Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Homemade Champion

This fall has been a blur.  After I got home from France, it was ride, ride, ride...compete, compete, compete.  It was a real struggle to decide which of my horses to ride at each show, so I did the illogical and irresponsible thing and took both.  Well, they are both fun to hride and they both do well!  Fellow horse nuts can understand spending every last dime you have on a horse show,  but I'm sure my non horse friends must think I'M nuts.  But it's done, and am very happy to have done it.  

Taking Ari and Toga to one day shows on the trailer together is a challenge at best.  Nearly impossible, really, but with help it can work.  At Seneca they behaved fairly well but performed just kinda yuk.  Jumped well, both of them, but the flat work was very ordinary.  No problem.  Then on to Marlborough where they were both great and Toga took home the top prize in his division and also the TIP award.  I started feeling the old tiger in Toga's tank at that show, and let him cruise around cross country.  What fun it is to let him find his stride and just point and shoot.  He is easy to rate when he's runnning at a higher speed and jumps much more out of stride.  REally REALLy fun.  Ari was great too...a bit shaky on the hilly stadium course, but every time out he's been better and better.

Morven was a bit weird...the stadium in the muck threw ME off and both of my horses crawled around - only getting one rail each but it was pretty ugly.  Just an off day for sure.  Toga still ended up 4th, he seems to pop up in the ribbons out of nowhere, Ari was 11th.  I had spent a brief moment at the bottom of the leaderboard but knew this one would throw me off it again.

Then we went to Kelly's Ford where I perfected Whirlwind Eventing, riding the two horses in the same division with only minutes between the rides.  The organizers did their best to wait for me, but did forget I was coming back with Toga to show jump and had changed the course down to Novice when I got there (within the time the Training division was still supposed to be running).  So I was the one everyone was talking about in the barn that they had to rebuild the course for, and had to wait XC for.  I was first on XC with Ari, but since they were about 20 minutes behind starting, and stadium was well finished by then, I was definitely putting a screw in their efforts to finish ahead of time.  They were great about it though, and Toga and I showed them how it's done.  Toga finished second, and Ari finished 4th.  The TD said to me "you might think about getting some help next time"....ya THINK?  Believe me, it's crossed my mind jeeeeez.  I think they still finished well inside the printed show schedule.  It's nice down there.

So I popped up on the leaderboard again, and then we went to Virginia Horse Trials, with Ari in the Area II Championships, and Toga in an OT division.  Ari's dressage  was the best EVER and we were 7+ points ahead at the end of dressage.  Toga got a little tangled up in his left lead canter and his walk was lateral, so he did OK but was only 5th after the flatwork.

Then we went on the hill for cross country and it was COLD!!!  I think it's the first time I didn't sweat on course the wind was brutal but at least we didn't get the rain during the day they had predicted.  Ari took off like a rocket - very unlike him - and flew easily around the championship course.  It was the easiest XC ride I've ever had on him.  The only fence that was a little weird was the prelim trakhener we shared that was on a half stride off a hill.  He jumped it but couldn't quite figure out from where so it was a bit awkward.  But I have never been so happy after a ride - I never had to kick or drive, I didn't get ahead or behind him, he listened to every half halt...it was awesome.  Then Toga, who was more than patient waiting on that freezing hill, only showed his signature enthusiasm just as we entered the box.  He then skipped around the course like it wasn't even there just as comfortable and smooth as he's ever gone.  I forgot to check the optimum time for the OT class and thought I'd gotten speed faults but since it was shorter I was OK.  A bit of a watch learning curve issue at the start left me guessing where I was on time.  But it all worked out.  A stellar day for both boys and the best thing is Ari was still ahead by a rail.

Stadium day was equally cold and windy, but at least sunny.  I finally got to wear all my new stuff (didn't want to ruin it in the weather in the past shows!) - my Ovation britches, a new RJ Classic shirt (Addie's), my Heritage gloves, and Charles Owen helmet - thanks to the generous help of The Surrey Saddlery!  So even though I looked the part, warming up Ari was making me feel pretty frazzled. But he felt so loose and happy, and was jumping so great I couldn't believe it.  Packy had us hop a BIG oxer at the end and Ari went to it so calmly and smoothly it took my nerves down by a 1000% even when he hit it the first time.   I really had expected Dorkus to be tired and sloppy, but he was the opposite.  Such a good boy and when we jumped around the course I knew he was going to do well.  The rail we had was my misjudgement and a moment of indecision (and forgetting to count...)  that he had to fix on his own so he tipped it over but it just made him sharper for the rest.  Again I didn't get ahead or behind him and I felt like I could do a proper release and keep my legs where they belonged and my heels down.  Imagine that ha ha.  Even with the rail we stayed in the lead and Ari won his first big title.  VERY very proud of my boy that I bred, raised, broke, and have been riding since the beginning.  I was just thinking yesterday that since he was born, I've never thought he would be anything but a good horse.  Just totally expected him to be how he is, but it's really a big achievement and a lot of luck.  He's been hard for me to ride because of his big movement, but his attitude is so so easy.  What a love.  

 The pressure was off for Toga - this ride was for fun.  I misread the program and arrived on the freezing hill an entire division before I was supposed to, so T and I did a long walk through the trailers, trying to stay out of the wind.  He warmed up really well...no stop in him that day... and every time I took a detour into the warmup ring he just popped whatever I pointed him at.  I stalked the poor steward every few minutes since it wasn't in any order we could follow.  FINALLY we went in and my hero popped around like old times.  He seems to have gotten back whatever confidence he lost last year when his eye started going bad.  He loves wearing his cover, and I don't notice any issues at all.  He finished fourth in one of the Open classes.

So ends my competition year.  I am (probably just for today) third on the leaderboard for Master Training Rider (fossils ha ha) but haven't got the time, money or energy to chase the points.  It wasn't on my goal list for this year anyway, so even showing up on it is a bonus.  But this was a great year... a complete learning experience starting with figuring out how to ride my monster moving warmblood, and including starting Toga over with his total new outlook on jumping.  As horrible as last year ended, this one finished up great and I have only happy thoughts about next year.  I may or may not sell Ari (you have no idea how hard my broken body struggles to follow his giant stride), I am going to look at my options and in the meantime keep him in work.  Toga gets some well deserved vacation time, but he gets very jealous if I ride Ari for too long without him and very very grumpy.  That one loves his job :)  
 I'm looking forward to spending time with my friends in Southern Pines in the spring, and that will get us well started for next year.  

I want to thank EVERYONE that taught me, helped me, supported me, and cheered me on this year.  This big list includes Packy McGaughan, Judy McGaughan, Heather Achen, The Surrey Saddlery, Dana Norquist, Lisa Austin, Lisa Gubenia, Bobby Costello, Andrew McConnon, Erika Jenkins, Addie and Jenny Thornley - all my family and friends, my Southwind family, the Banbury Cross family of riders that is forever helpful and supportive...EVERYONE Thank YOU for helping me continue to learn and do well with my most amazing equine partners.  See you on course!