Monday, June 28, 2010

Room for Improvement at Rubicon

Photos by GRCPHOTO

Well this post is a little late, as I have been super busy in the month of June. Since my family was at the beach, I headed down to Leesburg for the Rubicon Farm Horse Trials early Saturday morning alone. I was perfectly on schedule, however, was apparently careless while putting in Zoomer's little studs for dressage, since we were in a grass ring. I'm not sure whether my hand slipped or Zoomer moved, but regardless, we had a miscommunication leading to a smashed pointer finger on my right hand...which wasn't the real problem. The real problem was I couldn't get it to stop bleeding and had to put my white gloves on! Luckily, I had bandaids in the trailer, and went through a few before resorting to band aid plus vetwrap. It worked to make the blood not go through, however it limited the movement of the finger. I headed up to dressage not quite on schedule, and discovered after I trekked up the entire field and got to the warmup that I forgot my bridle number. Ugh. So we trotted back to get it, and then returned to warm up in the intense heat. Warm up was ok, and the test was not our best. I had a blonde moment when I began the test, since I discovered I was riding a test I hadn't ridden before just the night before. I rehearsed it over and over, but I went down centerline, turned right, and then had no idea what it was! My subconscious saved me, leading me through the movements correctly even though I couldn't have said the test aloud right then. 38.7 was the result, which put us in 9thb of 20.
After a short break, we prepared for the jumping phases. We went through stadium with a great ride, not missig a spot or being too strong, but pulled 2 rails. Normally I blame myself for our rails, but this day I think Zoomer was just feeling a little careless. Cross country had a rough start for us. The course was a well built course of many gallop jumps, most well under normal prelim height and width, with a few technical, challenging questions and 2 full height jumps. The first fence was pretty close to the start box, which is not unusual, but today Zoomer was more forward than usual. He hit the first jump very hard, so between the first and second jumps, we slowed to a trot to make sure he didnt hit himself too bad -- still sound, so off we went. We went around the course perfectly by the scoreboard, but Zoomer's over enthusiasm didn't fade throughout the ride. He was very careless over the smaller jumps, hitting many of them whether we were galloping or in a canter. He did not hit the 2 large fences, and showed great accuracy through the tough combinations, and no fear at anything, as usual. We came in with a few time penalties, probably due to our trot break at the beginning, so no worries about those. We ended up 5th of the 20, and had we not trotted and gotten those time penalties, would have been 3rd. Certainly not a bad day!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Clean Rides at the Waredaca Horse Trials

Overall, Waredaca was a great success for both horses! Zara competed Saturday at about 8:30, 11:00 and 11:15 and we were well practiced and prepared for this one. We headed down to warm up in great time, the footing was great and it wasn't too busy. Zara warmed up wonderfully, moving off my leg well and not heavily leaning on my left. She actually was pretty even in her weight in the bridle. We warmed up our trot extensively and as usual didn't practice the canter before entering the ring so she doesn't get so tense. We entered and she was very obedient and accurate throughout the test. Her trot work had greatly improved from the previous test, allowing me to push her more forward giving a better quality trot. Her canter was also greatly improved, showing better balance and less leaning. She was much more content through the long sides and the corners where she usually gets sticky. We need more work on our trot lengthenings, as well as other areas but overall it was a good test. Unfortunately, my mistake hurt our score, as I accidentally left out the stretchy circle at C! Ugh! I just need to practice the tes over and over until it's in my head that the circle is there!. We ended up with a 38.2, about 14th of 20couple -- not too bad!
As we went on to the jumping phases, we both were confident that we would improve over the previous round. Zara warmed up well, being very good to my left leg. We went around the course very well, touching only the first fence which luckily didn't fall and missing a spot to the second to last fence, which Zara luckily used her scope to clear it perfectly despite my poor distance judgement. We confidently went on to cross country, which was a nicely built course with a few questions that had been causing problems for some training level competitors. We nicely trotted through the start box and began with a powerful confident stride. I felt a small hesitation as Zara looked closely at #3, the large steeplechase fence, but she was very brave and went right over it. She also has another slight hesitation at the first element of #4, but a little encouragement with the whip and the rest of the course rode without the slightest problem. She was great through both waters, the coffin, and the other challenging fences on the course. We cantered over the finish line, coming in well under but not too under optimum time. Zara ended up 10th in our open training division.
Sunday proved to be a wonderful day also! With similar ride times, though slightly earlier jump times, we were tacked up and ready with great warmup time. Zoomer warmed up fabulously, with great quality trot and canter work. We entered the ring in a nice forward trot, and went through our test with good rhythym and balance through all gaits. I yet again had a mental moment and made my canter loops all the way to X instead of between X and the longside, which showed off our great counter canter, but docked a few points for the improper figure(not error points, but lower scores on the movements). We could improve our trot and canter lengthenings, as well as out impulsion through some of the trot figures, but overall, Zoomer had a fabulous test. We received a 33.6, placing us 2nd in our JYOP division.
The stadium course had been dropping rails all day in the preliminary division, but with our practice through the week with Steuart, we were determined to do the course as well as possible. With a slightly sticky warm-up, we waited and entered the ring about on time. Zoomer and I went through the course very well, rubbing one or two rails, but just barely so none came down! We were one of not too many clean stadium rounds of the preliminary competitors, and one of 2 clean rounds in my division. On to cross country! Zoomer went through the start box nicely, as we didn't circle the box but went straight through. We powered through the course, which had some interesting questions that required a good bit of technicality. Zoomer jumped through all of the gallop fences, single questions like the corner, as well as the tough combinations beautifully without a single issue. He was very accurate and brave through all aspects of the course, especially showing his great adjustability through the coffin, corner and the big brush fence. As we approached the final fences, I could see that we were running short on time, but I restrained myself from rushing. We carefully went through the whiskey barrels, which were on a severe angle, and galloped over the last fence nicely. After the last, I simply loosened my reins and allowed Zoomer to cover more ground, and he happily did so. We ended exaclty on the optimum time of 5:27.
With most others in the division facing difficulties in the jumping phases, the two double-clean rounds put Zoomer ahead of the division by a large 7 points! We were also one of the only 8 competitors in the 50+ rider preliminary competition to have completely clean jumping. What a good boy! I have no complaints at all about the weekend, and without my errors as a rider, both horses would have done even better. Saturday the 5th will be Zoomer's 3rd prelim since his injury, and we're hoping to improve even more in dressage and remain strong through the jumping. Zara has a few weekends off, where she will be working very hard on her canterwork and other dressage, as well as entering a few jumper shows.