Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Event Recap: GHF Fall Classic 9/20/15

I must admit, I was a little more nervous than usual going into this show simply because I wanted to do better than last time, and I knew we were capable.

I had really short times between my dressage and stadium, and the course walk for my division would be happening 15 minutes before my dressage time (so while I was warming up) so right after getting to the show grounds I checked in and then immediately went up to the stadium arena to memorize the course by watching a few rides.

Course map
Fortunately it was pretty straightforward - basically just keep making a figure eight - so back down to the trailer parking I went to unload Maggie. I eventually got on for warm-up about half an hour before my dressage time. I'm still figuring warm-up out (seems like it's taking forever) and this time I was on the side of too much time. 

Could be stepping under more, but she's pretty relaxed.
Perhaps it's because we've been to this venue four times before now (eek - that many already?), but she was super relaxed the whole time. Relaxed enough, that once it came time to do our test, she was on the verge of lazy. I didn't work her the entire 30 minutes I was on prior to the test (we just walked around for a lot of it), but I probably could have gotten away with getting on 15 minutes before our ride. It's just so hard to gauge!

Who's got two thumbs and has learned to sit up straight at the canter? This kid!
Either way, I'll take too relaxed over too tense any day. However, the trade off is that impulsion suffered. I actually think this test was a pretty good representation of where we're at though. We're consistently inconsistent, I think. There are glimpses of nice stretching and stepping through punctuated by popping out of balance. Here's the test, complete with the comments:

We will be working on that whole 'consistency in the bridle' thing all winter, let me tell you! I really do think we're getting there - she's building the strength she needs though her back in order to carry herself more consistently.

I barely had any time to think too much about dressage once it was done, other than to be pleased at how relaxed she stayed and be happy we got the correct canter leads. It was back to the trailers for a really quick tack change and then up to stadium with just enough time to jump each warm-up fence once and then watch the two riders before me go.

Yep, pretty sure we left the rails up on all those!
I was super proud of how Maggie handled this course - she walked in and knew what her job was and was ready to go. We only had one slightly squirrelly moment at the approach to fence 5 when she took a little look at the flatbed trailer next to the ring and had the urge to shy to the left just before the fence, but I held that leg on and she didn't question me and went right over! Good girl!

No random rails down from tripping over ourselves this time! On to XC...

If you recall, I was primarily worried about getting her over fence 1 since that's where we picked up a refusal last time as a result of her being very stuck behind my leg out of the start box. I tried to hype her up a little bit by getting a little jigging action going on when we had one minute left before going. It worked and over we went! 

The chicken wing arms have returned, but I don't even care because we made it over!
Fence 2 and 3 both rode really well.

Cantering towards fence 2.

Fence 2

Fence 3
Fence 3 alternate view. Photo by Sophiea Bitel. Used with Permission.
Maggie got a little timid after fence 3 because we had to go past the big scary (empty) water jump so she broke into a trot.

POWER TROT. Photo by Sophiea Bitel. Used with permission.

We had to take a sharp right through a line of trees in order to line ourselves up with fence 4. Maggie got a little behind my leg at this point since we were trying to pick up a canter again, but I kept leg on and we made it over.

Fence 4
No pics going over fences 5, 6, and 7, but you can take a look at them on the course walk pics. 5 and 6 were on the downhill and rode really well, especially since I was concentrating on what my trainer said to me about letting the horse keep itself from not falling on it's face. Fence 7 was on the flat and Maggie was nice and and forward coming out of the downhill so no problems there either.

After fence 7 was that long uphill through the woods. Maggie wanted to drop back to the trot at this point and I let her. I took the opportunity to treat it as a little bit of a breather and give her tons of verbal praise and pats for being so brave.

Fence 8 was at the top of the hill, just out of the woods. I asked for the canter again as soon as we reached mostly level ground and we cantered through a relatively narrow gap between the tree line and a fence post before reaching 8. I think this was a good decision, because I think if I had asked for the canter after passing through that opening I may not have been able to get her forward enough in time to make it over the jump without her stalling out on me.

Fence 8
The last three fences (9, 10, and 11) she fell back behind my leg and we had somewhat sticky spots to all of them. I think fence 9 may have spooked her a little since it was so airy. She did try and take good look at the hay bales beneath it.

Fence 9
Again though, I was super focused on LEG ON. By golly, we were going to finish this course clear.

Long canter between 9 and 10.

Fence 10

Cheesin' and kickin' right before the last fence. Photo by Sophiea Bitel. Used with permission.

Fence 11 - last one! (My parents to the right!)

I was completely out of breath as I hopped off...I think more out of breath than Maggie actually was. It felt really good to jump around clean, though.

Maggie was already nice and cool by the time we got back to the trailers and she enjoyed some nice hand grazing after she was untacked and linimented up. Dan went off to check the scores while I was tending to her and reported back that we were in 5th place after dressage. In a class of 14 starters I was definitely satisfied with that! However, knowing that we jumped clear around both stadium and XC left it open for us to potentially move up...which we did!

Red ribbon baby!
We ended up in second and in addition to the beautiful red stain, we got some little prizes: a GHF tote bag and a towel (or as Dan accurately put it, a Maggie-slobber-wiper).

I'll be the first to point out that even though we jumped clear, my position and effectiveness as a rider is full of flaws. I completely reverted to the fetal position over most every jump on the course, pivoted at the knees, and totally forgot about moving my elbows like my trainer told me. I did remember to keep leg on, though, and that got us through. Still, I think it's a really good note to end on for the season and I know exactly what we need to work on over the winter!

I've also got to give a huge shout out to my husband, Dan - thanks to him I have pictures of 8 out of 11 fences on XC, plus full videos of dressage and stadium. His iPhone health app says he ran 4 miles that day! Also, notice in the picture below that we're missing our bridle tag as we head over to dressage warm-up. Yeah, he pointed it out before I even realized it and then ran back to the trailer to get it! Champion horse hubby, right here.

Love it <3. Photo by Sophiea Bitel. Used with Permission.


  1. Congrats and what a great note to end on!

    1. Thanks! I was definitely pleased :)

  2. Aw, Congrats! She looks so happy in all the jumping pics :)

    1. Thank you! As much encouragement as it takes sometimes to get her over the fence, she really does seem to actually enjoy it!

  3. Congratulations! Groton House is such a special place. I really treasure my ribbon from the Summer Classic a few years ago. :)

    1. I just love it there too! :) I wonder if we have ever inadvertently crossed paths there!

  4. Yay sooooo many congratulations!!!! You guys looks great and like you both had so much fun! Congrats on smoothing out some of the kinks from last time too - everything about this event seemed very well managed :D

    1. Thank you!! It was tons of fun and yes, definitely worked through some kinks since last time. Plus having some nice weather certainly didn't hurt!

  5. So exciting! You two look awesome! Love the smile/kick picture. :)

    1. Thanks! That pic is definitely a new favorite of mine :)

  6. Woooooohooooooo!! You're smile is so big, you can tell pure over the moon :-D