To say it has been a hard year to prep for show season would be an understatement. I’m sure I don’t even need to say it but the weather has just been an absolute nightmare here and from what I gather, most places elsewhere. I don’t think we have gone more than 2 days without rain after the snow melted, and we already had a boat load of snow. The amount of water everywhere is indescribable. There is flooding in even the driest areas. My own small farm suffers from my neighbours entire property draining onto mine. My paddocks were underwater and were becoming so saturated it was becoming unsafe in my opinion to have horses turned out who like to run around. Not to mention with all the water and running around the grass was gone and if there was any chance of recovery I had to get my horses off the property. I still have another large paddock and the area behind the barn to be fenced and tidied up that will help in the future, but for now I needed a solution. I am so grateful that my parents allowed me to move my girls to their facility while my farm recovered from this insane spring.
They have been there almost a month and I am happy to report my farm is already recovering and the grass is growing nicely. Things are dried up and if it ever stops raining it will hopefully be the end of this nightmare of a spring. It has been pure bliss having my horses at my parents though. With a big outdoor and indoor with perfect footing, tones of hacking and big lush pastures, I’m not sure we want to ever leave. This also means I can train and prepare properly for show season. I have been secretly dying inside not being able to work regularly this spring. Trailering out all winter was keeping me going, but I couldn’t afford to keep renting the arena as spring came around and that meant no riding.
Since the move I have been able to get the girls going, and get Penny in condition to event and keep chipping away at our dressage. Because of this, we were ready for our first event of the year at Cherrylane Equestrian this past Saturday. Our goal was to go out and have a good confident day, and see where we are at in the dressage, trying for a relaxed and focused test. My goal for this year is to be an overall better and more confident cross country rider. With Penny fit and in her prime, we are hoping to get out and rock around some courses this year to really get comfortable at our level.
The weather was calling for 90% of rain, and a bucketload at 20mm predicted. I packed all my rain gear, and winter gear, and multiple pairs of socks, pants, shirts, bras…you name it. Last time we evented in this big of a downpour we didn’t have enough back up clothing and were soaked and frozen half way through the day, and I didn’t want that to happen again. The joke was on us though, it was a perfect gorgeous day, sunny and hot and we definitely are not acclimatized to nice weather yet this year! I was hot and sweaty all day! But I will take it over the torrential rain they were calling for any day.
After walking our courses and now being drenched in sweat, it was time for dressage. Penny warmed up nicely, and although she was a bit tense when we went to warm up outside the show ring, she settled back down to have a good start to her test. The test we were doing has almost all the trot work at the start, then walk, then canter work at the end. I was thrilled with her trot work, she was supple and soft, and very obedient. We scored 6’s, 6.5s and even a few 7s. She could still stand to be a bit more forward but honestly, the scores are a huge improvement when we would normally score 4s and 5s throughout the test. Our walk was also decent and we scored a 6.5 on our free walk. Woot woot! No free jog this day! When we picked up the trot again before the canter she heard a horse calling and it fell apart a bit from there. FRAANDS! Our left lead canter and circle 15m left didn’t happen. She would not pick up the left lead and was kind of trantering around the circle as I tried fruitlessly to have her change her lead all the while she screamed for her imaginary friend. This scored us a 2 which was better than the 0 I was expecting. As we came around for our lengthen canter I took my time and she picked the correct lead up and carried on down the line calling to her new friends. Our downward transition fell apart but the right lead canter was better and actually kind of civilized. It fell apart again down the long side in the lengthen and we scored a couple of 4s and a 5. She did come back to me for the final trot and halt, and although the test went downhill at the end there, I was really thrilled with the quality of Pennys trot work and the first ¾ of her test. We scored a 42, which honestly I thought was not too bad considering the 2 and 4s and 5s that were thrown in. There is a lot of room for improvement and we just need to get more comfortable in the ring under pressure, but I am excited to work even harder on this now that I can see the improvement.
The stadium course appeared to ride nice and forward which is the best style for Penny. She has become so much more rideable over the winter that now I am still figuring out how to ride her when she is listening and not just running through my hands. This has also created a bigger stronger jump for her and so I struggle to stay with her over the fences as she tends to jump them about foot over. I warmed up and then waited a few rounds to watch and I should have taken another warm up fence before going in, but alas I did not and we had a case of first fenceitis and we had the first fence down. Lesson learned. She felt fantastic around the course, waiting, jumping huge over the fences and really listening to me well. Unfortunately, the farm next door had cows turned out, and what I thought was Penny spooking at the jump judge was actually her spooking at the cows LOL. Coming into the one stride at number 7 she was spooking hard at the cows and I had to scream at her to get her to the jump (which I hate doing) and so we were sideways and had the second element down. Not the worst thing ever since I wasn’t even sure I was going to get her near that end of the arena! She was pretty spooky that day in general, which was strange as she isn’t usually a spooky girl. I chalk it up to being the first event of the year and feeling a bit fresh and being in heat probably didn’t help. We finished with 8 faults and although we can definitely do much better, I was happy because she was very rideable and was jumping amazing, probably the best I have ever felt her. Sometimes victories come in other forms than the score on your sheet.
The cross country course was definitely on the harder side for Training, although the fences weren’t massive, there were a lot of combinations and early on in the course. Combined with the terrain, it was not going to be a cakewalk. I was excited though to see where we stand. Hoping to upgrade later this year if we are ready, I want to see where the holes are if any so we can tackle them this summer. Out of the box she was forward and bold as her usually self, but again like in stadium she was listening and soft in the bridle. Not running off with me and not pulling. After the first few fences I could just get into my 2 point and let her cruise. She came back nicely for the first combination, a 3 stride on a turn. Then a long gallop down a hill to a simple box type fence. One of my most favorite things about Penny is her incredible gallop, and her ability to gallop downhill so easily. She was getting a bit too forward and after fence 5 was a tricky coffin. There was a ski jump that had a sloped landing, down a hill to a big black ditch then a few strides to a skinny brush where you could jump the left or right side. After we jumped fence 5 she was very looky at the ski jump and we came to what I like to refer to as a very polite stop. Circled her and she popped over, down the hill and she was still looking around and not quite understanding the question and came to another polite stop at the ditch. Penny is not really ditchy so I don’t think it was the ditch so much as the change in footing and terrain along with the question that confused her. It was also a bit wet and deep at this point in the course, which was to be expected with our wet spring. She had a similar stop at the one event we did last year so this is obviously something she just needs a bit more experience with. Circled again and she was off over the ditch and the skinny brush.
Then we had a gallop up a hill to a rather large drop, which had a very steep downhill landing and walking the course I was a bit thinking well, this is quite the drop. She looked at it but with a kiss she just stepped off nicely and we carried on into the water. We jumped a hanging log, left turn to a bank out to a skinny chevron no problem. By now she was getting back into her groove and we cruised over the next fences, jumping them out of stride at a nice gallop. Fence 15 and 16 was in the woods and it was up a grade to a skinny brush, then 3 or 4 strides on a 90 degree turn to a big airy corner. I tried to ride this forward instead of backwards as I would have in the past and she just stormed down the line like it was nothing. I was so thrilled with her at this point and we only had a few fences left to go. Another 3 stride combination on an angle was next in which she actually waited and did the 3, then a viaduct and to the final fence, a big rampy table which we flew over and finished with just a few time faults. Despite racking up 60 jumping penalties at the coffin, I was absolutely thrilled with how our round felt. I hardly had to use the reins, we jumped many fences straight out of stride including some big combinations, and her gallop felt absolutely dreamy.
|PC: Ian Woodley|
|Penny is beast, and so am I but in the wrong way LOL Thats what happens when you pack for winter and its desert weather and you look and probably smell like a hobo.|
|my lady, my heart|
We finished the day 5th out of 5. Not a great dressage (still our 2nd best test ever though lol), 2 rails in stadium and 60+ points on cross country, but the day still felt like a huge win. It hasn’t been easy to take a few years off eventing with Penny (minus one event a year). To have a sound capable horse sitting in the barn, but not wanting to run the legs off her and making her better for the future, while watching all your friends out eventing was depressing at times, but the patience has paid off. I have a rideable horse now with more potential to do well in the future, and not just worry about “getting through” the dressage. Now that the rust is knocked off we can get back to the ring and focus on filling those final holes and building what we need to be successful. Most of all, I feel our partnership has reached a new deeper level, where we appreciate and understand each other. Afterall, that’s really what it is all about. Well that and the matchy matchy.