Well - it is Monday afternoon - which means that Chester and I are back from Lane's End up in Bobcageyon. Let me tell you something, eventing is all about hurrying and waiting and then doing everything really quickly. The dressage was late (typical) and then you felt rushed for SJ and xc (typical). Anyways - I am sure that isn't what you want to hear about....so - the GOOD news is: CHESTER COMPLETED (very successfully I might add) HIS FIRST EVER FULL EVENT!!!!
He received a 60.8 on his dressage (after he got over the horse eating rocks in the corner)
He went CLEAR stadium
He went CLEAR xc...but picked up a whack of time faults. (More on that later)
He finished on a 74...for 7th/14 at his first event... :) I have never been more proud of him in my entire life. (I say that a lot don't I?) He was a MACHINE and stayed calm cool and collected the entire time (aside from the horse eating rocks and one of the stadium jumps...which was also apparently going to eat him). He definitely took that step in becoming a Big Boy.
I rode him in the morning- a solid 30 minutes of trying to keep him loose and supple, then we ran through our dressage test...it was great. I packed and braided him in the evening after going to a family BBQ for Aaron's step dad's side of the family...which was really nice - I felt like an ass sort of for literally eating and running - but it was after 8pm and I didn't get home until after 10...
I bathed him in the morning and waited for Boss and Kelly to come pick me up. I was getting nervous already and it was only 630 in the morning...I kept repeating to myself over and over - we're just schooling, we're just schooling - it didn't help me much..ha. AND - GRAHAM (Kelly dad, Joyce's husband and my surrogate father) was coming!! YAY!!! He has been my rock on more then one occasion. :) I was thrilled when I found out he was coming!!!
We get to Lane's End - which is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL farm....everything was amazing - the course, the facilities, the volunteers, it was super. Kelly and I check in at the office pick up numbers, course maps etc. Graham was left to baby sit the horses and Kelly, Boss and I go walk the course. That was the first time when I sort of went 'Oh My God...I don't know if I can do this'...simply because as I stood in the start box and looked out at fence #1 (which was a silly little log about 2.5 feet high) in my head I went - Chester has NEVER ever been xc schooling before. I took a deep breath suppressed the nauseous feeling I was getting and walked on...For the most part, Kelly's course and mine were beside each other which was good. As I walked it, I started to think like Chester and what I thought he would see when we were riding it...there were a couple of things that I was worried about - there was a drop, which he has never done before in his life, a fence with a blind landing, as in it looked like you were jumping into nothing, and a couple fences where shadows wold more then likely freak him out. I was most worried about the drop...simply because he had NEVER seen one before. After wards - we were talking about it and then plan was to trot out of the start box, get him over the first one, go slow and give him a fun confidence building ride. THINK FORWARD, close the doors and don't give him any option but to go OVER....phew...aannnnnd then I got to hurry up and wait for 4 hours until it was my time to go. So, I played groom for Kelly - who had an absolutely spectacular dressage test (although Molly decided to add in her own flying change). The Boss (because she is the smartest person alive) said to me while we were walking the course 'you know, I think you should ride him around for 20 minutes while Kelly is doing her stadium just so he can get his stupidness out'. It was the best thing for him (and more so for me). So - I did and it was amazing - he was calm, listening and felt absolutely amazing. All my nerves disappeared instantly and I KNEW we could do it.
Considering the 'warm up' I had had while Kelly was doing her stadium - I got on him about 30 minutes before my time...he warmed up great - he felt amazing, was responsive, light and was acting like a very big boy. They were behind on Dressage (again, typical), which threw me a little but not much. There were 2 dressage rings...one of which had a beautiful stone wall in the corner...with very little room between it and the ring. Normally there is a wide berth for you to go around and ride through - but not here. When I found out what ring I was in - my stomach turned a little...because i KNEW he was going to flip out at the rocks. And - well, let's just say I know my horse. As we were starting to trot around the ring - we got about 15 feet away from it, he planted his feet, snorted and refused to move, kick, leg, crop, nada from him...except more snorting, and then he HALF REARED (I wanted to KILL him) and tried to spin away. The dressage judge said, take your time, get him by calmly (being the last rider, literally, I was fortunate enough to have this added luxury). I get him by and that relaxed feeling I had had all afternoon and all throughout my warm up...vanished. poof...gone...I felt tense and I knew it...so did Chester. All in all, I am very proud of him, his test was pretty good considering I wasn't riding him as best I could. Afterwards, the judge took the time to speak with me and basically said 'Your marks are going to be all over the place. Some stuff you do super well, and with other movements, you need to be more consistent. Your hands are too far back and you have to ride him better, he is looking for your contact and you're not helping him. Hold his hand better'. She also said he is lovely and will go far. I really think that if I didn't get all tense because of his freak out that my hands would have been better and we would have gotten a better score...as always it is totally my fault and I need to do better. Chester will only ever be as good as I make him...
Not much of a warm up needed here. I got on about 20 minutes before my time, trotted and cantered around a couple times then jumped him once over each of the three warm up jumps - he felt great, responsive and FORWARD...that's it, warm-up over....my biggest concern was that I didn't walk the course!!! lol - Both Kelly and I had to 'walk' it by watching other riders ride it!! HA - that was something else. No worries though - forward forward forward. Oh - the BEST part about this...is that his old mom and Partner showed up just in time to see him go!!! YAY!!! I was so happy they made it in time!! So, we enter the ring through the gate and his ears are up - he neck and head are up and we are trotting towards the judge to salute...whistle goes so we have the all clear to start, left turn....and thennnnn half pass left away from one of jumps - no this was not part of the plan. I don't know what came over me - but I took my crop and just reamed him one...and he went 'eeeek okay okay' and away we went. Let me tell you, I had to work - and work HARD - at keeping him forward - I felt like I was fighting with him a little bit - but Kelly and Lesley (his old mom) said he looked FANTASTIC and we didn't look like we were fighting...so I am going to take their word for it. I needed to release him more over the fences - but part of me didn't want to trust him fully...yet. Some of it wasn't pretty and I got jumped out of the tack way more then I wanted too but...10 fully decorated scary horse eating stadium jumps later - he was CLEAR. :-)
Okay - at one point as I was putting his boots on for xc, I was saying my course out loud to Lesley who was now acting as Chester's groom (!!) and I looked at her and went 'I don't know what comes after fence 7'...considering the course was 15 fences long -I had a mild panic attack at that point...so I looked at the course map one more time and figured it out. A couple minutes later, I looked at Lesley and went 'Oh my god - I just got nervous'...she told me I was being retarded and to get over it....easy for her to say - she wasn't about to get on a horse who had never done an XC course before in his life and gallop through open fields and jump jumps that don't fall down...it was the most nervous I felt all day. And then I reminded myself that 'I am just schooling and stick to the plan'... warm up was minimal - I gave him a quick pipe opener and really rode him FORWARD to the warm up jumps...he felt AMAZING and was being really attentive...okay - I am feeling a little better now - tack check and we are good to go. Then, I hear it "112, 2 MINUTES"...I make my way to the start box (hahaha - I am getting goose bumps right now as I am typing) and walk him around...then I get the count '30 seconds Carrie'...okay one more little circle '15 seconds'...deep breath...'10'...standing in the start box, wait, a pat and word to Chester.. "5...4...3..." Come on Buddy - we can do this "2...1....GO Have a good ride" GO CHESTER....!!! We Trot out of the box - that was the plan - and he pops over the teeny log and picks up a nice canter "GOOD BOY CHESTER"...Left turn to number 2 - no problems "GOOD BOY CHESTER" - right turn to #3 - no problems "GOOD BOY CHESTER" and on to #4 the scary jump with the blind landing side...he backs off a little, I really sit and put my leg on and he SOARS over it annnnd I totally get left behind and I am SURE I pulled him in his mouth over it...sorry buddy...but "whoo hoo!!!!, GOOD BOY". It was at that point (and I remember it clearly), where I said to myself 'we can DO THIS'. 5 and 6 were straight forward - but, fences he has never seen before - so I was cautious - he sailed over and then we boogied up the hill to 7, 8 and 9. Back down the hill and 10 was sort of off set between a bush and some trees...I thought coming into it that he would take a look because of all the 'stuff' that was around it, so I kept my legs on looked PAST it and he said 'yeah - bring it'...back out through a path way and into an open field - a right hand bend to 11 - at which point Lesley, Kelly, Graham and crew all let out a huge yell as we clear 11... now, we had a water option...I thought (since we were just schooling anyways) that we would try it. He saw it, backed off, I whacked him, he still said no- so I left it (remember - this is a happy, fun, confidence building ride) and went around (this took up a lot of time and probably where I lost a lot of points). 12 was on the other side of the water 13 was a rock wall coming off a sharp right hand turn. He backed off of this one big time - but he had no where to go but OVER...and over he went. Then on to 14....which was the drop - which was the fence I was most worried about because he had never ever seen a drop in his life. I trotted up the ramp - and he didn't even take a look - he just jumped right off and cantered away - It was at that precise moment that I KNEW I had an event horse and KNEW he could do it. We were coming through the path to 15 - the last fence and I let out a huge 'whoo hoo' over top of it and came through the finish to Lesley, Kelly and everyone cheering...I was in tears by the time he slowed down and I jumped off him....I had never been more proud in my life...ever...I know it was only entry and I know the jumps were itty bitty, but a month ago I didn't think we would be eventing this summer at all...and now look at what he has just done. It was completely him - I just helped give him the courage to do it. Kelly, Lesley and crew said he looked HAPPY while he was out there...which was probably the thing that I loved hearing the most. We were CLEAR!!!! :-) We racked up a TON of time faults (13.2 which = .4 / second over the optimum time...you do the math...it ended up being close to 30 seconds over...) but, I do not regret it at all. We had a plan and we stuck to it...and the plan was to go slow and build confidence...which we did. Not going to lie - some of the jumps were not pretty, I got jumped out of the tack more then once here too - I was behind him on more then one occasion simply because I was pushing him forward - but we did it...I have to be much more giving in my releases next time over the fences...sorry buddy.
After the xc - that dressage judge who was so kind to talk to me after my test stopped me as we were walking back to the trailers...she talked to me for 5 minutes about Chester and what I need to do as his rider to make him better. I have to 'hold his hand and reassure him that you are there for him. He is looking for you and you are no where to be found. Keep him in front of your leg, ask him for more. He is very expressive and floats. He WANTS to do it - you just have to ride him better. He is a lovely horse and I will hunt you down if you don't do better next time. I watched him go stadium and he was lovely." OMG - I just about died. Her name is Nancy Tapely ( a Level III Eventing coach and dressage judge) and she blew me out of the water by pulling me aside like that and taking the time to give me her advice. I was so touched by it that I looked her up and sent her an email thanking her for her constructiveness and guidance...she emailed me back and said my email meant a lot to her... :) I owe her a 45 the next time she judges me and she told me she can't wait to give it to me....I won't let her down.
So - to recap it - Chester finished in 7th out of 14 on a 74 in his first ever full event. I can not be more proud of him. He has taken that step and has become a Big Boy. I can not WAIT to see where this horse will take us next. He is limitless in his potential and I hope I can keep up with him.
My promise to him is to ride him better - keep giving him that confidence and reassurance I am there for him.
Next time 1 - if he has a freak out before dressage - I take a deep breath and move on, no more staying tense. 2 - I need to trust him more in stadium - he WANTS to jump the jumps 3 - We BOOGIE on xc, and I don't mess with his head as much. He can do it, he LOVES it and WANTS to do it.
Canterdown August 15. BRING!!! IT!!!
Next time - we finish on our dressage score and get that second place.
I am so so proud of my Event Horse.