Sunday, October 2, 2011

The finale

There are all sorts of sayings about persevering through adversity. The weather today gave us the adversity, Fiona provided the perseverance.

Heading out of dressage, sans airs above the ground!

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. First I went to the Richard Jeffrey clinic. I'll do a full writeup on that later, but I learned a lot from one of the best course designers in the world. After that was dressage day. Now we've been working super hard on our dressage all summer. It's been a challenge to handle my nerves and Fiona's tension, but after the Beland dressage show I thought we were on track to get below 40. I was so excited when I was walking toward ring three, seeing that it was far from the trailers and had a quieter warm-up and it was just perfect and . . .

Was that a marching band warming up?

Oh yeah. It was. There was a football game across the street, complete with tailgating and vending and a marching band and a cannon. You know it's going to be an interesting dressage test when a cannon goes off during your warm up. The horses in turn out next to the ring were also jumping and bucking. There's a certain point when you just accept that it's going to be a rough test and you just try to hold it together. We managed a 42.5, which is actually progress for us, but was 14th out of 15. It's dispiriting to have one of your better dressage tests and be completely out of reach of a placing, but there are somethings you just can't school for. Like marching bands.

Today was stadium and cross country. And rain. Oh, did it rain. It rained all day, piling up on top of a really wet end to summer. The stadium jump course was riding very, very rough with eliminations in Preliminary and rails flying in Training. Being my first Novice, those maxed out Novice fences made me a bit nauseous. The footing looked dicey to me. The ride two ahead of me was eliminated, the next one had a stop and slid into a fence. I went in and told myself to just jump around because I was already at the bottom of the standings. It wasn't like I could go down any further. The course rode just as rough for Novice as the other divisions and after pulling two rails (rider error due to nerves over the footing), I actually moved up one place.

Fences 11 and 12 for Novice, water to the log

Cross country was one big water obstacle. Fortunately there were a lot of paths on raised dirt that could take a lot of water. I unleashed Fiona on the stretches where the footing was good, asking her to stretch and really gallop out for me and she loved it. I felt like I was riding a finished horse rather than my green bean when she locked on to fences and just took me to them with little management from me. Sections of the footing were coming apart, so we trotted those, but she was able to more than make up for those sections when the footing was good. She roared over the finish line with thirty seconds to spare. That moved us up to eighth place and got her yet another pretty ribbon.

So as to my question about whether or not she's ready to be a Novice horse? The answer is an unequivocal YES. Her dressage was tense, but that's the same score she got at Beginner Novice so the level isn't the issue. Her stadium had a mature, controlled feel to it that she has only picked up in the last two months. The height clearly was not an issue. The cross country was where she truly shined. She never hesitated and dragged me over the one fence that had me unnerved even though I wasn't particularly sure this was a good idea.

I have a Novice horse now.

My cheeks hurt from grinning this much.

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