So somehow I decided back in early March that entering the little 2-phase at UNH was a good plan. And actually we did do pretty well, but in hindsight, it was a pretty crazy goal for someone without an indoor.
Each year, UNH puts on a combined test in April. It is run by the "Equine Competition Class" of the Thompson School of Applied Science aka TSAS. (Basically there is a two year college within UNH called the Thompson School). It is a great warm up for the full event at UNH that is always the first weekend in May. As a UNH student, I rode a wonderful little Morgan mare named Marcy at the UNH TSAS Combined Test back in 2000. I had helped start her and it was her first show ever. We were first after dressage (scoring a ridiculous good 29) and then DUH refusal at the first fence in stadium. Totally my fault, but it bumped us down to FOURTH! I also worked at MANY of the events, both in the spring and fall. I loved riding and showing at UNH and I have always wanted to bring Dreamy down there for the combined test.
So, I was excited to ride. We entered the Modified Beginner Novice level, which is just a step below the regular Beg. Novice. My test was the Beg. Novice Test A and our jumps were to be 18" - 2'3". My dressage time was 1:30 and stadium was 3:46. We did not have to leave until 10AM, so I waited until that morning to bathe her. The night before I clipped her fetlocks, bridle path, and muzzle. I also pulled her mane. (OK I admit, I pulled half of it. It was so cold, I was so not in the mood for this, and Dreamy was PISSED at me.) So I cut the rest of it and made it look "pulled". HORRORS! LOL! Is anyone out there shuddering at the thought?? Yeah, I would normally as well, but it was cold and we were both cranky. Judy was my inspiration for that little move. LOL! ;-)
So the mare looks pretty decent (well, minus the clipper marks on her white fetlock....whoops!) and I bathe her the best I can. For the first bath of the year, on the morning of the show, with cold water, I did the best I could. Luckily the sun was out.
We left ahead of time and actually got there with two hours to spare. It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to UNH with a horse trailer, but I gave us two hours to travel. It worked out well, as I took Dreamy for a walk around first. Usually we do not have enough time for that, and usually we are showing in places we have shown a million times before. But this was all new. So a nice 20 minute walk was perfect. I had time to eat lunch afterwards, plenty of time to tack her up and get dressed, and then I gave myself 45 minutes to warm up. I knew I did not want to spend too much time warming up this early in the year. Plus it was a good 5 minutes walk to the rings. So I had plenty of time to get her ready to roll.
Only bad thing was that I had ended up riding her the previous three days. Dreamy seems to do best with three days on, one day off. And now that she is getting older, she really does need a day off after two-three rides. I cannot ride her six days and then one day off. And our best show days tend to be the ones where I give her the day off on Saturday. This is not because I wanted to, but because normally my husband would work all day Saturday and I truly had no time to ride. But I found that it worked well for her.
I worked her lightly on Thursday for about 40 minutes, jumped her on Friday, and then had my dressage lesson on Saturday. I figured we would be OK. But she was stiff, mostly to the left. Poor mare. I was cautious about working her too hard before the test but also wanted to make sure she was warmed up and supple. I should have buted her, and thought about it the night before. This is not a rated competition, but still, I hate medicating horses for showing.
Now I will be more careful. :(
Still, we had a nice warm up, with good connected trots. She was relaxed and happy. The warm up ring had millions of riders milling around, and the typical number of crazy people who do not know the etiquette of riding with others. Left shoulder to left shoulder should be taught even if you are taking private lessons!!!! Mostly it is young riders just bombing around on ponies, so I place the blame on instructors. But anyway, Dreamy was relaxed and happy. I waited until the ring cleared a bit to canter. We had about 10 minutes to the test, so I cantered each way and then just walked her around on a loose rein. We picked up the trot right before the rider ahead of me finished, and she was right THERE.
I think the test went well. The ring felt VERY tiny and because she was a little stiff, I had to use a huge opening rein a couple of times. Our left lead canter was good. Just a little head bobble in the beginning and then we got flat going up the long side after the circle. But typical stuff. Right lead not as strong, but I expected that. But I thought our trot was pretty good. Not as much stretch in the walk as I would have liked, but again, the ring is SO tiny! There seemed like there was no space to stretch! This only reaffirms that I need a properly sized RING if I want to do well.
It is a good thing that my USDF dressage tests will be in a standard (large) arena. That gives us MUCH more room! We did our two Training tests at Nationals in NJ in a large arena and they were really good tests. So I like the idea of having a large ring. Bad thing is that any of the horse trials I do this year all have a small arena. In eventing, you really need to score well on dressage. At my tadpole level, the event is won in dressage. Any horse can get over the tiny jumps. Oh well. I am much more concerned about doing well in my USDF tests than my eventing tests anyway.
We ended up with a 47.5 in dressage. This was MUCH lower than I expected. The judge gave us 6s and 7s and then a 5 on one canter (left) and a 4 on the right lead. In the collectives, I got a 5 on rider position (really??) and then we got TWO FOURS.....one on gaits and the other on submission! Now, I do not mind having a tough judge. But this one seemed a a little bit off. I mean, yes her canter is not perfect, but her walk and trot are fine. So a FOUR on gaits???? That is rather harsh. And the four on submission was because she said my horse was not on the bit at the trot. UMMMM.....OK. I really disagree with that, but oh well. I am happy with the test and I KNOW my horse is connected to the bit. I figured we were around 42-43. Again, oh well. It was interesting that many riders were complaining about the judge at the trailers. I heard a rider say how much harder she was than the other judge. So at least I had a point of reference and was able to take the score in stride.
The jumping went fine and we went clean. Dreamy tries so hard. The worst part was that I was not expecting any combinations, seeing as it stated right in the prize list there would not be any, and there was a three stride and a two stride. Um, OK. And because the heights were so spread out, I figured there would be most everything from 18" to two feet, with maybe one or two jumps at max height of 2'3". Instead there was nothing under 2 feet and six of the nine jumps were at MAX HEIGHT! CRAP! For April, I thought that was a bit excessive. I mean, I felt comfortable entering this show for the fact that is was in April. I thought the jumps were more suited for a summer/fall event, NOT a early spring one! But I just sucked it up. The first fence was a huge oxer to a huge three stride panel. And then fence three was a combination, meaning 3A and then 3B (a two stride) with another big vertical and a HUGE oxer. Fence four/six was actually the smallest one, another panel, coming in at two feet. Fence five was a huge fan and then seven was another huge oxer. Eight and nine were large verticals. Dreamy hesitated at jump two (which every other horse but one refused) but went over with leg and a tap of the bat. Then she cracked her back so hard over fence 3B that I went up her neck on the landing. Crap. She is a good mare though. She just slowed down and let me regroup. Luckily fence four was the smallish panel so we were OK.
We ended up in fourth after dressage and stayed there after stadium. Actually we tied with the third place horse, but they broke the tie based on our rider score in the dressage test. Seeing as I scored a five, that was a no brainer. But still, it made me feel good to know we technically did tie for third!
Will I do this again? Probably not, if only because the jumping sort of made me upset. Part of me wants to send a nice but pointed email and part of my says let it go. The hard part is that I have known the organizer/secretary for years (she is a TSAS professor who I really like) and I hate to come across like I have sour grapes. Maybe I *should* have expected the jumps to be maxed out. Oh well.
We had a great day and that is what matters. And who cares about the ribbon when I GOT THAT FABULOUS CANTER THE DAY BEFORE???????? :D