Monday, August 11, 2014

In which Keegan moves up and rocks on!

I was hesitant to commit.  The wonderful Mary Coldren told me that if I wasn't sure, to go ahead and enter the preliminary.  It would be easier to move me down to training that to move me up if I entered the training, so I entered preliminary.  Then the goal was to get prepared. I went to some schooling dressage shows and did the first level tests.  The scores were somewhat variable, but it was very encouraging that the issues at the shows were the same as we were working on at home.  I took dressage lessons with both Missy and Rachel (poor Keegan) and we also jumped more than usual.  I took lessons with Missy and we also cross-country schooled once at Fair Hill and twice at Boyd's Windurra as well as doing the schooling jumpers at Windurra. And it all seemed OK, so a dressage lesson with Rachel on Friday evening and then came the weekend.  On Saturday, I volunteered as dressage steward and bit check for the Intermediate and Training.  As always, it was nice to chat with many riders, owners, coaches, moms and cute dogs.  I had an excellent Snuffle Cousins visit as well as a Jamie and Izzy get together.  Megan Lynn and her own Hoosier knocked the rust off and had an excellent go at the Intermediate.  My favorite in the training was Icabad Crane.  He has his own Fan Club Page, so if you are interested in a great story of a race horse second career, you might want to follow along.  All the Fair Hill scores are here.  Once we finished up with the dressage around 2:45, I headed over to walk my course.  The SJ looked fairly straight forward.  There were two in and outs, one 1 stride and one 2 stride, but no triple, so that was one less thing to worry about.  I set out on cross country.  As is generally true at Fair Hill, the first 4 fences were lovely galloping opportunities, all nice and straightforward

  1. The usual mulch log first fence.  I didn't see much difference between the training and the preliminary
  2.  The blue house.  Keegan doesn't care what color jumps are, so this was fine
  3. The chevron.  I swear we jumped this same chevron the last time we went training (and if we didn't, I'm going to continue secure in the belief that we did.   
  4. A roll top
  5. Our first combination, an open corner to a brush type jump (a rounded coop with brush sticking up). It walked a fairly long 3 strides.  I though 4 might make more sense, but put that on the ask Missy list.
  6. A big open oxer on great galloping ground
  7. The up bank, one stride to a log at the foundation - then across the field to
  8. The bench in the treeline
  9. The double "brush" This was one of the two fences that I was nervous about.  It was shared with the intermediate.  On Sunday morning, they removed the brush for the preliminary, but it was still a decent sized table with a fairly significant drop on the backside
  10. The ditch and wall.  Mmm, we haven't jumped one of these, but it seems ok
  11. The water combination.  When we schooled, Keegan was brilliant to A and B (the house to the down bank), but we didn't continue on to C which was a bigger house a couple strides after the water, very close to a tree.  Accuracy would be important
  12. A little house that I'm fairly sure has been on the training course
  13. A roll top to a bank down.  Visually it is a bit scary from the top, but the drop wasn't too signficant if you pour off as it is on a hill.  Then around the bend to
  14. the corner.  We schooled this last time and it was smaller than the corner we schooled at Boyd's so all good
  15. the angled line coop to coop, this was quite forward, but the angle of approach was easy to find
  16. O S**t!!! Why is this trakhener on the preliminary and why didn't we school it when we were here.  Still, Keegan jumped without issue the trakhener at Boyd's place that Caitlin claims she thinks is scary, so if I ride, we should be ok
  17. A small roll top
  18. The coffin.  A is the biggish roll top, B the ditch (I swear that is one and a half strides) and C a small rolltop, then the turn back toward the start, across the little dirt road to
  19. A blue bench.  This didn't look big, but the next one did
  20. The skinny table.  I just thought that I should make sure that the uphill helped us get a powerful canter.  This was not a fence to jump flat and then
  21. the final red table - no worries
I went back to Blue Hill and had a great lesson with Missy.  Keegan halts quite well.  Then, when I touch the reins, he throws his head in the air and starts looking around, basically checking out.  If Missy taps him, he runs backwards.  We schooled it a bit, (and I had been working on it in various ways), but at this point decided just laughing at it would be the best approach.  Most everything else went quite well.  He is developing a very nice trot rhythm and while I am not good at being 100% straight in the lead changes on the diagnonal yet, the actual changes and transitions are coming along nicely.  The medium trot remains a work in progress.  I then packed up stuff I would need for Sunday and then headed over to Lisa Thomas's place for a small get together in honor of Brigitte Aickelin's 21st birthday.  It was quite sedate as Brigitte was also competing on Sunday.

And then it was Sunday morning.  We headed over to Fair Hill running a little late, so I got on as soon as we arrived.  I realized that I had forgotten my jacket (and was actually planning on wearing it in honor of the move-up).  Luckily, we are all of a size and Carli's jacket was in the trailer, so I borrowed it to ride in.  Keegan was quite good in the warm-up and Missy seemed pleased.  We heard "198, you have 5 minutes" and I realized I didn't have a bridle number on, so we trotted back to the trailer (and Brigitte met us part way) to get it and then trotted back.  Keegan stayed quiet and relaxed through this unscheduled work. He remained good in the ring.  I actually think I got about 90% of what I get at home.  Since the usual rule of thumb is to be pleased with 80%, I was quite happy despite knowing it wouldn't be a great score (turned out to be a 42.2 - so not horrifying at all, but plenty to work on).  Missy and Ike got a 31 and Devon and Dan pulled off a 27.4 and ended up finishing 2nd in my division.  Dan is for sale (gold medal young riders horse) if you know anyone interested.  

I got off and got Keegan situated with Brigitte's help and then went up to watch a bit of the jumping.  I saw Sally jump the stadium, which was perfect.  Just do it like that and all will be good (positive visualization is helpful, really!).  I chatted a bit with Sally about the cross-country course.  She told me to really stay upright and slip my reins over that table at 9 as it was quite a drop.  I chatted with Jennie Brannigan who told me it would all be fine and that the corner to brush was a nice three if you pushed to the corner.  Steph Butts let me know how her ride went as well.  I headed back down less worried about 9, but still concerned about the Trakhner. 

Brigitte had Keegan studded up for me, so we got him and me the rest of the way ready and I got on.  Missy put sticky spray on my boots (first time I'd ever tried it - was this a good idea on event day - oh well too late to change that now).  I was also riding cross country in my brand new saddle for the first time.  It is a Ryder Saddlery custom monoflap.  Very nice and a really great price.  Ask me about going this route if you are saddle shopping.  

I got up to the warm-up which wasn't too busy.  Bruce Davidson was setting fences for a student, so there was a good progression and Erin Sylvester was there and pictched in to remind me to keep my leg on and told me I looked set after a nice forward trip over the oxer.  The stadium round went great.  There was counter cantering as I had predicted in a COTH forum thread on the subject of lead changes in eventing, but it didn't seem to matter.  We came away with one rail (the out on the one stride where I pushed a little too hard for the longish distance). Even better, it all felt really easy.  I'm sure I looked like a drunken primate, but it felt great.

Then over to cross country.  Sally's mom checked my girth and noseband for me (eventers are just so the best, despite the schedule not allowing Missy to help at the jumping, I felt like I had plenty of support) and after jumping the solid obstacle twice, I felt pretty ready.  And off we went:

  1. No issues at the log
  2. Ditto at the house
  3. Lovely over the chevron
  4. I succeeded in jumping the roll top out of stride without taking a tug
  5. Good line to the corner, Keegan jumped boldly.  I was a moron.  We ended up getting to the brush on 3 1/2, but Keegan just did his quick feet thing and jumped it perfectly from there
  6. another nice galloping fence
  7. Good jump up, a little disconnected, but no problem to the log.  Nice gallop to 
  8. slight chip stride to the bench, but great jump and on to
  9. I actually did sit up and didn't drop my shoulders on the landing.  Steve Berkowitz provided photo evidence (I love that Dr. Berkowitz takes and shares these pictures so generously.  They are all over everyone's Facebook feeds). 
  10. No issue
  11. Very bold over the house and down the drop.  I slightly lost a rein, but had sufficient steering to get out over the house, which Keegan knew he was supposed to jump.  This horse is always looking for how to jump the fence, not how to avoid jumping. By this time, my ability to breathe is becoming a significant issue, so slow to a bare lope knowing the next one is easy
  12. and the small house at a slow canter was fine, we continued the slow canter to 
  13. the roll top and drop, nice distance, very comfy.  I stayed at an easy pace to 
  14. a nice jump over the corner and then put my leg on to be forward to
  15. the in and out - all good
  16. wait, that was totally easy - my horse didn't look at the trakehner at all.  Apparently "look up, leg on, look up, leg on" is an appropriate mantra, then more slow down to breath as we headed to
  17. the easy roll top and on to
  18. the coffin. We continued at a slower pace to 
  19. the bench and then moved forward to 
  20. the big enough skinny table (also a Dr. Berkowitz photo op) 
  21. and the last, realizing not only that we had made it around with no trouble (other than time faults attributable to the ever-worthless lungs), but that none of it felt difficult
I have a preliminary pony - a total rockstar of a prelim pony!  I wouldn't without so many people starting with Kate Chadderton who sold him to me; Missy, Hilda, Sally, Rachel and Caitlin who have been such amazing trainers and coaches; all the Blue Hill gang current and past; all the eventers at Fair Hill who helped get me ready and encouraged us; the Fair Hill regulars who all were vocal in their enjoyment that I was riding at this one; Glen at Ryder for the great saddle and everyone that I should thank, but can't think of at this moment. Did I say I have a prelim pony?  This was Keegan's first prelim and my first since March 2008 on Squire's Cap
who had many CCI*** under his belt before I rode him.  It was the first time since 2000 that I moved a horse up to preliminary and that one ended in elimination, so maybe I have learned a little or more likely it is just that Keegan is a total rock star!

Meanwhile, that horse that I moved up in 2000 is now 22 years old and still going strong.  He and Elena did a CT on Sunday, getting a dressage score of 35 and jumping around.  This is impressive, given that Elena had her second child the end of May.  I was amused at her accounts of needing to pump between rides, but kudos to both super Gizmo and Elena!

Elsewhere, Buck Davidson was winning at GMHA.  There is a great Buck Shout out over on eventing nation.

The Phillies even pulled off a come-back win Sunday evening topping off a pretty perfect day.

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