Sunday, October 6, 2013

Inspiration in Defeat - A Recap of the 2013 Windridge Farm Horse Trials

Tristan and I had our first Preliminary level event this weekend. I'd like to report that "we came, we saw, we conquered," but that was hardly the case. I came into this show with incredibly low expectations. Not that I didn't think we were capable of doing well, just that I understand that at times like these it is very likely that the universe will conspire against you.

Day One

Firstly, I recommend not starting the show day off with nausea and puking. 

Dressage - All-in-all, we put in a tense but respectable dressage test. Our score wasn't turning any heads (a hefty 47.0) but the training and strength are there. Unfortunately, I underestimated how difficult a counter canter can be to hold when you have a tense horse in the show ring.

On the plus side, Tristan was moving like a true superstar in the warm-up. I finally have found a warm-up routine that produces a very powerful, yet still rideable mount. The feeling of an extended trot, truly through the back, when his toes flick with every stride, makes me grin from ear to ear like a fool. However, all of that homework changes when heading down the centerline in a spooky ring. We have yet to find balance between the truly straight, powerful dressage horse and the tense nervous show horse. The work continues.

Stadium - We warmed up with a forward, powerful medium canter in mind to accommodate for the wide oxers and big uphill strides. I knew we were prepared for the height and width, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terribly nervous.

We went in the ring, took a nice forward stride off to the first fence and jumped our first oxer. I wasn't terribly happy with our power away from the first jump so with a quick pop with my crop, I kicked him on to jump number two. Two jumped well even though my turn bowed way too far out, but then we ran under three.
Jump 3
Four went alright, but we got sticky again at five.

Jump 5
The combination at six jumped well, but Tristan was starting to lose confidence.

Jump 6-A

Jump 6-B
Seven gave us a horrible distance, with Tristan adding a stride I never saw coming.

Jump 7 - You can see we are in trouble here and the rail is already going down. Tristan put in a huge effort to try to get us out safely, but it was too late.
I knew to make the striding from seven to eight, I was going to have to land and GO, so I landed and asked Tristan to give me all he had. He tried, he really did, but at that last moment of "will it happen" before the triple bar at eight, Tristan told me it wasn't going to work. He stopped. I had a very quick, easy dismount over his shoulder, landing on my feet. We left the ring with me crying and Tristan wondering why we weren't finishing the course.

Nothing bruised but our pride.

Disappointment hit me in the face like a sack of bricks. I blame most of it on myself, but the rest I can chalk up to our collective inexperience at that level. We can jump the jumps, no problem, but when it comes down to the moment and you have to make a decision in a split second, those extra couple of inches count.

Disappointed, but not discouraged.

Do I feel now that we weren't yet ready to compete at that level? Absolutely not. This just wasn't our weekend.

I had a lot of people ask me if I'm going to add another show in this year to get a complete event before the season is over. Here's my thought process, Tristan has given me a wonderful five shows at training level, with four beautiful qualifiers, four ribbons, only one jump penalty in cross country and one rail in stadium. He's incredibly fit right now, ready to gallop and jump until I go blue in the face. Tristan's dressage has improved 100 fold, just in the last couple months. He has given me his everything, and now it's time for him to have a vacation. There will always be more shows next year.

Day Two

Cross Country - I decided to not even ask about running the course for experience. After the previous day, it is time to take a few steps back, go take some more lessons, go school, and then come back with a more confident mindset, ready to dominate. Even though it sucked for a bit, I decided to watch the rest of the competition tackle the course. I studied the prelim horses and riders going through tricky combinations and taking them beautifully in stride. I cheered my friends on with their horses, living vicariously through their individual victories. In the end, through support of my family and friends, we made a potentially depressing weekend, fun and exciting.

My trainer, Eric Dierks, and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and SC Casanova
Eric Dierks and Manderley
Eric Dierks and Manderley
Eric Dierks and Manderley
Cheryl Ray and Intitricku
Cheryl Ray and Intitricku
Cheryl Ray and Intitricku
At the end of the day, it could have always been worse. Yes, it absolutely sucks to fall off in front of a crowd of people, knowing both you and your horse are capable of completing the event. We have to keep looking to the positives; Tristan was entirely unscathed, and I walked away without even a bruise to show for my efforts. This was simply not our weekend, and that's ok. Time to take a break.

You win some, you lose some.

*A special thanks to my boyfriend, Nathan Stancliff, for providing me with these incredible photos.*

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