Queeny Park and USPC Championships 2014

I forgot to post an entry after our adventures at Queeny Park!!! How could I?!?!

Well here's the long and the short of Queeny Park in Saint Louis... We warmed up pretty well for dressage, but I was really nervous. I get nervous, but this was more nervous than usual. I forgot my stock tie and my bridle number and was freaking out a bit, feeling like a rookie eventer. We went into the ring and when I started my canter work, I started freaking out that I wasn't doing the correct test. I kept thinking "This is coming up too quickly, but surely they would ring a bell or blow a whistle or something to let me know if I'm doing the wrong test, right?!?" It totally threw me off and we ended up with a 40.5 in dressage... definitely not our best and I believe we were in 12th place. Cross country came around and the skies opened up during the novice divisions, sending everyone into a panic, causing one of the younger riders with our barn to be stuck at the start box in a lightning storm, and transforming the grass on which the stalls were sitting to become a foot of squishy mud. As the sun started to come out, we were able to get to cross country, warmed up well, and were the first beginner novice team to try out the course. It rode great and we ended up with 0 jump penalties & 0 time penalties. He didn't really look at anything, it rode really nicely, and the footing was actually decent given the recent weather. We moved up to 10th. He was an absolute crazy pony when I got on him for stadium jumping. He couldn't stand still and we had to constantly be walking to keep his focus. Warm up went well, but waiting for our turn and waiting until it was a good time to warm up were difficult for both of us with several mini rears and horse-initiated side passes. The course was hilly and very technical. Everyone in our class had at least one rail (except for 1 person), including us. It was unfortunate, but given everyone else's mistakes, it moved us all the way up to 5th! Yay!

We got about a month break and then we headed to The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY! It was the coolest experience ever to pull the trailer with my horse on it into the KHP. I never thought we'd show here and can only image all the top eventers and riders in general who have shared these stalls, parking spaces, and arenas with us! Lorna and I were the midwest team for Horsemasters with the United States Pony Club. There were 6 horsemasters total: 3 of us in the beginner novice division, 2 in novice, & 1 in training. It was an awesome experience to do all the horse management associated with pony club, and it was also quite exhausting! You are constantly busy... if you're not cleaning a stall or cleaning tack, you're emptying water buckets or cheering on teammates or feeding or walking your horse... and you're constantly being judged on your ability to do these things and your safety & judgement while doing them. We also had several kiddos from our pony club competing, and we made it very clear that they would be the priority during this week. We arrived on Monday evening after about a 12 hour drive (including an extended stop where the ponies got out of the trailer for walks) and spent about 2 hours running around trying to set things up and get situated. It was hectic! Tuesday was the beginning of the horsemanship competition, but we were able to get a quick dressage ride & hack in before judging started at noon. Wednesday was formal day (they judge your horse's turnout and your turnout before you go to show) and dressage day. Samantha (one of the girls in our pony club) had her dressage test at the exact same time as me but on a completely different side of the park, so I was on my own for dressage. We warmed up well, working on suppling and listening, as well as transitions. I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself that I know this test and it's no big deal, and we rode the test well! I was a bit unhappy with my geometry during my canter circles and my transition to trot after our free walk, but the judge must have thought we were decent because we got a 34.5, putting us in 1st place in our division. Thursday was cross country day, and we were at the end of the day (4:30pm). Also, my coach was riding her dressage freestyle at the same time, so again, I'd be on my own (except that this time Lorna could coach me). We started out a bit strung out for our jumps with me jumping ahead and then I started singing the song "I'm Ready" by AJR and we found our rhythm. The course rode great! Coco was even a bit slow (I think he was pooped after all the traveling- we kept finding him laying down in his stall with no motivation to get up), so we were actually closer to optimum time than we usually are. The vet box was interesting- Coco's TPRs were VERY high after we finished, but he recovered within the first 5 minutes. I think his respiration was 112! Woah, buddy. Chill. Pill. But it was an awesome experience to see how the other horsemasters worked together to take care of me and Coco after an exhausting XC run. It really solidified that eventing CAN be a team sport. Friday was stadium day, and again, I didn't ride until 2:45pm, so there was a lot of sitting around and getting nervous. We spent the morning on walks around the stadium ring (getting used to the motor home, the crowds, and the food trucks), but when I got on him, everything suddenly became a big deal and he couldn't stand still. His anxiety was making me nervous and we spent a lot of time trotting up and down a nearby gravel road before we could start officially warming up. He eventually chilled out so that we could trot on a long rein. Jumping warm up went well (except that I was EXHAUSTED- my quads hurt with every stride of two-point) and then it was our turn to ride. Everyone was concerned about the last line... it walked as either a collected 6 or an extended 5 stride to a perfect 2 stride. We decided that we would go for the 6. However, I was so concerned about that line and tired as the course neared the end, that I forgot to ride correctly to the bending line right before it and was leaning on Coco's forehand as we approached the second fence, so he refused. We circled and he was fine the second time around and still made the time, but we ended up with 4 penalty points, bumping us from 1st to 2nd. Whatever, red is still cool! :)

Saturday we switched stalls for festival education, which was crazy, because we had to move 4 horses and bedding and strip the stalls they had been in. We figured out a good system using a golf cart and a tarp. The ponies got Saturday off. They deserved it. That night, we watched a clinic with Lendon Gray (dressage4kids.com), which was very interesting, considering she sounded exactly like my trainer Chris in what she was telling her students. On Sunday, I rode with Lori Hoos in the morning for dressage. We worked a lot on lateral work, like leg yielding along the rail and from centerline to the rail, getting Coco to be on the bit without flexing too much, and transitions. We rode with another rider who rides training level eventing & wants to move to preliminary and Coco was showing up her horse. Lori said that her horse has the body for dressage but isn't a team player and Coco is not traditionally a dressage type horse but is definitely a team player and wants to please. That was cool to hear. Then, in the afternoon, we rode stadium jumping with Bobby Dreyer. The emphasis was rhythm and at the end, he had us doing some fun roll-back jumper turns and they were actually going really well. Monday morning, we rode cross country with a national examiner named Cheryl Gaebel with a group of riders who were mostly novice. She emphasized rhythm, counting, and keeping the rhythm through water and over fences (again, sounds kinda like Chris). Coco did great! He jumped all the novice questions without even blinking an eye and he was totally game for whatever I pointed him at (and to think, I started the morning nervous about XC). She said that it was easy to see that Coco makes me more confident and I make him more confident on cross country, and she was telling people that it's obvious that we're in tune with each other and make a good team. Then Monday afternoon, we had a ground training clinic in the Alltech arena. I had heard about this clinic and seen Chris and her horse Stuart play with walking over mattresses, bridges, through pool noodles,and over teeter-totters, and I wasn't quite sure how Coco would handle it. He did fantastic!!! Again, I think it might be because he was tired, but he walked over the mattress after only minimal resistance, walked over bridges like he'd done that his whole life, walked through pool noodles with only minimal anxiety, and did it all again with me on his back! It was awesome! We traveled back on Tuesday with another 12 hour trailer ride and minimal traffic in Louisville, avoiding rush hour in all other cities. It was a pretty perfect pony excursion. Returning to work on Wednesday was really hard!!

Next up: Catalpa Corners next weekend (August 2-3).