Man, it feels good to be back in my own bed again. What was I saying in my last post about being refreshed and recharged? Scratch that. The past few days have definitely drained my batteries, but I couldn't be more pleased or satisfied with how they went.
(So uphill, so fancy!!)
Ringo and I packed up for Galway in the wee hours of Thursday morning, and after an uneventful drive that managed (for only the second time in my life) to completely avoid LA traffic, we pulled into Galway at around 3pm. I missed the FEI jogs, which I had been hoping to photograph for Eventing Nation, but still had plenty of time to get settled in and take Ringo out for a quick leg stretch.
Back when we evented, the ride the day before dressage was almost always a pretty hairy affair, with Ringo being tense, resistant, and often explosive. I think it was a testament to how happy he is these days that he was AMAZING on Thursday afternoon, just doing a mini balk on the way down to the arena and then working wonderfully. I even got the confidence up to show off a little bit, throwing in some of our schooling pirouettes and 4 tempis (which he did cleanly! good man!) by the end. I tried to keep it as brief as possible in order to leave him some energy for the next day, and was privately thrilled and hoped we could continue our good momentum.
That evening I got a call from the show secretary telling me that they had forgotten to get a CIC** test rider and asking me if I would mind riding that test as well. Another opportunity to get into the arena for some free experience and judging? They didn't have to ask me twice! The only bummer was that I had no chance to practice the test at all before my ride the next morning at 8am - good practice for composure under pressure!
The next morning dawned very early indeed as I was up feeding, grooming, braiding, and otherwise scrubbing Ringo to within an inch of his life to try to get his white bits sparkling. I must say, I think he looked quite dashing when all was said and done! We headed down and met up with Brian, who gave us some great tips on improving our shoulder ins, half circles, and overall straightness to pick up extra points. Then, before I knew it, it was our turn.
(Good boy! Big pats!)
I was so proud of Ringo throughout. He kept the same level of calmness and rideability that he had had out in warmup, and our trotwork was some of the smoothest and most flowing that we've done together to date. We came a little undone in the walk pirouettes and walk-canter transitions, and the canter was probably only okay and not great, but that was due to my piloting and not Ringo getting tense or strong (which he has a tendency to do).
(Getting some 'halftime' advice from Brian between our CIC** and CIC*** tests)
After a little break we were back for the CIC*** test ride. Ringo was definitely a little confused to be back to work in such short order, and felt a little flatter and more tired, but with Brian's help I had him cooking again. Again, Brian's advice was completely invaluable in the warmup, and I went into the ring really feeling like I knew what I had to do to give the best ride I could.
(Ringo looking fly in the extended trot - if only I hadn't lost my position right after this picture was taken and messed him up! D'oh!)
And, for the most part, I did! Ringo was a little more tense in the trot in this test, mostly because I think he was tired, and I was inaccurate in the half passes which was a shame as they were otherwise quite nice. The reinback was bad but not as awful as I'd feared, but then the canter was by far the best I've produced in a test on any horse, ever. It just felt like he was flowing around the arena, uphill and cadenced and listening to my every aid. I was thrilled with him, and Brian was too when we debriefed after the tests were over. It was a wonderful start to the season.
(What. a. CHAMP.)
It was a little bittersweet to be at Galway, my favorite event in the West, without a horse to go cross country on, and watching the XC on Saturday definitely impressed on me yet again how badly I want to get back into this sport. Fortunately, I have some VERY EXCITING NEWS that I'm just waiting to get finalized before I announce it that, hopefully, will mean that I will be eventing again sooner rather than later... ;)
(Final debrief with Brian - thank you again so much!!)
To finish, here are a few before/after pictures comparing Ringo and me this weekend to our first dressage show together at GMHA last July. What a difference 7 months makes!! Ringo's topline, suppleness, relaxation, and balance are all so much better, while my hands, posture, and seat are also visibly improved. It feels good to actually be able to see some progress after many long months of hard work!
(Trot July 2011 vs. Trot March 2012 - underneck muscle gone, topline filled out, balance significantly more uphill, on the vertical instead of behind; meanwhile, I'm sitting up more, carrying my hands, am securely down in my leg, have significantly raised my eye line, and am not pinching with my knee - yay!)
(Canter July 2011 vs. Canter March 2012: More forward, more uphill, much more engagement of the hind quarters; meanwhile my nagging left hand is much quieter and I've lost that dreadful slouch - excellent!)