Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring Season Wrap Up

WOW, has it been a great spring season! In the past month Cole has made his eventing debut, Riley finished up his qualifications for AECs, and Riley finished his first training level three day. This spring has made me extra grateful to own such wonderful horses.

As a side note, I have to mention that part of the lack of updates has been thanks to law school. The end of the semester was about as crazy as usual and on top of that was all of the formalities and excitement that comes along with graduating. But I officially have my J.D. (I finally got all my grades back- and I thankfully didn't fail out during my last semester!)! Now I'm just hunkering down and studying for the bar exam at the end of the summer.

Back in mid-May I was lucky enough to be able to take both boys up to Ohio for Greater Dayton HT. I picked it as Cole's first show because it has a reputation as a great spring/first outing show and I thought it'd be a good warmup to see how Riley would hold up before the three day. We had a fantastic weekend, although I was extra busy with the two horses. The week before the show I had pinched a nerve in my back so I was a little worried about how riding two at an event would go over, but my body came through for me and I was actually in significantly less pain the Monday after the event than I was the Monday before the event.

Riley had put in a pretty good dressage test, but I did feel like we left points on the table. The judge seemed to think pretty highly of it, though, because we got a 34 and landed in 2nd place after dressage. The show jumping was in a grass arena (odd because when it's on the grass, it's usually not fenced in with a permanent fence) and I don't know if that threw people off or what, but I think I watched at least two riders in front of me have significant problems, with at least one getting eliminated. Thankfully Riley is a show jumping superstar and jumps on the grass all the time, so he finished with a double clear  SJ. On XC day he showed me that making time isn't a problem and that he's grown up to be an amazing, bold training level horse. The ditch-to-skinny question rode fantastic, although I'm still certain that the old Riley would've dumped me in the ditch. Riley finished the weekend in second place with a super positive experience under his belt.

As for Cole, I once again felt that our test was solid, but could've improved a fair amount. He got a 33, which put him in 4th place. The show jumping caused more issues in the beginner novice, resulting in a move up in the placings for Cole when he went double clear. XC was my biggest worry for him because while he's SO honest, he's not particularly bold. He got out on course and barely batted an eye at any of the jumps- if anything he was more concerned about the tiny ones than the bigger ones! At the end of the weekend, he had to go even with Riley and also bring home a big red second place ribbon. I was super proud of how much he grew up over the weekend and how he really stepped up in the XC. He felt like a real event horse!

Our big, BIG goal this whole spring has been the IEA Training Level Three Day. When they first came out with the training three day years ago, I DESPERATELY wanted to take Riley to one. I had one clean training in 2008, followed by two eliminations and a move back down to novice. I knew Riley could succeed at training, but every time we had a ditch, I either landed in it or picked up three refusals and was eliminated for the day. In 2009 I finally gave up on taking Riley training and started looking for a new horse. I don't regret that decision since it gave Riley time to grow up and gain confidence. Meanwhile, it did the same for me while also bringing Will into my life. But all the same, the training three day was one of the first things that popped back in my head after Riley won his first training in several years at Jumpstart last fall.

The weekend itself was full of plenty ups and downs. Looking at it in its entirety, though, I think it was a huge success. If I wanted to pick it apart I could, and I could probably end up feeling really crappy about my weekend, especially with Riley, but that just makes it not fun. And as I've told multiple people lately, events cost WAY too much money to not have fun- even if I have to make the fun myself. I'm eternally grateful to Will not only for giving my confidence and maturity in my riding, but because he gave me the most positive outlook on events and riding. I'm naturally a very competitive person and sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the dressage score, the color of the ribbon, or even the other things along the way, like how the footing was sloppy or the volunteers weren't always the friendliest. But I know that organizers try about as hard to put on a good event as I do to have a good time at said event, so it's just not worth getting too upset about anything. In his life, Will taught me to have a great sense of humor about a terrible dressage score or other things that don't go how I want them to. I've learned along the way to also accept blame where blame is due and to learn from my mistakes. And when Will died, I learned to sincerely and deeply appreciate any event where at the end of the weekend, I get to go home with my horse.

Side rant over, things unfortunately did not go as planned with Riley. The dressage was ok, but not spectacular. We were the first rider in our division and got to warm up in the pouring rain. I was happy with Riley's overall performance, knowing some of his dressage antics, but I know the test could've been better. After dressage we had a pretty good score for us, something around a 37, but it put us in 8th of 10 starters. XC day had significantly better weather and started off very well. We came in under time for phase A and had enough time to compose ourselves for steeplechase. Riley was a huge rockstar, coming in 30 seconds under- which was amazing if you consider how much I used to struggle to make time at training with him (it was set to go at prelim speed!). He was bold and really seemed to have as much fun as I did. At the C assistance area, we did a quick shoe check and moved onward. Unfortunately due to all the rain and the sloppy footing, Riley came into the 10 minute box without a shoe. We also came into the 10 minute box with a few time penalties from C because I relied on the times posted in the program, not the times posted at the show office. Apparently they mentioned this at the competitor meeting, but I don't think I heard it because I was late. Even more unfortunately, there was no farrier at the 10 minute box to fix Riley's pulled shoe. Thankfully, though, after a little bit of stressing out, we got a farrier over, everything was fixed, and I wasn't penalized.

Dressage in the pouring rain.

Riley's been wearing his fancy pants lately! 


Cross country itself was fantastic. Riley's grown up so much and I'm so incredibly proud of him. NOTHING on course felt hard for him. We did have a run-out at the corner, but it was entirely my fault because the jump came up fast after a turn and I didn't slow him down enough to let him see it and know it was coming. He easily cleared it on our second approach, confirming that it was totally my fault. Everything else rode very, very well, including the angled ramps, water complex (drop in, bending line to bank up to jump), trekehner, and coffin.

As for show jumping, we had a very good round with a terrible detour in the middle. Jumps 1-4 were fantastic. Jump 5A/5B was a one stride in-and-out. I cut the turn a little short to 5, which normally isn't a problem for Riley, but I think in hindsight, I ought to of let him see the jump a little longer. Moreover, jump 5A was a vertical with a solid rail on top and a striped rail going diagonally across the center as a filler. When he jumped 5A, he knocked the top rail HARD with his hind legs. The way the ride went at 5 was very uncharacteristic for Riley and the best way I can explain it is that he didn't understand the question at 5A and thought the diagonal striped pole was the top rail instead of the solid rail that actually was the top rail. When we got to 5B, he felt a bit angry about knocking the rail at 5A as though his mind was still on that having happened and he refused the B oxer. We reapproached and the same ride happened. He jumped 5B on the third attempt, but he still seemed to not understand why he knocked 5A HARD with his back legs every time he jumped it. I have a pretty strong feeling that if he wasn't so tired, he might of been able to power through the in-and-out despite not understanding it, but that his normal extra athleticism and mom-saving powers just weren't there on Sunday morning. Of course after our near-elimination at 5A/5B, he jumped everything else clear and was a total rockstar.

Sunday morning jog

Despite our issues, Riley finished 6th in the T3D. He apparently would've also won best conditioned had we of not excused ourselves from eligibility for the award. We excused ourselves because Team Riley donated the Willpower Award in honor of Will to go to the best conditioned horse. It would've been great to win it, but I really wanted it to go to someone else to help keep Will's memory alive and hopefully make them feel as awesome as I did when I won best conditioned with Will. I also won a sportsmanship award, which was really awesome. As I ranted earlier, I'm just not into whining about things when- for lack of a better phrase- shit happens. I feel like shit definitely happened to me, but it's just not worth it to me to let it ruin my good time, so it was awesome to get recognized for that. We also got a completion ribbon from the USEA and IEA, reminding me that it really was a HUGE deal for Riley to finish the weekend. I know I say it again and again, but I'm so proud of Riley and the horse he's grown up to be. I'm so lucky to own him, flaws and all, because at the end of the weekend he tries so, so hard and really puts his heart into it. I can only dream that Cole grows up to have as much heart as Riley does or as Will did.

And thinking about Cole, he was a total superstar at his first ever novice! A mere 2 weeks after completing his first ever horse trial, in what might not of been one of my most brilliant moments, I decided to move Cole up to novice at one of the more difficult XC tracks in area 8. Thankfully, though, Cole didn't know how stupid I might of been and happily stepped up to the challenge. In his dressage he seemed more focused on the sloppy footing, the squirrels, the other horses, and just about any thing other than the rider on his back and the actual test. We deserved the 42 that we received and will hopefully have some focus at the next event. He's enough of a baby that I know he's going to have good days and bad days while he figures out horse showing and it was just unfortunate that dressage was one of those bad days.

Next was XC, where he was AMAZING. He's very, very honest, but not always a bold or catty jumper, so once again I was worried about making it over all the solid fences. He really seemed to eat it up, though. He got out on course and got in such a great, easy feeling rhythm, that I unfortunately let him pick up some speed fault penalties. I could've trotted more on course, but he has a huge stride and I really wanted him to learn the "forward" lesson since he doesn't always get that. While we were fast, I don't think we were ever unsafe- it's just that it was such a pleasant rhythm that I didn't want to break it or risk making him think that he wasn't doing the right thing.

On show jump day he took a while in the warmup to feel like he was paying attention. I don't know if it's those nice, thick bones of his, but he really doesn't seem to care if he wonks a rail pretty hard. I had him jumping well enough, though, and it was our turn to go, so we headed over for our turn. I could tell about 10 strides back that I didn't have his focus for the first fence, and I just never got it. As a result, he knocked the crap out of it, throwing it out a good 10 feet and making it look more like a landing rail than a top rail of a fence. That seemed to snap him back to the moment and the task at hand, though, and he was awesome everywhere else on course. Cole ended up in 7th place overall and was also 1st place amateur and 2nd place OTTB, meaning he got a novice AECs qualifying score and $100 for the OTTB award. And more importantly he had a very positive run and successfully finished his first novice.

Cole was not very fond of wearing his ribbon.

So in something considerably larger than a nutshell, that's been our big spring season. The next show in the calendar is Midsouth PC HT with Cole going novice, so there will definitely have to be an update after that. Also look forward to a huge announcement from Team Riley in the next few days- it's VERY exciting!!! I just thought it deserves it's own post by itself, aside from the Dayton and IEA reports.

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