Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Next Step - A Recap of the TR&HC Horse Trials

Risk is inherent in my sport. Eventing is a dangerous mix of athleticism, skill and sheer bravery. It is with great thought and preparation that we should consider moving up the levels to achieve greater and greater feats. We risk bodily harm and even death of both rider and mount every time we leave the start box. Thus we owe it to ourselves and our horses to put great thought into wanting more challenge. Am I physically and mentally prepared? Is my horse physically and mentally prepared? Are we setting ourselves up for success or failure?

I've been told on multiple occasions that both myself and my horse have been ready to go Preliminary for several years now. However, I believe that up until this point in our partnership, we have not. There was always some tiny element missing from our recipe for success. One small edge that other competitors held over us. This season has done a lot to overcome my suspicions. We started this year with a win at Training level at the F.E.N.C.E. Horse Trials, had only one stop on cross country and only one rail this entire season, and finished our last show in 2nd place only 0.3 points behind the leader. The element we were missing was boredom.

This last show was the most relaxed showing experience I've had since my last run at Novice in 2012. I felt as if I had almost wasted my money competing at Training level instead of Prelim. I was hungry for the challenge and ready to show all my homework. Our dressage has improved hundreds of times over in the past year, we have become increasingly bold in cross country, and it's been awhile since any stadium jump has concerned us. In fact, once our cross country courses reaches a basic point-and-shoot mentality, it's time to find new challenge.

The Superpony is hungry for more and for the first time in several years, so am I.


A recap of our last show - Tryon Riding and Hunt Club Horse Trials


As I said before, our dressage had improved immensely. We nevertheless have our homework cut out for us. Our overall consistency has greatly improved, but we are now lacking in the power department. This lowers our points for lengthened gaits. From recent lessons, we have ascertained that Tristan is perfectly capable of powering from his hind end, it is now up to me to figure out the best way to access that power without making him angry. With the hot Trakehner side and stubborn Connemara, sometimes it becomes almost impossible for Tristan to remain cool while I light the giant rocket in his rear.

I am most impressed by Tristan's overall frame and willingness while in the show ring. I think the days of explosions and bird-flipping are behind us. I can't help but smile now as I come down the centerline, confident knowing that we've done all our homework and have shown up at the event ready to perform.

Our score was 32.3 putting us in second place.


The rain was threatening all through our warm up with mist falling throughout our ride. Luckily we missed all of the massive downpours that occurred later in the day. Even with wet conditions, Tristan warm up splendidly, keeping a very cool head in the warm up. We entered the ring with confidence to spare, even though where I had originally thought there would be two in-and-out complexes, there was now only one triple complex in their place. With no time to walk the course again, I simply told myself that we had done our homework and would adjust in the moment. My trainers, Eric and Trayce Dierks advised me to ride the course at a very bright medium canter as some of the earlier riders had issues due to lack of pace.

We had a beautifully bold round, finishing double clear, still in second place but now by only 0.3 points.

Cross Country

The warm up for cross country was definitely the most confident I have felt before leaving the start box. We knew our course back to front, it was the same one we had won on earlier this spring, the only difficulty was the time. Since I've been preparing for Preliminary all season, I had decided to just ride my Prelim gallop. I did some light trot work to warm up Tristan's muscles, light gallop to get the lungs going, and jumped about 5 jumps (only cross country obstacles, we find the stadium jumps in warm-up a waste of effort). Eric told us to simply put some extra RPMs to the base of the jumps, and after two jumps in that style, we were raring to go. Off to the start box we went.

5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Have a great ride, we'll leave the light on.

Tristan jumped like he could have done the course in his sleep. His gallop was tremendous, eating up the course stride by stride. I used my crop before the water to get his attention. He didn't need me to tell him he was going to get wet.

Fabulously up the bank, up the hill to an upright coop, a hidden ditch, big bench, and then our biggest issue, the big drop. A light wack and down the bank we went, me screaming "Good Boy!" All downhill from there.

The rest of the course went by in a blur. Jump by jump, Tristan ate the rest of the course for breakfast. He felt barely impressed by the obstacles at hand, clearing them like they were Beginner Novice height. We crossed the finish line with a double clear, well within the time. After hyperventilating for half a minute, I realized how easily we had just cleared the entire course. Besides a light overall sweat, Tristan recovered quickly on the walk back to the trailer.

We finished the show, still in second place, still behind the leader by 0.3 points. With a field that close, you can't help but be impressed by your competition. Congratulations to all.

Thus we completed our 4th and final qualifier for Preliminary. I now have no excuse to keep me from competing at the Windridge Fall Horse Trials in October. We are more than ready to move up. We have proved ourselves time and time again. Here's to hoping my stomach realizes this as well.

After such a great season already, no matter what happens next weekend at Prelim, I am unbelievably proud of Tristan. I am also proud of myself, for planning to conquer new challenges. By nature, I am an extremely cautious person and I don't take this next step lightly. It is time for us to see what we are made of.

This goes out to all the people that told me that my horse can't jump, I can't ride, and we'd never amount to much. Watch us go now!

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