Thursday, May 6, 2010
THE JERSEY THAT IS FRESH
Wow. If you have never been to Jersey Fresh (like myself), this is a destination event! Driving in you get a sneak peak of the cross country course (which I am dying to walk...but little blonde me is focusing on one discipline at a time), beautiful arenas, and stabling. Willy has thoroughly enjoyed the acres and acres of clover/grass/dandelions and has been gracious enough to drag me to each destination patch on our many hand walks thus far. I arrived at the park late Tuesday afternoon, settled in and went on a long graze/hand walk before helping my coach settle her two horses in. After organizing everything and them some, we went on another hand walk, got a bath, and then watched Willy as he sulked for two hours in the corner (how dare you bathe super ponies!). Driving to the hotel (30 minutes away) was an adventure in itself. Do you know that you cannot make left turns here? It is very bizarre. Anyway, settled into the hotel room and tried to finish up some final papers/articles (which need to be done asap for me to graduate next week)!
Wednesday = jog day.
We are stabled down the lane from some of the west coasters. Boy do they have this stabling business down. The horses have little welcome mats, tack stall has a carpet, they have music and beer. Now I know who to hang out with! Because I don't get to participate in the "big jogs" often, I wanted to go full out. After the riders meeting, I ran back to the barns to sew in braids on Willy. Now i remember why i use rubber bands most of the time! After frantically getting the pony all beautiful - which involved washing his tail not 3 or 4 times but 7 times (I am a wash rack whore!) I got to slip into my sister's beautiful sundress! A word to the wise - when there are tornado winds, do not wear light, flow-ey dresses! Anyway I survived the jog with my dress and heels, didn't expose myself to the ground jury and was accepted to continue the competition.
I must admit that so much of this competition for us is psychological. I know that I have a tremendous partner, I know that I am a capable rider... but darn if those horses and riders aren't intimidating! Riding around the ring with Doug Payne, Phillip, Jennie, etc, etc. it really does a number to my confidence. Coach is telling me over and over again that we deserve to be here... and we have nothing more to prove! Sigh. Enough with the negative nancy! Watching the *** riders were the inspiration i needed to get on the pony and have a dressage school. He wasn't fabulous, but we pushed his buttons today - with the hopes that tomorrow he will be in a much better mood and remember the lessons we stressed today.
All right, well I need to do some work for school. I will blog again tomorrow after dressage...hopefully with lots of praises for my little super pony!
After watching dressage all day yesterday (while pretending to finish final papers...hey at least I had my computer in front of me), I was beyond ready to try my hand at this ** dressage test. I had an intense dressage lesson in the morning with coach, working on Willy's responsiveness and relaxation. Our biggest challenge is relaxation - if I can get him to relax, he lifts his back, flexes at the base of his neck - and you would never know he is only 14.3 ish!
Our real warm-up was great. We tried to keep him very "Zen", focusing on my breathing and using his hind end. His warm up was perfect! As we trotted towards the main arena, WAM! SPOOK! SNORT! Sigh. Willy has always had a crowd-phobia. And of course there was a significant number of people in the stands. Needless to say, Willy was more concerned about the judge's stands, people moving under the pavilion, and scary flower holders than listening to my cues during the test. Despite a rather lack-luster test, we received decent dressage scores from both dressage judges - and quite a beating from the eventing judge. After watching the tape, the test wasn't awful - but definitely not our best (or half best) effort. He did some lovely canter-pirouettes during the turn on the haunches. hehe. Oh well, naughtiness can we improved upon. I can look back on it and smile, but at the time it was such a disappointment! We worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get to this point, and I felt I let myself, my horse, and my supporters down. After a motivational speech from my coach, multiple head bumps from Willy (he thought he did brilliantly), and hugs from mom - the 5 minute dressage test was put into perspective. Anyway we still got to jump...which is the fun part!
And it was finally here. I walked the course 3 times, and knew where i wanted to be every step of the way. The course was big, but flowed well. John did a great job, making improvements everywhere. Willy was the 10th horse to tackle the course, and while no one problem fence, mistakes were being made and time was definitely becoming a factor. And before I knew it we were out of the box, surging towards the first fence. Before I knew it, we were at the first question on course, two tables set on an extremely acute angle. If a rider missed the line coming out of the woods or allowed his horse to drift ever so slightly, you would have a glance off. Coach had told me to hold my line, but go the long way if Willy was too strong this early in the course. We came out of the woods, I saw my line and held it beautifully. Willy didn't even bat an eye...he knew his job about 5 strides out. Perfect pony! One combination down! From this difficult series, we continued down to a HUGE drop (which I totally underestimated and almost popped right off..thank you pony for planting me back into the tack!), to a vertical cannon (which jumped like a corner), and then to the first water complex. Willy came around the turn full steam ahead...we have to work on our half halts. I managed to get Willy to the base of the "A" element (our plan), jumped up the bank, three strides across, jump off the bank, galloped through the water and out over an angled skinny triple-brush. Willy was unphased and unimpressed. We continued our uphill gallop to what was believed to be the hardest element on course - the ditch combination.
We hit the "A" element perfectly, enough push enough power. Down a stride, angled ditch, out over the "C" vertical. PERFECT. God I love this pony! We galloped on over several more fences, then approached the other difficult combination...the corners. And these were not just corners, but CORNERS. WIDE CORNERS. REALLY WIDE CORNERS. We galloped up to them, kept the perfect powerful gallop, and there we were...soaring over the "A" three forward strides over the "B". We galloped onward through the 7-minute marker. We then galloped to the second water, drop down, gallop across, chevron out. Done. Now onto the final gallop up the hill... a new addition to the course. Right before we entered the woods, we had a wide hay table. Willy was definitely tired at this point, and I did not see any way/shape/form of a distance to this fence. I sat up and pushed him onward. Willy chipped in, and wasn't able to clear the fence. He slammed his stifles into the back of the table. I could tell things were not 100%, so i left him finish the gallop up the hill to see if he just stung himself. We got to the top of the hill at our 8 minute marker and Willy let me know that he was not feeling perfect. So I pulled up. 5 fences, 1 minute from the finish flag. Many people have asked if this was a hard decision. It wasn't. The decision to pull up was easy. It may have stunk, well it sucked - but it wasn't really a decision. If your horse is hurt, you stop. Simple enough.
So thus ends my quest for a Jersey finish, well until next year. The good news is, Willy jogged perfectly sound Sunday morning and is enjoying his short time off while I finish up exams and prepare Deacon for Virginia CCI*. Until then!
Side note about Jersey:
For those of you who have seen pictures or read about it on Eventing Nation, a dear friend from elementary/high school Yeardley Love was brutally murdered. I was called the morning they found her body, and I am still in a state of shock. Yeardley was not only physically beautiful, but she was truly a genuinely good person. She was an angel. I know it hasn't really sunk in yet that Yeardley was taken from us, my prayers are with her mother, sister, and best friend Catherine. Yeardley was a remarkable woman with a promising future, I just cannot believe she is gone.
<3 you Yards!