This weekend, I competed Monte at Training and Alloy at Novice, and I came in with high expectations. My “high” expectations are relative, not unrealistic: I wanted Monte to knock out one of my qualifying rides toward Prelim – under 50% dressage, no more than 16 faults stadium and no runouts/refusals xc. My main goal with Alloy was a clear xc round and ideally, a lower dressage score – I know we have it in us, dammit! I also came in more prepared than usual. Both boys had awesome xc schools the Sunday before, we’d been practicing our dressage tests regularly since I finally have an arena and I felt confident with Monte’s final jump school (Alloy is always very solid in stadium.). The omnibus predicted Monte would go dressage and stadium Friday, leaving xc on Saturday. Alloy would go dressage and stadium Saturday, then xc Sunday. My rides should be spread out, ez pz.
Luck drained when my stadium go on Monte was pushed to Saturday, so little that I refused to pay attention to it – but it started, nonetheless. My dressage on Monte of course had a better warm-up than actual test, but I was happy with it, even if the judge penalized me for using Monte’s 4th level frame instead of the long and low event horse frame. And then the storms came. Precipitation stopped by daybreak, but by my 10am stadium time, the arena was a sloppy mess, the wind whipped the plants/jump decorations erratically and the clouds still hung low overhead. I came to stadium in my xc gear since we had to leave and go straight there, and I’d made the decision to put a running martingale on Monte – not for more control jumping, he’s been attacking the jumps perfectly, but for more control between the jumps when we head through the woods and a person/jump judge/jump judge’s vehicle pops out of nowhere. I felt like he felt a little constricted over the jumps in the warm-up but other than one awkward jump, he nailed them still, so I brushed it off to my overanalyzing.
We headed into the arena for our round and he seemed ok. We picked up the trot and he wasn’t looking at the jumps too badly. Then we picked up the canter and launched over the first jump like a jackrabbit. The canter felt more like a stiff, pranging llama than the big-strided, attack mode beast I’ve become accustomed to and by the time we came to the one stride at fence 6 we crashed over/through it. I landed on his neck, readjusted while the crew put the rails back up on 6a and circled, this time clearing 6a but sliding to a stop at b. I just said screw it, gave Monte a pat and excused ourselves.
Even though Monte always behaves, I know how wired he can get from the wind and I should have given him more time to just wear him out a little. He’s definitely hotter than your typical warmblood, and I’ll even go so far as to say thoroughbred. I always say I like eventing more than cutting because the cows are such an uncontrollable variable. In eventing, you know your tests, walk your courses and come prepared. You can guarantee you’ll have an adrenaline rush jumping. But I’m left thinking of the uncontrolled variables like weather and ride times. If my stadium round had been after my dressage on Friday like the omnibus predicted, I’m 99% certain I would have had the possibility of having a double clear go … instead of the go from hell. Had the weather been nice, Florida weather, the ride times shouldn’t have mattered at all. The martingale might not have affected him as badly as I think it did. I feel like the martingale took away his freedom of neck and shoulder that it took him so long to figure out how to use to his advantage. On the muddy footing, I think the lack of freedom took away his confidence.
Later that day, I had that moment asking myself why I’m doing this and maybe I’m just not cut out for being a professional, but when it comes down to it, I know that Monte has his awesome days sprinkled with a few nutcase days and I love him and am willing to put up with the bad days, even if they cost me $250. He has upper level potential in eventing and dressage, and we’ll get there.
Alloy, to sum it up, salvaged my weekend for me. Unlike Monte, he throws hissy fits where he would rather stand on hind legs than turn right at home, but really seems to pull it together at shows (at least during the tests). It finally clicked to get on at the trailer and immediately trot away instead of walking and giving him the chance to think it might be better to stay with Monte, so he didn’t even give me sass about that!
It had been my goal to lower my dressage score, which we didn’t do – it stayed in our normal range, but he still put in a very solid test – even in the puddle-ridden arena. Even though he stayed on the buckle in his free walk, I couldn’t get him to be more active in his walk, so we scored double 5s… thanks coefficients… and we had a slight “loss of balance” at E in our left lead canter circle aka break to trot. Once again though, we had a really nice warm up where he felt great in my hands, really stretching into the contact for the most part. He didn’t stop steering and only tried taking me back to the trailer when an appy pony went splashing through the stadium arena near him – awkward timing and he’s a weirdo.
He was a saint in stadium Saturday afternoon – still windy although the sun had come out and the arena had drained quite a bit since 10 – and even though my eye’s confidence in judging distance had taken quite a hit after Monte’s go. He cantered bravely at every fence, even if the plants shook at him. We took one rail down, but no time faults. After stadium we had a 3-way tie for 15th.
Sunday morning xc came, bright and crisp – perfect cool weather with the sun potent enough to warm you back up. It turns out they were way ahead of schedule, so we had a short warm up where Alloy “went” to every fence but I still felt my eye was a little off. I asked for a bigger canter, tried keeping him up a little more, etc., but what finally worked was for me to give him a little kick in the last stride before take off. Once I did that, our distances were perfect, our jumps smooth. When we left the startbox I gave him a few whacks on the shoulder toward jump 1, and we sailed around the rest of the course. He got a little squiggly before a coop whose glare emanated from its finished pine top as we came down the hill toward it, but I added a little leg and over we soared. We finished in 10th place. Nothing amazing, but we had three solid enough rounds to consider moving up to Training. It’s my goal to produce upper level horses, and while I in no way skip the basics, I don’t need them to be the best at the lower levels before they move up. Solid is good, and everything will slowly come together – hopefully to become great!