Posted by: shannonc | September 13, 2009

Love (reprise)

Event report:  King Oak Farm Fall HT – BN

Saddle adjustment in xc warmup is no reason not to snack

Saddle adjustment in xc warmup is no reason not to snack


Rain.  Rainy bath on Friday in 60-degree weather, which the pony did not like, in spite of the warm water.  Rain overnight.  Raining in the morning.

I went to bed excited and nervous.  I have a little trick, no offense to the joys of flatwork, but it’s effective for me:  when I can’t sleep, I rehearse my dressage test in my head.  This explains why I always know to track right at C after entering, but never remember where the walk transition is exactly, because I don’t get that far.  On Friday night I got as far as the left canter several times, and we kept picking up the wrong lead.  I also dreamed of getting the E in stadium.  I think there may have been one nightmare about getting it in dressage too.

So with little sleep and even less intention of letting the rain stop us, I pulled on lots of waterproof layers at 5 am Saturday, rounded up the pony, got coffee for the husband, and headed out, dreading another parking area slip event a la Groton House.  But we arrived without incident, I did a quick xc walk, and then got dressed for dressage.

My husband took the pony on his now-traditional pre-ride walk – the pony adores him and I’m convinced this walk is good luck – and I tacked up.  Pony was uber alert.  Not spooky, just alert – ears pricked in the direction of any nearby activity.  I attempted to persuade him to focus on warmup, and he reluctantly complied, telegraphing up my way that dressage warmup is *not* as much fun as socializing.  With some effort and more than a few leg-yield steps and transitions, I got him out in front of my leg in the primary warmup area and headed down to the secondary area right by the rings.  When it was our turn, pony headed in and offered to ask for a treat from the judges’ booth.  Pony!!  We trotted around and he called up his pony tanker alt, who dumped 800 lbs of pony in my hand.  Transition down, kick, kick and off.  That was the last time he asked me to hold him up all day, or at least the last time he was determined about it.  Good pony!

I was really pleased with his test.  It’s a long way from confirmed but it was as nice as I could have asked for.  Mary Savidge was our judge and she has a reputation for being tough.  Everything she said was fair:  little hurried at times.  5s in the canter transitions (hollow).  Needs more engagement behind.  I know, I know!

We scored a 37.9, which put us in a tie for second.  What?!!  

Before show jumping, Sarah arrived to cheer us on!  I was so glad she came.  And Alyssa sent me a text saying good luck and she was thinking of us.  Thank you!  It was such a big day for us, that we’ve been working toward (although we didn’t begin knowing it was even possible) for the past six months, since we started somewhat shakily over rails on the ground, and I was thrilled to have such wonderful support :)

Stadium was in the bowl and lived up to the King Oak reputation.  Terrain.  Turns.  And, thanks to the rain, footing concerns.  It seemed to hold up well, but it rode a little tough.  Lots of rough rounds.  Ours wasn’t smooth, but it was clean.  He trotted on a few of the more difficult turns and I didn’t worry about it.  I expected to have time, but we didn’t – thanks to having a pony, I think most of our turns were fairly efficient.  He tried to stop at the last fence – a max oxer – enjoy that episode of Green Pony Tricks on the video!

Finally, xc.  We had some smaller jumps, some bigger ones, some technical questions, and some galloping space.  After walking twice I still wasn’t in love with fence 2:  big, filled with corn husks, leaving home, off a turn from fence 1, so not really rolling yet.  It did help that show jumping also contained a corn-decor fence, and he didn’t care about it.  Warmup was a little slippery, but he didn’t get worried, and then we were in the box.

He came out not so much feeling like he was thinking about returning to the trailers behind him, but not so much feeling like he knew precisely what his job was.  I gave a little left tap on the way to fence 1, which was a small, rampy, and forgiving stack of two telephone poles, and he answered – good boy!  Land downhill, turn to fence 2 and I’m thinking, look *up* and ride from your leg.  And he looks, but he’s fine to it.  I pat him and we head into the woods.

At this point in time he’s much less comfortable in the woods.  I don’t know if it’s because he feels enclosed, or he’s just not jumped in the woods much.  The path to 3 was narrow and had several jump judge lawn chairs set up on one side, which caught his attention, but I didn’t worry about it because fence 3 was so small he could walk over it if he needed to.  I told him those are people, they’re allowed to be there – I love to give the jump judges a chuckle when I have the chance, they sit out there all day! – and by the way pony, this is your fence over here.  He was fine.  #4 was off the path on the right side (ugh) and didn’t seem to ride well for people, and I was glad I’ve been training myself to carry my whip left, but he was good to it.  He broke to trot on the approach to #5 – a very vertical gate with huge bushes growing over both sides – another year or so and they could make a keyhole jump with it – on the border into the field.  But he stayed forward to it.

On landing I patted and offered to let him go, go, go.  Normally, go, go, go produces exactly the same canter we have in the ring.  But the past week he’s started to discover a galloping gear.  And this time when I said okay, go ahead if you want, he did!  The next few fences – a palisade, a log roll, and a bench (with a yawning, trailing planter smack in the middle that reminded me of a pony-eating Venus fly trap) – were awesome fun!  Sarah took video of this part of the course and we call it the white blur – hee hee!

Flatlands foto got some pix of the jumps in the white blur – here are the proofs :)

We balanced up more for the last jumps in the field – a 33-foot combination of solid fences they called pine slabs – he’s never seen a combination on xc before, and I wasn’t sure what he’d make of it.  He checked it out, and put in 3, but never felt unwilling.  Then back into the woods, he dropped to trot for the up bank, and then we had a max red coop on a related distance continuing up the hill.  He went happily up the bank, but we just did not have enough gas when we came to the coop, and he stopped.  I think he was starting to feel a little tired behind by this point.  We somehow found a reapproach on the path without running back down the drop or plowing over the jump judge, and he went, but he went like a deer, so maybe there was something he thought was odd about it.

After that we had a birch rails jump and a big log in the woods, then came down the big hill to the front field, where we had a bench with more Venus flytrap decor, and a small dark rail with pumpkins in front.  He was willing to the birch and log but he was really working harder.  He was good down the hill, propped at the bench, and jumped the rail well going home after trotting the turn.  Pony was tired!

Tired, but HAPPY.  And so was I!  Maybe the biggest thrill of the day is that we made the time – 4:44 on an OT of 4:55.  Two weeks ago we did a xc derby with an average of 270 mpm! 

Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have placed well in our very first BN HT and our very first recognized event.  But growing up, I could win three classes, but if I had an off fence in the fourth what I heard going home was “too bad you screwed it up with X/Y/Z.”  As an adult I get to decide I don’t have to measure myself that way.  I don’t measure the students I work with that way, either.  I still haven’t entirely shaken the guilty feeling of having disappointed someone when I don’t perform perfectly, so when my husband said he was proud of us regardless, he probably didn’t even know how much that meant.

I think the pony came home singing that he’s too sexy for his spots.  Not worried in the least about one little bobble at a red coop.  And I’m not worried about it being on his permanent USEA record, either.  Because he’s not for sale :)




  1. =)

    I love the last part….about him not being for sale!!!!!!!!


  2. Everybody’s in love – yeah!!!! Sorry I couldn’t be there for you…but sounds like you had a terrific day!

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