This past season has been surreal to say the least... and we are only half way done!
I no longer question if my super pony can handle the height, width, and technicality of the advanced courses. He has attacked each and every course, with a level of cockiness that can be obtained when you are the only pony in the USA jumping 4'3" in three-day eventing. While we continue to be amazed by Willy's jumping prowess, his growing affinity towards the dressage phase is perhaps the most remarkable development over the past six months. Much of that is due to Jo Young, who began the transformation in Aiken, and Donna Ruth who has the distinct pleasure of seeing my smiling face every week as I attempt to do "gymnastics" in dressage (yes it is just as painful as it sounds).
Historically Willy and I play the "catch-up" game - posting a dressage score that warrants judge's comments "interesting interpretation of the halt" or "horse was rather distracted while rearing." The reality of the situation is - Willy will never be top 5 in the advanced divisions after dressage. The horses at this level don't trot, they float. And while it is sometimes frustrating watching these 5/6 figure horses warm-up, I am satisfied knowing that my beloved pony is giving every ounce of what he has. He has surpassed any and every goal we could ever have imagined for him. And surprisingly enough, he has become competitive on the flat! When Willy is on his game, he can produce a steady, consistent, accurate test. Nothing flashy, but filled with workmanlike obedience. And judges are rewarding this with somewhat competitive scores (typically mid to high 30s).
This past year, Willy and I celebrated our 13th anniversary. Talk about an old, married couple. I am incredibly spoiled with this athlete - he knows what I want practically before I do! We read the subtle changes in each other's demeanor, detect the slightest shift in weight coming towards a fence, and (most importantly) we know when to ignore each other.
I have become incredibly aware of what is going on underneath me, particularly while we are at competitions. I tend to be VERY careful with all of my horses - opting to pull up or scratch rather than risking anything. Much of my excessive diligence comes from my background in pony club (read HORSEMANSHIP). Most of my "mother hen"(also called neurotic obsessive over the smallest things) nature stems from the fact that... this is it. These select few horses are all I have. I don't have a string of horses ready to replace whichever horse broke this time out. So, I exercise extreme caution. Regardless if they are going elementary or advanced, they are each treated like the spoiled rotten ponies they are!
Anyway, I digress. Over the course of the spring I knew something just wasn't 100% with Willy. He was flatting GREAT, jumping GREAT, galloping OK. I was hitting a bit of a wall in his conditioning... around 5/6 minutes on course, Willy would really struggle to give me his second wind. I talked to several top trainers, discussed diet change, tweaked his training regiment, gave him "energy boosts", ran his bloodwork, and did a lameness evaluation. Nothing. Everything pointed that, yet again, i was being overly paranoid. Months later, after a dressage lesson Willy endured a pretty bad colic. We rushed him up to New Bolton in PA and kept him there overnight. Long story short, it turns out he has right dorsal colitis.... or a colon 3 times the size of normal. Lots of kisses and a diet change later.... I have my rotten pony back! AND..... HE WON HIS LATEST OUTING. We ran the intermediate at Loudoun to make sure he was feeling great and well... he galloped beautifully! I know it was a shorter course, but I had a lot of horse left... which felt great!
Onward to Plantation, Morven, then Fair Hill CCI** (qualifications for a spring ***).