Friday, May 22, 2009

Combined Test

Phew, what a great day I had at that Combined Test. Not only did I have a fantastic day, I knocked out practically all of my May goals in one fell swoop.

A Combined Test is sort of quasi-eventing, I guess. It's a schooling show with an eventing dressage test and then a stadium course. So, eventing minus the fun part ;)

Our dressage test was mediocre. In warmup, Pandora was beautiful - relaxed, stretching into my contact, bending nicely, transitioning nicely, completely ignoring all other horses and the very colorful jumps set up in the outdoor arena we were riding in. Once we got to the indoor arena to perform our test, it wasn't quite as good. She is not a big fan of the judge's box in any way shape or form, which is unfortunate since it's the first thing you ride straight towards! This tells me we need practice riding straight towards scary things and ignoring them.

She was distracted so we lost more 'forward' than I was expecting, at two times actually breaking gait for a step (though the judge only caught one of them). Distraction aside, it's still the best test I've ever had, the previous two horses preferring giraffe and motorcycle impressions. We ended with a 40.5 (eventing dressage - it's like golf, not bowling), tied for 5th place.

We had a few hours until my stadium ride, so we camped out at the trailer in style. Pandora had a big ol' haybag and a bucket of water, and we were in the shade about 15 feet away. Dad brought a little propane BBQ so we had cheeseburgers. Yum! We also brought our young dog, who behaved wonderfully. He hung out at the trailer with us, respected the horses, and played fetch with blades of grass when he got bored. No, seriously. I actually threw pieces of grass and he would bring them back. We have it on video.

I got on a bit too early to warm up for stadium. Well, if they had been running on time it would have been fine, but they were about a half-hour behind schedule. Pandora, I've discovered, loves about a 5 - 10 minute warmup for jumping. Get in, w/t/c, jump a couple fences, and call it good. When you do it that way, she's light and soft and springy and fantastic. Unfortunately I was on her a little longer than she would prefer, but once I dismounted and stood with her, she stood patiently. I hopped back on just before my round and it worked fine.

Our jumping round was awesome! The fences at Inavale are both beautiful and spooky, so I was worried we'd have some 'forward' issues. Not a chance. She didn't hesitate at a single fence! None of our distances turned out particularly well, which is my fault - I have only practiced jumping once in the last month and a half, so I think I've just lost a bit of feel for pace. I could tell that I needed to have her moving with a little bit bigger steps so we made better distances, but overall we had a smooth pace and a good clean round. I was very pleased with her - she was soft, controllable, easy to steer, and honest about the fences.

We ended up with 4th place. Hooray!

Then we got to the fun part!!

I headed out to school some XC. I can tell we need more practice at rating in general on a cross-country course, but we definitely have a good baseline. I hopped over some low fences, then came to the water complex expecting to have to patiently insist for the next 40 minutes that she really could take a step into the water.

It took about 40 seconds.

After a brief and halfhearted protest, she went straight in and splashed straight out the other side. I trotted in, she trotted through. The next time I trotted in, she picked up a canter as she stepped into the water and cantered through. This water comes almost up to her chest.

I guess I have a water horse!

After that I practiced hopping over some little tiny ditches (no problem), then put together a couple short courses for myself. By the time I finished, I'd pushed myself to go over some larger fences, like the house you see me jumping in the picture in the last post (I'm jumping the larger house in the middle, not the coop that's nearest the camera). Those fences were either maxed-out Novice or tiny tiny Training, but my money's on novice. Either way, they were pretty big, and when I finally talked myself into letting Pandora have a decent pace coming in, we stopped chipping in and got a good distance.

Seeing a pattern here? Need more pace, need a longer stride, need to let her go a little's a good lesson for me to learn.

Overall it was a fantastic day and I love this girl more all the time. On Monday we're riding in a fun Hunter Pace/Foxhunt Derby, where you ride in teams around a set course but get to choose which height of fence you jump (if you jump at all). That'll be great because we can start out at our level and then pick a couple fences at Novice or small Training to jump too.

I will post this weekend with an overview of my summer horse plans. It's going to be an awesome summer!


Heather said...

Sounds awesome!!! Isn't watching them progress the best feeling in the world?

Beckz said...

Sounds like you had an awesome day.

manymisadventures said...

I had a great time. By the end I was tired but happy!

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