Bobby never needs much time to warm up for dressage. Even when trying to cut down my time, I still seem to get on too early and end up wandering around and losing focus. So I made a point to stay parked in my chair until thirty minutes out from our ride time before getting dressed and tacked up.
|cheesing instead of riding. fail.|
We were left with about fifteen minutes to get warmed up, and after we got our bit checked and started trotting, I had a momentary panic attack that I'd made a big mistake. Right behind the dressage ring were two horses ripping around their paddock, and Bobby was intent on keep his head craned around to watch them.
Fortunately, the dude really has turned into an absolute horse show pro over the years and pretty quickly got down to work. He felt so quiet and relaxed that I really didn't do anything but let him coast around until the rider before us finished.
|i look horrified. i was really just blinded by the sun.|
I carried that mentality right into the ring and totally coasted through the entire test--and not in a good way. I never really got Bobby working up and through. Our transitions weren't sharp, all his walk movements were complete trash (not helped by a horse getting hacked down the road during our free walk--way more interesting than our test!), and the overall impression was just sloppy.
We ended up with a disappointing 37.0, but I can't expect anything better unless I actually put forth some effort and ride. The score dropped us all the way down to 9th in my division of 11, although we were actually only a few points off from the leaders (and would have been in fifth in the Open division). At least it was a wake up call, and I'll be sure to be a lot more aggressive and present in a few weeks for the next event.
After walking the course the day before and watching several riders go the morning of, the course was not causing me any anxiety aside from it just being a stadium course and therefore the devil itself. The ring is huge, and the course was set so you could certainly whip around and put in some jumper turns, but there was plenty of room to make big, sweeping turns and go all the way out to the ropes and utilize the space to get yourself organized.
Completely opposite of my dressage warm up, I got on with forty five minutes to spare before my stadium time. I figured if he felt quiet enough I could squeeze in earlier, and if not, we'd use every last minute get as much as the crazies out as needed.
|brave riders without crippling anxiety issues don't bother with cross rails.|
aka we can fake it!
I attempted to go with the flow of traffic as we warmed up in the trot, but everyone started piling up right outside the ring so you could barely get past them. I almost witnessed a head on collision, and then Bobby started getting wound up about having to squeeze past milling horses, so I took him well away from everyone and let him have a good canter out in the open before sneaking back to get over some jumps.
|trying to get in for my round was like getting through a fucking maze|
I started Bobby off with the vertical a few times. I made sure his fucking head was unglued from his chest and he was moving forward before even turning in. As soon as he saw the jump, he started going up and down instead of forward, but I was proactive and stuck my spurs in him. I was able to keep him moving right along for the whole warm up, and feeling good about my mental state, I asked the ring steward if she could stick us in.
|and here we go!|
She put us down for three riders out, and two riders out I took Bobby away again and let him have a strong gallop around by himself to try to blow off some more steam. I planned it so that we came back to the ring right as the rider before me was finishing up, but in the mass chaos of everyone and their mother (and trainer, and friend, and friend's mother) milling around the ring, another rider went in on my turn. The ring steward apologized profusely because neither one of us could even get to the fucking gate to let the rider know she was still one out, so I ended up letting Bobby walk around while that rider went.
I don't know if that two minute loss of momentum affected him or what, but once we finally got in the ring, I was grateful for both my spurs and whip. Our round wasn't the best, but I am damn proud of how I rode my horse. I kept my leg on, actively rode the shit out of every fence, thought through all of my lines, and landed already moving on to the next fence.
|offense rainbow fence|
Bobby needed a lot of encouragement to keep moving forward, and our pace wasn't where it needed to be. The problem was fighting a double battle of trying to kick him on while also trying to get his mother fucking head up. The elevator helps more than a snaffle obviously, but it's still not giving me the extra help I need. I sit way up and half halt him to get his front end off the floor, and that ends up slowing him down, so I have to hurry to get him moving faster again, and it messes with our rhythm.
The struggle is real, guys. Throw some words of wisdom at me if you have any.
The only time I really let Bobby down was coming out of the two stride which he clobbered on the way out and took down a rail because boots mean you can slam your feet onto every pole ever, yay! We turned in to a rainbow plank oxer, and for whatever reason Bobby did not like the look of it. I felt him back off, halfheartedly closed my leg, but then gave up and let him skitter to the side. We re-approached, and I rode him right up and over it with no problems the second time so that was a win.
|yay, we finished alive!|
We ended on one rail (which was a bit of a surprise that's all it was, as he lived up to his reputation as the most abusive boot wearer on the planet and was feeling out poles left and right), one refusal, and some time for having to circle back around after the stop. But hot damn, we finished! And I wasn't in a state of complete mental retardation before or during our round!
Since we only live forty five minutes from the grounds now instead of three hours, Hubby and I drove down Saturday afternoon to walk the course with the hounds. I thought it looked totally doable. Great flow, fair questions for the level, and while the fences were mostly maxed out, Novice is quite frankly a bit of a snooze for us now when it comes to cross country so I was excited instead of terrified.
We haven't actually been over a cross country jump since September of last year, or been able to get up to speed over terrain since we moved in mid-April, but whatevs. No problem when you're on the most balling cross country lover ever.
Bobby was a handful at the start box. I could barely get my watch started, and he literally jumped out of the box once I turned him loose. We coasted right over the first three without so much as blinking, and then I brought him back to what was supposed to be a trot for fence four which had a monstrous downhill one stride out from landing.
|good xc pics are lacking due to the layout of the course. sorry.|
Bobby listened too well and actually strolled down to a walk. I managed to kick him over the big log anyway, and then we carefully picked our way down the hill. I think that confused Bobby a little, as you can see him glance back at me in the helmet cam like, "What the fuck is this?", but we went cowboying up the hill on the other side with a lot of momentum. That was ridiculously fun, and Bobby went flying over the log out.
He listened enough for the AB combination to get the bending line, didn't even blink at the big chevron hidden in the shadows, and went right through the water. He jumped the gravel fill over a couple of holes that had been filled in because he is an event horse, and event horses jump all the things.
|snooze fest over the giant table.|
I brought him back to the trot for the ditch since it was a downhill approach with a jump right after, and I wasn't sure he'd get his eye on it instead of the next jump, but he cantered over it without issue and carried on. Over the table, and then on to the bank combination. Up banks are easy. I hate down banks, but Bobby has never hesitated at one. This combo was an up bank, a couple strides, and then drop down over a little log.
I had every intention of bringing him back to the trot because down banks are terrifying, but while Bobby rocked back and slowed his canter down, he wouldn't trot and instead loped off the bank like he'd done it a million times and cantered off like, "Go 'Ho' yourself, crazy lady. I'm trying to run cross country here."
The last jump on course was this skinny double log stuffed in between two big, shady trees. Bobby came cantering up to it and was like, "There's no jump there, crazy bitch. I'm not jumping into a tree." But I was all, "Yah, yah! We are not having a run out on the very last jump!" Of course he went because he is the best at cross country.
|not much room for error!|
Optimum time was 5:43 and I stopped my watch at 5:40 having set it five seconds early. So even with our stroll down the hill and a brief trot to the ditch we still got the time easily. Bobby had caught his breath and was totally comfortable by the time we got back to the trailer, but I have to admit my legs were getting a little tired by the last couple of fences. I can't wait until we move barns and have some real trails to get back on again!
|such a stud.|
With our dressage score starting us off so low, and then running into problems in stadium, we weren't able to move up from ninth, but that rock star cross country round made up for it. Next time I'll be sure to ride my lady balls off in dressage, and hopefully I'll figure out something to do with Bobby's propensity to dive to the ground and/or attach his face to his chest during stadium.
Now here's your helmet cam fix for getting through that: