Maryland Horse Trials recap: A wake-up call

Well, things didn’t go as planned at Maryland Horse Trials this weekend and I’m ashamed to say that we had our first stop on cross-country in the five years we’ve been competing. I’m still quite upset about it, so I’ll try to describe it as rationally as I can.

Things started off quite well in dressage. I gave him 45 minutes this time and he settled nicely. It was nice to be able to go to an “on deck” area, then be able to trot in front of A while the person ahead of me was finishing, so we could keep our momentum. I worked him in some renvers and haunches in and it seemed to help supple him quite nicely. We had a tough judge, Karen Adams. I’ve had her before and not scored so well, and I heard a lot of people complaining of scores in the 50s in her ring the day before. We ended up with a 30.5 to be in first in a big division! We even kept it together for the free walk to medium walk tour.

The show jumping course was very similar to the one we jumped in July, and lo and behold, I made the same dumb mistake to the one stride! We had the first part down because I came off the short turn to it and just got the wrong spot. We got a little close to the triple and had the first one just barely down, but he jumped out nicely, so I can’t fault him there. He also did a difficult line at the end well, even though he was swapping leads a lot for some reason. I’m thinking the Myler bit is now a little too much. He flipped his head a couple of times and I think I inadvertently got him in the mouth when we jumped in funny to the one stride, so we might back down a notch now that the message is clear to him to stay off my hands.

Cross-country started out well until we got to 6ab, a log, one stride to a drop in the water. It was on a slight uphill to a pretty big log and I planned on riding strongly to it, which I did, but my lower leg was not in a good enough position to keep me secure in case he bobbled. He balked at the drop down and stopped and I almost came off, but I have thighs of steel I guess, when I need calves of steel.

I took him through the water at that point then represented and he did it, but not very well. My trainer said that my insecurity in my lower leg finally caught up to me and that he’s waiting now for me on cross-country instead of wanting to take control, so when I was in the wrong position to drop down into water, he saved us both. I agree with that, but I also think that he needed to go. He’s been trained to and has never had a problem with drops before, so it was frustrating. I always say that I can be riding him backwards and upside down and he’ll still go, but he proved me wrong.

The next combination was a tough coffin going straight down a gravel hill and he tried there, but since we didn’t have a let up fence in between, I think we were both a bit rattled. There were a few gallop fences after that, then a bending line to a corner which he did well, followed by a drop fence to a cabin which I sucked him back to, but thankfully he  jumped. There was a skinny cabin, over a mound to an arrowhead that he did very well, then a jump in the water, bending line to a bank up, two strides to a log that he also did well.

This was just a major wakeup call that my lower leg is not strong enough and I need to work on getting my heel down. I just feel like I lost a bit of trust in him too, and him in me. I’ll take the blame for riding a couple of fences badly, but it just really feels awful right now. I know no horse is perfect, but always seems so game for cross-country.

We’re going to go schooling next week after I get back from Fair Hill and I’m going to work on using my whip and basically jamming my heel forward. Since we’ve been competing all year, I think we’ve neglected schooling a bit. It’s just frustrating when I only have one horse to practice on. I know I won’t change too much in the next three weeks before VA HT, but I’m determined to have a better round there.

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