That Thursday, Chris picked Coco up from the barn and we took him to Liberty, where we met Lorna, Sam, and Joan, the family that would be hauling the horses to Iowa. It was a 5 hour drive to Iowa City, but Coco had good company and so did I. We spent the trip playing Truth or Dare, talking horses, and just generally getting to know each other. We arrived at the show grounds after dark, got the horses settled and headed for the hotel.
The competition started Friday afternoon for those of us in the starter and BN divisions, just because of the number of riders entered. And they changed the order a bit for this event so everyone could do cross country on Saturday. So the lower divisions did dressage and stadium on Friday with cross country Saturday and the upper divisions did dressage and cross country on Saturday with stadium Sunday.
My parents came to this event! It was really great to see them. They're from Chicago and I don't get a lot of chances to go visit, so it's nice when we can meet half way.
Coco warmed up really well for dressage. As soon as we went into the arena, though, his head went to the sky, he was looking at everything, and it wasn't our best dressage test ever. We ended up with a 37.6 with lots of comments about needing more bend and suppleness. Whatever. We had stadium next and I knew we'd rock that. It was a tough course with a lot of turns on slippery grass (oh, I forgot to mention that it was misting at this point). As soon as I could finish a quick tack change, clothing change, and a couple warm up jumps, we went into the ring and Coco was absolutely perfect. Double clear as usual. What a rock star! Before cross country, we were sitting in 8th place.
Now all we had to do was wait until cross country on Saturday. We walked the course and it all seemed pretty straightforward. There were a couple fences that I would have to make sure I had his attention and kept him going forward, but nothing we couldn't handle. And very pretty. We walked the course several times. My dad even joined for a couple. And then we were ready to go.
Coco was awesome. He looked at the first fence but as soon as I put leg on and told him that this is fun, he was more than willing. The rest of the course went by in a flash! Coco was absolutely perfect. He hardly looked at anything and I was having so much fun that I didn't want to slow him down. We came across the finish line with .2 time penalties for being 1 second under the speed fault time. Whoops! We were just having too much fun!
Anyway, we finished in 4th place and I couldn't have been happier. There was a competitors party on Saturday night and it was nice to meet up with some of the other people I know in the eventing world, like my trainer Amanda from Fulton. We also took all the horses for a walk and took some group photos with the other girls I came with.
Once I started looking around at the show before we left and at pictures when I got home, I realized that Coco looked really skinny compared to the horses he was competing against. Clearly, he had proved that he deserved to be at this level, but he looked nearly emancipated compared to the horses he was around. And you know it's particularly bad when your parents, who know nothing about horses, comment on how skinny your horse is. I guess I hadn't noticed when I was comparing him to the other skinny horses at our barn. I had to do something about it. I felt like a bad pony mommy.
Chris offered for me to go look at her house to see if I wanted to move Coco to live with her. I went to check it out and totally fell in love. It helped that she's a trainer that I respect and would want to go to shows with, so even if just for convenience, moving to Chris's barn just made sense. Plus, she guaranteed that she'd be able to put weight on Coco before winter.
Judy, the barn manager, wasn't happy when we left, but I wasn't happy with how my horse was being treated (there was one night when he didn't have any hay in his stall at all). She even tried to say that Coco was skinnier when he moved there than he was when we left (which is absolutely not true, because I have photo evidence on the contrary). My friend Molly moved her horse, Hank, too.
So the next 3 months were filled with 3 meals a day, dressage shows, cross country schooling weekends, bonfires, pony club events, and making new friends. Coco has officially gained about 100 pounds since moving to Chris's barn. And he's still got about 200 to go. It'll take time, but I couldn't be happier with the direction we're headed.