Considering how often we are at Brigadoon to train and compete I was hoping that I would have a nice relaxed, normal Henry horse for this event. He got washed and plaited on Friday, after the farrier had been to maximise my time on Saturday morning. I wanted to pre ride just to see what horse I had, and my dressage time was 11.39 so I didn’t want to have to get up too early if I could help it!
Henry came out full of positive energy, and he was quite happy to get on with the job so our pre ride was only about 15 minutes. I was relieved and planned my warm up to be shorter given how relaxed he was and how warm the weather was.
Before our test I got him moving forward, but because he was relaxed I didn’t focus on suppling him enough, and while I had him in front of my leg, I didn’t have enough of a half halt. The test itself was ok, nothing amazing and I was just relived to have a relaxed horse. He kicked out at a fly in the second canter transition, but I don’t think the judge saw that, and he broke to canter once. I needed the half halt to rebalance him though, and I should have insisted in the test. He also needs to lengthen his neck more still, but I also need to insist on it more. Basically it comes down to me being a more effective rider, as always!
The test scored very average, I really needed the half halt and to push him for more in the warm up. Basically I needed to stick to my plan, which is something that has caught me out before. Ugh! One day it will come together for us. We were way down the bottom after dressage but not last, phew! I was overall happy with Hen’s attitude though, and the fact that I stayed relaxed and really rode the test, I just have to get him working a bit harder.
We had a few hours before show jumping, so I walked the cross country with Rosie. She thought that was awesome, so many sniffs, and she had a lovely paddle in the water jump, but it certainly made for slow walking. My course was short, optimum time was 4.31 minutes with only 16 fences. There were no real questions and I was really disappointed, it would have been nice to see a few more challenges.
Show jumping was causing plenty of issues though with rails coming down everywhere. It was a very tight, twisty course, which is hard for event horses. There were so many tight turns you couldn’t get a nice rhythm, the one stride double was short and when I was watching people ride it was generally looking a real mess.
Henry was once again really relaxed I the warm up, which was amazing since it was on the XC course. He was just fine with it. It was hectic in there though, people kept getting in my way, which was tricky to deal with. I struggled to get a good forward rhythm, and Hen knocked a couple of rails, but I wasn’t too worried since I’d rather he did that in the warm up.
He went in and was all business. I knew I would have to get a good rhythm and puff him up to get around clear so I really set him up for each fence. All our show jumping paid off, and while he tapped a rail they all stayed up. Coming into the double he lost the momentum through a tight turn and I didn’t have my leg on enough, so I collected the canted and got deep to the first, and he jumped through clear. Clever horse.
It didn’t feel like our smoothest round but we got the job done and I was elated. He really understands show jumping and is proving to be very clever with his legs. Twisty courses are still hard for us, but he showed improvement form a similar course at the states so I was pleased with that. I felt a huge sense of achievement coming out of the ring, and I can’t wait to do more show jumping.
Sunday morning we woke up to a significant amount of rain already in the gauge that just kept going up. The rain did not stop, it was just a constant light rain all day. I knew the course would be wet, and it would be worse because the water would just be sitting on top because the ground had been so dry and hard.
My ride time wasn’t until 11.49, so we had an easy morning taking our time. Since it was so wet and Hen gets so upset in the cross country warm up I wanted to minimise my warm up time, so I got on with about 20 minutes before I left the start box. Because the course was so wet, they had to hold it twice, once because of a fall and once to fix the footing of a fence so our time was pushed back.
There were quite a few issues, it was slippery, horses were stopping and I wasn’t particularly excited.
Henry was stressed, again we only had trot, canter or buck as our options, so I kept him moving. We were wet through after a couple of minutes and the warm up was packed and slippery. Thankfully Henry seemed to relax after about 20 minutes and we managed to walk and halt while we waited. I was so proud of him for that, it is the first warm up he has really calmed down that much in.
Finally, it was our turn to go. Henry was a star at the start box, walking in and out and even halting. That is serious progress, I was expecting to have to canter through again. I had a pretty big grin on my face and was chatting to the starter who said it was so nice to see a rider smiling despite the horrible weather. I said sometime all you can do was smile, and that I was just happy my horse was more relaxed.
I have never been so happy to have a short, easy course. The ground at each jump was so chopped up, but Henry is very sure footed and was confident jumping. He was taking quite a few long spots. He would also have liked for me to let him bowl along a bit more (I’d have liked that too, Hen!), but the course was tight and wet so I wanted him to be a lot more collected.
|We jumped this jump, but it was much wetter!|
He was very happy to let me place him to jumps, allowing us to take off where the ground wasn’t as bad, and he cruised around the course without any issue. He was a bit strong, and we didn’t have as good flow as usual, but it was fine because we were riding safely for the conditions.
We didn’t have any dramas until jump 13, a white roll top we have jumped before. Hen was a little distracted coming in and spooked to the right, but I was faster than him so I blocked him from running out. I honestly don’t think he was worried about the jump, probably just wasn’t as focused on it as he should have been coming in. He took the flag out with his back leg, but he jumped it, and we sailed over the last few jumps to come in clear and 6 seconds under time. With so few clear show jumping and cross country rounds, we moved up to finish a very respectable 11th in a huge, competitive field. Once we nail the dressage we will be good, the rider just has to be a little bit better.
Coming off the course, I felt relieved we had got around but not the normal buzzing feeling I usually get. I was proud of my horse, he did such a good job but I can’t help but think that maybe this sport isn’t for us. Henry is so brave and athletic on the course, but the warm up stresses him out and that carries over into everything else. He is a different horse training, show jumping and dressaging. I had basically talked my self into withdrawing from the last event of the season, but as I drove home, I drilled down into how I was feeling.
I was pretty disappointed in myself for how dressage went, accepting a calm horse where I should have pushed for more. I needed to take risks and get a bit tougher, sticking to my plan. My plan isn’t just to get the horse on side when he’s tense, it’s to prepare us for the test. I need to stick to the plan even when he’s going well.
Show jumping I was happy with, we got the job done, and while it wasn’t perfect I know exactly how we can make it better. This is by far where we are most confident and polished, which is a far cry to even a few months ago.
Murray is 1 weeks away, and I will be focusing on dressage until then. I had another epiphany while I was miserable in the XC warmup. Henry goes so well in the XC and SJ warm ups, he lifts through his back, he is forward and into the contact. He is where he needs to be (minus the relaxation) for dressage. So I need to ride like that all the time, working up into the bridle. If I can ride like that when I have to, I need to ride like that all the time.
We have 1 week to form new habits, and I am coming out of the weekend with mixed emotions but (another!) plan. We will finish this year strong, who know what next year will bring but for now eventers will event. I feel like so many of these posts are me saying eventing is hard and having a bit of a whinge then coming out at the end saying I will do better next time. But we have made so much progress and we always do get better next time, even if it’s not reflected in my posts or my dressage score!