Longview Horse Trials 2015

The weatherman said it was supposed to rain all weekend, in addition to raining all last week. Good thing Coco and I had dropped down to beginner novice and some wet ground wouldn't be able to hold us back.

Lorna and Sam were doing their first Training level event & it was very exciting for them! Coco got his bath Friday afternoon (he wasn't at all excited about it) and then Friday evening, we all went out to walk our cross country courses. The BN course was pretty straightforward with no real huge questions on the jumps. The toughest part would be remembering the course, because there were lots of S turns and U turns this time around. I even got lost the first time I walked it, going from jump 8 to 15 without thinking too much. It was nice, though, because the turns made it easy to add or subtract time depending on how we were doing at that point on course.

5:30am on Saturday morning came quickly. We loaded Coco up and headed to Longview. Lorna and Sam did their dressage and Coco decided that the morning would best be spent freaking out. He needed someone to hold his hand as he hand grazed all morning, stubborn little jerk. He whinnied and screamed the whole time I braided him at the trailer and then we spent lots of time grazing by the huge yellow tent at the edge of the arena that has horse-eating things jumping out of it.

We started getting ready about an hour early and had a nice long warm up, first by the trailers and slowly making our way toward the arena. My friend Stephanie had come to watch and it was exciting to share horse show life with her! Lindsey had to coach me before dressage, because Chris was busy with Lorna and Sam at the cross country warm up. Good thing we had plenty of time to devote to warming up, because it took Coco a full 45 minutes to relax. When we went down center line, everything felt like it had come together. Coco didn't even look at the scary tent and was bending. We could have had more impulsion (which is rare) and his free walk to medium walk transition could have been smoother, but overall, it felt like a good round. We ended up in a 3-way tie for fifth. Oh no, I was always worried I would be in a situation like this when I would need to actually get close to optimum time on cross country. 

Sam and Lorna both had successful cross country rounds. Lorna went clear with time penalties only. Sam had one refusal at the corner, which she said was her fault, and also had some time penalties. After she brought him back from his bath, though, he had a huge wind puff on his left front leg. Chris wrapped it and they were going to keep an eye on it overnight. Apparently, it got worse and he wasn't wanting to put any weight on it later that night. Sam decided to scratch from stadium in hopes that he would improve.

We had some Jazzy B's for lunch and hung out with Steph for a bit before I went to get ready for cross country. Again, we had a long walk warm up. I was nervous. I don't know if it was because of our experience at Holly Hill or because of something else, but I had the biggest lump in my stomach making it difficult to breathe, eat, and warm up. I kept feeling like I was going to throw up. As we started cantering and jumping, the butterflies went away and everything was ok. We went out on course and had a blast. I kept thinking of the course as a slow jaunt through the countryside instead of going for speed. It was actually quite enjoyable. Instead of knowing where my splits were, I picked 2 jumps with plenty of space in front of them where I could do circles or trot a bit and I picked a time that I wanted to try to go over these jumps. That seemed to work better for me than having to do math while I was on course. We ended up coming in within 10 seconds of optimum time. We weren't exhausted. And Coco was in better condition than he's ever been coming off a cross country course. It worked out really well, and we ended up breaking the tie and moving up to 3rd!

Coco got a quick bath and we were headed back to the barn as quickly as possible so we could try to make it to Lindsey's graduation at 6pm in Independence. Chris took care of Coco and let him play with his buddies in the pasture for about an hour while I rushed home to shower and change. After getting lost, we made it to watch Lindsey walk across the stage, like a boss. Then we went out to dinner with her family. It was about 11pm by the time we got back to the barn, and we decided that Coco would be alright without standing wraps, seeing as we would be taking them off in about 7 hours (and I was in a dress, so wrapping would be difficult- way to think ahead!).

After about 6 hours of sleep, I made my way back to the barn. I took all my dressage and cross country stuff out of the trailer and we fed the horses. Then we were off. Once we got to the park, Coco was perfectly content to sit in the trailer by himself and munch on his hay. We watched Lorna's stadium round. Scotty was slow and wasn't able to get himself over the first jump, plowing into it. I think Lorna got confused as she circled at the walk a few times waiting for them to rebuild the jump. Finally, she had a conversation with the judge and continued for the second fence. He jumped the second and third jumps fine, but lacking impulsion, and he skidded to a stop at the 4th fence. She was asked to leave the course. Apparently the judge eliminated her when she went over to talk to her for providing assistance and allowed her to attempt to finish the course as schooling.

As usual, I got ready excessively early and spent a long time just walking around and getting Coco used to the show environment again. We found a nice quiet (and minimally muddy) place to warm up before we went into the crazy muddy warm up ring to do a couple of jumps. Coco was taking everything  like the champ that he is and we had no trouble, other than taking long spots (typical). We went into the ring and Coco was amazing. I was having trouble waiting for him to the fences. I dropped him in front of the 4th fence and he told me he was going to refuse the 5th fence about 5 strides out. His canter was just cruising more and more to the left and my upper body came down to the right side of his shoulder. As a last ditch effort, with the ground getting closer and closer, I turned his head toward the jump and squeezed him as hard as I could in an attempt to avoid a refusal. He scooped to the right to pick me up and took me over the fence, like that was what he had been planning on doing the whole time. I honestly had to compose myself, because I should have been in the mud. My horse saved me in every way a horse can possibly safe his rider. (Check out the  video here... https://youtu.be/lNDpiWdRyZU)  He really does sleep on my pillow. We finished the course and just kept getting faster and faster with me apparently unable to hold my upper body up. The last jump was good and I walked out of the ring thinking that I had just survived the impossible. Unfortunately (for her, but fortunate for us), the girl who had been in 1st place overnight dropped a rail at the first jump, and we ended up moving up to 2nd place! With this, we are again qualified for AECs in September! We can redeem ourselves!! Yay!!!

It was an amazing weekend. And Chris said we can move up to novice for Queeny and Catalpa this year, which will be awesome, because then the jumps at AECs will look like they're tiny (hopefully).



So after 2 weeks of intense working out (2x/day) and riding (Coco got 1 week off and then we did 2 galloping rides & 3 dressage/hacks the next week), it was time for another test. This time, it was the Mid-America Combined Training Association's One-Day event at Heritage Park in Olathe, KS. We entered the BN division so that we could see how we might fare against similar competition at the MCPC Longview HT on May 9-11, next week.

Chris brought her horse, Stuey, to this show! It was going to be their first show this year and they had a phenomenal cross country school the day before, jumping all the starter fences with confidence and grace! I watched her dressage and he looked pretty good. He was a little strong and spooky, but nothing too bad. It was their second outdoor ride this year and their first judged test this year.

Our dressage went fairly well. Coco was very anxious about the boxcars that were sitting near the dressage ring. Apparently boxcars eat horses, but only when they're in the dressage arena. They were perfectly fine when we were going around the outside of the ring before our test and when we walked past them as soon as we got to the park. But when you're in the ring, everything changes! He was kind of a crazy man when I first got on, just very excited and checking everything out and generally ignoring me, but he wasn't terrible. As we continued to warm up, he started to really relax and come down in his neck and start listening to me. During our test, he brought his head up and kept his eye on the boxcars whenever we were in that corner of the ring, but he mostly stayed relaxed and listening to me. He was a little tense as we went from our free walk to medium walk (typical... if anyone has recommendations to improve this, I'm definitely open to suggestions), but other than that, it was a really nice test. We walked out of the ring and were met with congratulatory praises from my trainer (Chris). When we got our test back, it was awesome, we had 8's for the entrance and final halt and salute and all 7-8s for our rider marks to score a 27.25. Not too shabby! It put us in 5th place after dressage.

Coco relaxed a bit while we walked cross country. The course was pretty straightforward. Nothing too far off anything that we usually did at the Heritage Park HT in October.
When I got back on, he was a little crazy again. He knew what was next, for sure, and he loves his job. We spent about 10-15 minutes walking around the warm up area working on being calm. Then we did our typical warm up (2-2-2s) around the warm up area while the starter horses were finishing up their courses. Chris was anxious about the stadium jumps, thinking that they had been set too high for a starter division. She lost a little bit of confidence when she did her warm up and was dropping him before the fences. She decided to scratch, but she let Sam ride Stuey for the stadium course in hopes to train him and see how he would do with the height and pressure. He did really good. He jumped a few jumps like a deer, but overall, he seemed to enjoy his job. Coco's round was pretty good. The first couple jumps were kind of sticky (my fault. I get nervous and don't let him have the speed he needs to get over the jumps), but as we gained confidence and impulsion, he started doing a lot better. We went double clear.

Time for XC! But first... water!!! I chugged about half of my Nalgene bottle! And we were off (after a tiny protest from Coco who didn't want to leave his buddies). The course was a breeze and Coco thought he was a real live race horse. He was FLYING!!! I was going with it though, because it was fun! Coco didn't look at anything and took all the jumps like he was a champ and I was actually maintaining my galloping position without being sore or out of breath (yay!!). We got 3 jumps from home and still had a minute before speed fault time, so we had to trot an excessive amount before finishing up the course. We came in about 15 seconds over speed fault. What a champ! We maintained our position in the pack and ended up in 5th place and with lots of confidence going into the Longview event next weekend.

This week will be filled with working out (and maintaining a healthy diet) for me and rest & relaxation for Coco. He clearly knows and loves his job, I just need to be fit enough to be able to keep up with him. If Longview goes well (and ideally, if we can qualify for AECs), we might move up to novice for Queeny, but we shall see. Right now, I'm going to try to live in the moment doing all I can to have fun (and do well) at the events and enjoy the time I get to spend with such a phenomenal friend of mine, my pony, Mr. Coco Bean!