Saturday, September 28, 2013

Beginner Novice or Bust

Well. Things have changed quite a bit since I last wrote to say the least!

Nothing terrible has happened, but Stoneleigh didn't quite go as planned. Dressage was okay, but he was very hyped up so the canter was quite quick and we ended up scoring a 41. Not as bad as it could be, but certainly far from the best test he's ever put in. 

The courses looked fun and doable. Stadium has never been an issue and we have quite a few Training combined tests under our belt, so I know he's very capable. Cross country had a lot to do but I wasn't terribly worried. Maybe a little weary of the HUGE ditch at 9 and the drop into murky water at 15, but I was in the right mindset to get out there and tackle it.

Unfortunately for me, things got very eventful as I was getting ready for stadium. The wind was picking up, it was starting to rain a bit, and there were horses running cross country right near our trailer so Ben was pretty hyped. As I went to get on him to head to warm up, he spooked, got loose, and took off. Great. There is a lot of pavement at Stoneleigh and he was slipping around on it as he evaded capture. He was probably only loose for about two minutes but it felt like a lot longer as I watched him skid around. 

He seemed alright so I hopped on to warm up for stadium only to find that he was slightly off and just not quite right. Ugh, horses. So of course I was not about to jump him and I was especially not about to take him cross country so we scratched. I was pretty bummed. We have not had a lot of runs this season and we haven't had ANY Training level xc runs this season due to a variety of bizarre circumstances. 

For some reason I feel like we've failed this season and I don't really know why. I didn't fall off, we didn't have a bunch of rails, we didn't get eliminated, and our most recent xc run at the Lyme Horse Trials was great. I suppose just the feeling of going to an event and not completing, no matter the reason, makes me feel as if we are incapable even though that makes no sense. 

Regardless, I have made the decision to drop all the way back to Beginner Novice for the last two events of the season, strictly because I want to minimize the risk of not completing and I want the two of us to have fun. Again, the reason we didn't complete had nothing to do with the level. He could've spooked and took off at any level. Same goes for when I had to scratch after dressage at Riga Meadow because I didn't feel good, it had nothing to do with the level, although maybe I would have run anyway if it was Novice or Beginner Novice. 

I just feel like after not having too many runs this season, I want to finish on a strong note over courses that I KNOW we will tackle with ease. It will also be nice to really work on the quality of his dressage because the Beginner Novice tests are so straightforward. It will give me a chance to work on making stadium even smoother, because I don't need to worry about the height of the fences. It will give me a chance to give Ben some learning experiences if he decides to be silly on xc because I can stuff him over the small Beginner Novice fences if need be.

I'm very much looking forward to going out and having a blast. If we end this season with confidence it will make the trek back up to Training next season much easier. I want to make sure we have a solid foundation and dropping to Beginner Novice is almost like having the inspector out to make sure the foundation doesn't have any cracks.

We were very capable of going Training this season, there's no way I would have attempted a move up if we weren't. But it will be nice to sit on a horse that I feel confident will go double clean next season, instead of the horse this season where it could have gone any way. 

So we've got Kent next weekend on the 6th and Course Brook on the 12th, both at Beginner Novice. Then I think we're going to head to a local jumper show and hopefully jump around some of the 3'6" classes. I haven't done the jumpers in almost a year and I miss it!

My plan for the winter is to really work on our dressage. I would like to master the counter canter as he really struggles with that. I'd also like to perfect our leg yields a little more so the rhythm is more consistent and they're a little straighter. I'd like to work more on haunches-in. And we'll really be working on the general quality of his canter, especially to the left. 

I also plan to keep showing in the jumpers at Westbrook this winter as its always good to keep him out and about during the winter so the first show of the eventing season in the spring doesn't turn into a rodeo. I'm hoping in the spring we can do a lot of xc schooling and start out at Novice before giving Training level a shot, yet again! I think we're on the right track and I feel like I'm doing what is right for both of us. 

So here's to the yellow numbers and having fun no matter what the level, because eventing is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lyme Horse Trials Results

Back on August 18th Ben and I ventured off to Lord Creek Farm for the Lyme Horse Trials. The day started early with an 8-something dressage time. He was quite good for dressage and put in a respectable test to score a 35.5. The grass was quite slick in the ring so he was very conservative in his canter as he was slipping a little bit. His trot work was obedient but could've been a bit more consistent and a little less tense. But I was still pleased and we were in 5th out of 13 after dressage so it couldn't have been that bad!

Next was stadium where he put in quite a nice double clear stadium round. The stadium at Lord Creek is very challenging because it is set on a large hill. Number 5 was a wide oxer that landed right on the downhill slope. I made sure to collect his canter and get quite close to this fence as I didn't want any yee-hawing going down the hill, especially as it was pointed right in the direction of the in gate! He was jumping quite well and popped me out of the tack a bit over a few fences! He can be quite strong in this stadium field as it is wide, open, and undulating but he was very obedient and came back nicely! After stadium we were in 3rd place. 

Cross country was an absolute blast. What a great feeling it is to actually have fun on cross country again! We did have one frustrating stop at fence 5 because he was too busy paying attention to a woman and her two dogs (who in all honesty probably shouldn't have been on the course at that time...) but he jumped it perfectly upon the re-approach and was an absolute star for the remainder of the course (including over the ditch!). We came in well under time, we were actually the fastest in our division, which is maybe not the best thing considering we were also the only pair to have a stop! The boy likes to run, what can I say? Unfortunately that stop cost us the yellow ribbon and we moved down to 11th but we both had a blast and I felt like this was a GIANT step forward in our progress!

Here is the helmet cam:

Here is the on-the-ground video of all three phases:

We were supposed to head to Apple Knoll to go Training on the 1st but it was annoyingly cancelled at the last minute due to low entries which was quite unfortunate as I was very much looking forward to it. So our next stop is Stoneleigh-Burnham on the 21st in the Training division. I think we will then round out our season with Kent on the 6th and Course Brook on the 13th both at Training. I'm hoping for three solid Training runs to get him prepped for next year where I hope to get some harder Trainings under our belt.

I was also planning on applying to ride in the Phillip Dutton clinic at the Equine Affaire in November but as I started thinking more about stabling and hotels and more of the logistics it was getting expensive and confusing especially considering I may not even get picked so I decided I would just go and spectate instead of participate. More shopping time for me if I don't bring Ben anyway!

We had a fantastic jump school a few days ago where we played around with some bigger fences. I also bought one of those portable inflatable buffet things for about $7.00 to use as a liverpool which we tested out and it worked great. Much better than purchasing a 'real' liverpool for $300! So I set up a little makeshift coffin with our liverpool as well as setting up our small, skinny coops on an angle one stride apart. We played around with this xc stuff before moving on the bigger stuff. I actually went out with my measuring tape and measured the real height of all of the fences as I usually just assume that the fences that make my heart beat 10x faster than usual are 3'6" or higher and I never have a real measurement!

So in the following video the vertical with the gate is 3'3", the oxer of the in and out is 3'6", the vertical on the diaganol is 3'7", and the vertical of the in and out is 3'9"(!). He was fantastic over everything! I need some more work over bigger fences so I don't sit back so soon but other than that I was thrilled with it!

This post is already too long but I will be back at some point before Stoneleigh to write about what we've been working on in the dressage department! As always, thanks for reading!