Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Running Lane's End HT

Not an insanely early start today given where we were going.  Left the barn at 8 for what Google told me would be just under a 3.5h drive.  Yikes.

Athena loaded reasonably well -- took a bit of discussion, but comparatively it was a good start :)  The drive was long but pretty and we got there in less time than Google had threatened, so that's all good.   Parking lot was pretty full though so we parked right at the far end of the universe -- which ended up being great as it put us right beside show jumping and xc warmup.

Made the long hike to the secretary and found the dressage rings in the process.  Athena was pretty high at this point -- Stephy was doing laps around the trailer with her and Sasha was hiding underneath the truck.  We got her tacked up though and made our way to the w/u ring.  Where she promptly chilled out entirely!  Sweet.  She was tripping a lot in warm-up but when we got in the ring was really good.  Sucky -- she didn't want to move forward and was highly concerned about what was going on in the show-jumping ring in the distance (yet really didn't care about the horses galloping by on xc???  Classic).  The test was accurate though -- she paid attention and did what I asked.  Not brilliant by any means, but acceptable. Possibly our best yet all things considered.

Then I had a break so left Athena with Steph and Emily (who appeared during dressage :) and went with Sasha to walk my courses.  Only thing is - about half way through xc I started to feel really weird.  Couldn't focus at all; had no idea where we'd just come from or what jumps were on the course.  ummmm less than good.   Finished my trek and walked show jumping as well -- and at the end had no idea how many strides were in any of the related distances.  Uh, less good.  Went back to the trailer and since I had a bit of time decided to grab a 20 min cat nap in the truck.  Felt a little better afterwards but not much.  Stephy got Athena ready for me and it took me *forever* to get myself ready.  Things were just not going well.  And a little disconcerting knowing we were going into our worst phase *sigh*

Warm-up was pretty disastrous -- from a rider point of view.  My poor horse was trying and I just was not getting my act together.  And of course, it started to rain.  Not a cloud in the sky all day until it's time for me to jump -- then suddenly it's midnight black and soaking wet.  Classic.  The coach inside me was spewing instructions at top speed, which the student was failing horribly to apply.  Finally it was just a case of go out there and Do. Your. Job.

Well let's just say it wasn't my best round ever *sigh*.  What WAS good, was for the first time Athena made a concerted effort to help me out.  Took about three fences before I got into the game and she did her best to cover for me -- getting us over all of them.  Then thankfully I clued in enough to get her through the ones that she was concerned about (combinations and related distances are still very tricky for her).  We both failed horribly at the last fence -- actually even pulled that rail which isn't something she does often.

Needless to say, I was none too thrilled with myself for that ride.  I went back to the w/u ring and jumped another fence or two out of a trot to idiot-proof it a little and rebuild her confidence a bit.  Then we had all of about 15 mins before xc, so Athena got a drink and a short break and I contemplated how to fix what I'd just broken before sending her galloping at solid fences.  Got our tack check done and I was playing all sorts of mental games.  Convinced myself that A - xc is my strongest phase so even in incompetent mode it's only PT, I could sleep through it.  B - Athena jumps better with pace, so again, even if I'm not all there it'll be easier for her.  And C - xc is fun!  So with B and C in mind I galloped her around the warm-up.  Just let her run and have fun and then randomly popped over a couple fences with the sole goal of staying out of her way and letting her jump in rhythm.  I needed her to remember that jumping is fun and I needed it to happen Right Away.  So applied what I often tell my students: "pretend it's fun and your horse will believe you" -- thank god that's not entirely BS *g*   And it worked.  After two or three fences I could just feel her confidence coming back and she was clearly enjoying herself.

Just in time -- as suddenly it was our turn for the long trek to the start box.  hahaha she *is* starting to understand about start boxes as she did a little jig when we got there.  That always makes me smile.  So we started out really well.  Incompetent day or not, I knew she'd already saved me as much as was going to happen in one show and I'd better get it together fast.  *Really* rode the first three fences and the world was good...  And then I got lost.  *sigh*   Well technically not actually lost as I knew exactly where I was and where I was supposed to be -- I just missed a turn (remember really not with it when I walked the course?) and it took us longer than it should've for my brain to process, turn around, get back where we should be, and get going again.  Definitely killed our rhythm a bit, but we got it back fast.  And then she *really* wanted to gallop - so I let her :)  That was So. Much. Fun.   Had a bit of a discussion about if/when she should come back to me to prep for the next fence.  Wasn't brilliant, but not horrible either.  The one after that we had it figured out and all good.  She actually listened when I asked her to come back for the reasonably technical bank complex so I was very happy with that.

The long gallop through the woods was tons of fun, but she was struggling so I let her set the pace and she chose a trot.   A nice forward trot, but definitely needed a minute to catch her breath.  Fair enough given the non-break between phases and how much extra jumping/running around we had to do to prepare.  After a trot break she seemed ready to go again, albeit at a canter pace rather than a gallop.  So we loped our way around the rest of the course -- clear, rideable, and under control.  But did end up with a few time faults (ummmm detour AND extended trot break.  hahaha the fact that she didn't have a ton MORE faults gives an idea of how fast she was going when I let her go :)   Passed the vet check no problem and after a walk and a bath (or two :) her temp and respiration were back to normal in a reasonable amount of time.   Yeah pony!

I was still feeling pretty out of it, although by this point adrenaline was fighting with whatever was slowing me down - and winning.  Food and liquids helped, so by the time it was time to pack up and drive home again I was feeling more normal.  My best guess is probably dehydrated (ie - stupid *sigh*), but will never know for sure.

Athena got back on the trailer for the ride home and away we went.  Got home exhausted and happy.

So overall - more than 9h of driving today to compete for less than 15 mins.  Worth it?  Totally.


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