Well, we're off! This past Thursday Papa and I loaded up the trailer with everything I could think of needing for the next year, packed in a very sleepy pony, and headed off on our great Western Adventure. We logged 15 hours of solid driving on Thursday to arrive in beautiful Richland, MI at around 4 in the afternoon. As we pulled into the parking area of the horse trials (which is a large and prestigious event, running N-A and Gold Cup CIC** and CIC*** divisions) we were both a little shocked: the whole farm sits on the back half of a soybean field, right in the middle of corn country! It was quite a different look from an average Area I event, to say the least. There, we settled Dually in at the show grounds and I took him out for a nice hack around the gorgeous facility (where Dually was quite mystified by the soy, not sure whether to eat it or trample through it, despite my guidance that neither choice would be acceptable!).
I was really happy with how Dually coped with the trip, drinking loads as soon as we arrived and passing lots of manure both on the trip and in his stall later that evening. Additionally, he looked and acted quite relaxed and ate with gusto. It was quite a relief, given the hot conditions of the trip and his funny trailering behavior from earlier in the spring. I have to think that the ulcergaurd that we put him on helped out... makes me poopoo it a little less, for sure!
The next morning was dressage and Dually and I came out with our game faces on. Besides being a little stiff in the bridle in our opening trotwork, Dually was as accurate and obediant as we've been all year, and I was really pleased with the flow and overall feel of the test. For once, my gut feeling actually matched up with the scoring, and I was delighted to find out that we were in 3rd in a large division after the first phase.
For cross country, we didn't go until 4:30 on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer in Michigan so far. It was in the low 90's and drenchingly humid... definitely not the best conditions for Big D! I was feeling quite sick before we got on after taking a nap in the sweltering trailer (lesson learned there) but I thought our warmup went pretty well and we went out on course like gangbusters! It was so fun! Dually was absolutely foot- perfect, I was thrilled with my riding, and he galloped around the entire highly technical track on a looped rein. What a blast! We came in 24 seconds over, not bad given the conditions (I didn't push him at all), for 6 penalties, and we able to keep 3rd overnight.
Show jumping day was, alas, one of those rounds that you come out of the ring kicking yourself for. The instant that I was over the last jump, I was wishing that I could just keep cantering around the first again and call out, "Do over!" Too bad it doesn't work like that... Dually actually warmed up quite well, and then got in the ring and got a little bossy, and instead of taking some time at the beginning of the course to fix the problem and get him listening to my half halts, I just kind of half- hearted rode along with what I had, resulting in a pretty ragged round, where he was barging and flat and I was just desperately trying to stay in the middle. I ended becoming a passenger instead of actually riding, which is one of the most frustrating feelings because I know that I know how to do it, I just didn't do it! We only pulled two rails but probably should have had a few more, as there were a few jumps were he shot off long and I had to slip the reins right down to the buckle. We ended up 5th, though the ribbon seemed a little empty after the disappointment of our round.
Besides the slightly bitter ending, I was absolutely delighted with the way the weekend went. Dually was a total star and held up with the show environment and the long trip admirably. Papa was, as always, an amazing groom, and we had a wonderful time together. And, in general, I was very happy with the way that I rode and analyzed the courses, given that I had no coaching or help whatsoever. I definitely would love to return to Richland some day, even if I can't exactly imagine when that would be right now...
Papa and Rick Allen successfully put together the new gazebo for the ring today, and so Mama and Papa came out to enjoy it while I did my last gallop before Richland this evening. After a few predictable bug- eyed moments, Dually settled in well and we had a fabulous time galloping around with a pack of dogs in tow! Wiley got especially into it and it was very special to have my two boys running side by side.
Papa and I took a very special and exciting trip this weekend: we drove down to Acorn Hill Farm in Madison, VA to look at some young prospects! It was a real pleasure to get to visit the farm, which was stunningly gorgeous and fabulously maintained. The Sweelys were very kind to take us around to look at the young stock, and we certainly weren't disappointed! We saw dozens of great quality colts and fillies... and may have even found one for me!
The beautiful ring at Acorn Hill
Carlow Clover! What a handsome man.
Comet's View: 2004 ISH filly by Carrig View
Some suspicious yearlings eye us from the hill
Led by a Tinka colt, the yearlings come in to inspect us further. The two Clover foals are standing side by side in the back.
Yesterday Papa and I headed out to Uxbridge for what will probably be my last lesson with Suzi at her house in a long, long time. It was definitely a little sad! Dually was a star and I was really happy with the quality of canter and jump that he was able to produce (at my prodding haha). It was so cool to canter around in two point with him flowing forward in front of my leg, so balanced and effortless that I felt like we could do it forever. Suzi gave us some good general excersizes to keep in mind this coming year:
1) lots of low stretching circles where I am "greedy" with the shape that I create, over- bending and counter bending while maintaining an even circle and not letting him drift around.
2) gymnastics with short distances between (18') and low, wide oxers to encourage him to jump across and use himself better, with me doing an auto release instead of floating the reins to encourage him to stretch.
3) canter bounces with the same auto release.
4) keep doing suppling at the canter in 2- point: canter- counter canter switch ups, lead changes, simple changes, all in a good solid 2- point that encourages him to maintain self- carriage.
Hopefully we'll see her again next summer. I can't thank Suzi enough for the transformation she has wrought on my riding these past 5 years; she truly has made me who I am today and for that I owe her so so much.
What a fun weekend! Papa came back from his jetsetting tour with Mom just in time to come up with me and Dually to Gorgeous Millbrook, NY, for the eponymous event there. It sure sure was nice to have him back! The weather was lovely and the event, as usual, was beautifully organized, though it was a little bittersweet to think that this may have been out last event on the east coast for quite some time.
Our dressage test left a lot to be desired: Dually decided that didn't want to do any counter canters! In retrospect I didn't have enough 'jump' in any of his gaits and had him a little too tight and behind my aids, so when I asked him to do the counter canter it was the obvious choice for him to break! A 40.8 left us in 16th place (and 17 points adrift of the lead) out of 25 in the JYOP.
We had dinner that night at Les Baux, a favorite of Papa and mine from my very first event with Dually at Fitch's Corner in 2005 that we return to every time we are in the area. The meal (especially the mashed potatoes) was even better than I remembered and, along with being back with my Papa, more than made up for our less- than perfect dressage day.
XC on Saturday was SO FUN -- the course was very similar to the one we did in 2006, and rode just as nicely. There is so much open land at Millbrook that I could actually feel like I could GALLOP! without having to immediately pull Dually's face off, the while there were technical questions, they were all presented in a very honest and progressive manner so that we built and built confidence as we went around. I didn't push for time at all, having way too much fun enjoying the ride, and so was happily surprised to come in only 7 seconds over for 2.8 time penalties. Our two day score of 43.6 moved us up 6 spots to lie in 10th overnight.
The show jumping was set in the big sand arena across the road, which was a nice change from two years ago when they held it in the bowl near the coffin complex; however, the spectator tents and flapping sponsorship pennants made for quite a spooky atmosphere. Dually came in and was practically on his hind legs he was so spooky but I was really happy with how I rode him and he channeled his energy marvelously to the task, jumping out of his skin for one of only 3 double clear rounds in our division that moved us all the way up to 4th place! It was as close to finishing on my dressage score at a prelim event that I have ever come and was a fairy tale ending to such a lovely weekend. Thank you, Dually!!!
This weekend I was at the Preliminary Championships at GMHA - it was definitely a little nerve- wracking going in because neither of us had been out on xc in 10 weeks! This was also my first solo "sleepaway" event, which was definitely more difficult than I expected in unexpected ways. I was happy with our dressage performance (especially the '8' we received on rider from Mark Weissbecker!) even if it wasn't as brilliant as that that we had at KOF Dressage. Dually was a STAR across country, though I definitely left a lot to be desired as a rider! I was feeling pretty low after xc so it was good to have a nice show jumping round the next day, even if we did pull a rail at the last jump that dropped us from a potential 3rd to 5th.