What a week! After the hectic weekend of Spring Bay HT last weekend, there would be no rest for the weary…. This weekend we were off to River Glen HT in TN yet again. I love this event—the SJ is challenging and frequently so is the XC, and the organizers and volunteers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Horses are a funny business… In the week leading up to the event, one of our broodmares decided she’d like to be bred this weekend… So my WS Jenny stayed home to ride, meet a friend in town, and be in charge of 24-7 breeding duty with our great vet. This week, I also came to grips with the fact that Hopper’s saddle REALLY doesn’t fit him, so Jenny was kind enough to let me borrow her extra-wide dressage saddle for the weekend. Finally this week, I was riding a client horse when it managed to literally pull my finger out of the socket, so that made for an interesting week as I get to feel it pop in and out all weekend… Fun! =)
Thanks to Jenny’s loan of her dressage saddle, Hopper’s back was much happier in dressage this weekend. I got up at 5am in the pouring rain and pitch black to give both my boys a light stretching flat before their tests… Then rode at 8am and 8:30 for my tests. Being soaked, freezing, and sleep deprived seemed to work though, as both the boys were far more focused and they both stepped up to the plate well. Hopper put in a solid but conservative test for a 36… I’m still working for a more uphill frame, and to develop the trot lengthenings… But he didn’t make any major mistakes, and was a good boy. Nemo was excellent in his test, and I was so happy with him. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but he scored a 31 in dressage with a good test to sit in 2nd behind Erika Treis Peterson’s gorgeous test on her new warmblood.
Friday night saw 12 straight hours of monsoon-like rain, so it was only fitting that Saturday morning when the rain stopped major wind gusts moved in. The ground jury was incredibly creative in SJ, sandbagging most of the fences and staffing volunteers at each of the SJ fences to hold them up until you approached. Hopper was fine with this strategy and was super focused. Unfortuantely I wasn’t able to borrow a wider jump saddle, so I didn’t achieve the bascule he had last fall and we had 2 rails down (River Glen is known for a LOT of SJ penalties though). He made the time which was super tight, and tried hard for me. I’ll be working to improve that, but the biggest focus will be saddle fit!!! (Rolex here I come—Hopper gets two new saddles—EEK!) Nemo had only a couple of minutes to warm-up…. Being a redheaded TB, he is easily, um, “distracted”, and thought that having volunteers holding SJ fences was a TERRIFYING idea! He wasn’t concerned about any of the jumps, but rather the people in the ring. As I trotted in, one of the jumps blew down partially and the TD caught it and put it back up right beside Nemo…. Poor fishy thought that was terrifying—How could he have a rail when he didn’t get near the fence? As a result he was super spooky to fence 1 and 2, as he was terrified of the fence where the TD was holding it… I kicked on, and rode him as forward as I could to keep him focused. We had 4 jump 0 time when I rode too forward down the 5 stride line, which was my fault. Otherwise he was good in what proved to be a challenging SJ course… With the one rail, he moved into the lead.
By Sunday morning, the XC had dried out quite a bit, with only a few slick spots. The undulating terrain and windstorm really helped dry things out, and we were set to rock and roll! With only twenty minutes between my two XC rides, it was great to have Andrea be such a wonderful groom and have the boys ready to go… That helps so much! Hopper was first to go…. I tell you what, there is NOTHING I enjoy more in my life than the feeling of the wind in my face as Hopper effortlessly gallops on XC… He is the love of my life, no doubt. I wasn’t pushing for time as time is pretty much impossible to make at River Glen, but I just rode forward as I could and was very careful where I needed to be. He galloped out so well…. Easily galloping the first 7 fences, and was super straight and honest through a one stride of chevrons and the corner. I got in a bit too deep at the coffin, but Hopper was a jewel and easily jumped out of it. With a little river running through the ditch after the torrential rain, it was quite a question! But he was great, and easily popped through the water and all the remaining skinnies. He came home full of running… I really slowed down and took care of him down the steep hills, and let him chuck on everywhere else. The optimum time was 5:32, and when I came across the finish line at 6:01 on Hopp I was impressed with how tight the time was. (Which is a great thing at the upper levels—no complaints here!) I was so happy with him…. He was a very seasoned horse out there, and loved his job. He jigged all the way back to the barn, wanting to go again.
I hopped on Nemo and went straight to warmup, then out of the box. Nemo developed a lead after SJ that equated to 20 seconds of time penalties, so I knew he could be 20 seconds late and still grab the win. But most importantly I wanted him to have a good, positive round. So I didn’t look at my watch anywhere, went as quickly as I could (which on Nemo isn’t very fast), but was extremely efficient at every fence with very tight turns and no arguing… He jumped around well, and as I looked at my watch over the finish line, I saw that he was 19 seconds over time…. He’d done it! Regardless of what the other riders scored, he won his division.
I have to admit I was a touch teary-eyed for my boy…. He was a good boy all weekend, and he was very efficient on XC (though we never went very fast). Nemo had the fastest XC time of the day with just 8 penalties, and won the Open Intermediate division!
Hopper had the second fastest time of the day with 11 time penalties, and moved up to 2nd. So the boys finished 1-2 in the division! Very happy with them!
Nikki and Oliver ran their final training this weekend… 36 dressage, one of only two in the Training Rider division to finish on their dressage score! They finished 6th in a tough division, only .2 out of 4th, and only 2.8 points out of first! They had a great weekend with an especially gorgeous SJ round… Congrats!
Thanks to Howard and Bev who came down to watch XC on Sunday…. Jenny, Adan, and Quin for taking care of things at home…. Andrea for being a great groom this weekend… And Nancy and Nikki for a great dinner Saturday night and great company.
Now off to shop for saddles for Hopp at Rolex!!!
(Thanks to Nikki for taking this photo of Nemo this weekend!)
Advanced level event rider and instructor at Team CEO Eventing in Lexington KY.