First... let me just say... my horse is FLECKEN AWESOME!!!! I'm so proud of him! He just amazes me every day with his heart and his attitude.
For the quick down and dirty... we re-re-redebuted at Preliminary and we now officially have FOUR clean XC runs!!! Which means we are qualified for the Prelim 3 Day! It also means there is no doubt he is an official prelim horse and it also means that ... he is awesome. ;) We also finished in 6th place in an open division of 12. :) Not too shabby for the spotty.
Okay... so before the nitty gritty... I'm feeling philosophical today.
I thought it was really cool how eventing takes all kinds. I saw some amazing horses there this weekend! In my division the top 8 horses included two appaloosas (2nd and 6th!), and a one eyed horse (who yes.. .jumped prelim with ease!)! There was also a paint in the other prelim division ribbons as well. And we met a lovely lady on her cute little trak/connemara buckskin who ran their first prelim. It's just really cool to me that it's not just all Thoroughbreds! And the people are all different too. Lots of amateurs, lots of people who, like me, have never run prelim before and neither has their horse. Just lots of different types. It really is cool that it takes all kinds!
Secondly.... I believe in Fleck and that's all that matters! While I was thrilled with his performance this weekend, there was a little bit of comments made previously to me that got me thinking this weekend. And I shouldn't let it bother me, and I'm trying not to. I know that Fleck is a rockstar and that's really all that matters! Who cares what other people think?! I believe in him and he believes in me and we have a blast doing it! So... while I can think our dressage was better than what we scored... I watch it and realize, that yes. It was pretty awful. But you know what? We're trying! And that's okay. And while he may not be an amazing round scopey jumper, he jumps clean or mostly clean and gets me around safely. We're working on smoother and steadier rounds and I'm working on my position and we are having fun. Nobody's perfect. It's just disheartening to me to hear people say negative things about MY FLECK! Or me really. Because they really mean me. Fleck does what I ask of him. It's not his fault I can't ride properly to set him up. But those back handed compliments are getting to me. But I'm going to try really hard to forgot about them and not compare ourselves to others. We are what we are and most importantly we are having fun and enjoying each other and continuing to learn. So hopefully our stadium rounds will get smoother, our XC rounds won't terrify people, and our dressage will eventually become real dressage with respectable scores. And if not, oh well, we're still having fun! As long as he's having fun and is enjoying it, then we'll keep playing. :)
So... details :)
This was a rather stressful lead up to the show. Work has been busy and because I had to take Fri and Sun off, I had to work them last weekend. Which meant that I was packing a lot in last minute and lately, I've been more stressed about work stuff. Then add in the fact that he was hock sore and back sore at the last minute and I was really stressing!! We got his hocks injected and he had two days off. Then we had the fun trail ride and he seemed happy and comfy. Then we had the not so good dressage lesson and then the stress really started. He was still pretty tender in his back. So the worries kicked in. I know, I know... Fleck doesn't want me to think "catastrophic" thoughts. "He's not breaking down, he's just aging and stiff sometimes". But it was all the "what ifs" going through my head. What if he really hurts? What if I'm pushing him to do more than he really wants to do? What if I really break him? Argh.... So I sent Beth a "woe is me" email at about 3 am Friday morning while I was at work. But by Friday morning at 9 am I was thinking happy thoughts. I had "This is gonna be the best day of my life" stuck in my head, so I decided to go with it. I got all my stuff done and packed and even did good wifey duties and then we headed out.
We got there and had a good warm up ride. I was a little freaked out because Fleck kept throwing me off to the left and his right back was where he was a bit ouchy and I was all worried. But... once I started riding properly he was awesome! He was even a bit of a fireball. :) Fancy Fleck! So the key was to really keep my elbows at my side. Like REALLY KEEP THEM AT MY SIDE!! And this meant, that like in my lesson with Sandy, I had to almost roll my left hand out and over but while keeping my elbow at my side. I also had to lift that inside rein, going both ways! So lift with my left rein and my right rein. This would help soften his poll and allow him to then hang his neck, rather than bracing it up. Then I also had to really ride shoulder in the whole time too. But it was lovely!!! We got some really lovely canters and some lovely trots too! Yay!
Saturday morning was beautiful! Fleck was super clean and shiny and his braids looked good. I did some adjustments before I tacked him up and it really seemed to help. I think it stretched his back out because that felt much better! He felt good. We warmed up the same way and then off we went. It was an okay test. I felt like I rode it a little better than normal but still messed up a good bit. He broke into the trot a stride or two early and I pulled him back. Argh. Should have just let him trot. Then after that I sort of lost him. I still allowed him to bend his neck too much in the counter canter going to the right. There wasn't enough change in the canter lengthen (which sucks because on a straight line he can really do it!!). But I thought it was a decent test for us. His pictures look a little better than from Pine Top. The scores don't reflect it though. I swear... at some point I was getting better marks in dressage, even at Prelim. It's frustrating to keep getting in the 40's. :( And I can't figure out why we got some low scores at some point. Not sure if it's because I let him go long and low in a training level frame and there just wasn't resistance/tension or if it was just a generous judge that day or what??? I do think he looks off in this video and I've been feeling it. But I only feel it when we're doing dressage work. So I don't know if it's rein lameness? Is that even a real thing? He looks more even behind in his lengthens (when he isn't breaking to the canter) which is nice. But i don't know. I'm frustrated with dressage right now. I know he and I can do MUCH better in warm up. ;)
The dressage test
So oh well. Moving right along. I was pretty nervous about the XC course. It looked like a blast but it had some pretty decent sized tables and then some pretty tough questions for us. All the fences were either one of two questions. Can you gallop uphill and not take back and can you gallop downhill to a related question. :) I was worried about the downhill ones. And Fleck's fitness. But he was phenomenal here!!! This is where he really shone this weekend. And I didn't even have Beth in warm up! Luckily, the warm up fences were set uphill so it was good practice. We jumped a few and he felt really good. We kept picking to the smaller XC fence but he jumped big and bold to the vertical and oxer that were more of size. So I went with it. Then he kept dancing and doing his little "rears" in warm up. And it got worse when we crossed the creek to the start box. I couldn't tell if he was going to dump me and go jump the course without me or dump me and head back over to warm up to find his friends. ;) Luckily he did neither! He waited (not so patiently) for our countdown and we were off! The first jump was the warm up jump normally, so we nailed that and soared up the hill. Fence 2 was a big table up a steep hill and he sailed over that. Then we made a nice curve to a small skinny log, then crossed over to the cabin. Then through the woods uphill to a bench and then...the first tough question. This was the coolest jump ever! They had a giant tree fall down, so they cut it into pieces and left it lined up and turned it into a fence. It was pretty impressive looking with the roots on the side. It was a two stride to a cabin and around a tight turn. Fleck's shoulder was swinging a little wide around the turn, but I was able to close my leg and bring him back around and he jumped it great! Whoo hooo. Then I knew we'd be fine. So around we went to a giant table then up the hill and a 90 degree turn to a small roll top that was set on top of a steep hill. We jumped it downhill and then leapt straight into the water over a log, then a 90 degree turn to a skinny out of the water. We jumped the down awesome but I landed on his neck in the water. I recovered but we went a little wide so we angled the skinny out. No biggie. :) Then another fairly large table and then up up up the giant steep hill. Another table/bench thing and then another sharp turn to the up bank. It was an up, across, down, two stride to a skinny chevron brush fence. This was my other worry fence. I was a bit concerned we would miss this because I'd land in a heap or Fleck would put in the stutter step on top of the bank and then not be able to make the distance. But no fear! Fleck was gorgeous through it! Then over an upright boat thing, downhill to the ditch to one stride chevron skinny, which he also nailed. Then through the woods... gallop Flecky gallop! Another big coop, then a turn to the corner and we're almost done. Over the skinny brush where we had our run out at our first prelim and then over a final table. Done!!! No stops, no run outs, just gorgeousness!!! And a teeny bit of time. I think optimum was 5:08 and we came in at 5:14, so really not too bad. Especially for being a hilly course. I think only one girl in my division made time and she was on a quick hot thoroughbred, so not too bad for Mr. Fleck! I was soooooo proud of him.
So then I checked my dressage score. Doh... 41 and change and we were 11th out of 12. Argh!!! Seriously...I don't know how to dressage apparently. Frustrating. But... after our stellar XC run, we moved up to 6th place!! So I was very pleased with that. Fleck got some nice grazing in and was iced and poulticed and magic cushioned and fed and walked.
He slept well again and felt great for stadium! He was hoppin'! I'm always worried that I will have pushed him and he'll be stiff and sore for stadium after XC, but he felt great! His legs were tight and cool and his back was even drastically improved. He was rarin' to go! I seriously think he would have run XC again if given the chance. We warmed up well for stadium and focused on revving him through the turns, forward and legs closed, and then maintaining (not lengthening or shortening) to the jumps. He felt great. So in we went! The course was a blast. It seemed a bit on the small side, but it had a triple bar, a triple, a one stride and some bendy lines. A super fun course. We headed in and he was a bit more settled and quiet. The first line was dark green and the top rail blended in with the fence line of the ring and I rode a bit too quietly so we took the top rail of fence two. I didn't even feel/hear Fleck hit it, just heard it hit the ground. Crud! But he jumped the rest of the course beautifully and I rode pretty well too. It was probably one of our better rounds as far as aesthetics. Good boy!!
Turns out quite a few had rails in my division too so we kept our 6th place and finished with a pretty green ribbon in our open division of 12. I'll take it!!! Super proud of the Flecky. He felt great all weekend and was my prelim machine! :) He hauled well and once home he rolled and rolled. That evening he and Dan even went for a little gallop and play session in the front field. Yep... my old man is feeling good!! And THAT is even better than finishing in 6th place and qualifying for the P3D. :)