Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Big Move: Pine Top ADVANCED!!

(photo by Ginny Nayden)

Well I'm finally writing about this, I'm not exactly sure what took me so long! Maybe just making sure I wouldn't wake up and find this all to be a dream. Anyways, as planned from last fall, Zara and I signed up for Pine Top as both of our first advanced horse trials! The excitement and nerves in the few days before quickly vanished as I focused on getting everything right getting ready for dressage. Unfortunately, some poor luck stepped in as about 5 minutes before I was supposed to "enter at A" Zara pulled a shoe, followed quickly by a lot of rain. Despite this, we held it together, were luckily skipped and then allowed to enter the ring after our time by judge Brian Ross and got our test done. Unfortunately with the heavy rains that persisted, the cross country and stadium would both be the following day. Now that the really stressful part of the event was over, Saturday was beautiful and kept me beaming all day that I would be riding the big blue numbers that day. After a decent stadium round, pulling one rail, I got one more course walk in before getting on for cross country. The course was big but quite inviting and presented a nice balance of large tables and complex questions, and rode very well for us! Here are some of the combinations that presented challenges: The first decent question was a large table, slightly long strided up a hill to a hanging log, and down the hill with a left bend to a right tipped corner. This question seemed to ride very well as long as the horses maintained their impulsion through the hill. The next big challenge was the first water jump. A large ramp with a short 6 stride bend right to a large log and drop into the water, with a forward step out and over a skinny. This question asked riders to recollect themselves after taking on the very forward thinking beginning of the course. The next big question, besides the GIANT table in between these two, was the coffin. It was a good size grouping of logs, with a long 1 stride to a wide but shallow ditch, followed by the short 2-strided option of either a left or right skinny angled brush fence. When I walked this, it was a bit worrying, as Zara and I have some work to do yet on getting really well collected in the cross country, but we worked well together and got through it with ease. The next combination, after another table, was the bounce. This question had 2 substantial log groupings spaced about 10 feet apart, into a hollow and a hard left bend 6 strides to a right tipped corner as the "C" element. I felt this was the best combination Zara and I handled that day. It felt smooth and easy for the smart horse. Another table in between, and on to the second water jump. This water was fairly straight forward, but presented many more obstacles than the other, and than any water jump I've done before. The gator jump in, 19, was followed by a drifting turn to get straight to the next 4 elements. "20AB" was a bank up, short 1 stride to a hedge jump back into the water, slightly collected 5 strides to an up bank, "C," and another 5 strides to a left point corner. Unfortunately, I should have checked my equipment better, and failed to replace my stirrup pads which are highly worn, and slippery once wet(from the first water). As we jumped in, I lost my footing and landed in a bit of a heap with no stirrups. Luckily, I learned that I CAN think fast while I'm competing, and realized the fences were numbered separate, so I made about a 10 meter circle to the right (which would have made a dressage judge proud!) and got straight to the following elements. With the disorganization that occurred and the extra leg I put on to make sure Zara's confidence stayed up through the questions, we came back into the water off the hedge bank a bit too strong, getting a comfortable 4 in the 5, and with a big jump out, got a slightly long but not extravagant 4 to the corner. I even heard the bystanders applaud my efforts, which got me going to get through the last 2 fences. After... yes, a table, and another giant table, we had finished our first advanced! AND we got through it following one of the most important things Sally Cousins has worked with me on down here for moving up: "Don't run at the tables!" Thank goodness for great advice, as getting the perfect spot to each of those tables was not only a small victory for me, but also proved how much BETTER it felt to feel your horse cover a large obstacle with no troubles.I certainly have an incredible horse to make that course feel so great! Zara was as foot perfect as she could be, and I think we handled the questions like a great team. The dressage may be tough for this horse, but to jump her is a huge joy and honor. Although we have plenty to work on before the next one, I am still beaming at such an incredible first advanced experience. We look on to plan out intermediate at Morven Park before another advanced at Fairhill in April. Home from Aiken on the 21st =]