I headed down to The Fork CIC last Friday to cover it for The Chronicle. I’d never been before, so was a little concerned about the long drive, but it ended up being fairly uneventful. I knew I was in the south when the cashier at Chik-Fil-A told me to have “a blessed day”!
I shot a little bit of dressage that afternoon, and got to see the winning test, ridden by Phillip Dutton on Mighty Nice.
The event ran in accordance with the new FEI rules for CICs, with cross-country on the final day. I’m not sure how I feel about this, and I know several of the riders I talked to were not fans. I personally enjoy the show jumping finale and think it makes for a more nail-biting finish. Plus, it’s the way eventing is supposed to be. How far will the FEI keep moving us away from the original meaning of the sport?
Some of the riders said that they didn’t like not being able to practice show jumping their horses after cross-country. Where will they get to learn the feeling their horses give them except when it counts at a big CCI?
It also made for a disappointing finale on Sunday when all of the riders were back at the barn taking care of their horses after cross-country and not at the awards ceremony. Sponsors and owners are the backbone of the sport and you’ve got to cater to them. There was hardly anyone left in the VIP tent on cross-country where the “awards ceremony” was supposed to take place, and in the end, only a few top placed riders actually showed up.
OK, rant over. Other than that, I had a really great time. The weather was beautiful and cross-country day was safe, which is the most important thing. The farm was gorgeous, but the layout was tough and everything was soooo far away from everything else. The stabling and horse paths were an absolute mess due to heavy rain on Thursday, but the cross-country course dried out nicely for the weekend.
As for Oh So, he had a horrible skin reaction to a newish pair of turnout boots on Monday and I thought I had it under control, but his legs really blew up yesterday and I had to call the vet out to give him some Dex. He’s really sore and the skin is cracking on one leg, so no lesson for us on my day off. It kind of throws off everything for the next two weeks because I had planned on competing at the Morningside combined test this weekend.
If he’s not sound by Saturday, I’ll scratch and enter next weekend’s CT instead, but I really need a jump lesson and have now lost the place I used to take him to during the week occasionally, so I’m kind of freaking out.
I walked him today and his legs went down, but he wasn’t comfortable enough to trot. I’m just mad at myself for not getting on top of this sooner and maybe salvaging my weekend.
Now that my eventing season is over, I wanted to take a look back at the year and look ahead to the next with some goals for the winter.
We started at Southern Pines in March, where Oh So skipped around the training level cross-country and proved he was definitely ready for prelim after our successful debut last fall. And then came Morven Park. It was quite a big track for our second prelim ever, and in general for the first prelim in our area. I know my trainer Lisa knew it was tough, but she has a good trick where she’ll walk the course with me as if it’s just another prelim, then after I’m done, she’ll admit it was tough. It helps keep me calm I think!
Oh So tried his hardest on cross-country at Morven, but he got a bit surprised at the drop into water and hit his stifles. As a result, for the rest of the course he was quite backed off and I was taken aback, but he still tried even though he was hurting (although I didn’t know it at the time). That run didn’t give me a lot of confidence going forth, but Lisa kept reminding me that we could both do it, so I had to convince myself too.
Show jumping has been really tough for me this year, although I know he’s trying for me. I think our best show jumping round would be at Virginia in the spring when he came out and tried very hard and only had one rail. Even though we had time penalties (everyone seems to in that coliseum), it stood out to me as a smooth ride. And, we ended up winning
in a big division, so that was really exciting. I never expected that, especially so early in our prelim career together.
Over the summer we went through some bitting issues, which resulted in some less-than-stellar show jumping results. It was quite discouraging and a little embarrassing to have 3 or 4 rails down, but his dressage was getting better simultaneously, so that was a bright spot. We broke into the 20’s twice and were leading the dressage or in the top 5 almost every time. At the same time, we made our second level debut at some dressage schooling shows. Doing back to back tests really helped both of us get more comfortable in the ring. I’d say my best dressage test was at Waredaca in August. He warmed up average, but I was able to keep him calm and he got better right as we were getting ready to go in the ring. Even though I had a brain fart and we had an error, he stayed the exact same in the ring as he did in warm up.
Our best cross-country round was at Maryland in July. We were only 2 seconds over time and he made everything on course feel so easy. We hit every fence at the perfect spot and it was a lot of fun. Obviously our low point was at Maryland in October when we had the first stop he’s ever had in his life. But that served as a wake up call on my position and I was able to correct that with the time that I had before Virginia in November, where he was also awesome cross-country and we had one of our better show jumping rounds at prelim. I was also able to ride on my first ATCs team, which was a lot of fun.
My goal at the beginning of the season was to just get around at prelim, and I feel like by the middle of the season, my anxieties were starting to ease. Oh So just makes everything seem so easy, no matter how difficult. Whereas at the beginning of the season, I would gulp when I walked my courses and saw huge tables, corners and big drops, by the summer, I honestly didn’t notice. I think I was subconsciously telling myself that once I was out on course galloping at those big, wide, tables, he had enough scope to jump them. I also hadn’t planned on trying to make time for our first season, and we definitely racked up some time penalties, but towards the end, we were getting pretty close.
So, in the spirit of the holiday, I have to say I’m thankful to have a sound, happy and healthy horse at the end of our first season at prelim. I’ve been thinking about my goals for the winter and of course, they consist of getting more comfortable at the prelim height. I also need to force myself to work on my lower leg by riding without stirrups and working up and down hills. With our flatwork, I’d like to get him more confirmed at second level. That includes working more with our canter/walk and walk/canter transitions and our haunches in and medium trot. I’d also like to get him more confirmed in his flying changes
and start to work a little more with half pass.
On a personal level, 2012 was a big year for me. I left the NSLM and returned to The Chronicle, but this time as a full-time staff member. It’s my first real job and it’s definitely been an adjustment as far as making time for my horses, but I really enjoy working with a group of people who are as passionate about horses as I am. I’ve been able to travel a bit this year and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more in the coming year. I’ve talked with some really interesting and passionate people, as well as some…interesting people, but that’s just a part of the job!
I also got to travel to Spain, which was really eye-opening and fascinating. I’m saving up for a trip to Ireland next year, so now’s the time to start planning!
Now that I don’t have an immediate goal to prepare for, I’m feeling a bit lost in my training, but it’s normal for me. Getting used to slowing down for a few months takes some time. I’m doing a couple of show jumping rounds at Morningside’s combined test on Sunday and I was just a demo rider for the USDF’s L program, which was interesting. I wasn’t expecting to ride in front of 60 people and an “I” judge, but Oh So was quite happy to show off once he got used to being in an indoor with a loudspeaker.
I made it out to the last CDCTA schooling show at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds on Thursday night. I wanted to get Oh So back in the ring before Marlborough, but we did second level tests 1 and 2. I think the judge was quite generous, because we ended up with a 68 and 70%! She was very complimentary of him at the end of both tests, which was nice.
He’s been a bit tense on the flat this week, probably because he’s been doing it since I left for AECs. I had to get my jump saddle stitched in a few places, so I haven’t jumped since the combined test. It took me awhile in the warm up to be able to sit the trot. His back was a bit tight, but when they ended up running a bit late, it gave me a few more minutes to work him. By the time I went in for my test, it was much better. The medium trots in sitting felt better than usual, but they didn’t look very good on the video. I haven’t been practicing those enough at home.
With both tests, I knew there would be some parts that weren’t totally confirmed. We had a slight miscommunication in a couple of the canter-walk transitions where he almost halted because my leg wasn’t totally on, and the same in one of the walk pirouettes. He’s still a bit unsteady with his head in the walk-canter transitions, but he was fairly obedient. He was also less reactive when I brought my outside leg back for the traverse, and I was able to show a bit more angle this time out.
Overall, he was very obedient and gave me a lot to work with and practice on while riding through the tests.
Today we went out for some fitness work and I jumped a couple of cross-country jumps while I was there in preparation for Marlborough next weekend. I have a jump lesson tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes. I also wanted to put a link in here to Oh So’s pedigree. I was randomly looking at it the other day, and I’m not sure everyone out there has seen it. http://www.pedigreequery.com/private+pleasure2