Thursday, February 26, 2009

Paradise Spring HT

*Above (3) photos taken by Hoofclix

The season is off to an absolutely fantastic start! This was Willy's last run before moving back up to Intermediate (this coming weekend!) at Pine Top in Georgia, and Deacon increased his experience at the training level.

Willy put forth a lovely test, though he was quick to let me know that the Preliminary Test A was not the Intermediate Test A we were supposed to be doing. Besides several moments of tension, he put forth an admirable effort to receive a 37, placing him in the middle of the JYOP division. Unlike many events, Paradise remains true with the traditional format of eventing, and runs one phase per day in the order: dressage-cross country-show jumping. Saturday morning was sunny and COLD, but as usual, it didn't seem to bother Willy who put in a foot-perfect round, jumping beautifully and fast. The course is known to be quite challenging, especially for the warm-up events in Aiken, but Willy didn't seem to mind and jumped the combinations, corners, and water complex quite easily. While he was quite cocky towards his fences, this is the essential confidence needed for Willy, standing at 14.3, to gallop around an intermediate cross country course next weekend. Sunday's show jumping course was beautiful! The organizer and course designers really outdid themselves! Rails seemed to be flying, for there were several tricky questions- including a small vertical on a grass mound. Yet Willy cantered into the ring like a pro, and proceeded to have one of the few clear show jumping rounds, finishing on his dressage score in 4th place (less than a rail from 1st). I don't want to speak too soon, but it really does seem like the old Willy is back. :)

Deacon was another great story, it has been such a pleasure teaching this young horse about eventing. His dressage has been steadily improving, this time by 6 points! He was the first to go (bright and early at 7:30 am), and really held it together in a rather spooky grass ring. Most of the judge's comments suggested that I ride him more confidently.... little did the judge know of Deacon's outburst the last several times I have been on him... he is not very found of using his back and behaving! Regardless, I was quite the proud mother Friday evening. Cross country for Deacon was a great learning experience. While he jumped clean and within the time, he had several bobbles throughout the course, which began after he decided that half-halts were beneath him. After slamming into the fence (mental note - we may need a stronger bit for this phase), it took almost the whole course to get his confidence back. Though, by the last combination he was jumping well again, and quite responsive to my aids. Just to be careful and restore his XC psyche, I will be moving him down to novice at his next event.... just as a precaution. This horse has great potential, so I want things to be taken correctly and slowly. Sunday, Deacon was quick to redeem himself and jumped wonderfully. He had one unfortunate rail which was a 'rider rail' in that I did not quite get his right shoulder around a turn. The rail dropped him from 3rd to 5th, but I cannot be disappointed with this horse!

UPDATE : With just two shows under his belt, Deacon and Courtney are on the February USEA YOUNG ADULT TRAINING LEVEL RIDER LEADERBOARD... tied for 6th. This is a national rank!

Kick on!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sporting Days

What a way to start the competition season! We made the 3.5 hour trek to Aiken, SC hoping to find the warmer weather... and oh boy did we! Finally I could pull off heavy blankets and give the horses a decent bath. I love competing at Sporting Days, not only is it a wonderful farm, but the courses are always fair, beautiful, and maintain the 'traditional' eventing questions.... its not so much a technical or big course, but asks the necessary questions in a safe and confidence building manner... perfect for a first time out. A huge thank you to Carol Kozlowski who acted as both my trainer and groom for dressage and Jessica Miller who was the most wonderful groom! It was so nice having two knowledgeable sets of hands, especially since my times were so close!

Thanks to Carol and Jessica, the weekend was a huge success. Willy started off being quite a little handful in the dressage... unfortunately all of the hard work done on this phase did not quite show through his lovely 'pony moments.' But what Willy lacked in dressage, he most certainly made up for in the jumping phases. Running the IP means Willy performs an intermediate dressage and show jumping tests, and a preliminary cross-country course. The show jumping was a piece of cake for the pony, completing it very cleanly.. oftentimes jumping me out of the tack ( I think he was just so happy to jump). Cross country was perfect. He was so forward and eager, pulling me to every fence ... which for him is great! We even managed to make time (something we were not trying for... i didn't even wear a watch!). Willy finished on his dressage score of 41... landing him in 2nd place! Very exciting for his first time out!

Deacon also earned a gold star this weekend, minus jumping out of the trailer AGAIN! His dressage was very obedient... though he reached the end of his limit half way through the test and became rather unhappy about the work he was supposed to be doing. Jumping was really great... warming up with Carol was incredibly helpful! Deacon jumped around the show jumping course, not his most brilliant phase, beautifully AND cleanly. Cross country was extremely educational for this young horse. He started off somewhat hesitant, then by fence 3 extremely cocky, then after a near miss at fence 5 (apparently Deacon did not feel it was neccessary to listen to any of my aids) he decided to be a good boy and was an angel for the rest of the course. Like Willy, Deacon was full of running, showing his level of fitness. Deacon finished cross county double clean, ending in 5th! .... So finishing 2nd and 5th... not too shabby for the boys... hopefully everything goes just as smoothly at Paradise in two weeks!

Fly High!