The format for the lower levels at Greenwood meant that we did dressage and stadium on Saturday and XC on Sunday. Since I was in BN Senior (note to self: start entering Horse instead of Senior) my ride times were quite late – dressage was at 2:33 and stadium was at 4:31. That resulted in a very long morning of boredom.
Henry got to walk around and make a new friend with one of the tack shop trailers
Then he stood out behind the barn and grazed while my friend Amy and I enjoyed the sunshine and nice breeze. Granted, he seemed to be more interested in giving me a tongue bath than in grazing. It was a strange experience, he wouldn’t stop licking me, covered just about every inch of bare skin, and I might be a little traumatized.
Then he got braided
Then he took a nap (thanks buddy)
And then finally – FINALLY – it was time to get on for dressage. Since this was only our 3rd horse trial, I’m still learning the best way to prepare him and warm him up. Based on our experience at Pine Hill a few weeks ago where he got pretty tense in the warm-up and had a bit of a meltdown mid test, I changed my entire approach. This time I got on an hour ahead of time, walked for a while, trotted a little, cantered ONCE, and then spent the rest of the time walking and trotting, doing the same exercises that we do at home, and lots of halts and free walk. I didn’t ask him for brilliance, I just asked him for obedience and tried to keep him relaxed. I opted to go without spurs, which I normally wear for dressage work. I knew I would be giving some points away with this approach but I want him to learn that dressage is no big deal and to just relax, so I chose the good experience over trying to get every possible point and risking a brain overload. I didn’t have a trainer with me to validate that decision, but it’s what I knew was the right thing for Henry so I went with it.
He was a little flat and on the forehand and not really pushing much from behind, but he was super chill so I left it at that. When we were on deck they let us into the inner warm-up area to prepare to go into the ring. Again I just walked, halted, did some trot leg yields, and patted him and told him he was The Best Boy.
Then they rang the bell and in we went
We didn’t have much brilliance, and our canters were heavy and leaning on the inside shoulder (I missed my spurs at those moments) but he was very calm and obedient and happy. I was thrilled with him. The score didn’t reflect it (we got a 37) but this test was miles better than the one a few weeks ago at Pine Hill that got a 31. Funnily enough our best score from this judge was a 7 for our halt, which is usually one of our lowest scores. Everything else was a 6 or 6.5, which I’m ok with because at least it was consistent! This judge was harsh, but she was harsh to everyone so it was fair. After dressage we were in a 3-way tie for 6th, and only 2 points separated the second through ninth place horses.
After many cookies, a quick bath, and a graze, it was time to get ready for stadium. I just hopped on and did a quick 10 minutes of trot and canter, hopped two fences, and let him chill by the gate. He went in and marched right around without a single peek, and honestly he was super. The traffic on the road that I was a little concerned about the day before when I walked the course didn’t bother him at all. Sadly, we had a really cheap rail at the last fence. He just barely ticked it with a hind foot (I should have done a better job of keeping the power in the canter going up the hill) and it toppled out of the cup. I find it so much harder to ride these little fences well than it is to ride the bigger ones.
That rail dropped us to 9th, which was both a big bummer and a bit of a relief. On one hand it meant my chances of getting a top 5 placing (which I need one more to qualify for AEC’s) were slim to none. On the other hand, it meant that the pressure was off for XC, and if we had a problem with the banks I could just use it as a schooling opportunity.
I ended the day with mixed feelings about our situation but a whole lot of pride for my pony. So far he’d done everything I asked of him and done it like a pro, no questions asked. You just can’t be disappointed with that, no matter what place you’re in.
Tomorrow – XC! On to the fun stuff.