All right! I think I've finally recovered from the whirlwind that was this weekend, though today I was definitely feeling a bit slow and worn out (in the best possible way!!).
(Kiki putting up with many many baths)
So, bottom line, Kiki was amazing, but based on the way our weekend started it definitely might have turned out otherwise. On Thursday I took Kiki over to the horse park to a have a little settle in and hack around under the eye of Beth Temkin (who's been giving us lessons every week or so since we got back from Gina's). I grabbed my tack, popped her on the trailer, and headed over, not thinking too much of it all because she'd been to the horse park before and she's always been so good in new locations. WELL. She got off the trailer and was frantic right off the bat, running me around while I was trying to tack her up, tearing at grass and then spitting it out again, crying, and generally being an idiot. I gulped, and got on.
We hacked up to the Polo Arena, which was one of the few arenas open and, as such, was an absolute madhouse. Kiki took one look at it and said, "No thank you!" She grabbed the bit and started racing around the arena in her worst pony trot, and didn't stop for nearly an hour. I felt like I'd tried everything, dug as deep down into my bag of tricks as I could, and come up with nothing. At the end of our ride she was still leaping around, hopping up and down, crossing her jaw and racing, and making an overall fool of herself. I was in tears, and Beth was (understandably) concerned. She gave me a new bit for the weekend (a slow twist full cheek) and left me to stew as to how to prevent another blow up like this for the rest of the event.
(Kiki's new bit for the weekend)
For Friday's dressage, I was lucky that I didn't have to go until 1:30, which meant that I had plenty of time to get Kiki "ridden in" before she had to go in the ring. I decided to go with the strategy of several short rides to steady her out with lots of breaks and candy in between. So, she got a 20min lunge at Stanford, a brief ride at Stanford, and another quick lunge at the horse park all before I got on to warmup. In the meantime, she was bathed, braided, and generally turned out to look like a million bucks. I also focused much more assiduously on staying calm and chill myself, in the hopes that my vibes would rub off on her. I was lucky to have one of my friends come out and groom for me, and she also really helped keep things upbeat.
(Kiki looking like a million bucks thanks to my friend Emily's groomsmanship)
And, it worked! We still didn't win the dressage by a long shot, but man, we were respectable. Kiki was calm, steady, and rideable. She got to show off her ever-improving gaits (for which she received a 7!!) and didn't once put up a fuss or pitch a fit. I was so proud of her!! She really, really stepped up to the plate. Beth warmed us up and was equally impressed with her turnaround, admitting that the day before she wouldn't have been confident that anyone could have gotten her around a test. We got a 40.4, which (besides the leader who was way out in front of everyone) was pretty much in the mix with the rest of the field. We were in 8th at the end of the first day.
Saturday I repeated the same routine before our stadium round, minus the first lunge. Kiki was a bit rank in her first ride at Stanford, and that carried through to the warmup, but she turned up the professionalism the second we got into the ring. She's so amazing. It's pretty much as if every time I start to doubt her, she says, "Oh just you sit back and I'll show you how much I can do!" The course was wicked tough, I thought, with everything up to height and width, square oxers, verticals with no ground lines, option striding (STRIDING at all!), and a double right at the end of the course, but Kiki took it all in stride. She clocked around the course super smoothly and forwardly.
(Kiki begging with Sasha before her round)
(Kiki being über cute)
We had a mistake at the very last, but I take full responsibility: it was a bending line from the double to a vertical with no ground line that had been riding in either 4 or 5, and even though we landed a but discombobulated from the double I still decided to try to kick on for the 4, which Kiki decided was ludicrous and very wisely popped in a 5th stride at the very last, unfortunately taking the rail as a result. While I was kicking myself for making such a mistake, I couldn't be more proud of her. The course ended up causing quite a few issues for other people in our division as well, so even with the rail we stayed in 8th overnight.
(Good girl, K-I!!!)
(I wasn't actually this upset to be wrapping, I promise!)
Finally, on Sunday we got to do what we'd put up with all the rest for: cross country! By this point in the weekend Kiki was pretty good and settled (and tuckered) so she really didn't need the whole ride in routine, but I still took her for a walk around Stanny in the morning and 5 minute spin on the lunge before getting on to keep up the routine. She was perfect in the warmup, settling in quietly, walking around on a long rein, then popping over some over height warmup fences like it was no big thing. She walked over the box on a long rein (which is a long and spooky walk that I had a very hard time getting Dually to do without a fuss!), ambled around the box, and set off like a consummate professional.
(Emily showing off her grooming skills!)
The entire way around the course I had to keep reminding myself to stay focused on the task at hand because I was having such a BLAST! Kiki jumped out of her skin and stayed smooth and rideable from start to finish. There wasn't a moment where I felt even a glimmer of hesitation; she was totally in her element and I was just along for the ride. I started smiling after the 2nd or 3rd fence and my smile just kept getting bigger and bigger the entire way around. It was altogether WAY too much fun!! We cruised through the finish line easily and she recovered admirably quickly. I hadn't worn a watch and since she'd never made time at Beginner Novice I wasn't expecting us to make time here, so I was very happily surprised to find out we'd come in spot on the optimum time (a first in my riding career!) and moved up to 6th!! GOOD GIRL KIKI!
(Looking adorable! Ears are actually up!)
(Kiki looking beautiful after her round!)
So basically she's a superstar, and I'm just a member of her entourage. I feel so lucky to have a horse like her; I'm excited to see what the adventures of summertime bring us! Tomorrow is the opening date for Stuart... summer in New England is getting tangibly close =)
(My sunday crew... I have great friends!)
The most amazing thing was that Sunday we were done by noon and went on to have an utterly awesome afternoon at the aquarium and checking out seriously amazing meta produce stands in Artichoke country on the way home. I will have lots more pictures of the second (non horsey) half of the weekend tomorrow =)
(Prowler may have stayed at home this weekend, but he certainly wasn't forgotten! We even jumped on Saturday; he's so amazing)