Last week I was having second thoughts about entering Lanes End. I of course wanted to go eventing but I didn't feel like we have made much improvement in our dressage since our last event despite my efforts. I was feeling a lot more confident about show jumping though. I was also stressing a bit about the cross country. Although we did school there and were able to jump a lot of the fences, things are different on show day and Penny has still been looky at home and at shows.
I had already committed to going though and my entry was in so I was going whether I liked it or not. I decided to go up the day before to walk the course. Although it was a 2+hr drive, I didn't want to be crunched for time or stressed on the day of the event. Jessica and I took our dogs up and spent the afternoon walking the cross country and stadium.
Cross was pretty much what I expected, except they added an option at fence 3 which was the spooky trakehner. Fence 5 was a big bank up in the shaded woods going up a hill - a fence which we jumped coming down so that would be a new question for sure. I thought all night about how I would ride fence 3 and whether I would take the option or go direct. On any day Penny would jump the trakehner but since the fence was so early on course and going away from the other horses I was worried she might balk and be looky when we turned towards it. After many many discussions with others I decided to wait until I felt how she was at fence one and two and go from there. If she was looky I would take the option - which added a lot more time, and if she was bold, I would take the direct route.
I also had questions about the water and whether to attempt to do the three stride angled line or whether to jump the first element and circle large to the left, loop back and take the second. We did school this but she stopped at the second log the first time through when she saw the water, and the day of the event they died the water bright blue. Since you can't see the water until you are at the second element I wasn't sure if she would take a second look again. I decided to go for it, but if we had jumped clean until that point I would do the circle and loop back to ensure she jumped over the second log first time. As you can see I really really wanted to jump around and have a positive experience...such pressure!
We started our day with dressage and Penny warmed up nicely. Unlucky for us we were in the ring that has a large wall of concrete blocks as a bearing wall and Penny thought those were super scary. Although we had some nice moments, anything that occurred down at C was pretty deer in the headlights-esk. This is an ongoing issue with Penny and her lookiness. I have not quite figured out how I can work with her to get her to focus on me when I say. Any ideas are appreciated at this time! I am thinking maybe some work with a professional natural horseman who specialized in spooking and trust might help? We were last after dressage with a 69 (54 US) but we weren't out of the race, most others had scores in the high 60s too and the person in first had a 37 lol. We weren't the only ones who were victim to the wall - I saw some horses who wouldn't even go past X so I guess we got off easy.
Next up was stadium and I was feeling pretty good about this phase. Such a change for me, but a welcomed change. Rails were flying and horses were stopping all over. I knew Penny could jump around for me but could I hold myself together for her? We saluted once we entered the ring and away we went. We had a beautiful first three fences but the ground was sticky. I overrode fence 4 which was a one stride then 4 strides to fence 5. I saw no distance and thought for sure we would take down the whole jump but somehow Penny managed to jump it and not touch a rail. I kicked her onto the second part and we finished the line clean. I realized I needed to stop picking and let her do her thing and the rest of the course rode like a dream.
|4b...struggling to hold on!|
We had no rails but .5 of a time fault and I'm sure that is from my over riding and adding strides! I was absolutely thrilled with Penny though. Time and time again she proves in the show jumping that she can lay down a clear round and cart my ass around like a campaigner. God I love this horse. Shortly after we started prepping for cross. As this event is run as a "Ride for the Cure" with donations going to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, competitors are encouraged to wear pink to show their support. If you look closely on Pennys bum, I added a ribbon quarter marking to symbolize the pink ribbon. Jess has pretty much everything under the sun in pink, and she kindly lent me her things so we could go all out.
We were decked in pink and ready to rock. Before I knew it the start box timer was counting me down and letting me loose on course with his trademark "have a good ride!". Penny shot out of the start box like a rocket and I thought - "oh wow she is game today!" We had an awesome jump over the first and as you make a 90 degree turn to the second she started gawking at the second fence. I smacked her on the shoulder and gave her a "let's go!" and she popped over it. I decided to take the option at fence three because of this and then got lost along the way - adding even more time to our long route. Oops. We soared over three when we got there and had a huge big effort over 4 - a max oxer. Number 4 has to be one of my most favorite jumps in the world, it just rides so beautifully.
Fence 5 was the bank up and then a steep climb to the oxer at 6 which Penny blasted over. Then to the top of the hill - a 2 stride on an angle and she came right back and popped over them easily. Down the huge hill to the corner at 8 and another easy fence for her. I will say this horse is extremely surefooted and had 0 issue galloping down a steep hill. We made way across the stone wall then to the one stride bounce combination to the skinny chevron. This rode beautifully and we headed straight for the stairs down. I could feel Penny looking so I gave her a sharp smack on the shoulder and said "good girl come on lets go!". Seems to be all she needed because she went for the stairs and I actually had to pull her back from galloping down them!
From there we went through the woods which is full of twists and turns and hills and we just galloped through the entire wooded area. We jumped the cabin at 13 and she came right back for the coffin and jumped through that bravely. Out of the woods we jumped a big table and headed to the water. Sticking to my plan, having jumped clear to this point I decided to take the cautious route at the water. We jumped in an angle over the first log and swung left, looped back and she popped over the second log no issue. Just one more fence after the water and Penny took a flyer over it - galloping across the finish line. We were around 25 seconds over the time which was expected having taken the long route at fence 3 and adding my own long route at the water. This added 11 time penalties to our score but it didn't matter - we were home clear at a very tough training level!
|most devilish grin because my plan worked hahaha|
|telling her she is the best girl ever|
|LOVE this shot - Penny is locked onto 18|
As it turns out there were a few stops and eliminations at that tricky fence 3 - this helped move us way up to finish 5th! Without time faults we would have finished 3rd which is impressive when you are starting out in 10th place ahah. BUT as with anything in eventing, I can't be certain she would have jumped clear had I taken the direct route. Something to love and hate about eventing - the what ifs!
That being said my goal was to complete and have a positive experience and I think I can confidently say we achieved that! I am still in shock we finished with 2 clear rounds and finished 5th to came home with this beautiful ribbon. I am so so lucky for every day I have Penny in my life. Next stop - dressage land!
**All photos are copyright Christina Handley Photography. I have purchased these photos with a $50 donation to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation as part of Lanes End Horse Trials Ride for the Cure.