Saturday, July 13, 2013

What are the chances...

Don't get me wrong... I think Toga is the BOMB and he has taken me farther in my riding experiences than any horse I've ever ridden, and there is no horse I know with more talent, scope, and drive than him.  But I have to say that I haven't had as much fun in quite a while as I have just lately with Ari.

What are the chances that you already have an amazing animal, then take an old mare out of the field and breed her because you like the way the stallion's babies have snark - and get yet another horse that shows that bit of special that we all pray for.  I am so lucky.  They are polar opposites, Toga and Ari, one is quick, sharp, and hot...the other is quiet, a bit lazy, and feels like you are riding in slow motion.  Both are amazing.  After riding a dressage test on Ari I think more about what scores he WILL get more than what he did get.  Each test I know he could do a lot better in certain spots, and I know once we get the sharpness up, he will be stunning.

We've been a bit skeptical about Ari's jumping ability.  He is a very long horse, and being a warmblood, a bit slow off the ground.  At first he really didn't mind hitting rails and jumped through them as much as over them.  It was discouraging but I had the feeling that he needed a challenge to make him pay attention.  After his win at Novice at MCTA I took the plunge and decided to move him up at the next event.  He totally stepped up at Kelly's Ford and it was there I felt like I had a real cross country horse.  His stadium was great as well and he really tried not to hit anything.  Only one rail there and we finished second.  Yesterday at MD Horse Trials Ari jumped like a big horse, using himself beautifully, and keeping a rhythm that made the round a pleasure.  I looked at my pictures before I left and you can see the big smile that tells how much fun I was having and how proud I am of him.  He literally loped around cross country without one second of hesitation at anything it was such an easy ride.  He deserved to win.

In my continuing quest to improve my stadium rides on Toga,  I've been working very hard on quiet, steady rides, especially through combinations.  I ride small jumps over and over in practice, just trying to maintain a smooth pace.  Toga gets really wound up when we jump, and riding through a combination is very difficult on him when he decides he can do it in a different number of strides than I think we should.  It comes up FAST! My last few schools on him have been very good and I was excited to see if I could bring it to the show.  He quietly picked up the canter (instead of leaping through the air) and loped to the first fence (instead of dragging me to it) jumped it beautifully, and continued around to the second jump.  Around the corner I remember thinking "wow this is nice" and I probably took my leg off and let my guard down at just the wrong moment.  Toga is 13 years old now, and has gotten smart enough to know that if it's not right, it's not right.  We got to the second fence WAY too quietly and slowly, and there was no way he could get up off the ground at the close distance we got to so he said no.  I wasn't mad at him (he made the right choice for a change) and am very proud to say that at that moment I forced myself NOT to try to catch up the time, NOT to change my plan, and just turned back to it and finished the course as if it never happened.  It wasn't the best round - but he was ridable and quiet.  Quiet - Toga.  That made me very happy.  He was so relaxed cross country I realized I had to step it up about half way through and actually kicked him on. Very civilized.

And OH!  What are the odds that you start in NINTH place with a 24??  When the winner has an 18 it's pretty good odds. All these years I've been complaining that I never start at the top because our scores are so mediocre....and I get a great score and still start in the middle!  Kind of funny I think but it sure took the pressure off.  The test was really nice, I thought,  but really didn't expect that score.  My division was tough - good company included a Rolex horse.  All the scores were relatively low and I think we all deserved it I watched a few ahead of me go and they were beautiful tests.  Toga was in good form this weekend I'm proud of him.  He didn't cool down very well though, I think the humidity got to him more than anything.  I took him back to the cooling tent and let him snorkel in the ice water.  He was acting OK but just wouldn't cool down for a long time.  I took him home and cold hosed him for a bit he's fine.

So Toga isn't qualified for the AECs at Preliminary, and I'm not prepared to ride Intermediate at a Championship this year.  BUT Ari is qualified at Training, and I really think we can be competitive.  We'll keep working on the flat work, and jump as much as possible so that if Tyler, TX works out, we will be READY!!