Thanks to the ridiculous weather we had over the past week (three days of pouring down rain in a row??! In OCTOBER??! The world is clearly coming to an end) the Woodside horse trials had some serious footing issues to contend with that, for a moment, seemed almost unsurmountable. But thanks to the quick thinking of the organizers and officials, some major time and arena changes, and the cooperation of the competitors, it ended up being the same level of fabulous competition that they always manage to provide. In fact, it was even more exciting this year because they were holding their first FEI competitions in 9 years, which added new levels of difficulty and prestige to what is usually their lowest key horse trials of the year.
I was bummed to not be able to ride due to conflicts with equestrian team and the Stanford Red Barn Festival, but was still very lucky to get a chance to go out each day to snag photos of the CIC*** riders. The division was small but mighty, with a lot of good riding going on, and it was inspiring as always to watch these horses and riders make such difficult questions look so easy over and over again. As I was walking the cross country today trying to find the best places to shoot, I was seriously itching to be jumping some bigger fences again!! One day at a time... but in the meantime, it sure is fun to watch =)
It's interesting to watch the dressage at this level now and think to myself, "gee, I think I could do that!" Before Ringo, that thought never once crossed my mind (before Ringo, I'd only ever done a handful of clean flying changes on command in my entire life! Funny how a horse changes your perspective). I still couldn't ride with the same poise or polish that a lot of the top tests showed on Friday, but the test definitely seems doable (well, if I was sitting on Kiki I might be singing a different tune...). I'd love to do a test ride for one of these events on Ringo, as right now that's probably as close to FEI-level eventing as I'll get in the foreseeable future.
(This horse looked SO FUN TO RIDE. I got to sneak peeks of the warmup ring from where I was standing and every time I looked over these two looked so steady, quiet, and rhythmical. Their test was beautifully soft and expressive and extremely worthy of second place)
(James Alliston led from wire to wire with this horse, who looked seriously special the whole weekend. And such a cute face!!)
(I also loved this horse, who wasn't as relaxed as the other two but still looked seriously fun.)
Dressage and show jumping were both supposed to go on Friday, but the ring was sloppy enough by Friday afternoon that they decided to postpone until the next night. It still ended up being a great evening on showing the next day, with the class taking place in the big grand prix arena with piles of spectators having a good time and enjoying some good competition. The course rode really hard (here was a place where I felt realllllly far away from being able to compete at the upper levels again) and there wasn't a single double clear round all night, though there were some real squeakers. It was fun to shoot in such beautiful evening light, and goodness I wish all venues were as beautiful as Woodside!!
(One of Dayna's other students, Kaitie, had a BADASS clear round on their way to second place in their second Intermediate - goo Undie!)
(The awesome evening light that was going on in the 3*)
(Sick auto release)
(The neatest cutest jumper on this planet)
(The horse I liked from dressage again - SO NICE)
(James Alliston had one rail but still maintained their lead)
(JM on the black stallion)
Finally on Sunday the event came to a conclusion with the cross country. The course had dried out beautifully at this point and was even a bit dusty! Oh California, so classic. The course rode well in general though there were two horse falls, both at the end of the course and caused, I think, by tired horses losing their form. Woodside is the hilliest event in California and it's always tough to get fit enough, especially at the top levels. Fortunately everyone walked away to play another day and the standard of riding in general looked really high.
(Neat and tidy again into the water - Andrea and Estrella made the course look easy)
(Winner winner chicken dinner)
(Woah there, tiger!)
I finished the weekend exhausted but happy. It feels great to be back in California; there's truly no place like it. Now if only I could actually get to ride at the next show!!