Whew, what a weekend! I am a bit deliriously tired, but we’re flying to Ocala on Tuesday so I needed to crank out the show recaps before I leave. Apologies in advance if this post is rambly, disjointed, or makes no sense. I have a bad case of post horse show brain.
Hillary and I left early Saturday morning, hauling all 3 horses together in her trailer. It’s really nice having a show buddy again, since Henry and I have been mostly on our own for the past couple years. However, I had kind of forgotten what a MORON he is about having friends at shows. He spent most of Saturday screaming and spinning in his stall, and it took 45 minutes of leg yields and figure 8’s to get him to actually take a deep breath and relax under saddle. Neither of these things make me happy with a mentally delicate, ulcer-prone horse. He’s so dumb, too, because he actually hates other horses, and when they come near him he just wants to murder them, yet god forbid they leave? I don’t understand Henny logic.
He settled down a little by Sunday morning (the screaming was more intermittent, at least) and I got on at 7:30 for my 8:00 dressage time, not feeling really sure of which animal I would be sitting on. The Henry I’ve had for the past 6 months has been pretty rideable and much improved in the connection. The Henry I had on Saturday afternoon was the tense nutbag Henry that I had like 3 years ago. That is not a time period that I particularly wanted to revisit, and definitely not on horse show morning. Luckily he decided to table the Vintage Henry thing from the day before, and came out on Sunday as a much more modern version of himself.
The test wasn’t quite as good as our last attempt in December, he was still just ever so slightly scattered to my aids. There were some moments of improvement, like my leg yields last time said I needed more bend so I’ve been working on that a lot, and this time our scores for those were each a point higher. I couldn’t quite keep his haunches under control in the second 10m half circle at canter, and he threw in a flying change there as we came back to the rail, earning us a solid 4. Whoops. She dinged him a little in the collectives too, because he was chomping his mouth a bit the whole time… that was his tension showing.
It wasn’t our best test, but it was respectable enough, and still good for a 33.3. And, to be honest, a year ago I would have been THRILLED with that test, so it shows how much the dressage has improved for us. He’s been holding himself together mentally so much better than he used to, it’s like a different horse, and I really love how the Prelim A test flows for him. All the trot work in the beginning helps his brain settle.
After dressage I only had an hour before stadium, so I went back up to the barn, let him pee and get some water, looked at my course one more time, and then tacked back up. I have become the queen of the short warm up for jumping phases so I walked into warmup at 8:49, cantered a couple laps, lengthened and shorted his stride a few times, made some square turns to lift his shoulders, jumped 3 fences, and still went up to the ring a few minutes before my 9am start.
My goals for stadium were:
1) Keep him in front of my leg. I’d rather make a mistake going too forward than make a mistake by pulling or getting stuck.
2) Ride the plan. There were some wonky turns in this course, and we made a pretty specific plan in our course walk on the best way to ride them, so I really wanted to keep my head in the game, focus, and execute the plan as best I could. Again, if I make a mistake then I make a mistake, oh well, but I didn’t want it to be because I panicked and lost focus.
3) Keep. My. Chin. Up. At. The. Base.
And, omg, it actually all came together.
We tapped a couple, and it wasn’t mistake-free, but I stuck to the plan and they all stayed in the cups for a double clear round! I got him a little bit deep to the big vertical at 2, but kept my chin up and he was able to get us over cleanly (that “chin up” trick is really kind of a miracle for this horse). Bless Henry’s little heart, he is not the most talented or athletic horse in the world but he’s got plenty of try. He stayed in front of my leg, I was able to keep his balance up and in front of me out of the turns, kept coming forward, and I actually had some whoa this time when I needed it. He was brilliant.
Trainer and Friends were screaming their fool heads off when we crossed the finish, and I too was pretty freaking excited to finally get a double clear round at this height. I wasn’t sure it was possible, to be honest. It’s a good feeling when all of those endless hours of work finally pay off.
It was also pretty nice to still be sitting on our 33.3 after stadium, and a part of me kind of just wanted to withdraw and go home, because I didn’t think we could top that. But of course that would be silly, because there was still cross country, and that’s the best part…