After the fabulous weekend that was Waredaca, I decided to run the horses at one last outing before retiring for the winter to jumper and dressage shows. I have not had the pleasure of competing at Rubicon for several years (4+), because normally November means things at Wake Forest were in full swing. However what I remember of Rubicon: dressage arenas (yay), a crazy difficult show jumping, and a really great XC track. My memory served me fairly well, because that was exactly what we got.
I entered the event late, so Zoe was the only horse to get in right off the bat. Her dressage has been getting consistent, which is a huge accomplishment for her. Because her flat work needed so much attention, I have not really gotten to address a great deal of her jumping problems. We had one jump school, gridwork, in-between Waredaca and Rubicon and it was not pretty. We had several "discussions" about how to properly jump, aka not launch ourselves over the fences. The problem with Zoe is that she is so athletic and intelligent, that once she goes through an exercise once or figures out a course, she becomes bored and unimpressed. While it would be great to raise the fences to training height, she does not use her hind-end well enough to warrant bigger fences. The problem with jumping green, talented horses too big is that they really don't comprehend how to use their body - and god forbid you get into a situation where you really need the horse to pull through for you (such as getting too close to a solid xc fence, or combination), they have to idea what to do and crash through the fence. So Zoe's jumping is in a bit of a catch-22 now, and unfortunately it showed at Rubicon. Her dressage, again, steadily improved. The ring was running a bit late - information I did not realize - so I was on her quite a bit longer than I would have liked. But Zoe held it together pretty well, and put in a steady test earning - another 36. While I would have liked better from her, the competition in that ring was ridiculous. Many of the novice horses I saw were steady in first level frames...i thought this was NOVICE! It just goes to show you how competitive our area is, and how imperative the dressage phase is these days. The show jumping was ridiculous. Rails were flying everywhere. It was really tough for the younger, inexperienced horses to deal with the hills that were in the middle of the course. In typical Zoe fashion, she started off quite alert and picking up her toes. When we got to fence four (a vertical set right at the edge of the downhill slope), she fumbled over that, then the next fence she didn't quite regain her balance in time. Two more rails came down after that - albeit these were not "green" mistakes, they were symptoms of her being completely unimpressed by the fences. That is one thing we need to work on - giving Zoe a conscience. She was completely unphased on her lackluster performance. After that dismal show jumping, I decided it would be a great learning experience if we went cross country in open fronts. A good wack on a solid fence is a great tool for the green-beans. As per usual, Zoe's cross country was spectacular. We had several not-so-pretty fences, where she deemed my half-halts not necessary. Her performance through the water was nothing less than spectacular. She had one of the best rides through there I had seem all day! After cooling out the little princess, it was time to run back home to see my best friend from elementary/middle school get married! The busy weekend was only getting started...
Thankfully, I received a phone call from the secretary on Friday that there was a spot for Deacon in the training horse division! I really wanted to get Deacon in for a second run since completing his treatment to show that he really is back to being his wonderful self. The bad news...dressage ride at 7:54 am, two hours away. Ick. After my alarm went off at 2:30 am for the second day in a row, I was so relieved this was the last event of the year. Imagine sleeping until 6 on weekends. How lovely! So Deacon warmed up great, a little testy (he does not approve of early mornings) but nevertheless he was steady and consistent as per usual. He went in the ring and put forth a really nice effort - a little rusty, but a good effort. He was 5th after dressage with a 34! Not too shabby! After the fiasco in show jumping the day before I was quite worried. Since Deacon is for sale there are always people watching, or looking at his record so it becomes essential that he put in solid performances. We went into the ring and he gave me a FABULOUS round. So much so that I thought we had done it - the only clean round of the division. But I just didn't get enough of a half-halt in on the last combination and he pulled the top rail of the last fence! Darn-it! Oh well, I couldn't have been happier with my horse, he really gave me everything and managed the terrain quite well! It is so nice to have him back and game for anything! Cross country was really challenging. The course started out nicely with two gallop fences, but it was difficult to get into a rhymn because right off the back you had a sharp right turn, and two fences within 8 strides. Deacon was a bit sticky to those, but with a little smack of encouragement, took off down the hill into the woods after fence 2. Fence three was a skinny right out of the woods that Deacon took in stride, much straighter than the first two. Then came what I thought was the hardest question on course. A sharp right turn to a skinny, open bottomed roll-top type fence, two strides down a large drop, sharp turn right up the hill. I saw my distance 5 strides out, sat up, leg on, and smack of encouragement -- over and down we went. Perfectly done by my baby horse! The rest of the course was beautiful, with the exception of a little bobble at the ditch...it is called steering Courtney!! He finished the event clean and fast, in a tie for 3rd. Because I didn't know I was tied, i lost the tie and was deemed a 4th place finisher. Regardless, I am so happy that I have my horse back! I wish the season was just getting started for him, he is ready to move back up to prelim tomorrow!
Once again the competition showed me just were my horses are progressing, and where their weaknesses still remain. I can't be disappointed because both horses really gave me their all on XC, which gave me a great big smile for the long drive home. It was really great to get Zoe competitive at this level, because her flatwork and perspective on life have come so far! She still has ways to go, but in three short months, anyone can see the dramatic progress she has made. Just look at the difference in her hind-end!
Deacon was the most fun I have had on XC in a while. I was able to forget the pressures of having to have a clear round, and just enjoyed the experience with my horse, a horse I produced from his first competition. Having him be such an eager-beaver on XC and so honest in show jumping really emphasize to me how much this horse must have been hurting this past year. It was such a blow to my riding that I was not able to get Deacon around a course for so long, I was beginning to think there was some huge gap in my riding style. But the horse I had this past weekend showed me just what a great job I did bringing him along, correctly and slowly. There is a part of me that hopes he will not find a new home, so I can take him to a one-star this spring.
Anyway, Deacon and Zoe will be joining Willy in a semi-vacation for the week, then back to work. We will be at the Green Spring Hounds jumper show at Shawan Downs or some extra show jumping practice. Willy is coming back into work this week as well, because I was able to schedule a dressage lesson with Scott Hassler for Nov. 24th - and we have to start learning how to do changes on demand for the Advanced tests! I think Willy will be much happier to have a job again, maybe he will even let me catch him!
Until next post!