Alright, enough of the mushy preamble, time for the good stuff! Swapping back to my old show recap format for this one, because there was a lot of “other” stuff besides just the riding parts to talk about.
If you’re looking for drama, you know you’ll always find it here. Life with Henry is never boring, and he proved that on Friday afternoon when, during our last ride at home before leaving for Pine Hill, he decided to fling a shoe into the abyss. Do you know how easy it is to find a shoe in a 20 acre field? Spoiler alert: IT ISN’T. Lord knows where that thing is, because hell if I could find it. Cue a semi-frantic text to the farrier.
He needs to be sainted. Like for real he had just put this set of shoes on Henry on MONDAY (taking great care to get everything the way he wanted, I might add) and yet he showed up at the barn at 6:55 on Saturday morning to make a whole new shoe (which isn’t exactly quick and simple with clips and stud holes) and get us fixed up and ready to go. And then after he was done he tried to help me pack my trailer. He is a farrier unicorn.
With that crisis averted and taken care of so quickly, we were actually on the road to Pine Hill half an hour earlier than planned. I unloaded, parked my trailer (being early = prime trailer parking), unpacked, set everything up, and then I had some time to kill so I went to walk cross country to get my first impressions while I could be alone with my thoughts. I was concerned about the footing with all the rain we’ve had lately, but was pleasantly surprised by how good the ground felt. Clearly they had done a lot of work to help dry things out and improve the softer/muddier areas. There’s a course walk up online from the spring show (although it’s missing a pic of the last fence) but I wish I had done my own, because they had everything brushed up and decorated and the course looked just beautiful. It’s amazing how much of a difference brush and plants and flowers can make! Of course, since I was the only entry in Prelim I was like “geez I hope we make it this far, otherwise they decorated all my jumps for nothing.”.
After I walked the course, I got on Henry and met Trainer for a quick dressage school. Henry was uncharacteristically fantastic… like he buckled down and went right to work, feeling great and rideable and about as fancy as Henry ever gets. It was the best dressage ride we’ve had in quite a while. Suspicious. Highly suspicious.
Then we walked showjumping, which, after the enormity that was Texas Rose’s stadium a few weeks ago when I did the P/T there, Pine Hill’s stadium looked almost cute in comparison. The jumps are more simple, less intimidating, and I swear there were a couple at TR that could not possibly have been “only” 1.10m. I was happy that the PH course looked very comfortable to my eye. It was big enough, and hard enough, but not poop-your-pants menacing.
After that we headed out to walk XC one more time, this time with Trainer (when I say we, Hillary and her baby Bea came along for most of it, too. Bea is going to be a pro by the time she’s actually old enough to ride.). My favorite part was watching Hillary’s eyes as we walked past the big chevron in the woods. It looked just like this:
Prelim jumps are big. I don’t recommend making direct eye contact. I tended to just give them a friendly pat on the top as I walk by, without actually looking at it much. I definitely didn’t get within 20′ of the trakehner (don’t need to know how big the ditch is, thanks) and I know I didn’t get up close and personal with the others either.
Well, except for this one.
That’s the last fence, a big ugly gross table that was large enough to house a family of hobbits. There was sand on the top of it, which I used as my own personal little zen garden, dragging my fingers around in the sand while trying not to let myself notice how big that stupid thing really was. If we made it that far, it would be the last thing standing between us and a completed Prelim. I wanted so badly to make it to this fence, in all of it’s hideous glory.
It was one of those courses where nothing really scared me in particular, but everything demanded great respect. We are officially in the territory of No Joke. They’re all big, they’re all wide, they’re all solid AF. There isn’t a “gimme” fence among them, even the smaller ones have some kind of technicality to them. Mistakes are easier to make and they carry greater consequences. But underneath all of that, I also felt a budding sense of confidence. I felt 100% that we were capable of this, if I rode him right and made good decisions. I just had to focus on that and let everything else go.
After we were done at the barn, Hillary and I went and gorged ourselves on Mexican food before rolling into our hotel. Typically I have a bit of a hard time falling asleep at shows because my mind is just too busy going over the dressage test or the courses or visualizing how I’m going to ride things and trying to remember everything Trainer said. This time though? I was completely passed the eff out before 9pm. I think that little zen garden on the last fence did it’s job, because I felt pretty at peace with what we needed to do.
Of course, since I fell asleep so early, I was wide awake at 4:15am. By 4:30 I gave up on the idea of going back to sleep, so I ended up at the barn half an hour earlier than necessary, waking Henry up out of a dead sleep (I swear he was snoring) to give him his breakfast. I had to be on by 7 anyway, so it was going to be an early morning regardless. Sorry bud.
I always have a hard time writing much about dressage. It just kind of… is. We go out, we warm up, we go in the ring, we do the thing, ta-da. Which is definitely selling it short, considering how much time we have spent laboring over our dressage (and omg is LABORIOUS ever the perfect word to describe it). Our ride time was 7:30, first horse of the day in Ring 1, which was nice because it meant warmup was less crowded. While Henry was not quite as brilliant as the day before, he was still pretty relaxed and on my aids. I went over to my ring early and the judge and scribe were ready too, so they went ahead and rang me in. Of course, Henry tried to leap into a canter at the sound of the bell (this isn’t the starting gate, ya dingus) which added a little dollop of tension just before we cruised up centerline.
Really though, it was a decent test. Not as relaxed as he can be, but also nowhere near as horrifically tight as he can be (and historically has been). I tried to ride as accurately as possible, although there were a couple of deep spots in really inconvenient places (like on the rail where I made my first 10m trot circle, and both corners where the 10m canter half circles are). He got a little stuck a couple times, but recovered well. Overall it was a very obedient, steady test with nothing overly spectacular, but nothing awful either. I’ve been repeating that opening sequence of 10m circle-turn left-halt-trot-turn right-10m circle-up centerline-leg yield for the past couple weeks ad nauseam. Generally I try to avoid drilling movements or teaching Henry the test, since he is the king of anticipation, but in this case this particular string of movements is challenging enough for him that it seemed to help us both if he knew exactly what was coming. It was much better than our last attempt at Texas Rose, so I think it helped.
The judge thought the test was good enough for a 30.7, which I will happily take with zero complaints and no questions asked, since she typically isn’t inclined to be overly charitable with her scores.
Tomorrow: on to the jompies!