So, Ben and I went to this show over the weekend. Some little place called Valinor where we did the Novice division. The nice part about an old pro is how easy he is to handle on the trailer and at the show grounds. He snoozed and munched hay while we waited for our turn to play. The Horsepesterer was there, so here's video of our dressage!
He was still white! All of that armor worked! The most amazing part? We got a 30.0. Yes, you saw that right, a 30.0. Lowest dressage score I've ever gotten and the lowest he's ever gotten. Just think what kind of score we would have had if his friends hadn't been calling for him through our entire test! I felt like I was holding it all together by the skin of my teeth, but hey, so long as the judge didn't notice it's all good. That put us in 7th place out of 16 horses. It was a huge division.
Our stadium jumping was a bit overly exciting. My sleepy Meathead disappeared as soon as we walked into stadium and I suddenly had a heck of a lot of horse on my hands. Not too alarming when you've ridden the Princess in competition, but it took me a couple fences to adjust to the fact that he was going to be charging about. That cost us a rail at fence two, but we were otherwise good and the trainer seemed pleased. We walked over to cross country.
I'll admit at this point that I was very nervous. I was just this side of scared. I'd only taken Ben out cross country the one time, and it had been terrifying. I had the muscle weakness you get with high anxiety and I was seriously worried about how I was going to do this six minute Novice course. That's a long time to be galloping about when you feel weak enough to slide off at the walk! The starter said go and we took off. I did as the trainer said and let him really go up the first hill to get us both in a groove. The first two jumps went well, but I had a heck of a lot of horse on my hands.
We came down the steep hill, then we were supposed to turn right into the woods for fence three. Ben saw the trail going up the hill and started to take off again. I wrestled with him to try to make the turn and we ended up in the trees. The jump judge was laughing as we got ourselves untangled and turned around. The Meathead was so surprised to see a jump sitting there in the woods, but he went over it and we were off again. Fences four and five rode beautifully and I started to feel like I'd found the right ride. It was a bigger gallop than I was used to jumping out of and Ben doesn't have the natural balance of Fiona. Galloping him is a bit unnerving because I don't have the same confidence that he'll be able to keep his feet underneath him. I'll admit, I trotted a couple of the downhills because I just didn't feel comfortable. I was also feeling weak still and having trouble staying with him.
Six was good. A bit long since he was looking at it and I gave him a smack, but good. I ended up trotting seven because I couldn't get the canter I wanted for a tight turn to a ditch. After eight we had another overly exciting gallop up a hill and I couldn't get him back for a tight turn so we ended up going long at the water. Seeing a pattern? I felt weak and didn't totally trust his balance, so we kept slowing down and going the long way. At twelve we got our groove back and it carried us around to fifteen nicely, all galloped out of stride and very nice. These were also some of the bigger fences on the course, including a maxed out table. It gave him something to at least notice. Then I tried to turn right, but Ben was convinced we had to go left. You almost always go that way at Valinor and clearly he remembered his past courses. We had a wrestling match before I could get him heading to the last jump and the finish.
Our finish was far from fast or dramatic. We went down a steep, slippery hill and suddenly there was the finish. A big, temporary shed, a bunch of kids standing around waiting for us, a hastily cleared out area with odd colored footing, and the finish flags. Ben went over the last jump, but refused to canter on the other side. He trotted up snorting and wide eyed, much to the amusement of the judge that could see me kicking like a pony clubber. At least I didn't get a willful delay.
So when the dust cleared, we got 4 time penalties on cross country. We ended on a 38, which was actually a really good score, but it was a big division. We ended up in 9th.
Overall, I was pleased with the day. We got out there, did our jobs, and had respectable rounds. No stops, no elimination, no falls, no dangerous moments. It did leave me with a lot to think about, though.
The big thing was my nerves going out for cross country. When your nerves are bad enough that you feel physically weak and can't ride the way you need to, there's a problem. I have to say, that's never happened before. I usually can be very physically aggressive cross country and have no problem doing that in competition, but my nerves completely got to me. I was lucky Ben is inherently honest and didn't take advantage of me. I never felt like I was in danger, we could always stop and he never tried to buck, but I just didn't feel secure enough to make time on a challenging course. I was worried I would get rattled out of the saddle.
It took time for me to trust Fi and I have to remind myself that this is an all new relationship. Ben hasn't given me any reason to not trust him. I just need to get out there and do my job, since he's going to do his. I also need to quit comparing him to Fi. No, he doesn't have her gallop. Very few horses have her gallop and balance. He can't sit down and just ski down a steep hill at the canter like it's nothing, but that's no reason for me to trot as much as I did.
July 10 is our next outing. The current plan is to go Training, but we'll see how my next cross country school goes. If I can't get my nerves under control, I'll step down for safety reasons. I can't go to that half coffin question or the big drop they have if I'm not secure in my ability to hang on. But as I told my trainer, this is something I can work with. He packed my ammy butt around regardless of my nerves and that's worth it's weight in gold.
His owner suggested we could extend his lease . . .