We loaded up the horses, stopped at Sonic, dropped Chris's horse (Stuart) off at Iron Horse, and headed to Heritage. We got there around 3:00 and I had to ride my practice dressage test at 3:40. I immediately started tacking up and getting ready and got on around 3:15. Coco and I had a beautiful warm-up, but as soon as I went down centerline, nothing was going right for us. Our corners and bend were great, but he was pretty over-flexed (story of my life with a saddlebred) and tense. We ended up with a 37.0, but hopefully we got all the kinks out and would have a better test when it really mattered on Saturday morning.
We walked the cross country course, which seemed like it would be challenging. It looked like there were a lot of series of jumps with fun jumper-type turns followed by longer stretches to allow for some fun gallops. The course was definitely different than it had been in previous years, which was good! We got confused about one of the jumps (jump 6 had an option for the championship division vs. regular division, which we initially walked as an awkward line), which I didn't catch until the second walk-through. During my second course walk, I saw Amanda Pezold (a trainer from Fulton, MO who I rode with for a little bit in 2011), who chatted with me about Coco and our recent plans to possibly retire him soon as well as offering that I look at a horse she knew of who might be a good match with me. After the course walk, we fed horses and headed up for the night relatively early. Sophie (the pup) and I headed home and got to bed early for a horse show night.
We woke up early on Saturday morning and headed out to the showgrounds (it's about a half hour from my house). I fed, cleaned stalls, caught up with Lindsey (who was there to braid horses), and topped off water as I waited to watch Kris Maloney (well, now Wallace... another former trainer) ride her saddlebred in the Training division. I started to braid Coco's mane as I waited for Lorna's ride at 9:05. The dressage rings were running late and by the time I got back to the barn, I had to turn Coco's braids into buttons, put in studs, tack up, and change my clothes by 11am. I didn't quite have time to get everything done and succumbed to the pressure, asking Chris to help me with studs. I guess I didn't account for enough time for everything! I'm not used to putting in studs for dressage... yep, I'm gunna go ahead and blame that. Anyway, we got it all done with enough time to give Coco plenty of warm up before our dressage test at 11:59.
Again, Coco had a beautiful warm-up. Everything went really well and he was really loose and happy and relaxed. And again, as I went down centerline, he tensed up. The whole test was a fight. Our bend was decent, but our rhythm wasn't consistent, we had trouble on the left lead canter, and may have jigged at bit at the medium walk after the free walk. I think I just tense up as we go down centerline and cause him anxiety instead of just relaxing like I do in warm up. Apparently the judge was feeling lenient, though, and we ended up with a 36.5 putting us in 7th place in a class of 16. Top half, that's all I ever hope for after dressage.
I took Coco's studs out (for about an hour before I had to put them back in for cross country... who knows, maybe he'd want to lay down) and we relaxed a bit before I had to get ready for cross country. I used my old saddle (oh, that's right, I got a new saddle! It's a pretty 17.5 Pessoa monoflap!), because Chris's motto is always to limit changes on show day. This time, I had my time management skills a little better planned out and was able to get on and start warming up around 3pm for our 3:40 XC ride time. Warm up was great and the course rode beautifully. Coco was nice and consistent in his pace and very happy to jump whatever I pointed him at. I crossed the finish line and couldn't contain my excitement. I started crying. After all the excitement of AEC's, I was waiting to see what happened on XC to see if Coco still wanted to be an eventer or not. Apparently he really does love his job. I'm sure I just put too much pressure on myself and him at the stupid championships.
Anyway, I was on a total high after our clean cross country ride. I knew other people were having trouble on the course, but I had to wait until later that evening to figure out just how much we moved up, if at all. I gave Coco a bath and then Sophie and I ran out to cross country so we could watch Taylor and Duncan ride. I hung out by Lindsey and her dad (the EMT) so that we could hear the play-by-play of Taylor's ride over the radio. She started out great, but then had trouble at a couple of the more difficult questions on the course with 2 refusals (but somehow no speed penalties). We took care of the horses and fed. I ended up going to dinner with Kris and Abby (from my barn in Columbia), where I looked up scores after XC that showed that we moved up from 7th to 2nd after cross country! Almost half of our division had at least 1 refusal on cross country, and Coco and I had somehow managed to go completely clean. After catching up and celebrating a bit, we all headed back to the showgrounds where I fed beet pulp, wrapped Coco's legs, and walked the stadium course (in near-darkness). The saddlebreds (Coco, Dan, and Sassy) had a group meeting-of-the-minds as they grazed under the stars for a while before I headed home.
One more early morning of feeding, doing stalls, and taking care of water buckets before stadium day. I walked the stadium course once with Chris and once on my own. It definitely had a lot of tough questions with roll backs and tight turns, but Brody's courses are always pretty tricky. I knew we would have to take it seriously. Coco and I were the first group from our barn that would go. I got ready really early (as usual), but I figured that a long walk warm-up wouldn't hurt. I turned on the tunes, threw on the turtle backpack (filled with Coco's halter, water bottles, and the essentials), and started people-watching as I took some huge laps around the warm-up field. When our division started, we started doing our typical 2-2-2 warm up and started jumping a bit. Coco was great. If he took a wrong step, it was totally my fault for holding him back too much and not having the right pace headed to the jumps.
We were finally ready to go in and Coco was very ready. He was jumping like it was his job (oh wait... it is!) and made a difficult course look (and feel) easy. Everything rode great! We ended up going double clear. The worst we could possibly get was 2nd! Yay! After I walked out of the ring and headed toward my barnmates, I thought I saw the person who was supposed to go after me refusing the 1st jump out of the corner of my eye. I had to do a double-take. It was true! They had a refusal! We had moved up to 1st! How freaking exciting! We went in for our award ceremony (where we won a cooler! I've always wanted to win a cooler!) and victory lap. All our fellow competitors were awesome and kind and I love being able to show against them.
After several photo-ops and fondling over my Coco Bean, I put on his halter and we watched our barnmates. Taylor had an interesting, but effective, ride and ended up in 5th place. We walked our horses back where we untacked and started packing up the trailer. I grabbed some Jazzy B's and the pup and we headed back to the arenas to watch Lorna's ride. She was having a good weekend up until this point. She was sitting in 6th place in a tough Novice Championship division on a 32.0 dressage score and double clear XC ride. She went into the arena, circled like she was going to the first jump, and turned off of it to take another jump that was pointed on a similar diagonal but facing the opposite direction. She took the wrong jump! Poor Lorna has too many things going through her head. She was eliminated before she really got to jump anything.
We all packed up and headed out. We got back to the barn in Butler around 3pm and I was home and taking a nap by 4:30pm. Coco has had the whole week off (like I've totally, completely avoided going to the barn all week long), and we will be showing again at Longview next weekend (the 23-24th of October at Windmere Horse Trials).
What a whirlwind weekend! I'm so excited that Coco loves his job. And as a cherry on top, we're already qualified for next year's AEC's where we'll (hopefully) be able to finally redeem ourselves (third time is a charm, right?!?)!
PS- there is video of our dressage and stadium rounds, but apparently YouTube hates uploading things from my phone. I swear I've tried it about 25 times with no success.