Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Maryland Horse Trials Recap

It is Monday morning (Tuesday now!  It takes me awhile to write a blog post!) and I am back at work reflecting on my weekend with Scooby.  We had such a great time in Maryland.  The Maryland Horse Trials is one of the nicest venues that we have competed at.  The facilities are spectacular!  The woodwork on the Cross Country fences is just amazing!  My digital camera pooped out in Bermuda and I vow to replace it by Fair Hill!  I would have loved to get some shots of the gorgeous fences this weekend and was so bummed that I was not able to.  Next time!  I plan to compete there again in October, so I will def get some! 

Here is a quick recap of the weekend!  We arrived at Loch Moy early Friday evening and the first thing that I was so excited about was that they had us stabling on the upper hill in the nice, new permanent stalls.  Not those terrible tent barns in the lower field (yes, that is what $75 a night for stabling bought us last year...oh and warm, brown pond water for the horses to drink in 95 degree weather!  Needless to say, we were not pleased!).  This was a HUGE improvement.  Aside from the stabling last year, this place is run top notch and the volunteers are spectacular!  We met so many of them this year!  All of them were so eager to help us competitors.  We especially appreciated the golf cart rides to and from the stabling area (I think Chris appreciated that much more than I did!  HA!).  Also, a huge shout out to Rex!  He is the barn manager and in charge of all the parking and stabling.  Such a great guy and by far one of the nicest people we have ever met at a competition.  We are looking forward to seeing him in October! 

After settling Scooby in (something which does not require a lot of effort!  Scooby is a very seasoned traveller.  Just walk him for ten minutes to stretch his legs and then put him away with his food.  Easy!), we headed back to the hotel to catch dinner and relax.  Saturday morning arrived and I was so happy that I did not have to get up until 7am.  It was sooo nice to actually sleep in (I am usually up by 6:30).  After feeding, braiding and checking in, Scooby and I headed down to warm up for Dressage.  After about twenty minutes, I was not having high expectations for our Dressage Test.  Half of the warm up arena was designated for Dressage, while the other half was for Show Jumping warm up.  I could feel Scooby's excitedness with the jumpers!  He was not being naughty, he was just not his normal relaxed, focused self.  It did not improve when I brought him up the the main arena for the last 5 minutes of warm up.  That arena had full view of the intermediate horses galloping cross county.....Ohhh man, this is not going to be good!  As much as Scooby loves Dressage, he would much rather be out on Cross Country.  Well off we went, and no, it was not our most beautiful test!  He had some very nice moments, but he also had some very distracted moments.  Chris put it best...it was just inconsistent....Oh well!  Scooby is a consistent Dressage horse, so he is allowed a buy every now and then...at least that's what I try to tell myself.  The truth of the matter is, when you are solid in Dressage, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to always be be very solid and competitive in this phase.  Let's face it, in order to be competitive in eventing, you must be solid in Dressage.  A lot is decided in this phase and after completing about 15 Training Level Hts, I have a right to want to be competitive at this level.  I must say though, I was not grumpy with his test!  It is always important to remember that we are not competing with just ourselves or another human.  Our partner happens to be a fit horse.  In my case, a high energy, Preliminary fit, Thoroughbred.  So Chris and I lectured Scooby on the walk back to stabling, telling him he better want to jump and gallop very badly and better do it very well!  Well Scooby did not disappoint us!  He warmed up very well (we usually only jump about 6 fences) and then we headed  up to Show Jumping.  Something new that I have added for the first time at MHT, is that Chris now stays with us by the Show Jumping arena in case Scooby starts getting wired while waiting.  Having him there helped keep Scooby relaxed and forget about jumping while he waited his turn.  Scooby would much rather jump cross country first and then show jump later in the day.  When we do the showjumping first, I have a horse who wants to go gallop, and it is tough to channel his energy so that he does not get sloppy and bring rails down.  He is getting so much better in showjumping, but it definitely helped having Chris there to pet him and make him forget about jumping until his turn. Plus, if I have any trouble with him getting wired right before, Chris will be there to help walk us around.  It is rare that Scooby gets very orinary (orinary meaning wound up and very figity), but he can have his moments.  That plan worked out well and he went into the arena pretty chill.  He was fabulous in showjumping and we put in our third consecutive clear round!!!!!!!  Woohoooo!  I was ecstatic!  We walked out of the arena and met a beaming Chris.  He was so happy for us!  Show Jumping has been such a struggle and noone knows that more than Chris.  Chris is the very rare husband who is at every Horse Trial and is truly my right hand man!  We would not be where we are at without him.  Most people thank their trainers for their success.  I thank my husband!  He has been there through thick and thin, and will continue to do so.  I am very lucky!  So, after a quick chat about the showjumping, Scooby and I headed up to Cross Country and were off within a few minutes.  We had a great ride!  He was spot on with everything and felt super fit.  The course was so much fun and I attached a link to the photos below.  The highlight of the course was definitely the second water complex!  You jump a hawaiin looking fence/canter four strides and jump off of a log drop into the water/gallop through the water, in between the loch ness monster and then jump a fence set about two strides from the water.  It was sooo much fun and Scooby was a pro through it.  When we jumped the first fence, I knew he was locked onto the log drop, but I was still totally prepared for some possible hesitation at the drop.  There was none!  He soared down over the log into the water!  It felt amazing! I attached the link to that particular pic!  Sooo fun!


The second water complex was the last real question on the course, but there were still three more fences before finishing, so you can never just let up and think your done until you are through the finish flags!  All of these fences demand respect.  We jumped the remainder of them very well and galloped through the finish flags flying high!  Such an amazing ride!  I have to pinch myself all of the time that I own this magnificent horse and how lucky I am that he came into my life.  Scooby and I were made for each other.  Chris met us down by the finish and was also ecstatic by what he saw of our ride...He was dying to make sure that we did in fact jump clean.  Once I told him about the ride, he was like "I am so proud of you guys! Oh and by the way, you scored a 30.9 in Dressage and were in fourth before Show Jumping".  I was like "whatttttttt!  My naughty boy scored a 30.9!!!"  Hahaha.  I was a little suprised to say the least!  I was thinking a 35 or 36.  What a pleasant suprise!  So we finished the day in 3rd place on our Dressage Score!  That is my lowest final score yet!  Such an exciting weekend!  Hopefully many more of those to come!

Here is the link to all of the pics from the Maryland Horse Trials!


From here, we have three weeks before Fair Hill.  On the to do list.....Train hard and get excited!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tough Decisons

Saturday, July 2nd.... 2:00 am. BEEP BEEP BEEP!  Yes, my wake up alarm was telling me it was time to wake up! Noooooooo.  I am not a morning person and forget that even...this was not morning!  This is some god awful time of the day when only nutty people or drunk people are awake!  I happen to fall into the nutty person category!  Along for the ride, Chris and Shae (my 7 year old puppy)!  2:15am, we are out of the house and off to the barn to pick up Scooby.  Before leaving with Scooby, I had to fetch my other creatures out in the field in the pitch black!  Always fun trying to convince horses to come in 5 hours earlier than normal.....in the dark!  Once that was all taken care of, I groomed Scooby, put his shipping outfit on, and we were off to NJHT.  We arrived shortly after 6 and my first order of business was to walk Cross Country.  My plan was to walk it once before Dressage and once after.  That was mistake number one!  What was I thinking?!?!?!  This is our first Prelim, so mentally I needed to walk that thing at least three times!  Hindsight!  Duh!  So we started walking the course, and I was feeling pretty good about it.  The first fence was quite small, probably Novice to Training Level height.  Chris put the jinx on me by saying "That looks like a Novice fence!!!  Hahaha".  Did I ever mention I am superstitious??  Well I am!  Mildly, but it is there!  Example, I have two blue crops for Cross Country, but I will only use one of those when I compete! Anyways the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fences were all max height, but very straight forward.  Fence 5abc was rails, one stride to the ditch, one stride to rails.  It was a question, but in my opinion, pretty straight forward.  We have done a ton of ditch combos, so I was pretty confident about it.  After that, there were two let up fences.  One was training height and the other was a max height, max width table.  Ginormous!  But hey, this is Prelim and naturally the fences are going to be big!  Get over it!  At least that's what I tell myself! HA!  Onto the next combo..a hanging log three strides to another hanging log.  The second hanging log lands on a steep slope down into the woods.  Again, requires much attention, but totally do able.  After that came a double down back and then 3-4 strides to a skinny rail.  The double down was intimidating because it would either ride as a bounce or a very short one stride.  I was planning to trot it and do it in a short one stride.  After two more max height let up fences, came the first water complex.....WOWWWWWWW!  It was the coolest water jump I have ever seen that was not at Rolex or some big time show.  Basically, you jump a solid boathouse, head down a mild slope, cross through water and head up onto an island.  Once on the island, you jump an upright vertical, three strides to a log drop back into the water.  You cross through the water on the other side and jump a skinny sitting on top of the hill about four strides out.  It was sooooooo cool!  Unfortunately.......two fences later, at the second water complex, I realized my Preliminary aspirations were done for the day...... To many, the second complex may have been the easier of the two, and on first glance, I would think so also.  It was not at all techincal.  It was a big roll top about three stride out from the water.  You jump the rolltop, gallop through the water and then jump a solid square table out.  The table out was only probably about 3'3"-3'5", but it was the angle of the incline from the water to the jump that I was concerned about.  It was one of the tougher jumps out of water that I have seen at Prelim.  I have been checking them out all last year in anticipation for this move up!  Btw, the June Plantation was supposed to be our move up, but the cruise and wedding made me delay it.  I somewhat regret it now because as we all know, the omnibus is not at all good at explaining the difficulty of a cross country course and if you are not overly familiar with the facility, it is risky.  This was labeled moderate with options.  I do believe the course was moderate, but there was not a single easier option on the course.  Not one!  Bummer, but it is what it is =)) Anyways, back to the water jump.....It was a definitely fair question for Preliminary and had we already completed one or two, I would feel good to go for it, but being that it was to be our first go, I do not want to have any questions in my mind about whether we are ready for the question being asked.  There is a distinct difference from being nervous about a course and the feeling you get when you feel over faced.  Unfortunately, this was the over faced feeling.  I have learned over the years to go with my gut and I truly believe this is why we are successful.  I never rush and I never over push just because I want to accomplish something (watch a couple of rotational falls and most of you will feel the same!).  Last year in May when we took Scooby to Fair Hill, the water jump was a large log drop into the water.  At the time, Scooby had only completed two Training Levels and both of those were straight forward water questions (jump/three strides/cross through water and then jump again).  All of you who have made the move from Novice to Training, know that in terms of water, it is a tough move.  Novice 99.9999% of the time will only ask you to cross through the water, and then you move to Training and you can either have something fairly basic designed to prepare the horses for jumps into and out of water, or you can have an actual large jump into the water.  It's tough to go from super simple to pretty difficult.  So at the time, I knew it was best for Scooby to be withdrawn and gain more experience at other places before asking a big question like that.  It was tough, but the best decision I could have made.  He gained experience with easier questions at other HTs and then we went back to Fair Hill in August and conquered that big, bad water jump with ease!  To this day, that is the biggest drop into the water I have seen at Training.  So basically what I am getting at, it was a bummer to have to scratch at NJHT, but it was the right decision and we went home as confidently as we headed out....just very tired and grumpy!  Our next attempt for Prelim will be at Fair Hill on August 6th.  It is only a day show,  but Scooby and I will staying Friday night so I can get some extra coursewalks in.  Even though Scooby can be quite beastly there, I have ridden there a lot and basically know what to expect with the course.  Cross your fingers for us =))))))  Until then, we will be training hard (we jumped 4'3" today!!!!!!) and are going to get another outing at Training Level on July 16th (Maryland Horse Trials).  Last year, Scooby rocked at MDHT, finishing second on his Dress Score!  That will be tough to beat, but a ribbon is not my concern.  I just want a great outing to keep us on track for Fair Hill!

On another note, Kazzy is doing awesome!!!!!!  He has been in training for about a month and has been so impressive.  Within a few weeks of doing many suppling exercises, he is beginning to bend and carry himself like a champ!  Even more impressive about this horse, he is the closest thing in movement to Scooby that I have found.....EVER!  The funny part is, he is not this long legged, elegant horse.  He is a very substantial, but small, 15.3 guy.  I checked his ad out several times before I decided to look at him.  What caught my eye about him is that they had a picture of him trotting and I was impressed.  Chris never saw the pics, so when we saw him standing in cross ties for the first time, he thought I was nuts to compare him to Scooby.  Well guess what?!?!  Today Chris watched him go under saddle for the first time in about two weeks, and what came out of his mouth was "Wow, he moves like Scooby when he loosens and bends!!!"  Duhhhhhh!  This is what I have been telling him all along!  On first glance, he is not the typical long legged, super elegant TB that I usually go for, but once you see him move, he is quite impressive and overshaddows most of our previous horses!  I have high hopes for him.  He has been working over ground poles and is ready to begin some small jumping.  That will give me more insight for his future, but I am so excited to continue working with him.  Not to mention, he is such a quiet, kind horse.  He just turned four, but acts like he has been there/done that with everything new I present to him.  Today was his first real trail ride and he spent most of it on the buckle!  Such a treat to work with something so easy!  Haha.

Btw, I am not one of these people who really care about bloodlines, but something interesting about the resembelence in movement between Kaz and Scooby, is that they share the same immediate grandfather (Storm Cat).  A lot of Tbs are of course related, but this is not far down the line.  The gene would be pretty dominant still.  I do not know if there is any correlation, but it is an interesting thought!