Monday, February 6, 2012

Third times a charm.... or NOT! Oops

So... Fleck and I entered our third Prelim horse trials at Poplar Place Farm. I figured this would be a good one for a few reasons. It was early in the season and known to be "soft". The footing should be good regardless of the weather. And... since I had already jumped around there clean once, I figured it would be a less scary course even if it was changed up a bit. It did require me to take a weekend off work because this year it seems that none of the shows fall on my weekends off. And perhaps that should have been a sign. Maybe I should have waited... I thought Fleck and I would be fit and ready. The weather has been mild and I've been riding. But, work has me really stressed out, as well as life in general, and then while I have been riding, I haven't been prepping quite as much as I should have, so..... I guess all that contributed to the fail of a weekend. Well, okay.... I'm in a little better place now so it wasn't a fail. There were some really good parts to the weekend. But still... it didn't end how I wanted.

Flecky and I arrived Friday after an uneventful haul in. I had chatted with a good friend on the way up who knew just what to say to improve my mood, so things were looking up. I walked cross country as they were running dressage and XC Saturday and stadium on Sunday. The course started out the same... the wave, the house, the coop, the downhill coop, to the corner. Then instead of the bench to the double down banks, it was a down bank two strides to the bench. eeeks! After my bench crash earlier in the week... I was a little apprehensive. Especially since Fleck basically rolled down the double downs last time. So okay.. butterflies are now getting a little out of control. Then it was a sharp right into the campgrounds over a cabin then back sharp left to the angled cabin two stride line. So... okay, easy enough.. except that by making us trek over into the woods for the cabin and then back out again... it was a hard line to the angled cabins. And while Fleck jumped them great last time, I knew I had a tendency to not see the line well. So I figured this would be another problem spot. Then it was onto the trakenher, up to the coffin, the same cabin on the hill top, and then... duh duh duh!!! SCARY STUFF!!! There was a HUGE upright wide table.. set on the top of the hill, so you landed downhill. Okay, doable... except that I knew I would need some speed and power for my bravery to get over the table. But I didn't want Fleck to take a flyer because it was upright and landed downhill and then.... a couple of strides after in a bendy line was another cabin at the bottom of the hill. So.. that meant Fleck had to be collected and bouncy. This was going to be VERY hard for me. If I collected him too much to get the sproing needed, I risked backing him off too much and getting a stop. If I didn't collect him enough, he would launch it and land in a heap downhill with momentum carrying us to the second table in a bad way. Luckily it was numbered, not lettered, so I could always circle and jump it as an unrelated line. But I didn't want to. I wanted to "get er done". Then it was the chevrons again (minus the tree this time) to a new water jump. It was another canoe, then into the water, out of the water, and over the paddle. Not a big deal, but very looky. Then the poplar squeeze and then the big wide stone wall. So... a fun course but it would definitely require some riding on my part because of the downhill stuff and my issues.
So we had a good hack and got the kids settled and then went to dinner. And sadly.. this may have been the highlight of my weekend. We ate at the Mountain Top Restaurant.. and I had THE BEST Fried Green Tomato sandwich ever!!! Seriously!! It was so good. I've been craving one for ages and this was perfect. It had cucumbers too, cheese, and some really tasty honey mustard type sauce. WOW... best sandwich ever! Add in sweet potato fries and I was in heaven! So then I headed back and walked Fleck, cleaned his stall and kissed him goodnight.

It was odd having an 11:53 ride time Saturday but that was great. It meant I had time to braid, walk XC again, and bathe and even clean my tack! Of course, like it always does... despite getting up at 7 and having plenty of time... I was kept busy and still felt a little rushed. I managed to get Fleck clean and braided and my tack clean and me on at the time I wanted. He warmed up beautifully!!! Like the best he's ever felt!! And it was consistent!! I think we're finally crossing that line in dressage. :) I hope it stays that way! Well, so we worked him for about 45 minutes and I was ready. But they weren't ready for me yet. And then it started to fall apart a bit. The horses running XC were starting to come in and some of them came galloping up to dressage warm up. And at this point Fleck had decided that he had been super good for long enough and it was time to be naughty. Every time a horse came galloping up (about every 2 minutes, only not every horse came all the way to the ring), he would hollow and spook and bolt. So... I couldn't get mad, but it was getting worse and I was having a harder time settling him each time. So we finally just went over to the ring to wait on the buckle. I didn't have to wait too long and in we went. He was still a little tense and of course I got more tense, so it wasn't as pretty as we had. But I still felt like it was a decent test for us. He felt a little claustrophobic again and leaning away from the rail, and jigged through the walk. Argh... no clear transistions there and no real free walk. But the trot and canter felt nice. And when we looked at the pictures... some of our best pictures!! Either Mark is that good, or we really have improved!! We ended up with a 44 something, so that put us 12th out of 20. Which.. for us, and being in an open division, isn't too bad.
So then it was XC time. I think I could have used a little more time warming up. He felt pretty good to me but Beth wanted him much more "Tigger"y because of how the course was. And I couldn't manage to get that. I finally did at the end in the canter, but wasn't necessarily able to fix it over jumps. And then we ran out of time. I really hate going out too after warming up without a breather. I like it better when he can catch his breath and chill for a minute before we go out. But.. oh well. I honestly don't know that I could have gotten him how I wanted him even if I had 15 more minutes. So off we went. He jumped the first half decently. I'm really starting to like that downhill coop in the woods jump! He jumps it so nice. Then he did the corner lovely and I sat up and rode and we jumped the down bank to the bench  beautifully too. YAY!!! The cabin rode fine, but then... maybe I got too carried away because Fleck got a little spazzy. It was some fairly tight turns but Fleck almost slipped out from underneath himself a few times and I couldn't get him settled properly. So we came out of the woods a bit spastic and then I overshot my line... and I saw it a stride out.. it wasn't going to happen. He stopped at the first angled cabin. Drats..... Especially since we had jumped it before... Oh well. So I circled and opted to jump them as separate jumps, which was allowed as they were numbered not lettered. So then we carried on. The trakenher was fine, the coffin was fine, the cabin was fine. Then... duh duh duh.. the big scary tables! We jumped the first one great!!! Probably as best as either of us could have done. He landed a little strung out, but I really think I could have gotten him together. But.. my mind went into overdrive. I debated whether to attempt it or just circle and make sure we didn't die... and making sure we didn't die won out. Now I wish I had attempted it. I think he would have been fine and balanced enough that we would have gotten over it fine and it would have helped my confidence. But at the time... I was thinking we'd already had one stop and time didn't matter.. and although he felt fairly balanced, I sure would hate to jump that thing on the forehand and get another stop or worse. So I circled and he jumped the second one beautifully also. Then onto the chevrons which was a little funky cause he trotted a step or two before. Then towards the water. He was going but then a stride out I felt his left shoulder start to bow out. I gave him a smack and over it we went and then on out and over the paddle. We kinda rolled over the poplar squeeze, but jumped the stone wall well and we were done. So yes.. highly disappointed as I really didn't want anymore stops on XC. The first prelim, sure... the third.. no please!! I'd really like to go clean from now on. After our bobbles when we moved up to training we had something like 13 clean XC runs in a row. I wanted to start that at prelim. But... I was proud that we got through another prelim course and the stop was a pilot error/bad presentation stop, not a naughty or even I can't stop. And I rode well to the down bank to bench, rode the corner well, and then we handled iffy ones well. Though again, I'm disappointed in myself for not riding the double table bendy line downhill as one.
So then Sunday morning was another not quite so early morning, which was nice. Fleck's legs were nice and tight and he was in good spirits. We warmed up and he was jumping pretty good. I got him nice and tiggery! The course was awfully tough as many were having problems. It seemed to be sucking horses back and most were getting chips and having to pat in the extra stride. It just didn't ride real well, though I'm not sure why. It seemed like the lines flowed despite looking tricky. So anyways... Fleck and I went in and started okay. The first oxer wasn't great, but not horrid. Then the second and third jump were fine. Then the fourth fence... I saw the flyer and Fleck saw the wait.. and I flung myself up his neck so he stopped. Duh... he can't jump it from there, especially not when I'm on his head. Oops. So we circled and came again and I waited and it was fine. I guess I may have been a little too "waity" because I got a little left behind or something. I slipped my reins a bit so we got to the two stride in and out a little loose, but I closed my leg and he went like a good boy. Then we came around to the next line... a five stride vertical to an oxer. We jumped in fine.... stride one, two, three, four, five, and stop. What/?!?!? Where did that come from? I didn't feel anything coming and the stride looked fine. The only thing I can think that happened is that I just got a little lazy or complacent, or even a little fatiqued and quit riding. I guess Fleck really needed that little bit of extra support and just quit on me. So... we left (as we had no choice because two stops in stadium at prelim equals elimination). We went back to warm up and jumped two fences great and then I went to go cry.
Beth made me feel better. She explained that at training level you can make a foots worth of mistakes and get through. But at prelim... you can only make an inch worth of mistakes and get by. And we just needed to keep at it and work out a few more little things.She also said that Fleck could have helped me out there and gotten us over that jump. Sometimes he's going to have to help me out.

So yeah.... a huge disappointment, but at the same time.. there were some good parts to it too. And I think part of the stress is that life in general is stressful now, so it's making that seem worse than it is. But like I said... there were some good points and some things I'm proud of from the weekend. So we'll survive. The plan is to do some CT's and fix this sudden new stadium wonkyness. Do some more schooling and get back in the groove. I definitely can't go that long without jumping as much either. And we'll try again and eventually get our four qualifying scores :)

Oh... and Fleck had plenty of fans there too! Apparently he's also known as "The Happy Appy", and we were announced on course as "everyone's favorite appy", and.. a group of kids watching XC were all excited when we were coming through. :) So yay... I just wish that not only could he be the happy appy... but that he could be the happy appy that is awesome at prelim too! I know he's awesome... I want everyone else to know it too. But if I keep riding like crap and messing it up.... no one will ever know how amazing he is.

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