Ok I finally have everything together to do a full recap of our beginner novice debut at the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy! The bottom line? We outstripped our goal of completing the competition and had a fabulous time doing it. This level is definitely challenging for us - but at no point did I feel over-faced or like we were in over our heads. There's work to be done, yes, but I feel prepared.
|does this pic kinda make isabel look like she has two heads? lol|
I'm pretty sure Isabel knew exactly what was up the moment I brought her in from her field at 5:30am. She tucked right into her special breakfast (easy keeper mare usually only gets fed at dinner time) and hay while I cleaned her up. Then it was onto the trailer with Wick and off we went at 6am. A little over an hour later we unpacked at Loch Moy and the horses settled in with the hay and grass. Wick was a little bit on high alert - but Isabel was her usual professional self. Good mare!
Loch Moy had four dressage arenas set up - three side by side in this maaasssssive arena with a pretty bonkers sea of riders warming up; and the fourth in a separate arena on the other side of a small lane.
I was assigned to that fourth ring - which also had its own much quieter warm up - score!! I mean, not that it really matters for Isabel bc she is used to arena traffic and is typically indifferent to horses around her. But I still appreciated the relative quiet (tho perhaps it was lookier with some construction equipment right next door).
Isabel warmed up really well - straight to work like a very good girl. So I tried to keep it pretty easy with some trotting to get her loose and moving, mixing in 20m circles and leg yielding and serpentines. Then a couple canter transitions (including maybe our best EVER!), and then a few practices of the trotting diagonal followed by the right turn then canter transition and 20m canter circle.
|dear emma: please sit down.|
dear isabel: please don't ever change!
I paid really close attention to our inside bend (through the shoulders, Emma!) on the circles and it paid off big time. Our geometry was maybe not quite as good while I'm getting the feel for this, but the movement was better. I think it's a worthwhile trade off for now, and the geometry will come in time. I also really tried to start all our transitions (particularly down) with my thighs and seat and it seemed to make a big difference.
Oddly, leaving the ring I didn't have the same feeling as last week when I just *knew* we'd hit a new personal record score. But I felt really good about it - like we did the test justice. And when I ran into Dan, who was there coaching other students, I told him it was a great test for us - still had our typical bobbles but was an excellent representation of our current level of training. So I was blown away when I saw the score. Seriously. Was not expecting that!
Tho I tell myself not to dig too deep into it, and that each judge has their own typical way of scoring. This test's 26.8 put me in fourth, just like last week's 35.0. So I'm considering them relatively equivalent efforts - tho there were some distinct improvements.
(please forgive the videographer's occasional shakes - she was flying an OTTB kite while simultaneously filming. nothing major was missed from the test tho)
After my dressage we set the horses back up on the trailer (they'd probably be fine tied to the trailer in our absence but I always kind of worry that it's bad form to leave a horse tied at a show unattended...) to do our course walks.
We were really surprised (and not in a good way) when the ride times showed that we'd be jumping at exactly the same times - meaning B's intro division had it's own courses. This was a real disappointment bc obviously we wanted to watch each other... but sadly it was not to be. But at least I had time to walk her course with her before she needed to get ready for dressage.
|Wick was a little high but they had a really solid event - a first for both of them!|
Then after her dressage we had a little less than an hour until our stadium times. It was actually kind of fun getting ready at the same time - and it certainly resolved the whole puzzle of 'what do you do with one horse while the other is jumping that won't make it get crazy nerous?'
|of course isabel never gets nervous. she's a pro|
|do we look ready?!?|
Then it was off to stadium warm up. Isabel knew exactly what was up - and that we had transitioned from fancy prancing to jumping all the things!! She warmed up well - and I tried to repeat last week's warm up exactly: trot the X, canter the X, canter the vertical, canter the oxer, and be done.
Tho I ended up adding a third pass over the X when we really whiffed a distance. Oops. And our oxer jump wasn't great - Izzy rubbed the rails a bit, but I felt like maybe that'd be a good last feeling for her going into the ring, like she'd remember to pick her feet UP more haha.
|side note: i am kinda digging this braiding arrangement. since it's looser than a typical running she didn't shake it aroud as much and it stayed neater through the day. i might stick with it - any thoughts?|
We found mostly good distances to everything except for the jump on the short end of the ring that Isabel would have been blameless for refusing after I totally buried her - but she jumped it cleanly anyway. Good mare!
The lines rode about how I expected - the diagonal in a super forward 6 strides that I failed to organize after (thus almost eating the aforementioned short side end jump), and I *think* we added a chip stride for seven down the other long side tho I honestly can't remember.
All I know is that I was riding somewhat aggressively - which makes for kinda hilarious pictures bc the face I make while clucking looks like some terrible stretched-face grimace. Oops lol!
But when I remembered to squeeze my legs from hip to heel (and jam that heel down somewhat defensively) everything went fine and dandy.
I was perhaps a bit behind Isabel's motion - as evidenced by some of the pictures - and not really giving much of a release.... That really REALLY needs work. But for now all I can say is that Isabel's a very good horse for tolerating it and jumping well all the same.
But in any case - all the jumps were still standing when we crossed the finish line - and the spectators all looked somewhat amused (Izzy is always a fan favorite!). So I'm calling it a success!
And Interestingly - all horse and rider pairs in my split went clear through stadium. It turned out that cross country was much more influential - and we were not spared haha. Details tomorrow!
Also - all jumping photos from today and tomorrow are by GRC Photo. They caught so many awesome moments and I'm thrilled with the package I purchased. Definitely check out their trailer if you ever see them at a show! You can view the whole Loch Moy gallery here (requires entering email address to view).