Saturday, October 21, 2017

Grandview Horse Trials Recap Oct 17

  The weekend after our last event, Penny and I headed to Grandview Horse Trials.  Grandview is an absolutely stunning facility, but I haven't been back there in years.  It is usually a packed event with crazy parking, so I tend to avoid it with my high strung horses just because of the busyness.  That being said, Penny was being quite chill lately, and their courses are really nice, plus only having a few events left in the year, I wanted to get Penny out again before the season was over.

  We headed up there early Sunday morning, I had a nice ride time of 1pm, which made the early morning not so painful before our 3 hour drive up.  Bri came with me to groom and help out and keep me company.  We arrived and parked with no issue.  Penny unloaded and was happy to stand quietly and eat at the trailer while I went and walked the course.  The course was really nice, some big fences but really inviting, a couple of combinations to make note of - but nothing we couldn't handle.  I still felt nervous about the course, the size of the fences, and how she might ride to some of them, but I just reminded myself of the course we tackled the weekend before and it helped ease my nerves.

  I tacked up for dressage after my course walk and headed to the dressage warm up.  The night before we were absolutely pelted with rain, and the warm up rings were quite wet and sloppy.  They were also really crowded, and these two factors seem to effect Penny.  She would not relax or settle.  I warmed her up for quite a while, but I just couldn't get her in front of the leg at all.  I knew this was going to be bad news for our test.  When our time came I went to our ring and started going around the outside.  Our ring was beside the woods where there is a creek beside it.  It just added to her tension and what happened next was basically an abomination of a dressage test.

  We went down the center line jiggy jogging with our head straight in the air.  It did not improve from there, once our canter came she picked up the wrong lead, trantered, wrong lead, trantered, right lead, bolted, and then whizzed around with her head straight in the air.  The test continued in that fasion until we got to our lengthen trots, when she finally settled, was in front of my leg albeit strong.  She did two beautiful lengthens and then pulled me down the center line where THANK GOD - we were done.  That was by far the worst test I have ever ridden in my life.  I could do nothing but laugh as I saluted the judge.  I thanked her as I left the ring and she smiled and laughed and said "you'll need that later".  It was nice to have a judge who could laugh along with me instead of shunning me with a look of disgust that some can do when you have an awful test.

Photo: Linda Shantz (unedited, but had to share because shes soooo proud of herself)

Photo: Linda Shantz The judges and I having a chuckle over our test

  It was pretty disappointing at first, especially after our amazing ride the weekend before.  I know we are capable of so much more, but we haven't mastered the tension yet.  That's something I will need to figure out how we can improve over the winter.  I'm not really sure where her nerves come from when it comes to the dressage ring, but I definitely want to do some investigating to figure it out.  Once I got back to the trailer I felt a bit better.  I knew we could have some fun jumping and although we were dead last after dressage and no where near competitive, we can both benefit from the experience of tackling a few more courses.

  The stadium course looked really fun.  It flowed well and had distances that were on the long side which suits Penny.  There was a big puddle on the landing side of one jump that was causing a lot of stops, but I wasn't too worried about that with Miss Pen.  There were two combinations, one a very long one stride and a long two stride.  She warmed up really well.  Super quiet, on the aids, jumping straight and square.  We went into the ring and had a great round.  I figured since the one stride was a on a long one stride I could just let Penny cruise through it, but I was wrong and she didn't have enough room and we had the second part of it down.  It was completely my fault, I should have packaged her up much more, but I thought the extra  1/2 stride would give us enough room. Lesson learned.  We finished with the one rail but I was thrilled with how she was once again really rideable.

  We moved up three places after stadium so that was alright.  I had a nice little visit with my old horse Parker in between stadium and cross country, and that was really nice.  I still miss that horse often and seeing him out eventing and happy just makes me happy.  He gave me a big hug and a cuddle before I tacked up for cross country.  Heading out to the warm up I was feeling pretty nervous, but I went over the course in my head, reminded myself Penny will take care of me, and that we can just take it jump by jump.

  We jumped a few fences in the warm up, she felt good and listening.  Then we were off.  The course rode so nicely, and Penny was just cruising over everything.  I brought her back and collected for the combinations to make sure we had no errors.  She came right back for me, listening intently the whole way around.  She was pretty much foot perfect and made it feel easy.  We cruised home clean inside the time, and our only real bobble on course was the massive flyer we took at the last fence.  I saw the distance and the added distance and went for the flyer.  I know Penny can jump from long ones but really I should have tried to collect her a bit more a few strides back to even our stride out and get a better distance.  That is just another thing learned from the experience and something to work on in the future.

Photos 1-7: Bailini

  We ended up 14th of 17, but our scores weren't really that far off the higher placings.  Considering the horrible score we started with, I can't complain about our finish.  We clearly still have a lot of work to do in the dressage ring, but to be honest I would rather have a horse that will jump day in and day out than a horse that can win the dressage and doesn't always jump around.  That is if I had to choose lol  Penny's willingness over fences really impressed me, and she just gives you the absolute best feeling out there jumping.  We will keep chipping away at things all winter and come out next year ready to tackle an entire season, and learn what we can along the way.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Touch A Rainbow Horse Trials with Penny Recap

  Penny and I tackled our first event since June a few weeks back, at Touch A Rainbow Horse Trials.  Since the season is ending, and Penny and I have come along in our dressage and rideability over fences, I wanted to sneak in a few events before I didn't have the chance to get out again this year.  We had a stellar dressage lesson the day before, so I was hoping we could carry that into the ring at the event.

  It was also extremely hot that weekend, with the humid-ex rising by the minute.  Katie and I packed 11 bags of ice, and plenty of water to keep the ponies cool.  This time of year in Ontario, they are starting to get their winter coats already.  It was going to be a hot sweaty one, but at least we were prepared.  That morning Penny practically ran me over to get onto the trailer.  She decided she was going with me today regardless of what my plans were.  She's so funny, once upon a time when I first got her, she wouldn't even load.  Now she self loads and literally runs on.  God love her.

  We arrived at the event without issue and I tacked up and headed to warm up.  Once there, I realized I had learned the wrong dressage test.  Luckily there was a nice lady there with the omnibus who let me read through the test quickly before I had to go in. Crisis averted!  That is the first time I have done that, I'm glad I realized it before I went into the ring and saved myself that horror lol.

  Penny warmed up fabulously.  She was relaxed, loose, and really connected.  She always looses a lot of her relaxation once we get to the show ring.  As soon as we start our walk or trot around the outside she tenses, resists, and gets stiff.  I'm not sure why.  I don't know if it is the pressure of being alone, nerves, what.  It is something I am trying to figure out and find a solution to help her stay as relaxed around the ring as she does in the warm up and everywhere at the show.  She did manage to settle a bit and we went in for our test.

  And it was amazing.  She was relaxed, soft, supple, and seemed to be enjoying herself.  Since I hadn't ridden this test before, it was kind of amusing to be riding it the first time in the show ring, but I liked the test.  It has a good flow and showed off Penny strengths.  The judge was extremely generous.  We scored several 8s and even an 8.5.  Considering how hard dressage is for her, you would be surprised to see she actually is quite a big mover.  He commented that we were an "incredible pair" and had the most positive things to say about her and the movements.  

  I almost died of shock when I saw the score - 39.6. (26.4 US).  We were 3pps behind first place, in 2nd.  Even if the judge was generous, and you tacked another 20pp on our score, I would still have been thrilled for Penny!  We smashed our personal best by miles.

  I walked the cross country after dressage, and was completely terrified at what I was seeing. It has been two years since I went Training level.  In 2015 we only did a few events because she was prepping for the Pan Am Games and that was the most important focus for us.  In 2016 I was off with my broken leg.  So here I am, walking this course, thinking I am nuts, crazy, these jumps are huge, these jumps are skinny, these jumps are insane, I'm probably going to die.  But, I just kept reminding myself that we have done plenty of Trainings successfully before, and that Penny will always take care of me.  I read an article by an upper level rider a few months back, I can't remember who it was, but they said they key to success for them was always believing their horse could do it.  That alone gives you and your horse the confidence you need and the horse will feel it.  So I just reminded myself that Penny is amazing, she can jump the moon, and she will always try her heart out.

  I went and walked my stadium after and thought the course looked super fun.  I don't know when I all of a sudden stopped having nerves for stadium and starting looking forward to it, but here I am!  I got back to the trailer and told Katie that I was crazy and wanted to puke after walking my course, but she assured me we would be fine.  I am exaggerating of course, but I was pretty nervous.  Thankfully I had stadium first to test the waters and see how Penny was jumping and listening, and to warm me up for our big long cross country course.

  Showjumping is definitely one of Penny's forte's, although we have struggled with rideability in the past.  This does not seem to be an issue anymore.  She is very responsive now, listens extremely well.  So well that it throws me off.  She stays quiet right to the base of the jump, pats the ground and jumps well over her back.  It's an adjustment to me and I still get this feeling that maybe she isn't feeling well when she jumps so quietly!  That is just a change I have to get used to, because she clearly was feeling fine when she gave me a beautiful clear round.

  There was no more delaying the inevitable.  It was time to get our gear on and get ready for XC.  The course was really long, the optimum time was 6:16! Crazy long, and on a super hot day I was most concerned about keeping Penny healthy and finishing well.  We just did a long walk warm up, and 2 minutes out from the box I went for a good trot, and then canter around to get her heart rate up and her muscles pumping.  Before I knew it there was no turning back now, we were counted down in the start box and on course.

  The first few fences rode right out of stride.  Fence 4 to 5 brought the first of many combinations, a bending line of coops, the second being skinny.  I asked Penny to come back and wait and she did.  It was a good feeling to know she was listening.  Fence 6 was the water - which I haven't schooled this year with Penny other than our event at Little Bromont.  I was a bit concerned as in the past she has looked at fences before the water, not the ones dropping in.  I had no reason to worry, she came back to me and jumped in bravely, then drove herself the 6 strides out over the skinny log coop.  Major big pats for her there.  

  I let her gallop a bit but she got too strong, so I brought her back and we flew over the Steeplechase fence.  Next was another combination, ditch then angled line to skinny.  Once again she came back and listened and took me over it no issues.  We galloped onto 11, 12, and 13 which were a bank up, around the bend to a bank down, a few strides to a big upright corner.  Another fence I was worried about.  The corner was right off the bend and very upright.  Penny felt so good already though, I opted to go the direct route.  She made me so proud, as she just jumped through that combo like it was a cross rail.  From there we had a good gallop to a very large table.  More long gallop, turn for home and a two stride combo of angled cabins.

  The combinations worry me because of Pennys long stride and her lack of adjust-ability in the past, however Penny is like a new horse, and maybe I am a new rider, because she came right back to jump two nice strides through that combo.  We had another long gallop and into the woods, where I got lost and had to turn around.  Touch A Rainbow is notorious for getting riders lost, it's pretty much expected when you event there lol.  Our next fences were another combination, two very skinny arrowheads, the second off a 90 degree blind turn 4 strides off the first.  I had no idea how this would ride.  I just pointed Penny at it and kicked her on.  She took total control, in a good way,  she wheeled around the corner saw the flags and flew over the second.  WHA.  At that moment I knew this horse was definitely a Prelim horse, and most likely with lots more work, an Intermediate horse.

  From there we gallop to a small coop, then left turn to a bench, where I once again got lost LOL.  Penny was jumping out of stride so well, I was just letting her cruise.  She flew over the big Trakehner and then there we were almost home.  There was a final combination before the last fence, a coffin, with a big skinny brush as part C.  Penny just took me through it like a boss mare, and then we had a gallop to the finish over the last.  Check out my GoPro - I had it pointed a bit low so my apologies.  But look at her adorable little white ear spot :)

  We finished with a handful of time faults, which was to be expected after getting lost and also not running hard in the heat.  The ride was so unbelievable, it felt like a cake walk for Penny.  She was so rideable, brave, and honest.  The feeling coming off that course was like none other.  I untacked her and went through buckets and buckets of ice water and she recovered really well.  She happily beat me with her poultice tail while I wrapped her.

  After she was cooled out, pampered, and eating by the trailer I went to check the results, and we had moved into 1st place.  I was in shock, a beautiful red ribbon for my beautiful red mare.  No one deserves it more than Miss Pen.

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