After our shenanigans on Friday, I actually managed to get about 5 hours sleep which is pretty amazing for me before dressage day. Nothing unnerves me like dressage. Our ride time wasn’t until after lunch, so Barnmate Bobby and I piddled away the morning walking courses and grazing the boys.
A couple weeks ago at Greenwood I changed my approach to how I warm Henry up for dressage, and I liked how it worked, so I went for the same format again this time. I got on him about an hour ahead of time, trotted a little, cantered once, then spent the rest of the time walking, halting, trotting, halting, stretchy trot, walking, halting, and very basic lateral work. Basically – bore him to tears and get him thinking “whoa” instead of “go”. It took about 30 minutes for him to really settle and relax, but he did. When it was our turn I walked him around the outside of the ring, let him look at the potted plants at the letters, waited for the whistle, picked up the trot, and straight in we went. No fuss, no muss, no time to get worried or tense.
This was only our second time doing Test B, and on paper I don’t really like how it flows, but it actually seems better suited for Henry. Having all the trot work in the beginning and canter work at the end helps him not get flustered and tense. Overall I have very few complaints about our test, I felt like it was pretty representative of where we are right now. Our canter work was a little subpar, just kind of heavy and blah and more like ovals than circles, and I’m still not able to keep him connected in his trot to canter transitions, plus his last walk to trot transition was tight and tense – but otherwise I thought it was pretty solid for us. His free walk was great for him (remember how we used to not have one?), his down transitions were great, and I was able to ask for a little more brilliance in the trot than I did at Greenwood. I walked out of the rectangle feeling like we’d done just about as good as we could do, and hoped that was enough. Turns out it was good enough for a personal best score of 28.3 (first time in the 20’s!) which put us in 4th place. I needed a top 5 finish, so I was starting out in a good spot and now the pressure was on to stay there.
On Sunday we had stadium immediately followed by XC. The stadium course was tricky and from watching the other levels go before us, it seemed to be wheeled on a tight track. There were lots of rails and lots of time faults. By the time they put the jumps down for BN they looked microscopically tiny, which worried me more because I knew Henry wouldn’t be very impressed. I did a fairly brief warmup of mostly trotting, a couple laps each way of canter, then I jumped the vertical once and the oxer once off of a short approach. No reason to use him up in the warm up, I still wanted him to be sharp. I usually give him a little tour of the ring when I go in so he can see the jumps a bit before we start our course, but this time I trotted in and kept him to the rail, hoping that the element of surprise would work in my favor for keeping the rails up. He cantered right around, taking all the tighter options and shorter approaches, and had no problem. I did give him a little cluck at a very delicate little natural jump as a reminder to pick his feet up, but he had nary a rub and was very rideable and put in a nice smooth round. The stadium course claimed A LOT of victims, with only 3 people going double clear – me and Bobby being two of them. Pretty proud of our boys for that! Plus our clear round moved us up to 2nd.
After stadium I did a quick helmet change, threw my vest on, and went straight back out for XC. Since it was getting hot I just galloped one loop around the warmup and jumped him over the little coop once. Henry seems to be understanding the phases now, because as soon as we jumped the coop in warmup he was like YEAAAAAHHHH!!! THE FUN PART!!! Ok Henry, we get it, you’re a big deal. He even jigged a little on the way to the startbox. He never jigs.
Once again I do have helmet cam footage (thank god for helmet cam!) although I still forgot to clean the lens. I swear I cleaned it after I saw this video, so it won’t be so bad for the next one. Unless I put my fingers all over it again. No promises.
I came out of the startbox like we were on a mission, because the first 3 jumps were no joke. They were all big and 2 in particular wasn’t inviting. He leaped happily over the first one and also had no problem with the second and third. When we came out of the brush into the field for fence 4 I slowed him down a little to remind him that just because we came out bold doesn’t mean we can’t be adjustable, and he politely cantered the hay box. We made our way back into the brush for 5 (and I actually went down the correct path – I kept picking the wrong one when we walked it) and through a little bit of mud to 6. There’s really not much to say about any of those because he just rolled along, and I let him, so that was that. Pretty easy.
After 6 we made a bit of a rollback turn to 7ab which had a funky approach, but again he locked right on and had no problem. Fence 8 was a tall, very vertically faced fence in the treeline, which he took a bit of peek at off the ground (apparently this fence didn’t ride very well for a lot of people for whatever reason) but he never wavered. Then it was back into the brush over 9, then back out into the big front field for 10 A & B, a log to the water. I always ride the water very aggressively and I did the same here because I knew he wouldn’t see the water until we landed from the log. I sat deep, gave him a growl, and he bounded right through. With many pats and Good Boy’s on the exit, I let him gallop a bit to the bench at 11.
After 11 I looked down at my watch and went OH SHIT. We were too fast. At the time it sure didn’t seem like we were going that fast, but I came out going more like Novice speed and since he was rolling along so well I just really didn’t think about making wider turns or squishing him back into a slow canter. I collected his canter for 12, then brought him down to a trot right after. It was a pretty slow little trot, with me looking at my watch trying to remember what the hell the speed fault time was. We’ve always come in just a few seconds under Optimum, so I knew what OT was but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what speed fault time was. 4:05? 4:08? 4:15? SHIT! So there I was, trotting around between 12 and 13, taking the longest route possible, with Henry going “What the hell are we doing?”. Bless his heart, his mom is an idiot. We jumped 13 and eased across the finish, with me still not sure if we were too fast. Luckily speed fault time was 4:05 and we were 4:19, so all of my trotting wasn’t quite so necessary, but it worked out. Lesson learned – know both times by heart. Or ya know… be more aware of your canter and how that affects the track you take. Duh. Almost everyone was closer to too fast than they were to OT, even people that are normally slow, so I wasn’t the only one thinking it rode a lot faster than it was wheeled.
But at the end of the day we got the job done, and a double clear was exactly what we needed, so we kept our 2nd place! Barnmate Bobby was the winner, so our two bay boys went home with a first and second. He said he came inches from falling off after 8 when he got popped out of the tack… now I call him Dreamcrusher because if he’d done that I would have won. Thanks Bobby for killing my dreams by not falling off. J/K love ya mean it. We were the only two to finish with scores in the 20’s as well so it was a great weekend for us! I think Henry is a bonafide event horse now. And better yet – we’re officially qualified for AEC’s. It’s gonna be a hell of a party. Goal that I made last October: accomplished, and it feels pretty damn good. I’m super proud of this horse of mine and really excited to see what he develops into as we continue our journey. For how green he is to this sport you really couldn’t ask for more than he’s already done for me in our 3 shows this spring.
We’ve got Texas Rose in 3 weeks, then we’re done for the season.