Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rocking Horse II - in which I ride at the preliminary level for the first time since 2004

The theme of the weekend was moving up. Following last weekend’s brain dead, but enjoyable outing, this weekend I rode Keebler in Training Horse and Squire in Preliminary Rider at Rocking Horse II. The last time I did a Preliminary event was on Gizmo in August of 2004. I may have been more nervous this time than the very first time I went preliminary on Gizmo in 2000. Saturday, I did dressage on both horses and that just didn’t go well. In Keebler’s case, it was his fault. Hilda described him as being “exceptionally disagreeable” in the test and he got no extra points for a very lovely entrance canter down center line. In Squire’s case, it was my fault. I’m clearly at a loss for how to ride a really trained horse in the dressage and confused the poor guy on pretty much all the canter transitions, leading to wrong leads, swapping, etc. So, after dressage, DFL on both horses (17/17 on Squire; 15/15 on Keebler with scores of 47.5 and 49 respectively). Saturday afternoon, Keebler went cross country and while he almost bucked me off a couple of times in the warm-up, he was great out on course. A little on the speedy side. We ended up with time faults (6 seconds slow) as I made him do a collected canter in a few places where I was actually able to get him back and also had to spend about 20 strides setting up for every fence. Trying to be in charge and zoom about like a maniac aside, he jumped like a champ. It was a much tougher training than last week, including a half coffin (roll top, 2 strides to ditch), a jump over a small roll top with a drop into water (I thought this was a fairly tough question for his second training level event, but he didn’t even hesitate), a bounce bank up and a couple of pretty substantial tables, but nothing phased him at all. I walked the preliminary again after that and watched a few preliminary stadium rounds.
Sunday morning started with stadium jumping for Squire. The course was substantial, but fair with some turning questions that required paying attention. Hilda warmed me up and helped me find the right canter and then all I had to do was go in the ring and steer. Squire jumped double clean and made it feel completely easy. I then went out and walked the preliminary course country again (would hate to have a repeat of last week). Keebler stadium jumped a couple of hours after Squire. Luckily, I had wandered back and walked the training stadium as it was completely different than the preliminary (unlike last week when training and novice followed the same track with just a couple fences removed for novice). Though the training fences were, lower, I thought the track was actually more difficult, with harder turns and some odd angles from fence to fence. A little more settled than on Saturday (Keebler clearly needs to be on the work the spots off bootcamp program), Keebler went in and clocked around clean. Last of the weekend was Squire’s XC. I knew the course and after the stadium knew that the fences wouldn’t really feel big. So off we went. I had determined that I wouldn’t ride for time (and, in fact failed to press the right buttons on my watch, so had no idea what was going on timewise) and set off with the intention of a smooth balanced ride in which I kept my shoulders back and my heels and hands down and stayed out of Squire’s way. Evidently, I succeeded well enough (or, more likely, he’s such a champ, he just ignored all my screw ups) as we finished clean. I assumed we were quite slow as I never really kicked him and everything felt easy and controlled. When I checked the scoreboard later, it turned out that we had been only one second slow. The super jumping moved both horses up to 8th place, so I brought home two lovely brown ribbons and the chocolate caramels that Hilda bought me as a congratulations prize. It was actually hot in Florida (coats were waived on both days, unfortunately after my rides). After cross country, while walking Squire, I was feeling a little out of it, improved by glugging down a 32 ounce bottle of Gatorade, so will have to keep that in mind for the future. Looking forward to Ocala II in two weeks. Next weeks update will be about my dressage lessons!

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