Posted by: shannonc | September 28, 2009

Firecracker

Event report:  Groton House Fall Classic – Beginner Novice
 
Two themes running through pony pix 09:  rain and eating!

Two themes running through pony pix 09: rain and eating!

 

Monday’s forecast for Sunday called for scattered showers.  Day by day, inch by inch, the weather predictions grew drearier, until by 4am Sunday, I didn’t need the noise machine in the bedroom that was set to pouring rain, because, yup, we had the real thing!

The prospect of competing in the rain wasn’t so horrifying (or even surprising), but the prospect of returning the trailer to the scene of its June accident under almost identical conditions made me want to throw up.  As soon as we arrived without incident I felt a whole lot better.

The pony didn’t warm up all that well for dressage, and while our test earned about the same score, it didn’t feel nearly as good as the one at King Oak.  He was much more tense.  We had to do BN test B this time, which for us is more difficult because it involves so much more trotting straight lines, and that’s where he gets heavy, behind my leg, and behind the vertical.  I thought it was a success that we didn’t get one comment to that effect, but we did see lots of comments about needing more relaxation.  Maybe this had to do with how much I was booting him every time his poll got low?  :P  The judge offered what I thought was an oddly hearty “really good job” after our halt and salute, but maybe she saw me fighting for good moments, because she gave me a 7 on my riding.  Our 38.5 put us in 11th.

The funny thing for me about dressage with the pony is that – unlike with Blue – he does offer up such lovely moments sometimes.  I think they make me greedy.  I don’t think Blue and I could ever have earned a bunch of 8s, but I’m pretty sure the pony has them in there.  I would really like to see us become more solid in this phase next season.

Sorry, no video this time – the camera was dead!  Stephen did take some still shots.

 

Pony looking slightly grumpy in dressage
Pony looking slightly grumpy in dressage, but moving forward at least!

I sacrificed unbraiding for an extra cross country coursewalk.  I was really excited about the course – we had 15 jumps with lots of good and thoughtfully placed questions including big stuff, looky stuff, a water run through, a ditch, road crossings, woods, fields, and several significant uphills and downhills.  More challenging on the whole than King Oak I thought, and I did not think it was going to be easy, but it contained every test I could have asked for to make me believe we’re ready for BN – if we could just go clear.  That was the goal I’d set for the day, and I knew I had my work cut out for me. 

Two things in particular were worrying me.  One was this fence (and the photo doesn’t really do it justice), which was about midway down a hill of decent grade:

The downhill cordwood.  The fence you can see in the background was the next fence on course.
The downhill cordwood. The fence you can see in the background was the next fence on course.

I was concerned about holding too much coming into it, especially given that it was wet and could be slippery, and I was concerned about getting run off with after.  Fence 7 was small, but required banging a hard left.  I was also worrying about fatigue:  KO was less hilly, and gave us more of a break between show jumping and xc.

Pony came to jump warmup with Piss and Vinegar 3.0 loaded and running.  I was reminded to sit in immediately after the fences and get him back.  The course was nice, but if I tried to cruise, the pony was going to zip right out from underneath me.

Thinking hard

Thinking hard

I was also reminded to keep all the red flags on the right this time :)
Jump warmup

Jump warmup

And so we did.  I imagine it wasn’t a lovely course to watch – he was not happy about my request to pilot, and made me ride every stride, but I did at least remember what I was supposed to be doing and tried to do it.  He didn’t really look at any fences this time, he was in charge mode.  I didn’t want to hold too much, and kept trying to use my seat, ask and soften with my hand.  Not that it did me a ton of good, because I was getting the hoof.  But he went clear.

First element of the in and out

First element of the in and out

As I headed straight down the hill to the xc start afterward, I was wondering what I should have learned in the last 60 seconds that would help me on xc.  Did I need to make any adjustments to the plan?  In the end I figured that his energy was probably going to help us.  I did think I might be able to afford a bit of land and go between fences – he certainly felt like he could use a little gallop!

Mini rest on the way to the start box

Mini rest on the way to the start box

On the other hand, there is no such thing as taking a fence for granted on the pony.  I got a good reminder of this while I watched the start waiting for our turn:  fence 1, although small, uphill, round, and headed home, seemed to be causing some trouble.  I saw a rider fall and some awkward jumps.  Sure enough, out of the box, the pony got squirmy to it:

Pony, if you stop at this fence, I am so going to have your butt in a sling

Pony, if you stop at this fence, I am so going to have your butt in a sling

We got over and I moved him up to fence 2, a nice ascending hay jump, where he displayed his gravity-defying tail tricks:
Just saying, Mom!

Just saying, Mom!

Fence 3 was a small stone wall in the fenceline, the first away question, then across a road, up a hill to a bench, loop left to a house.  He was feeling forward but needing more management than I’d hoped for…I was having to check hard against the run on approach, then sit in and make sure my leg was active to keep him coming while he sorted out the questions.  I remember thinking after fence 8:  if the next 7 fences are going to require as much work from me as the first 8, I don’t know if I’m going to make it to the end of this course!

Bogey cordwood, like so many worry jumps, rode fine.  So did the other two big downhill questions, both of which had landings in the trees.  The big rolltop, fence 8, galloped out of stride wonderfully, and he actually took me to the ditch!  I trotted the approach and then sat a couple of strides out, ready to get behind him, but he took my sitting to mean “canter,” and popped right over – first time a ditch has ridden like that on him – really fun. 

We had a long, steep, rocky downhill to fence 12, a sawtooth type jump out of the woods with a field landing, and it probably rode the toughest.  We trotted the hill and once we were on the line to the jump he started checking out what was beyond, so I lost his focus just when I wanted to be organizing him.  But he went, and got his game on for fence 13.  14 was the water and the course had a tough approach but only the exit was flagged.  I had trouble controlling the left shoulder on the downhill ninety-degree turn to the narrow entrance and ended up coming back at it, which meant he was looking at the drops in.  I gave a kick and rattled the reins and said out loud to him, “let me show you where we’re going!” and he actually tuned in.  Hee hee.  He trotted confidently out and cantered on up the hill.  At this point I’m realizing there is going to be no tired pony on this course.

Where's the next one?

Where's the next one?

The little stinker has figured out I’m carrying my stick left, and nearly jumped us through the right flag on fence 15, a red barn.  There is something about this pony and red fences, although I have no idea what.  He landed awkwardly and I gave him a good scrub on the neck to tell him it was okay, because I needed bold pony at fence 16, which was a gorgeous, new, light colored log cabin complete with real windows and a porch.  I should have switched my whip, but I didn’t think of it.  I put a kink in the line to 16 because I didn’t think a long straight approach to it was going to be anywhere near a good thing.  Sure enough, once he got on the line the head went up, the butt went down, and I’m willing to bet that if I could have seen the eyeballs, they would have been popping.  So I gave a smack on his shoulder for insurance and he straightened himself right out and took us over.

Prompting a slew of “good pony!!!” yells and pats through the finish flags.  We were clear!  I kept patting him all the way back to the trailer…probably long after he’d forgotten we’d been jumping ;)

Happy team!

Happy team!

We were shocked and thrilled to find that when the rails and stops were sorted out, we’d moved up 6 places to finish 5th.

I couldn’t have asked for a more fun and happy end to the season – a double clear at BN, after we started in April bucking over poles on the ground!  The pony will get a little break now.  I hope he dreams of galloping through fields full of fences!

With luck we can say...that's not all!

With luck we can say...that's not all!

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Responses

  1. Woohoo! Go pony!

    Your position looks AWESOME in that first XC fence. He’s giving it a good, hard look and you’re just riding him straight through.

  2. Such a pleasure! :)

  3. YAY KISSES AND SHANNON!!!!!!

  4. WOW – all that you two have accomplished this season – Hats off to you both!


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