Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hilltop Horse Trial - October 16, 2016

On October 16, Snappy and I tried our very first full horse trial at Hilltop Equestrian Center in Somersworth, NH.  Beforehand, we had completed four two-phases and a XC jump school, so even though I was somewhat nervous to send out the entry, I knew we could do it.  I knew she was clearly capable of both a dressage test and stadium jump course, and she was prepared enough to try XC.  I have just tried to take it so slow with her in order to give her positive experiences because it hasn't be easy for her to place her trust in me.  I miss eventing now that Dreamy is retired, so I wanted to be sure Snappy had a solid foundation of confidence to become my next event horse (even if we never make it past the baby levels). But by this point in the year, even though I hemmed and hawed and almost didn't send our entry, I also knew I really did not want to wait until May of 2017 before we tried a full horse trial!

It was a gorgeous fall day, one that makes us dread the oncoming winter even more so than usual.  I have had great weather luck this year for my horse shows, which has been nice!  My dressage test was at 10AM sharp, and I was the first of six riders in my division.  Then my cross country was at 12:05 and stadium at 1:50, so it was a perfectly respectable schedule.  My plan was to walk the XC course after my dressage and walk stadium after my XC.  I figured we would be able to leave by 2:30.  

Our dressage test went well, and I was proud of her for marching into a strange indoor for the first time with no issue.  They run two dressage rings and while I had hoped to be in the outdoor, I was super proud that Snappy handled the indoor with ease.  She even trotted by the large mirrors without issue though she did eyeball the white cavalettis used to condense the end of the ring by A haha.  Do I jump these now?  Do I trot by them?  So much confused!

We ended up with a 29.69 which placed us in second in our division.  This was our best 2-phase dressage score this year, as our first 2-phase dressage score was a 39.38 (we have done the same test at each 2-phase)!  Each time out we improved our score by several points.  

Overall, there were not many comments on the test, but I was pleased to see I FINALLY did not overshoot centerline LOL!  I don't know why I was having so much trouble with that this year, but I do know I allow her to fall out through her left shoulder in right turns and the last centerline is a right turn, hence the reason we overshoot it.  I have worked SO hard getting her properly into the left rein and it showed for this test.  I was determined to fix that!  We earned a 7 on the first centerline and an 8 on our last one (with no comments about overshooting it!)  Whooo progress!  We also earned the highest score so far on our free walk, with a 7.5.  I know we can continue to improve it; though I will be glad when we ride a test that has a true diagonal, because Intro B has a weird short one from F - E and I think we simply don't have enough time with about five steps across the arena to really stretch.  It doesn't make sense to have a short diagonal at this level IMO.  We also had our best score under collectives for submission with a 7.5.  Overall, a solid test and I could not be happier.


After our dressage test!  My husband's phone camera is sucky.
It did not take long to untack and head out to walk the XC course.  Everything looked doable for Snappy and the only jump I wondered about was the tires (but she jumped it fine!).  I felt the course was a perfect mix of easy logs and slightly tougher questions, but everything was low and inviting. There were eight jumps in the first big field, then we headed out on a wooded trail for four jumps, and ended up in the back field for the final two.  

She definitely gave each jump a good look, but was forward and bold for me over the fences without sucking back in doubt.  The only thing she worried about were the jump judges (OMG people in the woods!), because as we would come around to jump, there was a person sitting there and she wasn't sure what to make of that.  I spoke to her the entire time (Good girl, they're just people, easy mare) and I am sure the jump judges thought was crazy haha.  But it really does help relax her when I use my voice.  In the last field, she locked onto the first fence you could see coming out of the woods, which wasn't our fence at all.  It confused her a bit, as we had to swing to the left over our division's fence.  I could feel her start to get a bit wiggly, as she wasn't sure which fences we were jumping and there were probably ten fences scattered about in a small area.  I just rode her straight and kept my eyes focused on our last two jumps, which were fairly lined up with one another.  She was fantastic and we went clear; the spooking at jump judges and wigglyness about which fence in a cluttered area are just greenie moments, nothing that makes me worried about her future as a little event horse! 

Snappy didn't want to canter between fences, even when I asked, and definitely felt safe in her comfort zone of trotting.  I did not push the issue, because I know the canter will come in time and right now it is just not her place of comfort (she is a trotter, after all!).  I remember trotting around this same exact cross country course with Dreamy years ago and wondering if we would ever be able to canter a course like a real event horse (we eventually did many times and had a blast!).  So, even though trotting and posting an entire XC course is fairly tiring compared to loping along in half seat, I am completely thrilled with our first ever XC outing in a competition format!  Of course, now I cannot wait for spring events LOL!!
We had just come off XC and I had loosened her girth!  Happy moment!
I opted for black/blue as our XC colors, which is always an appropriate color for riders haha!
After XC, it became sunny and hot, so I sponged her off and we all relaxed and ate lunch.  I wandered over to the stadium course twice, but other divisions were jumping, so I had to settle for just looking at the posted course and watching other riders go.  I really dislike not being able to walk a course beforehand, especially a course like this set with lots of turns in a ring, but I had no choice.  And while I love showing here, the stadium does tend to get behind, so I took my time and headed over to jump at 1:35, just fifteen minutes before our posted start time of 1:50.  She didn't need much of a warm up, so there was no use showing up too early.

It turns out I was still too early anyway and my division did not start until 2:30, so we did a lot of walking and found about the only shade on the farm.  I love the warm sunny weather in October, but that near hour of waiting was the one time I wished it was cooler and/or overcast!  I almost went back to the trailer, but I also did not want to end up late (my trailer and the stadium ring were not close so it would have been hard to keep track).  We were still sitting in second place, and I knew it was unlikely the placings would change (unless we screwed up haha), but I mean I figured there was no way we would move up to first.  Low level eventing is won in dressage and the first place horse had been doing these events at this level all year (and looked great!).  This was about a good experience for Snappy, NOT THE RIBBON COLOR, but I admit the thought did cross my mind that we were soooo close to winning haha.  ;-)

Finally it was time for our division.  The course rode fine, but there were two fences she took as a long spot instead of waiting for me until the base of the fence, but I cannot complain.  I would rather she opted for the long spot at this point rather than refuse the fence or suck back behind my leg.  We were just a little out of sync for those two fences out of nine. The jumps were brightly colored and decorated, but she was unconcerned, which was exactly what I hoped to see.


Yay mare!  
Overall, we ended on our dressage score and earned second place.  Snappy got to do her first "victory trot" haha which is a cute touch at this venue, as they hand out the ribbons in the ring right when the division ends instead of riders picking up ribbons at the scoring booth at the conclusion of the day.  I could not have been any happier for our first ever three phase event!  My plan next year is to only do full three phase horse trials instead of 2-phases and I think she is definitely ready.

SIDE NOTE: I added photos to our last horse show post that I was tagged in on Facebook! The photographer did not ask for any compensation, just that we donate towards the mustang rescue if we wanted to use the photos!  :-)

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