After 6 weeks of back to back comps and training, the season is over. The weirdest season ever for sure, but none the less we made the most of it and had a lot of fun along the way.
Murray was the last event of the season for everyone, and somewhere I haven’t been in years. They upgraded the course a few years ago and it used to be one of my favourites, so it has long been on the cards to get there. We very nearly didn’t go after Brigadoon but I donned my big girl pants and got on with it, and I am so glad I did.
I took a half day on Friday to get organised and have a jumping lesson before going down early on Saturday morning. I had been concerned about entering this event in mid November, thinking it would be stinking hot but instead we have been experiencing a second winter and it has been cold and wet. Saturday it rained on and off all day, it rained while I tacked up for my pre ride, but thankfully stopped when I got on.
Henry was lovely in our pre ride, his usual self, so I kept it short and took him back to plait up and get ready with a few hours before my test. It was a long process, friends kept showing up so I obviously had to chat and muck about but we got pretty and I tacked up with 40 minutes to warm up.
I had a solid warm up plan, and a friend to yell at me, but I got in the zone and Henry did some beautiful work. He felt lovely, even in the pissing rain which made him a bit mad. I really only needed 30 minutes that day, so I let him stand for a few minutes before picking him back up when the rider before me was in the arena. That was a mistake, I should have kept him moving as he got a bit fed up with being asked to work again.
The first half of my test was lovely. Not as good as the warm up, but nice, then in the second half I think Henry has had enough and let loose. A horse farted in the warm up and my reins kept slipping, so he used to against me to have some… energetic moments but I got him back each time to improve the next movement.
I know I rode that test the best I could so I came out and grinned at my friends, and moved on with my weekend. This is kind of a big deal, because we all know how hung up I get about dressage. In this case, there was nothing I could do, and I learn something every time we go. Plus, I know we can do it now and I have that confidence behind me so whatevs. We will get there!
After dressage we were sitting in second last, so I changed into my second pair of breeched, had some lunch and helped my friends warm up for their tests. Andrew was judging all day Saturday so Rosie and I hung out together before got ready for show jumping. She was the official show jump dog while I walked my course too.
The course was lovely, nice and flowing and open. I knew it would really suit us, so I hopped on and warmed up while it wasn’t raining, and my friend did poles for us. I wasn’t quite on my game enough, and I didn’t get Henry in the right canter so it was a little bit of a mess. He stopped at a jump when I get him to a terrible spot, and it was enough to wake me up and get him in front of my leg. Ugh, what an idiot.
We went into the ring just as the heavens opened, and I got him moving forward. We had a great, clear round. He jumped beautifully and just felt so confident. He looked at a brick wall jumping away from home but I tapped him on the shoulder and he got on with it. He feel so solid in this phase now, and it is one of our strengths, which I am proud of.
I got changed into dry clothes and a big group of us headed out to walk cross country, beer in hand. I can’t say I paid enough attention on that first course walk, I was having way too much fun with my friends! Rosie was also having the best time with her doggy pals, and sniffing the sniffs and jumping on the jumps.
We met the TD’s and course designed at one point on the course where my friends were talking about a line they had to ride. They couldn’t get the striding to work, and the officials over heard them discussing it, so came over to explain the design and how it was measured. It was so interesting and informative. We all learnt something and really appreciated them taking the time to help us lean.
Andrew knocked off his judging and we walked my course together, this time I was concentrating a bit more and planned the ride I would have. There was nothing I was super worried about, but a few jumps I knew I’d need to be accurate to, or really keep my leg on at. We also had an option to drop into the first water, which I decided I would take.
We headed back to camp and settled in for the evening, making dinner, drinking and generally having a fun time. It kept raining, and there were 9 of us crowded under one gazebo, and 4 dogs with plenty of space under the other. I think we should have stolen some of their space!
Sunday morning came and the sun was shining! My cross country wasn’t until 1.04, so I spent the morning drying everything out and warming my friends up for their sj and xc rounds. Show jumping was a mixed bag for them, but cross country a success for everyone! I am sure they all appreciated me yelling at them about their crap canters and to add more leg, but they all came home clear so they will live.
Finally it was my turn to get ready, so I put on my third pair of breeches for the weekend and tacked up in my freshly dried out gear. I had a solid plan to keep Henry calm in the warm up. I walked all around the camping grounds, then into the second quiet warm up where there were only a handful of people, while Andrew listened out for me to be called into the first warm up where the jumps were, so I only had to keep him busy in there for a short while.
Hen was calm and happy throughout the whole warm up, I listened to my own advice about not having a crap canter, and in no time we were standing(!) in the start box being counted down. We cantered out of the box, I set a good forward canter and we were off.
Jump 1 was a log, and 2 a roll top. Both we got long to, but he was keeping the same steady rhythm on the approach and landing, so it was fine. 3 was an upright I got him a bit deeper to in the forest, then 4AB was a double of logs. He got deep to the first, then wobbled to the second. He didn’t feel back off or unconfident, more that he didn’t lock onto the second log but I closed my leg, got him straight and he sailed over without issue.
5 was another upright back out in the open, 6 was a bench and then 7AB was a mound with a log on top then 3 strides down to a second log. You had to jump both logs on an angle to get a straight line through the combination. I kept the energy to the top of the mound before asking Henry to quietly pop the first log and let him flow down to the second. He found that pretty easy and so we cruised on to 8, a Trakehner.
He had a peak down at the ditch in the air, and made a lovely shape over it, then jumped an upright roll top thing for 9 and the house and 10 beautifully. At this pint we were both having a blast, Henry felt confident and rideable. He was so adjustable the whole time, and we were cruising easily.
11 was the drop into water, so I bough him back to the trot, sat up and while he hesitated, I put my leg one and he stepped in. 12 was the only jump I was really worried about, it was a white square box and was quite narrow. I was worried about it for me though, not Henry, as I know if I ride him he will jump it. So I did, and he did.
13AD was a bench to a roll top brush jump combination. I fucked up a bit coming in, I needed to half halt earlier then close my leg, so he jumped a bit long to the first, but I closed my leg in the middle and he jumped the B element perfectly.
I had been told the ground was slippery between 13 and 14, so I kept his legs under him in the turn between the jumps, and he popped the lot before the water fine. He backed off the second water but went straight in at trot, picked up the canter and popped the roll top on the way out perfectly.
16 was a little easy log, before a huge brush jump at 17. It was the biggest jump on course with the brush, so I rode him properly to it and he sailed over the brush with room to spare.
From there we headed back into the forest for the last few jumps, and we were home clear. I apparently had my go slow pants on, and we picked up a bit of time but it didn’t matter. Henry felt confident and adjustable. He was by far the most confident he has ever felt. All I wanted was to finish the season with a fun, confidence giving round and we had that in spades.
This was a perfect weekend to finish the season on. We had huge fun, learnt something in all three phases, and Henry was the happiest, most confident and settled he has ever been at an event. For a horse who usually doesn’t eat and stresses weight off, he ate everything I put in front of him, plus extras, was calm and quiet in all three phases (minus a few moments in dressage!), handled the cross country like a pro and felt happy throughout.
This was such a fun event, and left me wanting more. We have plenty to work on for next year, and I have already been thinking about my goals and plans for the new year. For now though, Henry gets a well deserved holiday, then a quiet few weeks bush riding before I pick him up again in the new year, ready for whatever the season throws at us. Coolie has a new fitness program to work on while Hens relaxing, so I get to keep riding. Sorry Coolie, your holiday is over!