Fiona continues to impress everyone and shake off her reputation as a bit of a wild child. Our return to Novice was a unequivocal success, ending with a pretty white ribbon to add to her collection. Our dressage was a 38, which is not where it should be but again, her rider is an alien in competition and it's over four points down from the last time this judge saw us. The jumping was not pretty, but we got the job done with only three time penalties. The princess was jumping for me with her knees to her nostrils (we have pictures to prove it, I'm just waiting for them to download so I'll update soon).
The only real problem we had on course was the approach to fence 1. It was a very tight, roll back type turn to an oxer. Off the left. I decided to trot it because I wanted her to stay cool and collected, but it backfired when the princess was surprised at being presented to a fence like that. She went over, but it was ugly and she was upset about that. When I turned to fence 5, it was an almost identical turn as the turn to fence 1 and the princess just checked out. She did not want to go jump fence 1 again and skittered off sideways. I got her back together, but it cost us time. I knew the time was tight so I cut every corner on the course and took every inside option after that. It was a complete flash back to my jumper background and putting in speed rounds. It wasn't pretty, but we got it done. Afterward my trainer said she was surprised that we pulled all of those turns off. It sure wasn't an equitation round (even if she looks a bit like a show hunter in her photos) and you can see it on my face. I'm riding my brains out. Three time penalties was a pretty good score for that course since there were a lot of rails and stops in my division and moved us up three spots. Our usual fast, clean cross country run moved us up one more for that fourth place finish.
There is no narcotic in existence that can match Fiona on cross country. Once she's locked on, you just balance over the middle, put your leg on, and enjoy. Her jumping style has matured so much. Even the slightly long spots don't feel like fliers, they feel like bigger jumps. The girl knows her job now and she does love to gallop and jump. The leaping into water routine is mildly annoying, but only because she splashes water all the way up to my sunglasses and leaves me partially blinded. I can practically hear her yelling 'canonball!' as she goes in.
After some time to recover and getting a decent night of sleep, I flopped out on my couch to read my dressage test. Rick Pearson was my judge and I was really pleased to be riding in his ring. He always gives the best comments on the test. I really feel like I get something out of my tests with him and he gives really usable comments. I loved the comments 'nice tail!' and 'very, very nice horse', of course. I also loved seeing my canter getting 7's after working so hard on it. There were also a lot of comments about how I needed to breathe, relax, soften so my horse can stretch, etc. The comment that really caught me though was 'rider needs to trust horse'.
But . . . I do trust her! Don't I?
I trust her completely on cross country, on the beach, on the trails, out for gallops, cruising around shows, everywhere. She doesn't explode or throw temper tantrums, she just goes about her business. She's not very spooky and when on the job, she's downright fearless. So why would the judge say I don't trust her?
I was schooling Fi on the flat last night when I finally figured out what he was saying. I micromanage and guard every single step that mare takes. I'm so convinced she's going to come above the bit or get on her forehand. I'm not worried about her actually misbehaving, but I'm not very trusting, either. Huh. I guess there are different kinds of trust and I need to learn to trust her. I spent the ride trotting about the jumping field, consciously working on not nitpicking and bracing. She wasn't as round as usual but she was much more relaxed. Looks like it's time for me to go back to the basics. Downward transitions with no hand at all, as opposed to worrying about the perfect halt for shows.
Trust is a two way street after all. I have to trust her to be good, and she has to trust me to be quiet, soft, and fair.
So I think we'll spend July just relearning how to sit and flat. I have no more horse trials for awhile. Fi is going to some shows with her junior rider, but I've got to focus on school. I have another dressage show at the end of the month, so that will be my real focus. I have to learn to trust, to relax, and to just go into the big ring and ride the test that everyone knows we can do.