Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Fine and Pleasant Misery*: Part II

Here's a continuation of the Event Derby story. Sorry it's taken me so long, finals and packing and working has sucked up my time. The good news is, I'm OFFICIALLY done with my first year of college. Yeehaw!

I haven't ridden much lately for pretty much the same reasons I haven't been posting. Pandora has been acting on-edge a lot - not as bad as when she was in raging heat, but I free-longed her last night to blow off some steam and she was just going for it. Fingers crossed she settles down for Lily Glen.

Anyway, without further ado:

Ah, morning. A quarter to 8, to be precise. Birds chirping, horses nickering, grass waiting wetly outside to be tromped through. Which I do, promptly, to feed and water my horse, who has managed to drain two hay bags and two buckets of water overnight. Sigh.

It is satisfying when she nickers at the sight of me, though. I choose to ignore the fact that she nickered only the second time I approached, which was when I brought her hay.

I head out to the barn, correctly suspecting that our instructor won't quite be ready for the guided course walk at 8AM sharp. My pants are wet wet wet by the time I even get down to the barn, so I know the course walk is going to be hopeless. Thankfully I borrowed my mom's very waterproof boots, so my socks at least are dry. But everything else is, as usual, wet.

Our instructor is perky. This is because she has a cup of coffee in her hand, and also waterproof boots that are tall enough to keep her legs dry. The course walk, despite its sogginess, actually goes well. The course looks nice, though there are some rather tight turns for Beginner Novice. Then again, this is a hybrid between SJ and XC, so I suppose I should be glad there aren't any SJ-tight turns.

The course looks like this: the first three fences are a serpentine, two stadium fences and one rolltop. Then a right turn to a double stadium, hang a right to a fake trakehner (it was a little stadium vertical set down inside a shallow ditch), then up a longish hill to a little barn. Over the barn, pretty tight left-hand turn and down the hill to hop over a little ditch. Then an almost 90-degree left turn and a few strides to a little table with a pretty straight line to another bigger table. Loop awkwardly way left and then tight right to go through the water complex, then turn around the judge's mound for a turquoise stadium fence and another tight left to jump the Fence-3 rolltop in the other direction for the final fence.

It looks like a nice mix of fences, and I'll actually have some room in places to let Pandora move out a little. Some of the turns suck, but most of it should ride nicely.

My only concern is the footing. I'm not sure if you picked up on this, but everything out there is pretty darn soggy. Before my division goes, the turf has to withstand divisions of Prelim, Training, and Novice, most of them with studs. I can't stud because Pandora's not shod on hind, and you don't want to have more traction in front than in back. Barefoot should be okay, I just don't want her to slip and get anxious in the mud.


I make the long slow return to the tent and again change into breeches and half chaps to save my poor wet legs. Isn't it summer yet? Thankfully, breakfast is equally good as dinner: leftover pork chop in scrambled eggs. Yummmm. Delicious.

Then we need to scurry, because Prelim XC is from 10 - 10:15 and we want to see the big jumps! As expected, it's exciting and fun to watch. There are only three of them, and one accidentally jumps the (bigger) Intermediate trakehner instead of the Prelim one. The big E for her after she jumps her next fence, but cool to see.

So we head back, take care of some chores, check on the horse, and the like. My dressage ride time is at 1:12 and now, at last, I get to take a nap. Once again the sleeping bag is very comfortingly dry.

I wake up to the most welcome voices I have ever heard. My father has arrived in his shining white armor - okay, maybe more like a white t-shirt - with, praise the lords of Eventing, dry sweatpants and my rubber boots. And food, more food. I am thrilled beyond words. I am now warm, dry, and immune from the ever-present tall wet grass. My day has suddenly become several orders of magnitude better.

Just in time for me to tack up, of course, but it's the peace of mind that counts.

Pandora dislikes being tied to the trailer away from all other horses. She commences dancing around like an idiot, eyes wide and rolling, ears flicking all over the place, ignoring her hay bag. I get that familiar feeling that sits somewhere in the belly and goes "Oh, well, this ride is going to be fun." I tack up anyway, of course. After taking a moment to admire the vast expanse of white that is my brand-new dressage saddle pad, I mount up and head off to the [soggy, squishy, grass] warm-up area.

Happily, Pandora mellows out once I'm in the saddle. (Highly preferable to the opposite situation.) Our warm-up is, one might venture to say, nice. She relaxes and stretches into my hands. We have bend, we have transitions, we have obedience even in the slippery grass. How exciting.

Naturally, this all goes out the window once we get to the actual dressage court. Our test is tense. The 20-meter circle at A has been thoroughly pounded by all previous divisions and is not squishy but hard mud and therefore very slick. Pandora, who is paying more attention to the judge and letters than me or where she's putting her feet, has several minor slips until she's so nervous about the footing that her canter is short-strided and incredibly tense. We survive the test without any major mishaps and exit.

Oh well. At least the warm-up was good.

I never check my dressage score, but if I had, it would have been a 46.2 and we are in 6th place out of 9 or 10.

So we put the horse away, settle down for some food, etc. It has now progressed past cold and wet, through warm and wet, and everything is growing decidedly drier. It's a pleasant idea.

Anyway, I trudge out to the course like a good little Pony Clubber to walk the course one more time. Much to my surprise, it's dried out. A lot. Still a little questionable in places, but for the most part, it reasonably resembles solid ground. This is a good thing and it makes me a lot more comfortable about my impending round.

So I go get tacked up and hack out to the course.

(This was actually taken on the way BACK from the course, but oh well)

Now, Pandora likes short jumping warm-ups. As in, walk around for three or four minutes, trot for a minute, canter a bit, jump three or four jumps, and go in. Grand total 10 minutes or so. Therefore, I check in as soon as I'm in the warm-up area.

Obviously this would be a good time for someone to fall off and hold the course for 40 minutes.

She was okay, or I wouldn't complain. But still. I end up hopping off, because Pandora hates being sat on for that long and I hate sitting on her for that long. I mount up with a few minutes to go, walk a lap, pick up a canter, jump an oxer, make a neat tight turn around to a vertical, and call it good.

We head out to the course.

She wavers before the first fence, a big red and white vertical with a lot of stuff going on near it (water complexes, big hill with permanent fences, judge's area, spectators). I growl just a little and we get over nicely. Left turn to the second stadium vertical which rides really nicely. We loop around to our first XC fence, a tiny rolltop, which rides well.

I pick too much to the purple stadium combination so it's a bit ugly, but we get through okay. I give her a strong ride to the fake trakehner, convinced she's going to want to put her nose down in that ditch, but to my surprise it rides super smoothly. A bit more aggressive on the uphill, push the speed a little, then over a barn and a tight left turn to go downhill. She slipped a little on that turn, the only place on course - probably my fault for turning too tight, but she let it go quickly. Back to a trot down the hill - my downhill horse, who wants to stick her nose in every ditch and pull me onto her neck, is probably not the best horse to canter downhill to a ditch - and over the little ditch with no problems.

Then a tight turn to the line of tables, which she nails with no problem. Awkward long loop to the water complex, and after a bit of drop-the-outside-shoulder-skitter-sideways, we plunge through. Around left past the judge again and over a turquoise vertical, which was super ugly because we just got a weird distance and I stopped riding, then a tight left turn to the first rolltop again. That one rode super nicely.

And we're done, clear, and according to my father the announcer called it 2:30, which was one second under optimum time. Go us!

Everyone packs up, heads out, and we load everything up. I decide to head over to check on my score. And, to make a long story short, they'd given me 7 time penalties which I knew was incorrect. After yet another trek to the XC course, all is straightened out, my time penalties are removed to make me one of two clear rounds, and in the end I move up 5 places to take 2nd place.

Victory (or close to it) is so sweet.

*Again, I shamelessly stole this post title from a book by Patrick McManus of the same name. He is an outdoorsman and hilarious. I don't hunt or fish or much of anything, but I am still in awe of his humor. Horse camping, much like hunting and fishing and regular camping, is indeed a fine and pleasant misery.


MyLittlePony said...

Don't forget to pack your rubber boots for your Lily Glen trip!

Leah Fry said...

And lots of pictures!!

Heidi said...

I would call 2nd place a victory! That's awesome! Good job :-)

Albigears said...

OK is it wrong of me to enjoy reading about misadventures when everything works out in the end?

It gives me hope that eventually, everything will work out in the end. And my horse is not the only one with... em... idiosyncrasies. I've never had a horse that refused a haybag at a trailer and was in perpetual motion until now.

Congrats on your ribbon, woot woot!

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