Here there be dragons...

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

You know what's fun? Winning.

Ok so I have to admit it made me laugh to use the same subject line two weeks in a row.   Small things amuse small minds n all that.

So I was supposed to show Athena this weekend at Cedar Run, but then I decided we'd try champs (not because I actually believe she has any hope of being competitive in that crowd *sigh* but because I'd like to see if she'll jump confidently around a maxed-out course before deciding whether to upgrade or not).  Couldn't do both -- that'd put her out four weeks in a row, with the hardest being last.  Definitely not an appropriate plan.  Even two was pushing it.  Well, evidently not too much given her results *g*  Something to be said for consistency.  But still.  She earned a weekend off.

However, by the time I decided this I'd long since sent in my entries (remember Woodwinds was never on the original plan...)   And it was past the cancellation date.  And I *really* didn't want to lose my entry fees.  And neither of the girls wanted to go (well that's not entirely accurate -- they both had other commitments).  So...  Now what?   Well it turns out I have eight *other* horses to pick from.  hahaha handy.

Which leads to the "which horse" decision.   Some get kicked out of the pool right away:   Apollo - not fit or appropriately trained.  Louis - not mentally ready.   Nick - fit and trained but he doesn't fit very well in my trailer and I *really* can't risk anything happening to him.  That and, tbh, he's not exactly my *favourite* ride of the group.  And there's no benefit -- he's been-there-done-that so no real point to taking him.

Then we get to the maybes.  Dixie and Charlie are both totally valid options and I seriously contemplated both.  They could easily do the same level Athena was supposed to, so would've been a non-issue to trade.  Was esp considering Charlie since his pbr was coming to groom for me and I think she would've been entertained by that.  But the simple reality is that neither one of them is fit enough for a HT -- both being TBs they'd run it and have a blast...  And then be sore the whole next week.  So no-go on those two.

Then there's Bella.  She could do it.  She'd have a blast.  And is totally fit enough that she wouldn't even blink.  And she is also ready for PT now.  But she's less than 14hh.  And while I have ridden her and I know logically she can carry me, I really don't feel it's appropriate for me to be jumping her.  And, as with Nick and the above two, she doesn't need any schooling.  The only reason for me to take her would be so as not to have to switch levels for the horse.  And that seemed fairly unreasonable.

So then we're down to Jack and Lissy.  I like both horses.  They're both fit.  They both need more training.  Of the two though, Lissy has the most to work on.  She's also my favourite.  Handy combination that :)  So she got voted onto the island.  Or into the trailer as the case may be.  Minor flurry of emails with the ever-amazing secretary and my times were switched as Lis isn't ready for PT yet.

This was Wednesday night.  The last time I rode Lissy (as in *rode* her, as opposed to hopped on for 10 mins to show somebody something or do a really minor tuneup) was before I got Athena last year.  hmmmm so Thursday I figured I should probably school her a bit.  I did flat her for a few mins (literally) on Tues eve as a tune-up after a lesson so at least I knew what we were starting with.  Which wasn't all that much.  So Thurs comes.  Start w/ a warm-up hack.  And on said hack we negotiated the fact that she could indeed be on the bit and keep her back up outside of the dressage ring.  Sweet.

Then we head to the stadium field.  Have a bit of a discussion about how the canter is supposed to work.  Her feeling was head up, back hollow, legs moving asfastasphysicallypossible.   My suggestion was head down, back up, legs moving in a quiet 3-beat rhythm.  It didn't take very long at all before she agreed to try it my way.  This is one smart, hard-working mare.  It took *months* to make that change in Athena *sigh*.  Took about one lap of the field with Lissy.  Only down side is, since she's never done it, she really doesn't have the muscle to maintain it very long.  Fair.

So having jumped the horse exactly once in the last year -- and that being gymnastics to reschool a specific issue -- I felt a little bit of work over fences would be a wise plan.  And we pretty much repeated the last paragraph but over jumps.  I let her know that running as fast as possible and throwing yourself over things giraffe style wasn't really the preferred methodology, and she gamely gave my way a try.  We also did a couple "scary" fences to make it clear that over is the only appropriate option.  While we didn't *quite* get an award-winning hunter round in, she did improve significantly quickly.  So we left it on that -- why drill endlessly?

Well Friday I went to ride her and realized very quickly that she was *tired*  hmmmmm apparently doing 6 months of training in 45 minutes is somewhat tiring for new muscles.  So we just did a very short (20 min?  If that?) stretchy walk/trot so that all muscles were good and nothing was stiffening up.  And then she got to go back to her field :)

Which means on show day I had a still somewhat tired pony (day after the day after) with exactly one day of training on her (in the way that *I* want her to go -- she's solidly kid-broke in the walk-trot-run-around style).  Ok why not :)  So the first amusement of the day was when we took her off the trailer.  To appreciate this, you have to remember the kinds of horses I usually ride...  The ones who come off the trailer bouncing and feel the need to investigate the entire property at a power walk, or run laps around the trailer.  Lissy didn't even have all four feet off the ramp when she started grazing.   Kirby and I were a little bemused at this, but ok sobeit.

I left Lis with Kirby and went to walk cross, which was ridiculously easy.  I also watched stadium for a couple rounds -- this was training level so it was big and lots of filler, but I figured that'd go away and the course itself seemed ok.  The first two fences were a related distance, which isn't entirely easy as it doesn't give you any chance to get a rhythm going, and the turn to fence three was a little tricky, but everything else seemed good.

Went and tacked up for dressage and realized I hadn't read my dressage test yet.  Oops.  Gave it a quick read-over and decided I'd watch a couple later (I knew I was last in dressage -- with my switched times I was in some strange positions).  Got tack check and started to warm-up.  She was quite sticky off the leg, but once she started going was moving nicely.  Still felt a little tired though, so I didn't push too hard in the warmup.  I also neglected to watch any tests.  Oops.  Not sure why -- definitely had time.  Ah well.  I did glance over once in a while and felt like I knew it :)   Does that count?   Anyways -- after our break when I picked her back up again to do a last few min w/u before the actual ride she was not happy about it.  Had a few catty moments and then she agreed to go along with the game.  Test was...  Well let's just say a long way from brilliant.  BUT, for one day of training, it actually wasn't too bad.  She was accurate (but that I'd expect as her normal rider is quite good about that).  Inconsistently through, but no different from how she warmed up, so can't ask more than that.  And her pilot who didn't bother to memorize the course made up a random test movement that wasn't technically called for *sigh*.  Classic.

We had less than an hour before we'd be first in show jumping so lead her back to the trailer (about a 15 min walk from dressage -- 20 to show jumping and 25 to xc!).  Swapped tack, gave pony a drink, and headed out to stadium.   Trotted part way there -- both to keep her muscles loose and to save some time.   Warm-up was pretty sticky.  While this mare is awesome for xc logs, she has very little show-jumping experience and seems to feel she should get to inspect all the fences before she jumps them.  So when she approached and hesitated and I told her to jump anyways -- she did it, but wasn't terribly convinced it was a good idea.  Our warmup was, well pretty horribly sticky.  I mostly worked on getting her to land and gallop away and then balance for a turn.  I definitely wanted forward installed as I was keeping an eye on the course changes going on in the ring next to us...

That maxed out training course with all the insane filler?  Yup, all they'd done was lower it.  The *one* piece of filler that was too big for max dimensions removed and replaced with a scary gate, and the first part of the triple came out.  Everything else was still in play.  Aqueduct, scary purple planks, giant green fuzzy box, 2-stride combination, a couple scary latices of different colours.  All sorts of fun stuff!  There was one fence I couldn't see (remember I didn't actually walk this course - no time) but it had ridden easily in the higher levels so I figured it was probably not-too-scary.  The rest of them though...  oh dear.  Particularly fun since most of it she's never seen before.  I can't wait till I have scary jumps at home to school!  hmmm ok.  So seeing this, forward and first try became important items to install in the warm-up.  Got tack check done and jumped a couple more -- *finally* getting rhythm, balance and forward together.  But of course by now they're not scary new jumps anymore either.

And then we were in!  But...  Not everybody else was out yet.  hahaha so on the way to salute the judge I detoured slightly so she could at least *see* a couple scary things -- I think we got one box, one aqueduct (I *so* can't spell that word w/o spell check!), and one lattice in *g*   Conveniently for me the scribe wasn't there yet either.  Judged looked at me, I saluted, then he realized he was missing a scribe.  hahaha no whistle yet while he found them (slightly behind him) and asked if they were ready.  Handy for me though -- more time in the ring is great for a greenie!   By the time the whistle actually blew she'd gotten a chance to see the second portion of the in-and-out as well.  Sweet.

And then we were off.  I really wish I had this one on video because I'd like to see how it looked.  To me it felt like a really solid green-bean ride.  Not a prefect balance stadium round, but a looky-baby getting over stuff.  We had moments of brilliance and moments of ugly.  But she made it.  And she made most of it in a balanced, rhythmical canter.  I was definitely riding defensively -- she questioned a good 3/4 of the fences.   And was particularly concerned about the aqueduct (hey - spelled it right that time!) and the in-and-out.  But did both on the first try.  And then I could just feel her confidence growing, so by the end she wasn't questioning it as much, was more willing to relax and bend and rate her rhythm on the turns, and jumping beautifully.   Even the scary boxes of varying colours and shapes that appeared in the 2nd half of the course didn't require *as* strong a ride as I had anticipated.  And the last two fences were totally lovely. Now to be fair -- the last two fences were also the easiest *sigh*  - but they were at least as nice as our attempted-hunter-school round on Thurs.  So yeah, I was pretty thrilled with her for that.

No time to stay and watch anybody else though -- less than an hour till xc and remember the distances?  Yikes!   Hopped off and walked her back.  She had time for a quick drink while I changed my gear and then it was back to xc.  Again with the trot across the long field, down the hill, up the hill...  Starting to feel like old-school eventing with the roads-and-tracks phases:  baby-style!  hahaha too fun.  Got there, got tack check, did a minor gallop around the field and over one fence (pro!) and good to go.  Except....   Change of plans -- apparently my change of order hadn't made it to xc, so after a quick consultation I was put at the *end* of my division instead of the start and suddenly found myself with time to kill.  Ah well, no biggie.  Gave pony a long well-deserved break and hung out chatting with people.  Always fun.  Not like this was a high-stress course I had to psyc up for :)

So it was eventually our turn and off we went.  Had a *serious* negotiation about the first fence.  Totally tiny and inviting so I'm not sure what she was concerned about, but we did maintain forward movement the whole time and she got over it.  Rode *really* forward away to make a bit of a point (which she was all too happy with) before balancing for fence two.  And then we settled into a lovely rhythm.  Too fast of course (you're not new here :).  And I was a little dismayed at how unrateable she was -- I'll have to install that feature sooner rather than later.  Definitely only had one speed she was comfortable with.

Now about 3/4 of the way around the course, the track went directly beside the water jump.  Neither the track nor the water were flagged.  So I decided that if she was too fast AND jumping confidently when we got there, I'd take the opportunity to school the water.  Pony's got the talent to go reasonably through the levels so she's going to need to learn it sooner or later :)  Since we were definitely too fast and she was jumping like an old pro, I brought her back to a trot and we tried the water.  She wanted to walk in and sniffed it a little, but she didn't even try to actually stop.  Woohoo!  Previous "no option" discussions having an effect!  Sweet.  And I even got a little baby trot out.  I was pretty happy with her :)   And then we settled into a slower rhythm (yeah combination of going away from home and tired pony) that ended us through the flags just past the minimum time :)   Sweet!

When I was giving Lis a bath, Kirby filled me in that we were in 3rd after stadium.  Sweet!   Worth sticking around then :)  By the time I got there, final scores were posted...   With us in first :)   Woohoo!  I saw the one who was first after dressage (lovely horse!) stop at the first fence, so that clearly made a difference.  No idea who was in second or where they ended up.  But no worries.   Socialized for a bit till ribbons were announced then time to wrap up pony and head home.  HUGE thanks to Kirby for tons of help on a very long day.

So yeah - two weeks, two horses, two firsts.  Not half bad :)


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