Saturday, August 7, 2010




After a final all-clear from the vet on Thursday morning, we hustled over to beautiful (no seriously, like really, really beautiful) Dutchess County, New York, for my favorite event of the year: Millbrook. Kiki travelled well and had an ok ride on Thursday evening, minus several impressive tantrums about leaving her friends (and, even worse, having her friends leave her!). She's normally not like that at all but was in raging heat, so I think was feeling a little more attached than usual. I couldn't get too mad at her, though, because when she was on she felt really really on, and managed to do some of the nicest canter I've had on her in between several breaks to leap around and hop up and down. I was able to feel my away around my course in the quickly fading light and think about it just enough to get totally nervous and have an absolutely dreadful and sleepless night. I haven't been that nervous in years the night before an event! Because of Kiki's leg, plus a pretty solid course, plus the fact that I hadn't ridden so great at Groton House and was hell-bent on giving Kiki a better ride here all meant that I was feeling pretty darn apprehensive.

(EARLY morning warmup)

We had the "pleasure" of doing dressage at 7:30 on Friday morning, which meant a 4am wake up call!! My dad and I are both morning people, but this was almost too much even for me, especially given the completely sleepless night I'd had tossing around worrying. I gulped down an energy drink which sort of woke me up but wound up making me feel incredibly ill, which didn't exactly help the butterflies that were jamming around somewhere in my midsection. Fortunately, the busywork of doing the regular morning stuff, bathing Kiki (who, of course, managed to get insanely dirty in a single evening), braiding, and getting everything organized distracted me enough to get to my warmup without too much distress, and then once I got on I automatically felt much better. Kiki was, blessedly, much more grown up about the warmup than she had been the day before, and got to work right away. I spent a little time in the grass field and then moved up to the smaller sand warmup, which was nice but super intimidating because I soon realized that the only three people in the ring were me, Phillip Dutton on Connaught, and Buck Davidson on Ballynoecastle RM!!! Buck was getting coached by Thick Accented Dressage Man and zigging and zagging all over the place, while Phillip was doing suppling work around the edge of the ring in a definitely "stay out of my way, mortals"- esque fashion, so I had my hands full just trying to find a patch of ring where I didn't feel like I was about to get mowed down by an Olympian. Fortunately, Kiki handled it all beautifully and frankly had never felt better as we headed across the street for our test.

And what a test! Kiki carried over all the softness and obedience we'd had in warmup, plus a little more relaxation and impulsion now that she was on her own and not almost getting trampled. I was so proud of her: she was light and steady in the contact, and never once leaned on the reins or collapsed onto her forehand. Her canter, especially, felt worlds different if I compare it to what we had at our first event together Three Day Ranch, where I couldn't even get my leads consistently!! She's come a looong way =) After we finished, the judge stopped me and commented what a lovely and special horse she was, how lucky I was that I got to ride her, and that I should hold on to her as tight as I could. How cool is that??? Kiki turned some heads!

So, I knew from the judge's comments that she'd liked Kiki, but I was still thinking that I'd probably landed in the mid-30s or somewhere around there, hopefully in the upper middle of the pack. I was pretty shocked, then, to learn that we'd gotten a 22.5! Kiki got all 7s, 8s, and 9s, and I got an 8 on rider! Totally unreal. My division had a ton of low scores in it so I was in third even with that (the leader got a 20! Holy cow), but still! Third in a huge division with a score that was less than half that of our Stuart score? Who'd have ever dreamed?!

(9? On a canter movement? I seriously never in a million years could have dreamed that happening when we started in January!!)

I actually didn't find all this out until much later, because right after dressage I was too busy walking my course again, helping Papa go cross country (they were FABULOUS!), and getting ready to go cross country myself! I went a mere four hours after my dressage ride, which was great because it allowed the dressage to take the edge off without (hopefully) wearing her down. She was a bit of a wild woman in warmup and then I botched my timing over to the box so I ended up having to rush in and not get a lead like I usually do, with the result that she was a little nappy to get going, but once we were one course she was all business. She was definitely excited to be back on course (our first time since Groton House!) and was actually pretty strong at the beginning, but jumped fabulously. She did take a peek at the ditch about half way around, not helped at all by the fact that I leaned with my upper body there, and was a little green into the water, but otherwise was absolutely foot perfect. We cruised in with one of the faster Novice times of the day; in fact, without my error in the start box, I probably would have had to deliberately slow her down to avoid speed faults! This is good news for her move up to Training in a few weeks =)

Yesterday we got to sleep in a bit (6:30!!) before heading over to see the ponies. Papa and I were both show jumping, I around midday and he in the second to last division of the day. I'd moved up to 2nd after cross country, and learned midmorning that the leader had gone out of order and had time penalties, meaning that I would go into show jumping in first place! Eep. I got Kiki all cleaned up and braided, and we headed up. She definitely felt a little tired and tight in warmup, but jumped very very well. I was a bit worried about the course because it had a few long straight lines, which are tough for us because she's fairly short strided and has a tendency to add up. I wasn't really worried about the first jump, an innocuous oxer, which of course we clobbered down!! Oh well, there went my win; I actually made myself take a deep breath then and just focus on riding well from there on out, because I knew that a lot of rails had been falling and I still had to ride to get around the rest of the course clean.

It definitely wasn't our best effort, but we got the job done. Kiki did add up in both lines, the first more dramatically than the second (where I planned for it better), and then we puked into the 2-stride and I let her add up there because I knew she could cleanly, though I should have been firm and made her get out in two. I was a little disappointed because I didn't feel like I gave her an appropriate ride; she was a little tight and hopping, and I should have either helped her out more to loosen up or helped her be more conservative so she didn't come in on those half strides and have to add up. I was also a bit frustrated because her stride length has in general gotten much better, but something in the show jumping gets us both a little amped up and takes the relaxation required to get that stride length away. Hmmm... we've got some homework!

But still, even being hard on myself, I was so proud of Kiki. She was like a different horse this weekend: so cool, calm, and collected from start to finish. And we still came in 2nd even with our rail and crappy round!! We finished on a 26.5, definitely the best score I've ever finished on, and as an added bonus Kiki got to lead the victory gallop because the winner (a professional) was off riding his advanced horse. Kiki definitely enjoyed that! Possibly too much so haha. I've never led the victory gallop in my life, so I'll take getting the opportunity to do it on a technicality =)


The best part? Her leg looked GREAT all weekend. I kept her in stable wraps, just to be conservative, and it looked excellent. And she definitely felt excellent! She's getting a super quiet week this week, though she will be spending it up at GMHA as a non-competing horse during the three day, before moving into high gear for Huntington towards the end of the month! GOOD GIRL KIKI =)


Heidi said...

Congratulations! She looks gorgeous and you look so nice on her! This should give you a boost of confidence for the last part of the show season. Hooray, Kiki!

ItsOnlyAnna said...

She is such a gorgeous horse! You really ARE lucky to have such a beautiful little mare! Congratulations!

Jess said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! What a wonderful come back & huge accomplishment. She's stunning :-D

Mikaela said...

Awww kiki! She is so cute and of course shes fabulous shes had Dually as her mentor!!! I remember a few yrs back I was at millbrook or fitches and zammy was in 1st going into SJ and im always that rider that'll pull a rail bc im such a nice person and will let someone else win, so I was so nervous and just cantered through the first jump like we didnt even see it- haha....But i like red better than blue anyways!

Rachel said...

YOU? are SO badass. And so is Kiki. Seriously. And riding with Olympians-- amazing! Congrats to you both.

Katherine Erickson said...

Thank you so much, everyone! I'm sooo thrilled with her and feel so very lucky. Her leg is still looking good and she's feeling very sound after a few days off, so hopefully we're on our way to putting that behind us. Thanks again for all your kind words =)

Sonador09 said...

What dressage saddle do you have? It looks lovely! And Congratulations, you both look fantastic! :)

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