Hello everyone! I hope that this post finds everyone warm and well! Thankfully the boys and I managed to miss the historical 3+ feet of snow that hit the Mid-Atlantic this past week.. though North Carolina did see its fair share of nasty weather!
DGE spent this winter tine-tuning everything. We took advantage of the beautiful indoor at An Otherwise Perfect Farm in Upperco, MD and really worked on finessing the new USEF dressage tests, building insane amounts of grids, and of course the endless/tedious trot sets around and around the indoor. While I was only able to squeeze in a couple of lessons with Colleen right before I left for NC, it was very helpful for pushing our work even further towards the edge. Colleen and I were also able to fine tune DGE's competition plans for this year - highlights of which include Jersey Fresh CCI**, Virginia CCI*, Fair Hill CCI**, Advanced at Millbrook, and taking the entire team down to the AECs. I am incredibly excited to see how the year pans out...
I decided to start the year a bit earlier this season, beginning with the Wednesday event at Full Gallop. It is customary for most riders to enter their horses a level lower than they normally compete - this gives the horses a chance to re-acclimate to the competition environment and to shed all the winter cobwebs! Since the boys had an early winter vacation, I felt that they were ready to go back full force. My instincts were enforced with two perfect jump schools with Holly Hudspeth the Thursday before our first event. The horses were jumping great, looked happy, and were incredibly fit for the end of January. Willy was to begin the season running at Intermediate, while Deacon would begin at Training...though would run his first preliminary the following weekend.
The boys and I shipped down to Aiken around 1 pm Tuesday morning, arriving just in time for me to run over to Full Gallop and walk the intermediate course. After a late night of bathing/braiding/cleaning tack/organizing the trailer/spoiling the ponies, everyone was tucked in for the chilly night. Thankfully, Wednesday promised to be in the 60s and sunny... a welcome change to the dismal, dreary weather we have seen all winter.
Willy's dressage was first. I have not decided on my feelings towards the new tests, they will definitely take some getting used to! I am excited to perform in the large area, for it eliminates the claustrophobic feeling that can be associated with medium canters down the long sides (in a small arena). Despite two small errors, Willy performed a very nice test...and was rewarded by a high - but competitive score from Brian Ross. His comments were very spot-on, rewarding our obedient and work-man-like test, but suggesting that the envelope should be pushed more. This was an exciting change for Willy - He is finally relaxing in the ring, and I look forward towards really pushing ourselves in the area... hopefully our explosive moments are a thing of the past. Deacon's dressage was quite similar to that of his brother. Very correct, and obedient - although the judge challenged us for more. He received a 35 and was in 10th, although fractions of points separated the top 10 places.
Show Jumping was scheduled before XC, which is both a blessing and a curse. Show Jumping before the XC gives the horse's a little more spunk and jump over the fences, which hopefully translates to a clean round. On the other hand - the horses are very excited and somewhat more difficult to ride b/c they know what comes next! But DGE proved that we were ready for the game! Willy really WOW-ed the crowd with his ridiculously athletic jumping style... I swear this horse is allergic to paint! He jumped a brilliant course to finish in 2nd. While Deacon performed his "bad-boy act" once again near the in-gate, once he got on course he jumped better than ever! He did not touch a rail and really rounded his back over every fence! I am very excited for this horse as he is developing into a real athlete!
I was very excited to get back out on the cross-country, although I did not have an opportunity to school before the event... anyone on the East Coast could tell you why! Willy went out of the box like the true champion he is, and was a star from start to finish. He was a little over-zealous the entire day, and cross country was no exception. It always takes him several events before he realizes that jumping his mother out of the tack over every fence really isn't necessary. While I did not push Willy for time, he was eager through the finish flags - a tribute to our new trot-based conditioning program. Deacon was the real superstar of cross country. I was expecting at least a little rustiness on his part, as he is still new to the game, but I was quickly proven wrong! Deacon was bold and brilliant, finishing with a double clear round!
The end result was Willy finishing in 2nd, and Deacon in 5th. Not too bad for our first time out! We look forward to Sporting Days, where Deacon will be competing at the preliminary level. Willy's next outing will be the big Pine Top, competing at Intermediate.