I decided to wait to post anything about the last two weekends until I’d finished the Virginia Horse Trials yesterday. What started out as excitement to try a new course resulted in the worst event of my career and now a loss of confidence.
Last weekend I went up to Fair Hill since I hadn’t been there in awhile. Lisa couldn’t come, but I felt prepared. I knew the dressage warmup was going to be crowded and small, and it was definitely like bumper cars once I got there. Oh So did the best he could, but he was definitely tense.
When it got closer to my time, the warmup cleared out a bit and I was able to have some time to warmup around the outside of the ring before it was my turn. The test itself was calm, but had a surprising lack of impulsion that I really didn’t notice until I watched my video. We ended up with a 36, which was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.
I had expected show jumping to be on footing, so when I got up there the night before and saw that it was on a grassy hill, it bothered me a bit, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it.
His warmup was ok, but I think he was thinking cross-country. I didn’t jump anything huge and I didn’t pick too much to the jumps. When I got in the ring, the first two fences were nice, then he had the third down on the way up. As I came around to a triple bar to a one-stride, I picked and he got too close to it, adding a third stride in between and nearly unseating me.
I had to circle to get to the next fence in the line, and after that, it all fell apart. I think we were both frazzled and I didn’t ride him with enough pace. We ended up with 9 rails down, which was both embarrassing and upsetting.
I tried to put it behind me for cross-country. I thought the course was nice with some different things to try and not too many max galloping fences. As I came around to fence 7, a simple right-handed corner, I think I took back and got him a little too close, so he jumped awkwardly over it and I came off on landing. I tried to hang on, thus falling under his feet and I got kicked in the back of my thigh and pulled a muscle in my other one. He galloped off, probably wondering why mom was on the ground.
I’ve only fallen off him once before during a cross-country school, so that was upsetting enough, but the show jumping, where I have little confidence as is, really bothered me. I decided to drop down to training for the Virginia Horse Trials just as a precaution.
Our dressage warmup at Lexington was quite good and I trotted into the ring feeling confident, but then I cantered too early and the bell rung, so our rhythm was upset and I think I let it get to me. He acted like an ass for the free walk to medium walk as usual. Unfortunately the training level test has no challenges to keep him or me occupied, so we ended up with a 38.2, when it should have been 10 points lower. We were also in an open division with barely any chance of being competitive unless we scored below 30.
The cross-country course was basically like speed bumps, so no problems there. He tripped up the bank out of water because it was so small and started lining up the prelim coffin at the end!
My plan to have a confidence building show jumping round didn’t pan out, as we had three rails down. The first one was my fault, because the first fence was off of a tight turn. The second one down came off a similar turn and we got a little close to it, but he could have tried. The third rail was off of a rollback turn and there was no reason for it to come down since he hit the spot perfectly. He just wasn’t being careful.
So, now I feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. I’m going to try not to let it get to me between now and Seneca in three weeks, but I still haven’t decided whether to drop back to training level for that one. I think the other two phases will suffer because they’re so easy for him and I’m more confident, but I also don’t want to have another bad show jumping round.
I know my saddle isn’t helping, so I’m trying to get going on testing out a few different brands, but I think the bottom line is that he doesn’t think there are consequences to knocking rails and I just can’t practice enough on one horse.
I’m considering a bit change again and maybe trying a lesson with a jumper trainer in my price range. If anyone in the Middleburg area has any suggestions, please email me at email@example.com.
I know we’re competent at this level, I just need to be consistent with my riding, keep telling myself that we can do it and figure out the key to getting the best possible jump out of him.