I took Nemo and Hopper to Lost Hounds HT for the weekend, to run the Intermediate.
Nemo warmed up well in the dressage, and the pre-ride that morning was really great. But that afternoon for the dressage test, he warmed up well until a horse fly attacked him in warm-up. The only bad thing about our farm in Lexington is that we practically don’t have ANY bugs, so I don’t know that Nemo has ever seen a horse fly before! As he is chestnut and has very sensitive skin, he pretty much thought he was going to perish! I got him a little bit settled, but not as much as I would like, and off we went to ride the test…. The trot work was okay, but not nearly to the level he’s been working. Then half way through the test, during a halt, I heard the familiar buzzing swoop past my head, and a horsefly landed on him…. YIKES! He exploded through the walk work, and I don’t think I ever took a single walk step… He was so tense in the rest of the test… I tried my best, but our concentration was gone. He earned a disappointing 43.
Hopper’s test was at 4:40pm that afternoon. I was a woman on a mission! He warmed up a bit tense, but as I trotted to the outside of the ring to start my test, my long-time partner looked at the ring and took a literal sigh, relaxed all over, and went right to work! We are such an old married couple together, lol. When the judge rang the bell and I was getting ready to enter the arena, a huge horse fly landed on Hopper’s shoulder. I put both reins in one hand and kept my sitting trot, while I reached down and grabbed the fly with the other hand, mashed it in my glove (thank goodness I didn’t wear white gloves this weekend!), and triumphantly threw it on the ground. Take that! Then up the center line we went. We are still working on our trot mediums, and this is a very difficult test for Hopper, but I was absolutely elated…. He was so good everywhere, and Howard was kind enough to video it so I’m excited to have it on youtube later… He was so good and we were really, really on the same page, without any major mistakes and a very fluid test. Then the score was posted as almost exactly the same as Nemo?? I am quite perplexed, as the test had almost no comments on it whatsoever, and movements I had that on video as being square halts were scored a 4… Considering Hopper has won every horse trial this year till this one and is really reliable in the dressage, it was a bit shocking. But those are the breaks, and who knows? Onward and upward, and regardless of the score, I know I am really, really happy with my horse. (Photo at left: Megan and Grasshopper go out for a hack at Lost Hounds. As always, we encourage EVERYONE to wear approved helmets in all three phases, like Megan is doing here!!! )
On XC, the ground was wetter and deeper than I thought it might be. Nemo stepped on his heel on the takeoff of fence 2, and though he was sound and happy, I took my foot off the gas pedal for the rest of the round to bring him home happy and safe and sound. That is disappointing, as he is a very fast horse XC, but better to save him for another day. He made very light work of all of the fences, and was so straight at all the skinny fences. He was a good boy, as always, and we came home slowly and carefully. He picked up 7 time penalties on XC, which was oddly the 5th fastest round of the day, though our gallop was very slow…. Just goes to show you how much time you can save by being smooth and taking tight lines, and never arguing… (Photo at left: Megan takes the WS on a course walk of the Intermediate course, and the girls learn to wheel courses.)
On XC on Hopper, we left the box and he was AMAZING! Hopper is seldom bothered by footing changes, and he galloped along easily… He naturally jumps very flatly, and he is learning to jump up and around and with good bascule. He was so on at every single fence! When he was young, he was a bit dishonest at corners… When I reached fence 5A, the corner, and three strides out I was confidently riding my line, Hopper said “Check! I’ve got it!” and I was thrilled with his maturity. He galloped along brilliantly, and jumped really well. I was well on my minute markers, and he was making everything so easy. Then at the water, there was a BIG mound with a log on top, through the water to a B and C element skinny. We came on good stride to the mound, but he stopped at the last moment… A very honest stop when he didn’t understand the fence, and hasn’t seen that type of question before. We had two stops there—VERY uncharacteristic for us, and I haven’t had a stop on any horse in XC in 12 months… But they were honest stops, both at that mound. Then I came round and brought him through the water, came back and he jumped the mound perfectly…. That time, he understood. He made the line to the skinnies so easily, and jumped through the skinnies perfectly! I took my foot off the gas pedal at that point, no need to push him for time anymore, as I already know he is an exceptionally fast XC horse who makes time consistently. Around the rest of the course, he was SOOOOO good!! I know it sounds silly to have a XC round with jump penalties and say he was brilliant, but sometimes that happens at the upper levels. He had a learning experience at that single fence, but jumped everywhere else better than I could ever hope, and we were so very on the same page…. We were so very much one pair, and that is what XC is about! I am so happy with him…. He was amazing.
The show jumping was BIG!!!!!! Nemo was very good, and the SJ was just a couple of hours after XC, so all of the horses were a touch tired. I made a commitment to riding Nemo forward, and he jumped the first 10 showjumping efforts perfectly, not touching a thing. I was thrilled! At the second to last and last fences, I rode just a touch too forward, and he just touched both rails lightly and they fell. The showjumping was tough with many rails, and almost no one managed to clear the final fence. It was a great round, but with an uncharacteristic 8 penalties for us. (Photo left: Megan spends some quality time with her two boys.)
Hopper was great in show jumping, finally trying to clear the poles and making a big effort. Two thirds of a way around, I made a mistake about my distance and had one down, interrupting our rhythm. Other than that, he was great, and we had 12 faults… Not quite what I was looking for, but he tried really hard and he is definitely going the right direction.
Nemo finished 7th in a tough class of nice horses, with a 12 point gap over the 8th place slot. Looking back, this is the first horse trial in 2010 that one of our horses hasn’t won, and it was definitely an off weekend for us. I am really proud of both my boys, as they were both very good, but it just wasn’t a weekend where I could pull it all together. I congratulate everyone in the class who did! You can bet I’ll be working hard in the time to the next horse trial, to make sure it all comes together next time around…
Thanks to Ali and Emily for grooming this weekend, and as always to Howard for just being Howard. I am looking forward to August with these two boys, and coming out of the box swinging! That’s the great thing about our sport—you can’t stand out in one phase, but rather have to be an all-rounder that can put it all together on the same weekend to succeed… That’s the challenge that keeps us going! My boys are both still quite young, and I am so excited to be learning so much about them on every outing, and having such an amazing opportunity to have two such wonderful horses.