Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking the Blue in our First Event of the Season


Well this post is a little late because its thesis deadlines time! I'll be quicker with my posting after this weekend at Redland. As you can see by the title, we won our first event of 2010! Over the week prior to the event, Zara and I worked extra hard on getting relaxation and less rush in our step for dressage. We took two lessons with Courtney Amritt Johnson to get a feel for the 2010 training level test we would be riding, learning tricks to each movement to keep Zara flowing and balanced throughout the twisty test. Zara had only done novice level before, so the smaller circles, straight lines and adjustability required for the training test was a whole new game for us. By our second lesson, Friday, we completed the test with few issues and learned that we may do better if we do not warm up the canter before the test, but rather warm up extensive trot work to achieve the relaxation we would need to do well. One quick run through on Saturday and a whole lot of grooming and pampering later, Zara was ready. I hoped.

We were the first ones to arrive on the grounds of Rosaryville State Park that morning, leaving my college dorm at 4 to pull out around 4:30. Since schooling was allowed the day before the event, my guess is everyone else schooled it or walked it yesterday so they didn't have to arrive at the sunrise! Zara munched on the trailer as I went out to walk the novice cross country and training stadium. Both courses were well put together and manageable, and the only challenge I may encounter on cross country would be not coming in under the speed fault time! I returned to my trailer, later than I had hoped, of course, and rushed to get Zara and myself dressed and ready for dressage. With about 20 minutes of warm up, I had just enough time to get her attentive and relaxed in her trot work, but not tired as the day warmed up. We entered the ring and I was very happy with the beginning! Zara behaved like a focused competitor as we went through the trot work, showing improved balance in turns and less tension than usual. I guess those lessons paid off! Our canter work also improved greatly in balance, although our transitions are still a little sticky and resistant. Our least improved area was the stretchy circle after the canter work, as expected based on the weeks lessons. Relaxation is one thing, but we don't quite have enough relaxation to stretch down and forward without trying to rush or break into canter. Silly mare. We went through the test with smiles (well I did anyways) at our small successes, and with a score of 35.5 and tied for 2nd place, I had no complaints about our dressage test. Now had I improved my position and really sat deep in our canter work, we may have made it to first after dressage!

Photo:GRCPHOTO With little time between dressage and the jumping phases, we returned from dressage and changed our tack and clothes with some haste. We arrived at the warm up for stadium first, with about 15 minutes before the start of the phase. After a brief warm up over the fences, we decided to go ahead and go first since the other riders were not completely prepared yet. I guess going first might be our lucky charm -- or Zara and I have greatly improved. We rode a beautiful clean round, didn't miss a single distance, and she stayed in front of my leg throughout the ride. (We we're worried about her popping her shoulder and running through my leg after a few recent jump schools, but hopefully it's just a ring-sour phase.) We went right over to cross country, but had a wait before they were ready with all judges in place. When time to go came, Zara kept her cool as we walked around and through the starting gate, and nicely trotted out as I struggled to get my watch counting correctly. She cantered over the smallish jumps beautifully, as if she had been doing it all winter. She had a small hesitation at the bank, but once she glanced over the edge, trotted down it nicely. She also had a short hesitation at the water, but again trotted in after a glance at it. She navigated the ditch, coops, tables, palisades and other obstacles like a pro, and as we came to the second to last jump, we realised I had been riding too fast and took two big circles in the middle of the field to delay some time -- I forget how massive her stride is! A quick blond moment sent me almost to the finish line going past our last jump, but luckily at the last moment noticed that I was pretty sure I had one more jump, and we took another circle in the field and went over it with no problems. Whoops! We came in still under the optimum time, despite our hesitations and my slight brain malfunction to complete our second event with double clear jump rounds out of the three we have attended. What a good girl!

On the way back from cross country, very satisfied with our day, we saw the scores for the first time and realised we definitely had a great shot at winning, since I saw that the rider who had placed first after dressage had pulled a rail or two in stadium. We waited patiently at the trailer, and went up with hope after about an hour to receive the first blue ribbon for me and Zara.

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