Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hard Work Pays Off

**This post recaps the adventures of Moxie's Social Media Director, Katharine and her Connemara/Trakehner cross, Tristan as they tackle the 2013 Midsouth Pony Club Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park. They competed in Training Rider Division 3.***

Day 1 - Travel and Set-up

After a long two weeks of rain, minor injuries and lack of riding leading up to the show I was slightly nervous  for the competition. Luckily, Tristan is the king of vacation days and almost rides better when he has time off. This show marked a big step in our career at Training level; it was our first competition entirely without a coach. I was nervous to go at it alone, not for winning but wanting to be sure that I was doing right by my horse and keeping him safe.

Travel day went smoothly, with a quick stop early on at the Tryon Equine Veterinary Hospital to get a health certificate we were on our way to Lexington. My boyfriend and I spent the hours of travel laughing at our Miniature Schnauzer, Lego, and being grateful that we were not traveling the opposite way on I40 with a 12 mile long traffic jam leading up to a flipped semi-trailer. We arrived at the Horse Park around 4:00 pm, and promptly unpacked the trailer to allow myself enough time to hack Tristan around the dressage rings before dinner. After settling Tristan in and braiding, we headed back to our hotel to grab a couple hours of sleep before my early Dressage time in the morning.

Friday was a good day for hacking around!

Day 2 - Dressage and Cross Country

8:12 am  ride time calls for waking up at 4:30 am to allow enough time for feeding, grooming, walking, tack cleaning etc. Before I rode I let Tristan wear his Moxie Liquid Titanium Cooler for an hour to start loosening up his muscles and give him a calm, relaxed approach to dressage. I like to give Tristan about 45 minutes to warm-up, giving us enough time to spend at the walk and really stretching out his fifteen year old muscles and joints. This show, I was happy to find Tristan very manageable in the warm-up, while lacking some of his characteristic flaunt. We put in a very workmanlike test, scoring at a 36.8 penalty points. I was happy that nothing had gone horribly wrong (as things are likely to do in dressage) but there is always room for improvement and I find myself hungering for perfection.

We had a couple hours to rest before cross country allowing for lots of treats and loving.

"Hey, is that 10th peppermint for me?" - Tristan
Tristan felt like a million bucks in cross country warm-up. He was perfectly forward without being unmanageable. My coach, Eric Dierks, always teaches me to keep my horse bright and in front of my leg, so I felt really confident heading to the start box. The Training course at this venue was completely maxed out on the height and width on many of the jumps, the first three fences on the course were actually shared with the Preliminary level above ours! Last year, that would have scared me, but now that we have more shows under our belt I know that nice big galloping fences are a great way to start a course and get a good rhythm going.

Fence #4
 My biggest fear on cross country is always going down drop fences. I have recently found that we handle them much better by slowing down before the jump, taking one reassuring pat with my crop, then putting my leg on coming into the jump. This allowed for very confident jumps on both the drop at #5 and gave us more "umph" over a ditch at #15.

Moxie's Bamboo Pad helps us fly!
We finished Cross Country perfectly within the allowed time, with no jump faults. I was also happy to find that my helmet camera finally decided to start working! If you care to watch our whole run around Midsouth, you can find the footage here. I could not be more proud of my man than the second we crossed that finish line! It is so great when all the hard work and preparation finally pays off.

Day 3 - Stadium Jumping

Sunday started out hot, and continued to get hotter. We had the advantage the previous day of finishing before the heat set in, but my class didn't even start riding until dead noon. Tristan went into the warm-up with plenty of spring left in his step from the day before. I made sure to spend most of my time walking and conserving his strength, but once I started putting him over fences his game face was on! I am constantly amazed at how much bounce per ounce he gives me on a daily basis.

That's what I call a warm-up jump!
We tried something new at this show; going back to a plain loose-ring snaffle for stadium. When we practice at home, the snaffle is more than enough to balance around a course but at shows he sometimes gets strong and goes better in a 3-ring elevator bit. The last two shows went so well, I decided to give the snaffle another try. Tristan was somewhat stronger around the course than I was used to, but it was a worthwhile switch in tack. I made the mistake of letting him run too flat to the first several fences and after #4 I made the decision that I would be better off taking him down a couple miles per hour and getting a slower, bouncier stride rather than running around the rest of the course and taking a bunch of rails with me. This resulted in us being 4 seconds over the optimum time, but we did leave up all the jumps.

How awesome was this jump?!

I'm pretty sure he has a couple extra springs in his butt!
We finished in 8th place, only adding 4 time penalties to our dressage score, finishing with a 40.8. I am insanely proud of my horse for consistently putting in the miles at Training level, and truly knocking on the door for Preliminary. If we do two more shows like this, we will be qualified to move up the level. As much as I love having a coach at shows (I missed you, Eric!) it is good to know I can go out on my own and still be successful. Tristan is also proving to me time and time again that 15 years old does not mean he is anywhere close to throwing in the towel. With his age comes greater experience, better jumping, and more competent all around.

Next show is Champagne Run at the Kentucky Horse Park again in July. Bring it on!