Virginia Horse Trials and ATCs recap

I’ve written my ATC story for the magazine and now I can finally write a bit about my weekend at the Virginia Horse Center.

My mom and I drove down on Thursday afternoon so I could get a ride in before dark. It was an average ride, he had some moments of tension, especially when about 15 horses came up to use the same ring as us at the same time. I’ve been feeling a bit lost in my flatwork at home since I haven’t had a lesson in three weeks due to my trainer being out of town, so I did the best I could, playing with some changes of pace and lateral work to get him to be more even in my reins.

Brian and Penny Ross put on a nice dinner for ATC teams on Thursday night where we drew times. It was fun to get to know my teammates a bit better, but we couldn’t find a fourth member unfortunately, so we were without a drop score.

I had a bit of time before my test of Friday so I did a short ride with walk, trot, canter and a hack. He was better than Thursday and wanted to stretch a bit, which was my goal. The warmup for the test was pretty good and I had him right where I wanted him in his back and was able to sit the trot nicely, but we had to walk over to our ring and he chose that moment to decide he was done. Our ring was on a hill overlooking another ring, so he was quite distracted and got tight in trot. I know he knows better, but what can you do? I held him together the best I could, but he was getting quite strong in my hand and pushing against my inside leg. The canter work was good, but the trot work was too tight. We ended up with a 35.7 for third place, which was about what I was expecting.

We did the Friday night jumper class just to get in some practice. I hadn’t ridden him in the Myler for a week or so because he doesn’t love it, so when I put it in for our round, he was spitting it out and not taking contact, which was slightly scary, plus he was getting amped up in the warm up ring. Lisa and I decided to change my course plan as I was about to go in, so we didn’t end up getting as many fences in as I would have liked, but we were trying to reduce the amount of rollbacks and pulling. He jumped most of the combinations quite well and just had one rail because he was counter-cantering around a tight turn and got a bit close. Once he was on course, he got less fussy as he went to the jumps, but was still fussing in between them. As much as I like the lightness I get in my hand from the bit, it’s just too uncomfortable for him, so I think we’re going to have to find something different.

I had a lot of time to think before cross-country on Saturday, but strangely, I wasn’t that nervous. Maybe it’s because I know the course so well, but I was able to walk it twice and really think hard about keeping my lower leg forward and on. We started out well and took a bit of a flyer to fence 4, which was quite big, and then I had to slow down and really jam my leg forward because there was a new combination at 5 going downhill.

Since the spring, they’d created a new bank into the side of the hill. There was a rolltop, 4 strides, down the bank, then four strides to a skinny V. I felt secure going over the rolltop, but he wiggled a bit to the bank and ended up a bit left upon landing. I widened my hands though and he found the V easily.

I screwed up a combination of a cabin, two strides to a triple brush by getting too close to the cabin, but he lengthened his stride in between and made it out, thankfully. We took a HUGE spot the a steeplechase jump, then made a U-turn to a bounce bank, which he’d never done before, but he did it quite neatly, then jumped the combination at the water handily.

We ended up with just 2 time penalties, so I was very pleased with both of us. He didn’t hesitate to anything, and I was able to ride efficiently and stay secure for most of the course. It was a great round to finish the season.

I spent most of Sunday morning watching the lower level ATC teams and doing interviews and win photos for my story. The course was up on top of the hill, which was a nice change. It was a flowing course, but also a forward one, as some of the jumps were off tight turns. As we got closer to my time, I actually wasn’t as nervous as I can be. Usually my heart is pounding in my chest! He was much more accepting of the Myler too.

We had one rail at fence three, where I decided we should take a long one. He waited in the two stride and the triple, which was a good feeling. Unfortunately, we dropped to fifth place overall, but our team completed and we ended in third.

It was quite fun to do the awards ceremony and a victory lap. I think Oh So could get quite used to it, being the center of attention and all!

I had a really great time at my first ATC. I met a lot of new people, my teammates were awesome, and got to hang out with many of my riding friends, two of whom were on winning teams (Congrats Sally and Terry!). I would happily do it again, hopefully with a four-person team, because I want to win that fancy cooler!

So, now that we’re done for the season, the pressure if off a bit. I’m planning on working more without stirrups, and really working on my lower leg.
I’ll write up a separate post about our season wrap-up since this one has grown a bit long.

I’m off to Atlantic City this weekend to celebrate my birthday and my grandma’s 90th, so it should be fun to do something non-horsey on the weekend. I’ve got plans this winter to get to D.C. for some museums and maybe see some live theater, which I just never have time to do. I’m also going to try to continue with my product and book reviews now that I have some downtime.

I also wrote a pretty cool story about Elisa Wallace, an eventer who won the Extreme Mustang Makeover, and it was on the front page of COTH yesterday.

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