Let's just say it didn't quite end the way I had hoped! Regardless, I had an absolute blast with Penny at our first event of the year. We entered for Training level and I felt we were ready. Pre-Training/Novice is just not a challenge for us so why waste our legs and money. She had been going very well and jumping fabulously.
We schooled the week before at Canterdown and did all the Training questions no issues. I had really wanted to go to Lane's End and school the stairs and water, but unfortunately my friend bailed and I was forced to go somewhere else last minute. It was a bit of disappointment as I knew Equus would have a more challenging course but I was still feeling good about our prep.
Show day came and I was feeling relaxed before dressage. Penny warmed up beautifully and our test started out great. She was relaxed and supple...then she had the best canter transition she has ever done and I was so excited that I went off course. I think Penny knew the test and she likes it that way - she is more relaxed when she knows what to expect. We cantered around the outside and went back to where our circle was supposed to be originally and I think it stressed her a bit. Our test became more and more tense as it went on. It was still a decent test for her, but we scored the equivalent of a 41 US. We were last after dressage - oh joy. The good part is, there is lots of room for improvement. We just need to keep working away at it.
I was really nervous for stadium. Equus is known for having a maxed out difficult course. Stadium is my nemesis. I was so nervous I wanted to scratch....I could hear rails flying everywhere and a few people were eliminated. I popped over a tall vertical in the warm up and instantly felt better. I remembered that Penny is amazing. She is an incredible jumper with a huge heart and she will take care of me. If I just get her in the right place at the right pace, she will figure the rest out. And that she did. We jumped an AMAZING clear round. By far one of the best jumping rounds of my life. We hit every stride and she was at least a foot over the fences. I was ecstatic. Lots of hugs and pats for Penny...what an amazing mare. She is slowly bringing back my (past) love for showjumping.
After stadium I had to quickly run the rest of my course walk as I was only able to walk half of it in the morning. The course was big and technical. There was stairs down, a coffin, two corners, water, and a combination. I was not worried about anything in particular, just the big tables and how spooky she might be going around as she can be very looky. Nicole helped me get tacked up and before we knew it - we were off.
We started out great - Penny was cruising around eating the jumps for dinner. We cruised to fence 6 which was a skinny chevron - three strides to stairs down. She jumped in nicely and we came to the edge of the stairs she just slowly halted, looked down, stepped to the side, then one foot back, and down. We get to the edge of the second stair and same thing. One step to the side, back, then down. At this point I was not exactly sure whether we stepped back but I assumed we did so I just wanted to get around the course safely as with 2 stops we were well out of the ribbons.
We jumped the corner, a big oxer, the skinny coffin complex and a ski jump down a steep hill with no issues. We came to the bottom of the hill where there is the tiniest drop into a creek and same thing happened. She stopped...stepped one foot to the side and popped down. I was certain this time we didn't step back and we carried onto the water. The water at Equus is almost like a pool dug into a crater. There is a large coop about 4 stride from the entrance of the water. Penny has no water issues, she always jumps right in. When we were cantering up to the coop at the last second she saw the water and I kicked her on but she was too looky and we stopped in front. I represented and she popped right over and carried on blazing around the rest of the course.
I know several people who have been eliminated at that jump and it seems so insignificant really. I wasn't really upset though. I rode my hardest and she just wasn't sure. She wasn't naughty, just green. We finished the course with a bunch of time penalties and stops but I was still thrilled. She jumped out of her skin out there and the stops were really just little green blips where she did not understand the question. It just means more schooling is needed and we can easily do that. She is a brave mare with a big jump, and I know there is a lot more to show from her.
Sadly, when the results were posted it turns out they did count my third look at the down bank as a stop so I was eliminated for having 4 stops total. I disagreed with the call but the jump judge had already left and there was nothing the TD could do. Obviously I felt we finished and I would rather have a score than a letter but this is what eventing is about. The rules for a stop at a bank can be frustrating when your horse literally takes a look and is through the element in under 3 seconds...but it's a hard call. It's not a clear answer like you can see when a jumpable obstacle is involved. For Penny's sake she deserved the score. She tried so hard that day and was truly amazing.
I know where the holes in our training are and that's what we are going to work on. I have a plan and we will work through that and try again at the end of August. This horse has so much potential - there is no rush to go out now and event. I want to preserve her and her legs for when she is competitive and we are able. I am truly blessed to have Penny in my life and I owe it to her to prepare her the best I can for future competitions. It's a journey and we are in this together.