shoulders and once that happens I'm screwed. So, smack, circle around, jump it no problem. Really?
Next jump was another tiny little log up a little incline that we jumped just fine:
Then came the next stupidest stop in my eventing career. Yes I really did have two stops at two of the simplest fences on the course after jumping the ditch, the water, the drop fence, the bank complex, the big oxer in the tree line, and the table combination just fine. This one was covered in brush which Ben is generally not a fan of. I planned to ride this one defensively for this reason. Of course I didn't expect him to drop his shoulder and run sideways 15 strides away from the fence, I expected more like 5... Again, once he gets his shoulder away from me, we're done. Smack, circle, jump perfectly. Ugh.
The last fence went well, except we got a little close and popped it.
I truly wish I could say that I cared about the two stupid stops but I truly didn't. He jumped the ditch!!! I'm beating myself up a little more now about the stops because there is no other explanation except that I stopped riding, yet again. One of these days I will learn that I have to ride every.single.fence. with this horse, he is not an easy ride. If there's a way out, he's going to take it just because he can. There were other people across the Novice divisions that had stops but I was the only one in my division. That being said, we were also one of only three that made the time. Sigh. I swear we don't feel fast, or out of control, or dangerous, or too quick to the fences, but somehow we are always WAY too fast. Can we even imagine what my time would've been if we didn't have two stops? I had 0:28 left on my watch when I crossed the finish line as it was!
So if we had jumped double clean xc we would've finished up 5th, but we didn't so we finished 10th. I didn't get a ribbon and I don't care. I am so unbelievably thrilled and proud of my horse that I can't even explain it. One day I will learn to do him justice and actually ride well for an entire recognized Novice course. Hopefully that day will be in the near future.
Next up is Lord Creek HT on August 19th. That's like home base for us so I'm going for some redemption and a CLEAR xc round!
I leave you with this video from Riga, its dressage, stadium, and xc all in one. Enjoy!