Monday, September 19, 2011

One step away

Well I haven't made any really stupid mistakes lately, but my luck has been a little sketchy. I'd never been to Loudon before - need I say more?? Have you ever walked that course?? Wow it's beautiful BUT if you don't know where you're going, you are in trouble. With Hurrican Irene ready to hit at any moment (see Brian O'Connor's video on Eventing Nation it's a hoot) I zoomed into Oatlands with the hope that I'd get all three phases in before the rain came. They were awesome to move my cross country to Saturday, but it meant a bit of a rush and changing start times. I couldn't decide when to walk my cross country course, so decided on the spur of the moment to do it right after I walked stadium. Off I went with a map I begged of a passerby, all by myself. After the second fence I was LOST. It is such a big property, that you really can't see fence to fence or really even guess where it might be. So I wandered around looking for my jumps (the map was NO help) until someone came behind me and directed me along. I ended up following this person around the course, which I guess WAS my stupid mistake of the weekend since I focused on where she was going and didn't pay attention to everything around me. Being in a bit of a rush to make my show jumping time, and then on to XC, I realized as I put my pinney on that I really did not know my way around the course. I hoped I would figure it out as I rode along, but seriously doubted it. I couldn't remember what things looked like all the way around. Show jumping was great, with a tipped rail at the last fence - why you don't get long to a downhill vertical - but really nice.

I left the start box on a very spooky and strong horse. The third fence was an A - B then over a stream crossing which left a couple riders quite wet and made Toga jump sideways over it. He then scrambled over the big oxer right after that, and really didn't want to settle. The one fence I had a question about was next - a double bank where we jumped a trakhener over the middle of it. Never had seen that before. So Toga ran up the bank, I think assuming it was a hop over the log at the top down to a skinny. At the last second he took a look into the bottomless ditch under that log, and stopped dead. That was our first stop XC in a very long time, and he was really upset about it, so after we turned and jumped it he continued on quite frazzled. I couldn't get him calmed down and a couple jumps later I rode past the B element of a combination. Sigh. The mistakes you can make are more than I had anticipated! The REALLY good thing about walking home from there was that we'd lost a shoe by then, and had we continued on the (at that time before the rain) really hard ground, we would be dealing with a bruise right now.

Next was the AECs. A 12 hour drive where we drove through the bands of rain from yet another hurricane. We got down there perfect timing - had we been any earlier our stalls would have been flooded. You could see where the water had run through the stalls just hours before. I could write a ton about the facility and the show, and how to be better prepared next time, but this is about the riding. More bad luck followed me there, as I got my packet and my bridle number 1. Yuk. Nobody wants to be first I got it this time. It only made a difference in my dressage score in that I really think I was judged more harshly than the last in my division, but I was really happy with the big picture. Toga's poll was up, he was soft and flexible, and very obedient. Listened too well a couple times, but I was really pleased with the test. VERY pleased. He was a really good boy. BUT we started near the bottom of the heap at the end of the day. That was pretty discouraging.

THIS cross country course I walked three times. Very flat and totally different from Loudon in that you could see every fence from the one before. A very very spectator friendly facility. Nothing new this time, but a very long ABCD through the water with big jumps in the water. With a little bit stronger bit this time out, we left the start box unassisted for the first time all season. Was a bit dodgy getting in, but once on course it was all business. Toga picked a pace and just skipped around the course. We were very fast, but he was totally rideable and rateable and EASY to ride. What a rush!! We were second on course at 8:30 in the morning, so there was a definite sun factor happening and I couldn't see my line to the corner at #9, so that was the one fence that didn't go as planned. It wasn't awful, just not the plan. I almost couldn't see the right hand flag the sun was shining so brightly off the corner. The rest was beautiful . Double clear moved up to 15th.

Show jumping started out a little discombobulated..... a great warmup, but he didn't want to pick up the left lead turning to the first jump. Once we got there, Toga was jumping well, and it seemed to be going smoothly. At fence #7 he stopped, and I flipped off, landing on my feet totally surprised and confused. I have looked at the video and can't figure out what happened. I remember that the distance I saw three strides out was not there at the base of the fence, and my best guess at this point is that Toga lengthened his stride three steps out and I didn't feel it. So when we got to the jump, the spot I saw was gone, and I must've dropped him. Or he just quit. Not like him, and it appears in the video he could've jumped the jump, but for whatever reason he didn't and we walked home again. Big disappointment again, but I know my horse can do this job, and he likes it, and he keeps getting better. I think I'm a bit spoiled always expecting to go clean when we really are quite green at this level. Middleburg is next, and our last out before Fair Hill CCI** which I am really excited about. I think we are ready :)