Sunday, May 28, 2017

Green Acres Horse Trials - May 7, 2017

Our first outing of the 2017 season was at Green Acres this past Sunday!  EDITED TO ADD: Clearly, this outing was weeks ago.  I have been sitting on this entry as a draft since the week we went, waiting patiently for the professional photog to get her pics posted (I went alone and had no personal media).  Well, still waiting for the pics to be posted, despite contacting her nicely last week and promising I would buy whatever she got of us.  :-(  I use the term professional loosely, because while I am sure she has a nice camera and a decent enough eye, I don't think she has ever done this before and well.......I get that life happens, but don't bill yourself as the show photog and never bother to post your pics.  Sorry for the mini rant, but that is why there are no active shots LOL!

I admit, I don't know what I was thinking when I sent my entry.  I thought spring was coming, but as always, the weather had other plans.  We haven't jumped XC since last October and this has been an incredibly wet spring in Maine, meaning my normal spring conditioning activities have been, errr, decidedly not normal.  My ring, which is really just a flat dirt section of one of the paddocks, it complete and utter mud and even the fields and trails are not really dry.  Thankfully (I guess?), I have a 1000+/- foot dirt driveway and and not-really-flat dirt barnyard area, so at least I have been riding her in long straight lines and sort-of 20 m. circles.  Maybe it has been a blessing that I haven't been able to drill ride test movements and could only really focus on transition, straightness, and lateral work. And lo and behold, we have finally accepted the outside rein.  THAT is a major accomplishment with this horse and to have control over her shoulders has been a huge breakthrough.  So perhaps the unorthodox routine has actually been beneficial!

So I sent my entry and immediately started regretting it the more and more it rained.  I never even jumped anything this spring until we warmed up for XC at Green Acres, which I don't really like admitting, but it's the truth.  Do not do this at home, kiddos.  My fields are way too wet and my driveway is way too hard (packed gravel).  NOT the way I would normally want to start the year, but honestly, after having such a confidence building first show season in 2016, I figured this would be a real test.  If we could navigate this, we could do anything LOL!  I also know Snappy has become fairly laid back and trusts me, so I felt safe making this decision. And let's face it, she can practically WALK over 18"-2' jumps.

Snappy was excellent in dressage warm up.  She knows her job in dressage and gave me all the lovely transitions and straightness we have worked on this spring.  She never got heavy in the reins, stepped well underneath herself, and acted calm and happy.  We had to do our test in the indoor, which made me slightly worried, but she marched right in and got to work.  A little girl on a pony decided to warm up during our test at the far end of the ring just as we got started, which I was kinda worried about, but Snappy seemed fine.  Thankfully, the little rider was under control and perhaps Snappy liked the company.  She did give the mirrors a bit of side-eye as we trotted into the ring to acknowledge the judge before the test started.  But she didn't dwell on it or let it affect her relaxation.  Of course, the minute we went by the judge she rang the cowbell (Snappy definitely thought about scooting when she heard THAT thing behind her LOL!), so we really only had one lap of the arena before we headed in.  

But WOW our test was much improved over anything we did last year.  We didn't overshoot centerlines (thank you, outside rein!) and we didn't have trouble correctly bending and accepting the bit in our circles (thank you, outside rein and Polyglycan!).  We did have a bobble during our first halt, where Snappy tripped and the judge marked it as "resistance" in the halt.  I laughed out loud because it was just so typical of us.  Way to trip yourself into the first dressage test of the season!  The indoor is older and I have always found the footing to be a bit uneven, so I am not surprised.  I admit I was not really too excited to ride for this particular judge, only because I think she can be a a bit stingy and gives barely any feedback. I understand using mostly all 6s feel safe to judges, but I do appreciate a judge who can use the entire scale if warranted; I once got a 4 on a canter depart (it was late and sloppy, so a deserving score) and a 9 on a centerline in the same test.  Not ideal, but certainly accurate judging!  And I think comments are super important in schooling shows, but I got barely any feedback and NOTHING written at the end of the test under collective marks or further remarks.  Oh well, not the end of the world.  I was floored to have scored all 7s with an 8 on our right trot circle (except of course, a 6 on our first centerline/halt/trip haha).  Our collective marks were all 8s (!!!!!) with a 7 on submission.  We ended up with a 27.5 and I was so pleased!  I guess Snappy really has improved, as this is 11.88 points improved over when we rode for this same judge at the same venue in July 2016!

We had two hours until XC, and then we were to go directly to stadium.  I had already walked the courses before dressage, so I had time to relax and organize my tack. Good gracious, it takes me time to get back into the groove of showing after a winter off!  I unbraided Snappy, too.  I really like not having to rush between phases. As much as I like to dress and tack up "properly" for each phase, it is kind of nice to have both jump phases back-to-back in the interest of time, especially when you are an hour and a half away from home.


Relaxing at the trailer
I tacked up a bit early before our 3:10 XC time, because I figured it would be good to have a quiet warm up with Snappy just in case.  I have also found at Green Acres that if you are ready to go early, they tend to let you go early.  We jumped the cross rail a few times and she was fine, like it hasn't been since last October since she last jumped LOL.  Of course she was fine.  :-)  I have to say, this mare is smart and once she understands something (and TRUSTS me), she has zero anxiety and is all business.  She can be stubborn though, so she has to decide on her terms, never mine.

As I thought, the rider before me (the first rider in our division) was not ready, so when I wandered over to the startbox, the starter asked if I wanted to go early.  Yes please!  I was slightly nervous about XC, but only because we honestly have no schooled many different types of XC fences.  She has mostly seen coops and logs.  Some of the fences on Green Acres' XC course are shared with the next higher division, so again, not teeny tiny logs we could walk over if needed.  I knew the only bad thing she might do is stop and we could probably pop over most of them if needed.  I also knew if I just rode her forward, sat up and kept my leg on her to each fence, she wouldn't hesitate.  It is all about my purposeful leadership.


My poorly drawn map so I would remember where I was going!  Imagine about thirty other jumps in that small space and you get the idea.  When I walked it, jump 4/7 was flagged with both numbers on the same side and no red flags.  Super confusing and I had to ask how to ride it to be sure.  I started to draw the other jumps and realized it was way too crazy to understand.  This is bad enough haha.
She left the start box quietly and easily took fence one, a small log.  There was a deep muddy section here before fence 2, which she decided would be safer to walk in than trot through (I don't blame her).  And, being the last division of the day, it was quite pockmarked with hooves already.  It threw off our rhythm a bit, but she locked onto fence 2 when we went through the gate between fields and it was as though her brain clicked.  Ohhhh, we are doing this jump thing now.  Got it!

The front field at Green Acres is quite full of jumps, and even more so because it was the only dry spot on the farm for XC (they closed the back field and trails) so I knew I had to be really clear in my aids.  She wasn't always sure which jump was next because there were so many in front of her, so my goal was to ride her straight and purposefully.  Fence 3 was an actual fence, not just a little log and then we went around the water jump and back up across the field.  She was looking around a bit, trying to figure out where I was aiming her (and the photographer was standing right on the edge of the field/driveway).  While she definitely looked at the person, the water jump, and the huge Training level table we had to meander through, she never sucked back, got spooky, or tried to dart to the side, which made me so happy.  There was a time this would have made her mind go into overdrive, but I am grateful she trusts me and looks to me for guidance now instead of allowing her incredibly high sense of self preservation to kick in.  Jump 4 was uphill back towards the start and then we went over Fence 2 again, but this time from the opposite direction marked as Fence 5.  

We had to go around the back side of the field for Fence 6, a coop, and at that very moment the farm's skidsteer was trying to pull out a rig that had sunk in the mud.  She wanted to look at the commotion, which was only a few feet away with an electric fence in between, and I feel as though I steered her a bit too hard to the left but I didn't have a choice if I wanted a good approach to Fence 6.  It was a skinny coop, and she almost felt like she would hesitate (because now the skidsteer mud debacle was hard to see because it was behind us), but she went forward from my leg and didn't question me.  

From there, it was through the middle of the field to Fence 7, which was really just Fence 4 in the opposite direction.  Then we had to go close to the paved road and do Fences 8, 9, and 10.  Fence 8 was a big log but with fake flowers stuck on the top.  It was honestly the only fence I felt she might be worried about, but she just went over it like a good mare.  Then we had Fence 9, a double wooden rail, and Fence 10 was just Fence 6, the skinny coop, in the opposite direction.  Fence 11 was Fence 1 in the other direction as well, and then Fence 12 was just past the start box.  So honestly, four of the fences we jumped in both directions, which was a good thing for us!  

Snappy was fantastic!  She was bold, forward without being spooky, and listened to me.  She trusted me and did what I asked without any anxiety.  I felt so proud of her!  We went directly over to stadium and put in another solid round, mostly just two big circles of nine fences.  I appreciate a straightforward course to start the year.  She definitely would have gone around the puddles in the stadium ring if she had been allowed to, but I was happy she stayed forward and plopped through them all simply because I asked.  


So majestic (thank you, All Ears Selfie app!)


I am excited about the rest of our season!

1 comment:

  1. What a great dressage score- and such a pretty blue ribbon for your efforts! Congrats on having such a nice start to the season despite feeling not great about the preparation!!

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