So this is what WINNING feels like??

Catalpa Corners 2014 was phenomenal. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.

We had 4 horses going. Lorna took Scotty, Sam took Wish, Taylor took Duncan, and I was taking Coco in Chris's trailer. We left for Iowa City at 9am on Friday morning and arrived around 3pm. We set up the stalls, rode, ate pizza, and walked the cross country course (twice) all before dark (barely- my pictures of the jumps on CourseWalk are pretty dark). It's gotten to the point with cross country where beginner novice jumps seem small (I think that's a good thing) and the course looked really reasonable.

By the time I got back from cross country, Chris was almost finished braiding my horse (how nice!!). She had 3 braids left to finish when I got there. I was reprimanded for not taking longer to walk my course, because as soon as I got there, Coco followed the sound of my voice like a dog and wouldn't stand still for braiding anymore. I was banished. After everyone was finished with braiding, we all headed back to the hotel.

Chris and I took the early shift on Saturday morning because we wanted to watch preliminary dressage. Chris giggled as I played "I'm Ready" by AJR on repeat all the way to the show grounds. It was my Daniel Stewart cross country/pump up song. We didn't ride dressage until 2:03pm that afternoon, so the morning was spent watching my team members and helping where I could. Finally, I went down for my dressage test. Chris was coaching Sam for cross country (she was supposed to ride around 1pm, but they were running late because of a rider fall), so she wasn't available at that moment but I assumed she knew my time and would be over to help us warm up and watch my test when she could get away. We warmed up well, alternating 5 minutes of work and 5 minutes of walking and reviewing the test until it was my time to go into the ring. No one from my team was there. They must have been busy with cross country.

As I started trotting around the ring, I said good afternoon to the judge who said "All nine's, right?" I told him that he could go ahead and write that and then take a break while I rode the test, but that it was ultimately up to him. He said "we'll see." I rode my test and it felt really good. I was worried about my geometry, but I felt like I had Coco on the bit and our transitions were good and our bend was better than usual. However, I feel like whenever I think a test went well, I do horribly and when I think a test rode horribly, I end up doing well. I didn't have great expectations. After my halt and salute, I said "All 10's, right?" to the judge who said, "Well you did have a couple 9's." I freaked out and said "Really?!?!" His response: "Nope. Just kidding!" Not funny, judge. Not funny.

So I went back to the barn and took care of Coco. I started getting ready for cross country, considering we were supposed to go at 3:36pm. As I was getting ready, I looked at StartBox on my phone and it had me listed in first place with a 25.0 dressage. I didn't believe it. I thought it was a mistake on StartBox, didn't get my hopes up, and said I would look later to see what my real score was. Several minutes later, I checked again and sure enough, I was in 2nd place with a dressage score of 25.0. My goal was to get in the 20's!!!!! Welp, I guess it's time for a new goal! I called Chris and almost started crying I was so happy.

Time for cross country. I played my song ("I'm Ready") all the way to the warm up and while we did our 2-2-2s. Then we started jumping. Our first couple jumps had weird distances (pretty typical for us), but we were able to find our groove pretty quick. We jumped everything that was flagged, including the training level warm up cross country jump. We were totally ready. Coco found his stride almost immediately out of the start box. Coming to the third jump, there was a weird silo-looking thing next to it, so he was wiggly, but not resistant. As I came up to that jump, I saw Chris standing to the side. As we jumped it, I turned, looked at Chris, and yelled "WEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" The rest of the course rode really well. I honestly can't think of one jump that was difficult. At jump 11, my watch hit 3 minutes. Optimum time was 6:29 and speed fault was 4:38. I guess we had to slow down, but I just wanted to get over the ditch (12) with 7 strides to 13. After 13, we trotted. A lot. Enough to watch the girl in front of us have a refusal (we had been watching her have refusals all around the course though... tough break!). My watch hit 4 minutes right before jump 14 and I figured it would surely take us more than 38 seconds for 4 obstacles so we went for it. Coco was perfect. We crossed the finish line and then I remembered to turn off my watch. It said 5:03. I couldn't do anything more than hope and pray that we were over speed fault. I'm sorry, Coco and I aren't a 300mpm team. Lorna and Chris were there when we finished and helped cool Coco and me down. I felt like I was on top of the world!

Later that night, I found out that we didn't have any time penalties in cross country and the first place rider after dressage had had 4 refusals in cross country. I was in first place! How cool is that?!?! It was time to celebrate at the competitor's party, where they always have awesome food (and cornbread). It was nice to just hang out with our barn and catch up with some of the other people I knew in the eventing world. We walked horses, wrapped them, and headed back to the hotel.

Sunday morning, Chris and I took the early shift again so that we could watch prelim ride their stadium course. There were a lot of rails coming down and some people were having trouble making time. There was a lot of movement in prelim & training after stadium. I got Coco and we watched Lorna & Sam ride then went back to the barn to get ready. I was super early. Too early, so I got off him and let him hang out (he was falling asleep on me) until it was closer to our time to ride.

Warm up was not going well. I did not have high hopes. We couldn't find a distance or a pace to save our lives. I started singing my song and tuned everything out. As I went into the ring, I told myself that I was going to ride like I was riding in a lesson. Lindsey and I were competing to see who could have the prettiest ride and not knock any rails. After the first jump, Coco took over and did his job flawlessly. We had an awesome pace, good distances, and we actually looked like we knew what we were doing. Then on the last fence, we had a hard, hard rub and I freaked out. I looked back to see what had happened and freaked out when the rail was still sitting in the cups. I think we did it! I think we went double clear! I came out of the ring and saw Chris, who was grinning ear to ear. I knew we had done it. I cried. I bawled. And Chris took a video. And then I caught Chris crying. I was so happy that I couldn't contain myself. I'm sure I looked like the biggest nerd. They called the top 10 into the arena. Everyone had their ribbons except for me. They called my name and I was ecstatic! I turned to my fellow competitors and asked if they were ready for the victory gallop. I had never lead a victory gallop before!

We ended on our dressage score of 25.0 and went double clear in both cross country and stadium. And it wasn't an easy class with 22 competitors. I couldn't be more happy with Coco and myself for overcoming all the obstacles that have been holding us back.

A year ago, we had clawed our way up to 4th at this show. This year, we were defending first. It's amazing how much can change in a year's time. My horse doesn't look emaciated. We've figured out how to relax and bend in a dressage arena. And we can go to events like we know what we're doing. I can't thank my trainer enough for what she's done for me and my horse in the past year. It's been an amazing journey and I can't wait to see what's next.

Coming up next: American Eventing Championships in September. Then, we'll move to novice at Heritage Park in October! :) So excited!!!