Monday, June 10, 2013

Bowling at Bromont...

When you have a 13 hour drive home it is not ideal to finish on a poor performance and our 5 rails in show jumping goes beyond poor.... The only up side is that it is giving me plenty of time to set up my summer calendar with as many jumper shows as I can find.  There's really no other way to get past the hurdle of figuring out how to get Riley to jump well on the last day.  While he has been consistently improving in all aspects both at home and in the warm-up area I do not end up with the same horse in the ring... So more time in the ring is imperative before we start back up again in the fall.  Don't be surprised if you don't see me at any horse trials until August... we're going to go back to the "good old days" and will pretend that we don't have a full calender of events to choose from over the summer.  Instead I'll focus on the technical aspects and training  instead.  Hopefully the results will speak for themselves by the time we head out to Richland Park!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cross-country day at Bromont

While the internet connection at Bromont has been less than stellar... Riley has been super!
Especailly today...He really rose to the occasion and the only reason I did not come home with a clear round was simply due to not knowing him well enough yet.

No one would guess that he is still fairly new to this level. The course was big, long, very technical, and with the rain we had the night before the going was deep. Plus Bromont is known as a fitness test as it is set, literally, along the side of a mountain... Riley came out of the box and made easy work of the beginning of the course including 4ab which was a challenging water question early on. He was then very sharp through the coffin and bold over all the big ditch questions. We were only about 3 seconds down at the 3 minute mark and going strong including a great jump into the 2nd water where we had to land and make a 90 degree turn to a skinny angled brush followed by 3 long strides to a brush corner. He flew over the next 2 fences easily then I wanted to take advantage of one of the few long, straight, slightly downhill gallops so really let him cruise on... unfortunately at the end of that long gallop was a 6 foot drop, with nothing before it, where we had to land and make a 90 degree left hand turn to line up 2 skinny cabins that were only 1 stride apart and just 4 strides from  the landing of the drop. I learned something about Riley... he does not come back easily after a long gallop if he does not see something in front of him... and he does not hesitate at drops, he launches! It's one of those things that you learn in the moment... and with this particular combination there was absolutely no room to fix it as you go. We didn't even get near the first cabin so I had to circle and he jumped then perfectly once I re-approached. He just had no idea that we needed to turn to something and there was no way I could physically turn him after the effort he made off of the drop.  Picture thanks to Nicholas!  Many times a challenging question like that will be given separate numbers to give you the opportunity to circle without being penalized but Derek (the course designer) was definitely playing hard ball with us so we incurred 20 penalties.






















After that happened I decided that the rest of the course would show me what Riley was made of from a fitness standpoint so I kept a pretty forward rhythm but did not press him as I wanted him to finish well and knew we were out of the running.  He made such easy work of the rest of the course and didn't bat an eye at anything. We finished strong and in very good form and only 45 seconds over the time. No doubt he's going to be a 4* horse by next year! So far he lookds quite perky and is feeling very good.  We jog tomorrow morning and show jump sometime after lunch... and we're still in 11th place as the course caused quite a few problems throughout the division.

And not to totally dismiss dressage day I'll back track... Riley was 3rd after the dressage and showed all the makings of being able to lead the field after the first day.  Unfortunately he still needs to learn to relax a bit more in a big environment.  His way of showing his anxiety was to toss his head for a stride at the beginning of each movement...  even though it was just 1 stride it happened about 8 times so no matter how great the other parts were it really brings the score down. DOC actually asked if he'd gotten his tongue over the bit since he showed no other signs of tension and was moving the best he ever has.  So we still have plenty to improve upon but I'm so excited at what we've been able to accomplish in such a short time!




Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Accepted!

Always such a great word to hear at the jog... And accepted we were!  Our first official day at Bromont was certainly a good start with beautiful weather and Riley feeling his best.  The only interesting part of the day came after the jog when several of us were informed that our snaffles were not legal bits for dressage... Apparently the new rule (or old one that no one ever knew) says that if you cannot find a picture of your bit in the rule book it is not legal... period.  So my loose ring snaffle is no good for Friday.  Anyone that has travelled with me knows that I always pack at least a dozen "just in case" bits. Well it turns out that I have been so pleased with Riley's preparation that for the first time ever I did not pack extras and therefore have an excuse to go bit shopping tomorrow.  There truly is always something! At least I can say now that if our dressage score is not in the 40's it must be due to having to change his bit (and if it is in the 40's he's just a really good boy that doesn't really care what bit he has in his mouth!).

But dressage is not until Friday morning so tomorrow we'll head out for a cross-country preview and I'll have my trusty photographer Nicholas in tow...  I'm sure Derek has plenty of interesting challenges in store for us :)




Tuesday, June 4, 2013

River King's Journey to Bromont

At 1 AM this morning River King (aka Riley) loaded on the trailer to head from Virginia to Bromont but the real journey began back in January...shortly after the FEI announced the new qualifications based on categorizing riders.  You see, we were able to put together a syndicate to purchase Riley last fall by drumming up interest in having another horse that could potentially travel to compete at the Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in 2013 by way of the Bromont CCI*** in the spring.  Obviously there would be many challenges along the way but the FEI threw in a completely unexpected one when the qualifications changed and Riley and I essentially had to start from square one.  This meant that I had to find a way to complete, with a qualifying result, 1 CIC*, 1 CIC**, 1 CCI** and 1 CIC*** along with an Advanced horse trial or two.  Not a completely outrageous plan but when we took into account the competition calendar and the fact that the first FEI competition did not take place until March we realized there would be many miles to travel...

Without detailing all of the spring competitions I will say that the event I felt was the least productive for us was the CIC* at Red Hills which happened to come two weeks after Riley's first Advanced run at Pine Top (where he finished 7th).  I have no problem with the idea of getting to know a horse at a lower level but the way it fit into the calendar made the 1* something that Riley had no respect for...he even had the most show jumping rails down there of any event all spring. Then there was the nightmare moment at The Fork when I realized during my CIC** dressage test that I had learned the wrong test and therefore had to withdraw.. Of all the hings that could go wrong along the way this was not one that I could have foreseen.  Fortunately I was still able to compete in the Advanced horse trials that weekend which we certainly needed to get to know one another.  But that the only path left to keep heading to Bromont was to head to Ocala for the CCI** the following week.. So I went quietly around The Fork, shipped home to Virginia Sunday night, and left on Tuesday for Ocala.  I wish we received frequent driver miles!

Ocala was a success so Riley earned a week off then travelled to Rolex with Quincy.  After another week we were headed to Jersey Fresh for the CIC***.  Jersey was his best performance yet so low and behold we were Bromont Bound!


With so much to accomplish in such a short amount of time I have to give a huge thank you to Jeff (husband, vet, groom, dad - order varies constantly!).  Plus we could not have accomplished any of this without the support of the great group of people that believe in our partnership and helped make this syndicate a reality. It also tells a great deal about what a great horse Riley is... not only his physical strength but even more importantly his work ethic.  Every day he comes out ready to work and is happy doing whatever is asked of him.. I think he likes being this important!

So now that our trip is officially underway I plan to enjoy every day at what is undoubtedly the most scenic event site on our continent...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The final day...

Apparently when you host a major three-day event on a private property the owners so have a say in the proceedings.  We were made well aware of that when the Sunday morning vet inspection was scheduled at 7 am! because they had to finish the day by 4:30 at the request of his grace, The Duke of Marlborough. Normally it would not seem to be that great of a challenge to get done at that hour but at Blenheim your talking about close to 200 horses, almost half to show jump and the others still needing to run the cross-country for the CIC***.  So it was an early morning and all of our practicing the night before on the jog lane helped Quincy to do what we needed, jog straight and sound, and we were passed on the first go.

Now to plan for the show jumping.  Again it would seem simple to plan but somehow managed to get exciting for me... The show jumping was set to begin at 8:30 but the top 25 would not be jumping until 3:00. After cross-country I was lying in 27th.  The jog was in reverse order of placing so I paid close attention and saw that 2 of the horses placed ahead of me were withdrawn before the jog.  We double checked with the stewards so it seemed I had move to 25th and would be 1st in at 3:00.  Quincy got to go back to his stall for his customary nap and Jeff and I planned to head up and watch the first session of show jumping but I did want to wait just long enough to see the official order of go posted since it was quite a trek to the main arena.  At 8:50, after several horse had already jumped, they posted the official times at the stables.  Much to my surprise I was down as the last horse in the morning session, jumping at 9:40 (and remember it takes 20 minutes to hack to the main arena...). A slight moment of panic set in as not only would we need to rush to get tacked up and ready but I had planned to go over the course with David later in the afternoon.  I did a quick scan of the list and counted 24 horses listed for the afternoon session... after a call to the organizers and a check with the ground jury it was decided that I should be in the afternoon session.  Of course it only took another 10 minutes for this decision to be made so by that time I was dressed, Quincy had studs in, and we were just about to put the saddle on...

A good way to get the heart rate back down from that excitement was to go out shopping around the trade fair with our entourage :). We wasted a good bit of time doing that (but not too much money) and then I filled the rest of the hours beginning the task of packing and making everything fit back into the trunks to ship home.  The day was delayed even more when the CIC horses had plenty of trouble and (I overheard) ended up breaking the frangible pin 8 times on the 2nd to last fence alone.


Show Jumping was pushed back to 3:30 and I was tacked up and ready to hack over at 2:30.  They were only planning to allow 10 minutes for the course walk just before the start so I needed to plan time for that. Little did I know that the reason the course wasn't open was because of all of the interesting attractions being shown in the main arena.  One of which being two local hunts with their hounds...I found out when I saw them leaving the arena and coming straight towards me.  Quincy and I slightly diverted our path towards the arena to give them a little space and thankfully he was not set off by the whole display.  Then we were met in the warm-up area by roaring crowds as the bareback high jump was happening within the trade fair.  Here it appears it is made more exciting by starting with tack and having to remove a piece of tack in order to continue on so by the end they are all bareback and then the winner is the one that can jump 6 feet.  The cheering did make Quincy prick his ears and I'm pretty sure he thought they were all cheering for his arrival!

Warm-up felt great and for what we lacked on Saturday we made up for in a big way on Sunday.  Without a doubt we had our best round ever! The course was a series of related lines followed by sharp roll-back turns and we nailed all the distances and made quick turns to finish clear and within the time.




video

There were few in the morning session that were able to jump double clear so we kept Quincy in the warm-up to see if we might move up into the top 20.  However the afternoon session showed the caliber of horses and riders we were competing against as one after another jumped beautiful clear rounds with very few rails falling off the cups.  Jeff took Quincy back to get comfortable and I headed over to watch the finish with our group of supporters. My favorite horse to watch was Kitty King's "Zidante" and the best ride was given by Mark Todd on his catch ride "Conair".  He definitely worked to keep all the rails up on that one...

Meeting the Duke of Marlborough

Nice that the completion ribbons look just like the winners! 
All in all an awesome experience that gave me a very clear vision of what it takes to compete on the world stage and I am so very excited to do it again (hopefully next year!).

The videos have been very slow to upload so check back soon to see the footage....it's not much but certainly better than nothing. I'll post another trip re-cap once were back on American soil...flying out tonight.

The big day arrives...

Cross-country day has arrived! But it doesn't actually get underway until 11 since the CIC*** is show jumping in the morning so there's plenty of time to get organized, walk the course again, and find any and every way to keep busy. My go time was 12:46 so I planned to head to the main arena to walk the combination there (in the 15 minutes between the finish of show jumping and start of cross-country in which they took down the whole show jumping course and warm-up) and watch the first horse come through. It was NZ Olympian Jonelle Richards and she made it look easy but her speed did get the best of her at the corner combination towards the end of the course... It was difficult to see much with all of the crowds so I headed back to get ready.

Quincy's cross-country preparation
We planned Quincy's usual long warm-up so we could have a cooling off period because (believe it or not!) it was a pretty hot, sunny day and the going was quite firm. I'm not sure exactly what it was, and if I had I would've changed it, but Quincy and I were just not in sync in the warm-up.  It was difficult to get his focus as horses were going in every direction and the jumps were placed all around the field...so I was not getting a good feel of being able to go forward to the fences. Then we had an even longer delay as one of the German horses fell in the Dew Pond and took a while to clear the way.  The competitor in me wanted to go out on course and push the envelope to tackle the course within the time but the trainer in me wanted good, confident jumps the whole way around.  That side won out and I started a little conservative but after Quincy sailed the ditch and brush I felt like we were getting in a good rhythm.  He jumped great into the Dew Pond, turned super and met the out right in stride but caught his knee on the way up and twisted pretty badly.  Galloping away I felt like he was suddenly a little less enthusiastic and we were only 2 minutes into the course  so I stayed with my conservative ride and gave him a little more time in the ring to see the basket combination.  He jumped it perfectly and we were off onto the long galloping section where I did start to push on but according to may watch we were already almost 30 seconds down, a bit deflating that early in the course.




Quincy kept to his usual casual nature and was not very impressed by the giant tables but handled them well and was then awesome through the toughest section of the course: the drop combination, water combination, double brush corners, and angled double brush mound combination.  All of that came up quickly and I realized I was down even further on the clock since there was not much space to gallop on during that stretch with several hills and a lake to go through (literally).  







So by minute 7 my watch showed us almost a minute down...but he was jumping awesome and handling everything with ease so I just tried to stay on a good rhythm and live with the fact that I was having to waste time setting up for the combinations.  




The last 3 minutes had several very tough combinations and big efforts and after the flat feeling I had early on I wanted to be sure I had enough horse left at the end.  That I did! Quincy finished in amazing form and had plenty of gallop although we did finish 47 seconds over the time..it's always easy to look back and think that I could have used one (or 5) less tugs here and there and that I could have kicked on after the fences to have gained a second here and there but in the end we got home safe and sound and so very many did not.


After spending awhile kicking myself for the time faults I finally got pulled into the celebration that had been going on among my fabulous supporters from the moment we crossed the finish! I am so fortunate to have such a great group and the fact that Lansdowne had great purple shirts for them to buy made the whole thing even more fun :).  There was champagne at the barn then I headed out to make the most of my day and study how the big boys get it done... Jeff stayed behind to look after Quincy and Alston and my mom headed out to find the required post cross-country pizza. All the efforts payed off as Quincy looked great when we jogged later that afternoon.  He was happy to have plenty of people to be passed between so that he could get lots of grazing time.



One important note: being in the barn with the New Zealand team really paid off when Mark Todd asked to use my step stool...I'm pretty sure it now carries Mark Todd greatness so we may help fund our next trip by charging a fee to anyone wanting to use it...

And away we go!

Friday morning came early and I decided to trust that Quincy's behavior would be best if I didn't do a "pre-ride" before my test. Instead he went for a nice long hand graze before being tacked up to hack over to the main area at 8.  Well he is no fool and did realize this time it was for real so decided to add a little spooking and bolting into our hack over for good measure... He stayed a little more up for the beginning of my warm-up but I proceeded with the routine that had been working the previous 2 mornings.  When David arrived he instantly changed the program since he could see we had a slightly different horse.. I went along with the plan and after about 10 minutes things were feeling good.



We went through a few movements, got a few reminders, and we were in.. Jeff got the test on video since it did not appear that the professionals had arrived so sorry for the lack of zooming ability (slow to upload so adding soon).



I came out of the test thrilled with our performance, which is very rare for me, but reserved my excitement until they announced my score.  But when they did, 44.8, there was a celebration!  I've never gotten better than a score in the 50's with International judges and to be below a 45 was awesome. I instantly pointed out to David that it meant we had score better than all 7's :).


Quincy went back to get lots of carrots from his first wave of admirers..more would be arriving later in the day...and I was off to walk the course again since now it was really on! On my third walk I started to get a good feel of the track of the course, the terrain and turns and approaches to the fences, and began to solidify my plans for the combinations.

For lunch Jeff and I were invited into the sponsors marquee to join the UK Shires Equestrian group.  We had a great meal and interesting conversation much of it based on the differences in spectators and sponsorship between the US and UK.  One take on the difference in the number of spectators that come out for events in the UK was simply that eventing is one of the only really exciting sporting events in the UK that is a family friendly outing while in the US eventing is competing with so many more exciting sports... Many people I spoke with didn't really even know what the competition at Blenheim was all about.

Another course walk in the afternoon with Jeff just to review my plans left me feeling good and we were off to the local pub to grab a bite and get some rest...