*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!