Disappointment at AECs, Success at Heritage, and A Stupid Knee

So I’m going to be completely honest. I haven’t written in a while because I was embarrassed to admit that I was disqualified from AECs. However, if I want to keep up with my blogging, it is inevitable that I’ll have to share that experience as well as that of our last show of the year at Heritage and our winter endeavors. So get ready for a bumpy ride and a large blog, because there’s a lot to catch you up on!

American Eventing Championships
It was a dream to head to Texas with my barn. Lorna, Sam, and I were all planning on competing. Lorna and Sam went in 2013, so they knew the ropes. They would be competing novice. I was the rookie of the group competing beginner novice, and I was loving every minute of it. The atmosphere was phenomenal!  We got there on Tuesday so that we could spend the Tuesday and all day Wednesday watching other riders, acclimating our horses to the Texas-ness of it all, and shopping (of course!). My parents, who had just moved to Austin, were also planning on coming to watch us compete.

The advanced riders started their dressage on Thursday, and it was a real treat to see them all ride. Coco and I rode dressage on Friday afternoon around 2pm. It was a pretty good ride. We had had good warm up dressage schoolings in all the arenas and he was being really good as far as calmness while we were walking around the show grounds. I wasn’t worried. I was sure we would be middle of the pack after dressage, as usual. We ended up getting a 33.0, which is pretty good for us. It put us in a tie for 17th.

Saturday was cross country. I had walked the course 3 times and will admit that I was a little anxious. Some of the jumps looked really big and there was one line that was complicated going out of the first water. However, I knew that Coco would take care of me. The jumps themselves were nothing we hadn’t done before. We were definitely capable. Warm up went great. The warm up area was a bit hectic and we got weird striding to our first couple jumps, but after I calmed down, it seemed like everything would be fine. The course started out riding great. Jumps were easy and Coco wasn’t looking at anything. We were having fun. I was worried about time, though. We usually take cross country extremely fast and have to be careful not to get faster than speed fault time. However, because this was championships, the goal was to get as close to optimum time because that would be the determining factor in ties (which I had managed to find myself in). So throughout the course, I was more focused on my watch and my time than I typically would be. Everything was going well. I was coming into my jumps at just the right times. And then the weird line after the first water came. It rode well.  And the line after 7 rode well going to the 8th jump, a really big roll top that had seemed like it was maxed out and was the first jump of the course that really gave me any anxiety. Something went wrong as we approached. Coco tried to add a half stride and caught his front end on the jump, sending me over his right shoulder straight to the ground beyond the jump. I landed on my forehead and immediately started crying, not because I was in pain, but because I knew that my ability to complete the AECs was over. You can see all the fun here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f3VlGbB3H4. Looking back and talking to my coach and seeing the video, there is nothing I could have done to prevent this fall. It was one of those freak accidents that just happened. Our pace could have been more consistent, but that’s always something we need to work on.  However, Coco obviously took care of me. After he tripped, he obviously took great care in where he was placing his feet so as not to step on me. And when I was on the ground, he patiently stood and waited for me to gain my composure and get up. He’s a great horse who clearly was looking out for me.

It was really upsetting to continue the rest of the weekend in Texas, but being unable to compete. I found myself frequently breaking into random tears of disappointment. However, we will definitely be back next year to redeem ourselves. It took a couple jumping lessons and a cross country school at Longview when we got home for me to regain my confidence and trust in Coco, but we came back better than ever and headed to Heritage Park in October.

Heritage Park Horse Trials
After much deliberation with Chris and soul searching, I decided to maintain course and compete novice for the first time at Heritage Park. The cross country course is usually pretty straightforward and we had schooled most of it earlier in the summer. I was nervous, but very excited. My barn mates were awesome about helping me through my nerves, too. We had a lot of people competing at this event. Lindsey, Lorna, Sam, and I were all going to go novice. And Taylor was going to do beginner novice. Chris would have her hands full. We would be hauling to the show grounds every day and went on Friday night to ride a schooling dressage test. It went really well. Coco was too collected in his canters, jigged at the free walk, and we needed more bend (as usual), but it gave us some good things to make sure we did correctly the next day, for the real competition.

This is Sophie. Isn't she a cutie???

Lorna and I rode dressage on Saturday morning at almost exactly the same time. Jackie came to watch. I even brought Sophie (my new puppy) to watch and get acclimated to the show environment (hopefully she will be a good horse show puppy). I recommended that Chris watch Lorna, seeing as I got my best dressage score ever at Catalpa earlier this year when she didn’t see me ride. Superstition. My ride was good. The judge was the same one I had had the night before and she said that the ride looked a lot better. We got the same score, though, a 31.3. (Here's the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTAhkCnY2U4&list=UUkmV2MiImdwXP6TtlR2wX2Q)

Cross country was that afternoon. I was really excited. I tried not to overthink it, though. The last event when I had tried that whole thinking thing hadn’t gone so well. My plan was just to go clear and not worry too much about the time. We were absolutely perfect. The pace of novice is absolutely perfect for us and everything rode great! No need to be concerned about the speed fault time. We had a blast and ended the afternoon on a double clear cross country, a crazy eventing high that can’t be described, and a new 4th place position.

Stadium jumping was Sunday morning. The course reminded me a lot of Queeny Park, so I was sure there would be a lot of rails dropped and a lot of movement among the positions. Our warm up was pretty disastrous. Partly because the organizers had decided that the Novice A and B groups would go together in reverse order, so it was really confusing because Lindsey was supposed to be a whole group of people ahead of me, but I actually ended up having to ride before her because I was in a lower position. Our warm up was rushed and the warm up area was hectic at best. We got through it, though. Coco got into the arena and instantly knew his job. He was really good, until the last line. I think I took too long of a line getting to it, giving him too much time to think about it, and then pushed him too hard in the middle of it. (Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYmyWgI_Xpg&list=UUkmV2MiImdwXP6TtlR2wX2Q). We ended up knocking both rails, which dropped us down to 5th place. Still not too bad, though, considering that was our first novice event ever. I was very happy.  Coco was very happy. Chris was very happy. Overall it was a great show season and Coco deserved some time off.

Show Season and Beyond
Coco got 2 full weeks off after Heritage. We rode in a dressage lesson with Amanda at Willow Creek and then he got some more time off for Thanksgiving and bad weather. We had a meeting discussing goals and schedule for next year. The plan is to go all novice (and hopefully qualify for AECs again) and then maybe do training at Heritage in 2015.

And then I broke myself. Sad panda. I tore my lateral meniscus of my right knee when I was playing board games with some friends and went from sitting on the floor to standing. I had to have surgery (lateral meniscus repair) and have been out of the saddle for about 4 weeks as of this blog. I’ve recently been depressed thinking of all the things I’m still having trouble doing and all the riding I’m missing out on. I don’t think I’d be able to bend my knee enough at this point to mount or even put my feet in the stirrups. However, this is probably the best time of the year for this to happen. No shows and no need to do any crazy conditioning. Hopefully my physical therapy and recovery goes well and I’ll be back in the saddle in no time. My friend Jackie has been riding Coco when she has the chance and plans to continue riding him. Chris and Lindsey also said they would help with lounging him and picking out his feet until I can get out more often. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how things go from here on out.

This last photo is me, my pup Sophie, my friend Jackie who was a huge support at Heritage and during all my competitions this year, and my boyfriend Matt, who's been super supportive of everything I do. I can't wait until he can come see me and Coco compete.