Wednesday, August 19, 2015

GHF Summer Classic 6/21/15: XC Preview and Dressage

Yes, you read that correctly; this event was WAY back in June. I think things are finally settling down in a way that I can get some more posts up. So without even further ado, here's the recap of our only 3-phase this season thus far! (Well...half of maybe that's a little more ado ;)

The day before the event, the trainer that I had recently started taking jump lessons with was hosting a course walk, so I attended that and got some excellent advice. Even at the elementary level it was helpful to have someone point out what things you might need to think about at and in between each fence. After the official course walk I walked it again on my own to make sure I remembered it and I took pictures of each fence:

Fence 1 was a relatively short distance away from the "start box" and slightly uphill. My trainer warned everyone that some horses could be a little sticky getting going on the uphill and advised us to ride strongly right from the start.

Fence 1 itself was a nice normal log lined with flowers. Not gonna lie - I was a little nervous about the flowers being spooky, even though Maggie is a boss about flower boxes. Just call it a hunch I guess...

After Fence 1, the gradual uphill continued and the course routed through a gap in the fence.

A left turn after passing through the fence takes us to Fence 2, directly to the right of the big tree. I was a little worried that Maggie might be hesitant to pass under the tree in the shadows.

A long bending line to the left leads to Fence 3:

A right turn after Fence 3 shows Fence 4 on the other side of the field. There was a tiny bit of sloping terrain in between these fences.

Fence 4 was a log over some very bright straw bales. My trainer cautioned everyone that horses may back off this jump due to either the contrast of the bright bales or fact that you're jumping towards a wall of trees (or both). 

At this point a mother and daughter with a very cute dachshund (who was having the time of her life running around the course on her tiny little legs) caught up with me and walked with me the rest of the way. The dachshund impressively even scrambled over a few of the jumps!

After Fence 4 we had to cut through a pass in the woods, taking a right.

Downhill with rocks. Welcome to eventing in New England.

Leaving the woods and turning left. Dachshund still leading the way.

The approach to Fence 5 was slightly downhill, so we were cautioned not to get too forward. This was a good fence to trot if you were picking up the pace after walking through the woods. 

Fence 6 was in sight to the right of Fence 5. The ground flattened out between the fences.

Back here they were building a brand new corner complex for the Prelim course the next weekend.

Then it was uphill again to Fence 7.

And still uphill to Fence 8 after crossing a dirt road, which I wasn't sure if Maggie would try to jump or not.

The uphill continued until a bit after Fence 8 and then sloped downhill again on the way to 9. My trainer said that this is where horses would most likely begin to get tired so we needed to keep leg on, especially since this fence is facing the forest again.

After Fence 9 the course went through a gap in the trees which leads to the water complex. The elementary division didn't go into the water though, but routed alongside it to Fence 10.

Almost there! After Fence 10 we had to take a sharp right to Fence 11, the last fence. Advice for these fences was to turn your head to look at the last fence as we jumped 10 in order to make sure we turned in time and didn't get run away with back to the trailers, which were in the field ahead and to the left.

Fence 11, the last one, was definitely the most imposing-looking to me, particularly in person. It was just solid. And kind of wide. I thought it looked more along the lines of 2'6" instead of 2'3", but who knows. The fence to the left of it was actually an option for the BN course (as you can see by how it's flagged) since it was technically larger than BN height.  

The weather was absolutely glorious during the course walk, but the forecast for show day was the complete opposite: rain all day long. I was pretty confident and comfortable with all of the fences on my course. The height looked totally doable for everything (even if the last jump made me nervous, I knew we were capable) and every fence looked super inviting, with the exception of Fence 1. However, the rain threw in a new element. I've never jumped XC in the rain and was really nervous about the footing and slippery grass. I talked to my trainer about this after the course walk was over and she felt that the rain might actually improve the ground since it had been so dry. She told me I'd need a strong leg since the take-off area for some of the jump might get bogged down by the time I rode, but not to worry too much about slipping. Stay balanced and leg on. That made me feel a little better, but of course my nerves weren't completely put to rest. 

Show day dawned and it indeed was pouring rain. I was lucky enough to have a late ride time since I was in the elementary division as opposed to BN so I wasn't riding in the worst of it, but there was still a slight drizzle as we pulled into the show grounds.

We got to the event about an hour or so before my ride time. I took my time polishing Maggie off and tacking her up before I got on and headed over to the dressage warm up with about 30 minutes to spare.

I recall purposefully doing two things differently during warm up this time:
  1. We walked a lot before even seriously starting our warm up.
  2. We cantered.

Both of those things probably seem like 'duhs'.

Walking for a good 10ish minutes before even picking up the trot has been something I've been implementing when riding at home as well (again, duh). Not only is waking part of the warm up in getting her muscles starting to work, but getting Maggie to march forward on a loose rein before asking for anything else had been helping to get her to relax and therefore be less distracted during our ride. That's the theory anyway, and most of the time it certainly helps! It's much easier for us to establish a baseline of relaxation at the walk before even attempting to trot.

As for the canter, we've been mostly doing Intro Test B for the past couple shows we've done. Because Intro B doesn't ask for the canter I had avoided warming up at the canter to try and keep Maggie from potentially getting riled up. But with this show, Maggie was demonstrating to me that she had a good bit of energy she needed to expel, as I was having a hard time settling her at the trot. I went ahead and asked for the canter sooner in the warm up than I was planning to and I think it actually worked in our favor. I let Maggie to a few circles of somewhat-all-over-the-place canter before bringing her back to a trot. And whatdaya know, our warm up after that was really pretty good. She felt pretty balanced and responsive and mostly relaxed.

As I watched the few riders left ahead of me go, my husband and I realized that the corners of the court had gotten completely torn up. You can see the brown spots in the video below, but it doesn't get across just how chopped up and muddy the footing there was. I could the other riders having trouble with it, so I knew I'd have to take our ride with a grain of salt since the footing wasn't in our favor.

Video below thanks to my husband! And I took a leaf out of Emma's book (who I think took a leaf out of someone else's book...) and added the scores and notes as subtitles. Wonderful idea!

We started off nicely. Our entering centerline is pretty bangin' - we consistently do pretty well there an got an 8 for that! I felt pretty good in our first 20 meter trot circle too. I thought Maggie was giving me some good energy, trotting through, and staying mostly steady in the bridle. 

Then came the canter....late. That corner between K and A had been totally torn up. We got totally bogged down in the mud and couldn't make the transition in time and ended up running into it. That's about what I expected to happen after watching the riders ahead of me. We just don't quite have the balance yet overcome that kind of footing. 

After an unbalanced transition, the whole canter was a little more rushed that I would have liked and Maggie started to get a little tense, but we kept it together.

Then free walk. Dude, this was the best free walk we have ever done and I don't even know how it happened! Usually Maggie roots the reins away from me when I start letting them out, but she didn't this time and we managed to keep a relatively straight, forward pace. I remember being pleased with it even as I picked the the reins back up and collected the walk again. 

I thought the trot circle to right was ok and then came the canter again. The ground was torn up between H and C as well, but not as badly as the other corner. Our transition was unbalanced again, by at least it was on time. The unbalanced transition resulted in us being rushed and counter flexed though.

I don't even know what I was thinking / how I ended up overshooting the centerline that badly at the end of the test - lost a few easy points there! And then something caught Maggie's eye far off to the right and she popped her head up to look at it and swing her haunches out. D'oh.

Overall though, I was actually really happy with how we did given the conditions. I felt like we finally had a good, relaxed warm up and kept that relaxation (mostly) into the ring. I figured that the playing field was pretty level (figuratively, not literally) in terms of the conditions so the scores would work themselves out since everyone in the division was dealing with the same torn up footing. Without even seeing my score though, I was pleased with how we did and handled the situation. I really couldn't have asked for a better effort from Maggie! (Well, maybe she could have not looked off the right at the halt, but oh well!)

I knew our biggest hurdles were yet to come (pun absolutely intended) however, and we headed back over the the trailer for some much needed Gatorade and hay. Stadium and XC to come in the next post since this one is long enough!


  1. So cool! That course looks like fun and your dressage test was nice. Was the test you rode for Elementary? Or BN? (can you tell I know nothing about eventing?)

    1. Thank you! I rode in the Elementary division and we did BN Test A. (The BN division did BN test B)

  2. I've definitely had the OMG WHAT IS THAT OVER THERE final halt before! Looks like a really nice test otherwise!

    1. I'm sure we'll have many more too...horses gonna horse!

  3. Really nice free walk. I've been working a lot on this for the coefficient and ours still sucks. Maggie really stretched forward for it.

    1. Thanks! I just hope we'll be able to replicate it again ;) the coefficient definitely helped us out! At home I had been working on keeping her from getting too lazy whenever we take a walk break on the buckle

  4. what a nice test - so consistent!! esp awesome free walk!! i struggle super hard with the upward transitions (tension and unsteady in the bridle) and the halt (haunches left every.single.time) but it seems like you squeezed out every other potential point in there! nice job!

    also i'm pumped to see how the jumping went. that looks like a pretty legit xc course. fair, but legit.