Saturday, September 8, 2012

Riley's Coming Out of Retirement Tour

This past Friday was a big day for me, Will, Riley, and even Cole. As of Friday, Will's officially been gone 5 months. Looking ahead to September from five months ago, I would've thought we'd have a few more prelims under our belt and be looking ahead to AECs and the CCI*. Riley would've still been on lease with his little girl. Two months ago, I was beginning to settle in to the idea that Riley just wanted to retire. And I was definitely convinced that I might never find a new show horse. A few weeks ago, I crossed my fingers and entered Riley in the open novice at Kentucky Classique and signed Cole up as a non-compete horse.

The jumps this past weekend were maxed out at 2'11", but I feel like we made it over some much bigger hurtles. For one, we all know Riley's dreamed long and hard about retirement. He started thinking about it before he even began showing, when he tried to kill himself before his first two events (#1 he tried to eat an electrical outlet and #2 he got a huge puncture wound in his shoulder). When he was diagnosed with kissing spines, his future seemed bright, but he was determined to prove otherwise (by dumping me in a few ditches and telling me that as much as I'd love to go training, it just wasn't his thing...). And this spring he'd almost talked me into turning him out once and for all, when it seemed that although his suspensory strain had healed, something else just wasn't right. Thankfully I didn't give up on him and was able to figure out that it was EPM, and he's come back as strong and healthy as ever. Riley's last show was in October of last year, before the suspensory and EPM issues.

As for the other hurtles, last Friday was also, obviously, the 5 month anniversary of my last show. At first I'd missed showing desperately, and was so jealous any time someone at the barn left with their horse for the weekend. But the longer I went, the easier it was, until showing just seemed like a terrible idea. My mental demons told me that Riley is terrible at dressage and that we'd be stuck at the bottom of the pack, because novice tends to be a glorified dressage competition. The show jumping demons were even there, reminding me that the last time I show jumped I had to rely on my wonderful horse to save our butt when I couldn't see or ride the distances. And worst of all, the thought of a cross country start box made my mind go wild with all that happened the last time I galloped out of one. I've had more than a few breakdowns over this whole first-show-back thing in the weeks leading up to it.

So with that being said, this weekend was the one to start moving on and getting over those awfully big hurtles. On Friday, both boys got a bath before a short trailer ride over to the KHP. John thankfully unpacked everything while I took Riley for a spin around the dressage fields, which turned out to be more nerve wracking for me than it ought to of. When I stopped showing, my nerves were 100% under control and I was able to tune out everything to get the best out of my horse. When I rode on Friday, it was like all of that had gone down the drain and I was back to square one. After my ride I attempted to make braids of Riley's 3 mane hairs and tucked the boys in for the night.

Despite nearly having a breakdown on the way down to dressage, I was able to pull it together and get a decent warmup before what I thought was a very nice test for Riley. I could've been a bit more ballsy in some of the moves, but I thought it was a pretty good test, and although it put us 12th out of 14, I thought a 34.5 was a great score.

Dressage judges never like Riley much, but I thought he put it a pretty solid test!

Next up was cross country, which I was kind of dreading. The course was tough, and I knew Riley wouldn't have any issues, but it still didn't keep me from worrying. Worse yet, the first 3 people out on course had refusals and run-outs. I kept telling myself that those were green horses, but my racing heart didn't want to believe that. We took off out of the start box and Riley ran around the course like the old pro that he is. He easily cleared every jump and was happy to gallop along at a pretty fast pace. I let him choose his own pace for the first half of the course, which meant that at the halfway mark I had to make him trot for a bit to avoid speed fault penalties (we were almost 2 minutes ahead of time, agh!!). Running through the finish flags gave me the biggest feeling of relief as well as gratitude towards Riley. Riley knows his job, knows that he doesn't have to do his job if he doesn't want to, but was still happy to pack me and all my baggage around the XC course.

Beka and Caesar made it just in time to see our XC! It was really nice of them to come down, plus we found out that Caesar likes horses- and really likes shavings.

I had been a bit concerned that Riley wasn't fit enough, but that certainly wasn't the case! I love this picture because I didn't even know Riley could get all 4 feet off the ground, let alone tuck in that big ol' belly of his!

I asked Riley to take off a bit long here, causing him to rub his hind feet on the fence, but he was still happy to clear it, even with the extra effort it took

Riley has his XC smile back!

Getting a bit excited and not wanting to slow down...

The A/B Red Forts were some of the biggest jumps on course, so of course Riley made them feel easy

Riley through the Head of the Lake!

After XC

As a side note, I attempted to ride Cole around on Saturday, but he doesn't like a) the KHP in general and b) the KHP when he's all by himself in the dressage fields. I found out that Cole can apparently piaffe, although I think in pure dressage they like the horse to be round and collected, not hollow and freaked out. We joked about blowing Cole's mind, but apparently it was actually blown. Cole's just going to have to have lots of outings before his first real show, starting with XC at the KHP this Sunday.

Sunday brought stadium jumping and a double clear round on what was apparently a tough SJ, judging from the scores. I missed two distances, but Riley didn't have a problem with saving my butt and clearing the fence regardless. He was actually pretty cute, because he kept getting his eye on other fences in an attempt to make the course a bit harder and more like a jumpers course. Riley might be accompanying his little brother to some winter jumpers shows to keep him entertained.

Riley thinks he looks stylish in Dad's new hat!

Despite being utterly terrified of every phase, I survived the weekend and finished in 6th place on a dressage score of 34.5. I even was able to throw a few smiles, particularly when I managed to move up from 9th place AND not get a poo brown ribbon (for those readers not in the know, 8th place is poo brown), which I have thankfully thus far avoided in my 6 year eventing career. Riley also seemed content to be back at work, even though I'm sure he'll regret it as soon as he remembers what being the Team Riley Work Horse entails (all that conditioning! the dressage! getting his belly to clear jumps! so much work!). On Sunday he was almost too tired to chew up his carrots.

Not poo brown!?

Not poo brown! Me and Riley both seemed a bit concerned about the ribbon flying on his face and the impending victory gallop.

Post-braiding fro-time!

So very tired- poor little guy.

For more pictures from our successful weekend, be sure to check out the flickr (the link is in the top right-hand corner of this page)!

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