Longview Horse Trials 2014

What a weekend!! I am going to be all smiles for quite a while!

But let's start at the beginning (or the last blog post). This winter, I made it my main objective to work on dressage. We need more bend. We need to lower his head. We need to make sure he's not too rounded while still being on the bit (quite the challenge for a saddlebred). And we need to generally be more comfortable in the dressage ring.

We worked on bending. We worked on trotting. We worked on turns on the forehand. We worked on keeping the reins short enough. We worked on sitting the canter. We worked on riding 20 meter squares. We worked on transitions (lots and lots of transitions). We worked on changing direction/changing bend. We took 2 lessons with Emily Wagner, a dressage rider from this area who is only 25 (she is absolutely amazing!), who gave us some pointers for maintaining the headset and leg yielding, among other things. We worked on dressage before every jumping lesson we had... Until dressage was running through our veins and became kind of fun!

So we signed up for the Longview Horse Trials here in Kansas City. We were ready. Our dressage had improved immensely and our jumping was also improving (dressage has a funny way of influencing jumping). Anyway, we decided to stick with beginner novice, so that we could have a successful first show of the season and a good confidence boost. The past week has been filled with tack cleaning, trips to the tack shop, & express orders from Dover, as well as more consistent time in the saddle with jumping lessons Sunday and Wednesday and a dressage lesson Thursday.

Coco had Friday off, but I had to go to work for a half day (to pay for my expensive habit). After work, I went to the barn to finish cleaning tack and start packing up the trailer for Saturday. Around 2:30, we left to go to the show grounds to walk our cross country course. I walked the course twice, once with my trainer, Chris, and once by myself. When I was by myself, I used this nifty new app on my phone, CourseWalk, to take pictures of the jumps and use GPS to get a digital map of the course. After we walked the course, we went back to the barn to bathe and braid our horses. Then, I met up with my friends from Columbia who had also come to the show. Abby brought Lena. And Kris, my trainer in Columbia, had brought a bunch of people. They're catching the eventing bug!!! Yay!!! After we ate dinner, they needed to go back to the barns to braid a couple horses, so I went with them. It ended up being a really late night. Abby and I got back to my house around midnight. 6 am would come quick!

Saturday morning, I headed to the barn. We loaded horses and we were off. Lindsey rode first. She and her horse, Mikey, had a beautiful ride! They got a 25.5 dressage score, the lowest of the day. Coco and I warmed up well. He looked happy and relaxed. We went into our test, and it went pretty well. Now that I know more about dressage, it was easier to see where we messed up. We need to work on our geometry, our corners, and maintaining bend. But we actually got a few 8's!!! We ended up with a 34.0, putting us in 5th place in a field of about 12. Cross country was next, but we had a while. I put Coco in the trailer to relax and eat hay and headed out to the cross country course to see some of my friends ride.

When it was time, we saddled up for cross country. Our colors? Straight white. Except that I was wearing a teal/aqua shirt. It looked really sharp! We warmed up well. Coco was very excited and moving great. We only needed to take about 6 warm up jumps before we were ready to go. Coco felt fantastic. The course rode really well. The 2 jumps I was concerned about were the exact 2 jumps he looked at- there was a brand new wood table (Coco hates new wood) and a flower box at the end of the course filled with TONS of bright flowers. He looked at both, but did fine after I put some leg on him. But the time!!!! EVERYONE was doing circles before the last fence. It was really strange. Chris, my trainer, told me that if I needed to do things to slow down, I should do them in the back field, not right before the last fence. Well, I literally trotted jumps 11-13 and still was only at 4:00 when I went over jump 15 (of 16 total). It was either I get time penalties for being under speed fault (4:24) or I circle before the last jump. I literally yelled for Chris not to be mad at me while I did my circle. Whoops! But we went double clear!!! Yay Coco!!! Our clear cross country round put us into 3rd place. After watching our final rider (who had to wait a while to start due to a slight hold up on the course after a rider fell), I went to dinner with the barn family, wrapped my horse in standing wraps, took a shower, and went to bed.

This morning was an earlier morning. The alarm clock went off at 5:30. We loaded the horses and were on the road to the show at 7. The stadium course was full of twists and turns. Lots of roll backs and tight turns. We would have to be on our game and thinking the whole time. My friends Lindsey and Lorna got to ride it first, the ended up 1st and 2nd in their division, respectively. They said that it rode well. Coco warmed up like a dressage horse. Chris said that if he had looked like that on Saturday, we would have gotten an even lower dressage score! He was totally relaxed over his warm up jumps. Apparently, this was boring. We went into the ring and the first thing he saw was the red and white circus tent just outside the ring! He had a total spaz attack! We worked through it and continued on with our course. But Coco had plans to book it around the course so quickly that I didn't even feel like there was time to think. About anything. He was going so fast! I just went with it. He's usually careful. He knows his stride. He's a smart horse. He just needed my help with the directions. We flew through the course, having only slight trouble at the second fence and at the jump that was right in front of the circus tent (nothing a little voice and crop encouragement couldn't handle). We went clear!!! Yay yay yay!!! We finished the event on our dressage score of 34.0! I couldn't have been happier. We ended up in 3rd place!

Here is our list of awards and honors for this weekend:
1) 3rd place in our division (Adult Beginner Novice B)
2) 2nd place Adult Team (with Lorna and Lindsey)
3) 1st place for low point saddlebred (there were 2, yes 2 others!)- we'll be getting our plaque in the mail
4) We qualified for the American Eventing Championships!!!!! You need 2 1st-5th finishes between July 8, 2013 and September 18, 2014, and with our 4th place finish at Catalpa last year, we qualify!!! How cool is that?!?!?!?! Actually, of the 5 people Chris was coaching, 4 of us qualified for AECs at this show!!

We got tons of compliments! Christ was very impressed with me and Coco in our second time showing with her. She was sitting next to another trainer during my stadium round who was complimenting my seat and hands and saying that I rode my horse well despite our obvious difficulties. And the scribe for my dressage round (who is an acquaintance through Pony Club), said that she could see an obvious improvement in my dressage since last fall when she had scribed for us. I was (and still am) all smiles!!!

This weekend was absolutely perfect!!!