I competed at Rubicon Horse Trials this weekend in Leesburg, Va. I walked the cross country on Saturday since I didn’t have a ton of time on Sunday when I rode. I was not loving the training course. There was a difficult bank complex that we had to do. It consisted of a table-type fence, two strides, down a bank, and four strides to a maximum height/width table. It just thought the jump before the bank was not friendly. In the past, this event has had a roll top before the down bank. I see roll tops more consistently at banks at other events too. So, I knew it would be a challenge for us.
I have been battling a cold for the last week, so I was not feeling 100% on Sunday. Oh So was actually quite calm in his dressage warm-up, save for a truck driving by that sounded like a gunshot. I think he is really maturing into a competition horse. He gets to the event and just settles in. He actually seemed a bit sleepy!
I did my 25-30 minute warm-up, which I think is really the key at this point. My only problem is that I don’t have a plan for what the do when he’s so calm and willing. I’ll work with my dressage trainer more on that part. Usually I just touch base with some walk/trot/canter and do a few transitions. I think I need to incorporate some more lateral work to really get him bending and into my outside rein, especially to the right.
The test was good. We didn’t have a place to circle in front of the dressage ring. We were only able to go around it. I really needed that circle, because he can get quick or inattentive when we start trotting around the outside of the ring. As a result, the first part of the test was a little tense and he lacked good bend on his trot circles. I thought his lengthened trots were good for him, but we only got 6’s. Those are still a work in progress. I was most happy that after the second trot lengthening, he came back in good balance and was able to attempt a stretchy circle to the left without losing his balance. It was definitely better on the second half. The judge appreciated it and gave it a 7! She said “willing”. I appreciate comments like that. They’re positive, and acknowledge his effort. He got an 8 on his free walk, which is a first! Again, she was looking more at his willingness to try to move freely and open his step. His nose wasn’t in the sand, which I feel like is what some judges look for.
After I picked him up from the free walk, he jigged a bit. It’s becoming a habit, and something I need to really work on at home. That then affects the transition to trot and canter, where he always flips his head. After discussing it with my trainer, I decided to ask for the right canter transition a little before the marker in the corner. She said that it’s better if the transition is early. If it’s late, and he flips his head, it is scored with the next movement. So I tried asking early, but he still flipped his head…We’ll work on it. We ended up with a 33.2, to sit in 3rd place out of 20 people! That was pretty amazing. I thought for sure we’d be middle of the pack. And the real kicker is that the judge’s final comment on the test was “steady”. I have never heard that term used to describe any of our tests! On Sam, yes, but never Oh So. So I think we’re really onto something.
I barely had enough time to take a breathe before tacking up for show jumping. Luckily it was overcast, but still quite humid. He felt really good in the warm-up. He wasn’t tossing his head nearly as much as usual. Only if I touched the left rein. I think I need to warm-up for show jumping with a few left canter circle to really get him bending around my inside leg. He’s always stiffer that way.
I felt all over the place during the round, but my coach said it was the best she’s ever seen. He was steady and got most of his leads. He was waiting for me instead of fighting for control. There was a triple bar that I should have released more over. I used a good opening inner rein to turn, but I needed to follow more. He did the two-stride and one-stride nicely. Fence 5 was my favorite. We were both right with each other and I was able to soften at the base and he jumped around it beautifully. It was out first clear round at training level together.
Cross country was another story. The first fence was sort of awkward out of the box, and on the way to the third, I let him gallop a bit, but it was on a slight incline down, so I let him get a little out of his own balance. So the fourth fence was a little yucky. It was down into a ravine and I totally got left behind! But he jumped out over the second element just fine. But I was on the buckle of my reins. He just popped over the log on a lump. We haven’t done many of those, so it was good practice. I under-rode the log to the ditch, so instead of getting two strides to the ditch, he got two and a shuffle. There was also an actual corner as fence 10, which I’ve never seen on a training course. It was narrow, but training height, which is just what I need to practice so the prelim corners don’t overwhelm me again once we get there. I have a corner phobia because of Sam’s issues.
Then came the bank. I think I needed to balance him a bit more, and he was surprised at the question. He got two and a shuffle strides and actually trotted off the bank, which was unexpected. So I had to really sit in the back seat and kick to get the four strides to the table. We took off a bit long, but he has the scope.
The water was a non-issue. It was just a log, landing on grass, then a run through the water and out over a table. We ended up a few seconds over the time. We finished in 2nd, by only one point! It I had been under the time on cross country, we could have won. Oh well.
I just felt like I didn’t give him a good ride on cross country this time, but he still kept going, which is a good thing. I actually thought he felt tired or apprehensive on course, but my coach just said he was finally being a bit submissive. So the fine-tuning can finally start happening now.