Luckily for me, the jump to move up the levels has come after years and years of preparation. With the right motivation from my coach, Eric Dierks, I was gently reminded that we have all the pieces of the puzzle to have a safe and fun show. All I needed to do was realize, #1 we can actually handle jumping the big tables, #2 don't focus on the course as a whole, tackle each fence individually, and #3 Eric wouldn't tell me I'm ready for Prelim if he thought I couldn't do it. I cannot stress how vital it is, especially when conquering new territory, to have a coach that you trust and can motivate you to perform at your absolute best. This past weekend would not have been possible at all if not for Eric calming my fears, helping me approach the questions systematically, and believing in me and my horse. (It also helps to have a support group of parents, fiance, and large system of friends rooting for us!) Thank you to all involved for making this weekend a success!
We started out with dressage early Saturday morning. I found myself oddly calm, a clear departure from my last prelim dressage up-chucking masterpiece. Tristan warmed up like a rockstar, very bright, forward, and balanced in our counter canter. We put in a workmanlike test, but were a bit tense in the early trot work. After the first lengthening, we loosened up a little, and the counter canter was actually quite nice! Our score was a 41.4, not great but not too bad.
Time passed quickly from the end of our test to the start of cross country. By the time I had cooled Tristan out and put his studs in, it was time to tack up and head over to the warm up. I felt like my stomach was jumping out of my throat (I usually can't eat before dressage, and was so nervous I couldn't stomach any food before XC either). Thankfully, with Eric's great advice the previous night, I was no longer in a blind panic. I had ridden the course 100 times while trying to fall asleep the night before and had a solid plan for the approach of every obstacle. I was focused on the track before and after every jump, allowing the jumps to become immaterial to the gallop. Tristan warmed up strong and bold, giving us lots of confidence heading towards the start box.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Have a great ride, we'll leave the light on for you!
Fences 1-5 were a piece of cake, great jumps to get the gallop rolling and get the horses thinking to the other side of the fence. Fence 6 was the first tricky obstacle on course, a big scary fallen tree with a two stride to a red barn. Tristan was giving it a good look, so I put my reins in one hand, gave him a pop with my crop, and ended up jumping both A and B jumps one-handed! We galloped away to Fence 7, the biggest table I had ever seen on a course. I was absolutely petrified of the jump, but believed if I could just clear it, the rest of the course would be a piece of cake. Oddly enough, coming down to the table at a forward gallop, it suddenly didn't look that large anymore. We focused on jumping the height and letting the width (almost 6 feet!) take care of itself. Tristan cleared it like he'd done it a hundred times before. Good boy!
|Fence 6 AB|
|Fence 8 A|
|Fence 8 B|
After a nice afternoon of turnout, and a softly bedded stall for the night, Tristan was fresh and ready to tackle the stadium course Sunday morning. He was definitely a bit more fatigued than usual after cross country, but he still had enough gas in the tank to show off his tight knees around the course! It rode fairly straight forward, and we only had a slight bobble at the B element of the triple combination were his stride got a bit weak and he refused. Instead of riding for time (which would be silly when we were already dead last), I took a nice big circle to get his canter fresh and motivated, and we finished the rest of the course with ease!
|Fence 8 B|
We have already achieved more than I ever thought possible, and now I'm excited to open this new chapter in our careers, becoming established at Prelim and polishing up our rough patches. I'll probably give him a light show season this year, go to lots of clinics and schoolings, and maybe throw in some dressage shows, but plan on returning to FENCE in the fall for the TR&HC Horse Trials again at Prelim! For now, Tristan has earned a couple days to eat grass in the field and go out on some nice hacks in the woods...