On Friday, we gave McKinna a Pony-Club-Quality-Bath (tm), loaded her up onto the trailer, stopped by a nearby barn to pick up her trailer pooling buddy, and set off on our way to Turner for the eventing rally.
We rolled in at 3PM or so and set to work: Bed the corrals. Hang the water buckets. Re-hang the one that fell to the ground and soaked my teammate when the twine broke. Label halters. Hang stall cards. Empty trailer. Re-pack trailer with 4 riders' worth of rally kits, saddles, bridles, helmets, grooming boxes, clothes, hay bales, and grain. Abandon hope of fitting everything inside and decide to leave rally kits out in the rain, since they are packed in plastic tubs. Hang our club banner. Bridle up and remove tail wraps for jogouts. Jog. Re-tail wrap. Put horses in sheets to guard against the never-ending drizzle. Walk the XC course. Go to rally briefing. Scarf down some pizza and corn bread.
Then I go to bed at 9:00 - and by 'bed' I mean 'a sleeping bag and pillow in the back seat of the truck' - because I know my unwelcome alarm will cheerfully ring at 5:45, just in time for me to get dressed and drag myself over to the corrals to feed at the required time of 6:00.
Yuck. Have I ever told you guys that I hate mornings?
Still, tossing breakfast to McKinna always wakes me up pretty quickly. While she contentedly munches on her grain and hay, happily ignoring the constant light rain, I immediately set to work scrubbing at her legs. She managed to get them dirty overnight. I'm thrilled that she's comfortable enough to lay down to sleep, but really. I washed those socks less than 24 hours ago.
That done, it's time for a quick breakfast (hard-boiled eggs fresh from a club member's farm, cinnamon toast crunch cereal, and a few stolen sips of my teammate's hot chocolate) and then time to go get the pony ready for our 8:07 Turnout Inspection. I am the second rider of the day, so my teammates all help me get McKinna ready. This is wonderful, because getting ready for a Turnout involves lots of grooming and wiping and oops you missed a purple spot there and the like, and it's a much lower-stress job when you have several friends helping you out.
Perfectly on time and all tacked up for dressage, I head over to the Inspection area. All of our hard work gets rewarded by a series of glowing comments from the Chief Horse Management Judge, a row of 'Exceeds Standards' on my turnout sheet, and no dropped points. Yes! Go Team!
Then it's off to dressage, where I have a nice long warmup in a small grass field next to the ring. It's less than ideal, the grass being quite wet from the rain, but we make do. She warms up well but the inconsistency of the footing means that she is a bit less willing to give me as much relaxed connection as usual. Still, our test turns out to be fairly willing and steady despite general tension and lack of strong connection. We end up with a 36, which puts us third (in the field of three, ha) but only 4 points or so behind first. Overall I am happy with the test as we're still showing steady improvement.
I grab second breakfast when my dad makes me two eggs and some bacon on the grill over at Parent HQ. Score! Then it's off to wheel my XC course in the warm rain. Not as fun as it sounds, because the warmth precludes wearing a rain jacket for very long so I get pretty damp. But it's worth it, because I get to solidify the course in my mind, get a general feel for my minute markers, and double-check the location of a tricky mandatory crossing that they put in place after removing the water crossing from the course.
It's a pretty straightforward course. A few maxed-out fences, and the only things I plan to ride even a little defensively are two big newly-stained table-type fences. Everything else looks friendly, fun, and not terribly challenging but not too easy. The course has lots of room for long gallops, which should be fun.
Then it's time to walk the stadium course, which is quite balanced. Mostly line-diagonal-line, but a rollback turn after fence 1 and a tight two-stride to four regular strides in one triple line offer a little spice. It's easy to remember, at least! I like the diagonal line best: it's an easy 6 strides and the first fence has a solid wall beneath it. McKinna jumps solid fences really well.
After a general blur of lunchtime, helping with teammate's horses, and doing various tidying-up chores around the stable area, it's time to get tacked up for jumping. Because the rally is crammed into one day, they set up the scheduling so you ride stadium and head immediately over to XC. I like it, because I don't have to save our most challenging phase for last, and stadium functions as a nice thorough warmup for XC.
So, all geared up in XC attire, McKinna and I head over to stadium warmup. This is also on grass, which again makes warmup a little problematic. The area is a bit too narrow to really turn, so most fences involve trotting around the turn and picking up your canter on the approach. McKinna, unsurprisingly, is jumping very forward and bold at the warmup fences, offering to leave long rather than add up when we get a funny distance. Well, we're wearing XC gear and jumping outside on grass, what do you expect?
Despite the forwardness, I discuss with our coach and decide to mostly stick to my plan in the ring, which is: ride quiet, keep her balanced and go for the close spot if necessary, and aim for 2+4 instead of 1+4 in the tight line.
In the ring, McKinna carries her boldness with her. This leads to a bit of discombobulation between the two of us for the first few fences, where I'm expecting her usual quiet, conservative self and she's giving me a bit more of an aggressive style. After we take a rail on the second fence because I try to suggest that she add and she hesitates because she didn't want to, I (wisely) decide to ride the horse I have. The rest of the course is pretty smooth as I go with her, encouraging her to open up her stride and power off the ground from a bit of a longer spot than usual, and we don't take any more rails.
Good pony. Weird pony. I guess we just really need to practice stadium, again and again, at home and at shows. What this is telling me is that we don't have enough experience together at 3' to be totally consistent, and since she's changed so much in the past 9 months in terms of her balance and gait and coordination, we're just not fully in tune. Definitely something to work on this winter, especially since I want to move up next year.
Anyway, I'm quite pleased with my ride. First place jumped clean, didn't see second place go, so as far as I know we're still in third. We head across the creek to the cross-country warmup area, where McKinna gets a bit of a bee in her bonnet and starts jigging around, spooking a bit, and generally preferring to not listen to me. This is fairly uncharacteristic, and I sit up there and hope this is not how our next phase is going to go...
To be continued!
On Falling Short
2 hours ago