Anyways, Coco has had a lot of the year off. We have done several schooling horse trials at Heritage Park in Olathe, KS, and Longview Horse Park in KC, MO. We've mostly taken the year off from recognized horse trials, though, so that Dieter could get his foot in the door. I've been mostly riding Coco 3x/week to keep up his fitness and make him happy. However, when we went to enter for Catalpa Corners, there was no starter division (and D and I weren't quite ready for BN), so instead of totally not going to one of my favorite events of the year, I decided to enter Coco. Plus, we needed to at least try for the hat trick (we'd won that event the past 2 years in a row).
We left on Thursday to go to Lorna's house in North KC where the horses (Coco and Duncan) stayed overnight so we could get an early start on Friday morning. We got to Iowa City around noon on Friday after an interesting ride with me, Chris, Samantha, and Taylor, as well as Sophie and Roger (the dogs) all piled into the truck. we set up stalls, walked the cross country courses, and rode the ponies. Coco warmed up really well.
First hiccup of the weekend: I forgot my show coat. Stupid me keeps it in the front closet at my house. Lorna suggested we check out JC Penny and just buy a men's suit coat. After we rode the horses, Chris and I hit up JC Penny where we had to take selfies with crazy colored suit coats (bright red and purple) before we bought a replacement. Then we met everyone else at HuHot for delicious Mongolian food and headed back to the show grounds where Chris and I were shacking up in our tack stall with the pups.
I didn't ride dressage until 11:30am on Saturday, so I had plenty of time in the morning to bathe, braide, and memorize my dressage test. I got on around 10:30 so I could give him a long warm up. The test was ok, but we've been having trouble with the left lead canter lately (most likely because he didn't get his hocks injected this year because we were planning on showing at local shows only). It was pretty sticky, but the judge seemed more upset that his mouth was open at certain points in our test. We ended up with a 38.0. I felt like it was fair given our moments of tenseness and the lateral nature of the left lead canter. We were sitting in 9th place out of 11 starters in my division.
Time to run cross country! Coco got several hours off to relax and let his mane un-crimp before we got ready to head to warm up. This would be my first cross country course using my inflatable vest; it made everything feel so bulky yet so safe all at the same time! I was honestly a bit worried about cross country, because it had been several months since Coco and I had even been to a cross country schooling. I feel like I can jump this horse with my eyes closed, but cross country requires a bit more finesse. Coco warmed up pretty well, though. He started out jumping a bit hesitantly (let's be honest, though, it was probably my nerves), but we got into a rhythm and started doing better. The course was awesome. It was the same as last year, so it should have been pretty straightforward, but as we ascended the hill to the water, I got over Coco's shoulder and continued at the canter instead of slowing to a trot and sitting back. Coco saw the water and said, "Is this sanitary?" as he did a 180. Thank god for that inflatable vest, because as I was hanging over his shoulder, all I could think was "don't let the vest inflate!" and I worked like H-E-double hockey sticks to stay on that stupid horse. I spun him around and we trotted right through the water like it was nothing and continued on. I wasn't sure how much time we'd lost, so I may or may not have allowed him to go a bit faster than necessary and taken some shortcuts on the rest of the course. We had no other problems. Coco attacked the jumps and we came in right above speed fault time. Other people must have had some trouble on cross country, because even with a refusal on cross country, we moved up to 8th place.
Steak dinners for all! We all earned it. Especially Samantha who spent the entire day running around taking pictures for people. What a champ!
Jumping day is the best! We have time to actually watch the higher level riders. Chris and I set up camp next to the show jumping ring and just watched. There were a lot of problems on the show jumping course. Lots of rails being dropped, refusals, and slipping and sliding. When the time came, I headed back to the barns to start getting ready. For once in my life, I wouldn't be the last rider in our group (Taylor rode after me in her BN division). I got Coco ready and kept him in a halter so we could watch some of the competition and didn't have to get on until we were completely ready. He got a good warm up and we did out usual show jumps. The warm up ring was particularly hectic, but we got through it, even after a rider fell off and her trainer wouldn't stop laughing as her horse trampled bystanders in his rush back to the barn. Coco's love of show jumping really sparkled and we went double clear (like the champ he is) over the challenging course. We moved up to 7th place. Yay, purple! If we hadn't had our trouble on cross country, we would have been third.
Overall, though, it was a good weekend. It made me happy that Coco is still happy to event, but it made me wonder, when is enough enough? At what point do I need to think more of his well-being and safety instead of what I want him to do? How will he tell me when he's finished? I don't think a 20 year old saddlebred needs to keep running cross country. I'm not opposed to continuing in dressage or jumping schooling shows, but I'm not sure it's in Coco's best interests to continue with strenuous USEA shows. Our group talked about going to Texas Rose Horse Park for their November Horse Trials. I would really like to finish an event at Texas Rose Horse Park on Coco. I feel like I owe him that after 2 rider falls at the last 2 AECs. I let him down and we both deserve to finish that course. Maybe without the stress of AECs, we'll be able to do better. That will likely be Coco's last USEA recognized horse trial and we'll opt for schooling shows over the winter and in the future. Coco has had a good life, he's happy, and I would hate for something to happen to him to cut his future short because I was selfish and wanted to compete for too long. He's an amazing horse, and I would rather keep him around as long as possible, safe and sound, than selfishly compete him until I break him. I love my Coco Bean.