If you can not tell by the title of this post, Scooby and I successfully moved up to Prelim at Fair Hill!! Woohooo!!! It was amazing! Like I mentioned before, I arrived down there the night before so I could walk Cross Country a few times on Friday. What a great decision!! Those extra coursewalks helped me out a lot!! The first time I walked the course, I was definitely a little intimidated. Everything was big, which I completely expected and was ready for, but there was still an "oh boy" moment. We are now entering the big league! Haha. A lot of this is mental for me. I train by myself, and although I am very confident in myself and my horse, all decisions are made by my me and me alone. A lot weighs on making the correct decisions. That is why I am extra conservative when moving into unknown territory! When I walked the course on Friday, I had to remind myself several times that I have worked very hard for this moment and have put the time in. Not only in training, but I have done about 15 Training Level Horse Trials. We are more than ready... mentally and physically. Scooby is super confident and we have had great outings all year. I knew it was time to push through the fears and self doubt that would only hold us back.
Suprisingly, I woke up Saturday morning very relaxed and definitely ready to tackle the day! Dressage warm up went ok, but unfortunately on our second counter canter, Scooby lost some balance and swapped leads up front. We quickly resolved the issue, but man oh man, we scored a 4 on that movement......bummer!! We totally deserved it though!! My overall score for Dressage was a 37. Much higher than our norm, but hey, for scoring a terrible 4, I guess a 37 is pretty good! Upon leaving the Dressage arena, I was approached by what looked like a meter maid, informing me that we have been randomly selected for drug testing by the USEF. Great!!! Doesn't this woman know I have a cross country course to walk again?!?!?!?! This is a very big day!!! Ughhh. Although I was not thrilled, she is only doing her job and thankfully all of the blood drawing and waiting for Scooby to pee only took about 20 minutes. Good boy Scooby!! Gotta love those racehorses!!
After walking my courses again, it was time!!!! Thankfully Scooby was not being his normal monstrous self hacking the mile out to the jump courses (he is almost always a bit beastly at Fair Hill). He warmed up for show jumping well and I was feeling very good, with little to no nerves heading into the arena. Unfortunately, we did not have a great show jumping ride. He was jumping very well, but as we came into the last line of four fences, things got sloppy =( We jumped into the first part too deep and that put us too deep for the last three fences. It was not a train wreck, but he rubbed them all enough to drop them.... it was definitely a bummer because our show jumping has come sooooo far. Our last three horse trials were all jumped clean, and one of those was a Preliminary course. I came out of the arena a little upset, but not too too much. I had bigger things on my mind (Cross Country!!!!!). Chris quickly reminded me that it is OK. Forget about it and move on. We are not here to win today. He was very right and I was already over it! By that point we were already over by the start box, and well..... Scooby knows start boxes VERY well!! As soon as he walks by it, he starts chopping and prancing! It is actually a very comforting feeling! You want an eager partner when you head out over these courses. The day Scooby stands by a start box with his foot rested, will be the day I retire him!!!! Haha. So after a good luck and I love you from Chris, we were given our two minute warning. At 10 seconds I put Scooby in the box, and at 5 seconds, he was totally still (he typically does this right before we go). When the starter said "go", I squeezed Scooby and he just stood there for what felt like forever (it was prob 3 or 4 seconds). It was almost as if for a split second, he forgot he was in a start box!! Finally he all of a sudden snapped out of it and just flew out of the box. I almost got left behind!! It was hilarious!! I was laughing most of the way to the first fence, but then it was all about business!!! My plan was to not at all worry about time. I just wanted to jump well and hopefully clean. The first two fences were a breeze. Max height, but very inviting. Fence three intimidated me a little the first time I walked the course. It was an upright fence max height, with bright green artificial brush extending another foot (so we are probably looking at a 4'7" plus fence). It was a new fence for Fair Hill. Scooby soared over it though and did not even look at it. I'm not even sure if he brushed through it. Fence 4 was again, a max height fence, but very, very inviting. No prob there and on to fence 5....THE TRAKEHNER!!! Now, I have jumped a million trakehners, but not one this scary!!! Even after walking the course three times, this fence still intimidated me! First off, the log was suspended out over the ditch a good three feet. It was VERY airy!! The ditch was so deep that when you stood next to this thing, it is well over your head. Very scary and this is not the trakehner they typically use at Fair Hill for prelim. I was definitely going to ride aggressively and planned to use my crop...no matter what! This is the type of fence a green horse is confident about until a stride away when they actually see the magnitude of it. It is deceiving until you are within two strides. Scooby approached it and was totally locked on as soon as it was within his eye site. I knew that would be the case, but as we got within 4 strides, I sat deep, pushed and tapped. I am glad I did, because he was definitely taken back by it's size. He jumped it so high and cleared it with ease, but I could definitely tell he was like "whoaaaa! There is a monster down in there!!!" I patted his neck the entire way up the hill to the next fence. A let up jump before the first combo (fence 7a/7b). 7A/B was a solid roll top, down a hill three strides and off of a bank down. That went very well and we headed to fence 8 (our very first narrow, narrow corner). I collected him a lot for it and that also paid off. He was perfect and stayed very straight through my hips. On to the next! Fence 9a/9b. A solid angled 2 stride combo. It was set so you had to jump at a diagonal line. He was absolutely perfect for that and actually picked up a few claps from course walkers! Soooo exciting! Fence 10 was another let up fence and then we came to the water complex (11A/B/C). Despite a sketchy jump at A, we quickly regrouped and jumped 11 B/C (bank out/one stride/solid coup) perfectly. Fence 12 was a massive table which I was worried Scooby could get flat over. I collected a lot for it and he was great! Fence 13 A/B I feel was the most intimidating combo on the course. You jump a bank up and when you land, you are still heading up this steep hill. You go two strides and jump a half roll top that sits right where the hill levels out. The landing side heads you back down the hill. I was nervous about this one because it definitely required a lot of butt power (thank god for the massive mountain I make Scooby climb at home!!). Again, he was perfect....I heard more clapping!! This time it is was Chris! I knew he was very proud of us =) We were both a little nervous about that one! Fence 14 was a bench jump and then came the last combo on the course. Fence 15 A/B/C was a cool fence! It was a solid max height log/one stride/ down a bank/ then a bending line three strides to a hanging log. Scooby was definitely suprised to see a drop so close once he landed off of the log, but again, he was so amazing and jumped A/B/C with such ease. Two more fences...One more fence!! Omg, one more fence!! Fence 17 was shared with Intermediate and it was big!! Chris and I joked how bad it would be to come all this way and then take a spill at the last fence! Well we did not!!! Scooby cleared it with ease and I woohooed all the way through the finish flags!!!!! Chris was already there waiting for us clapping!! It was amaaaaaaazing!!! Definitely my biggest accomplishment yet! Suprisingly I did not cry!! I always cry!!
From here, we have lots of work ahead of us!! We have to work on the time on Cross Country. I went super slow at Fair Hill and picked up 18 time penalties. As I said before, I did not worry about time there. I think I actually went slower than I do at Training Level. I usually go Prelim speed at Training, but I really wanted to make sure he stayed super balanced over these fences. The 4 inches is a big difference on a cross country course and I wanted to be extra safe. He handled everything with ease, so now it is time to work with the speed in a safe manner. I am totally fine with it taking us several Horse Trials to make the time. I am just going to look for improvements with each one as we gain more confidence and experience at the level. Show Jumping was a bummer at Fair Hill, but we are definitely improving so much overall and I am looking to get back on the path we were on with the three Horse Trials leading up to this one =) Dressage has been going very well so far and we have been competitive in our first two Prelim tests. Even with the terrible 4, we were still in contention at FHI. I am soooo excited to continue this journey =)))
We leave for Difficult Run Friday morning and I am soooooooo excited!!! DRPC is our absolute favorite HT that we go to all year. I took the day off of work on Friday, so we can get down there very early! It is a wonderful facility, but we just LOVE the city of Reston, and all of the great shops and restaurants!! I already have our eating schedule all planned out for the weekend =))
Stay tuned for updates!!!