The Eventing Rally Report continues...
So here I am, sitting on my normally quite calm horse as she jigs around warmup and dances sideways around some perfectly innocuous piles of brush. As far as I know I am still in third place, because the rider ahead of me jumped clean and I didn't see the rider after me, while I took a rail.
The rider ahead of me is walking around the start box, almost ready to go in. McKinna's head is up, her ears are swiveling, and she's pretty much tuning me out.
Great way to start a cross-country ride, don't you think?
So I decide to revise my warmup plan. Instead of walking around on a loose rein until it is my turn, I ask a nearby coach to watch me as I trot McKinna over a big crossrail made of logs.
This is a Pony Club thing - at rallies, you can warm up on the flat by yourself, but you have to have a coach (any coach, not just your team's) watching you whenever you jump. I think it's a pretty smart safety measure, actually, when you think about how many kids are out there on sometimes not-too-controllable ponies, and emotions are often running high.
Anyway, the coach agrees and comes over to watch. McKinna settles down a little as I point her at the fence, takes a big leap over. I bring her back to the trot and come again and we have a brief but firm discussion about the fact that the outside rein does, in fact, mean she can't drift way out with that right shoulder. After she quits fussing and agrees, we pop over the fence again.
Now she's calmer, cantering quietly away from the fence instead of head-up and choppy. We canter the fence a few times and she takes me to it in her normal aggressive XC style, but without getting tense and rushy. I bring her back to a walk and call it good.
"She looks like she really calms down when she has a job to do," remarks the coach who had been watching us.
So now, with the first rider setting out on course, we walk over (on a loose rein!) to the start box. I take deep breaths and walk circles through the start box, front to back. I glance at my watch and remember I have to start it during the countdown.
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six.
I flick through my minute markers - just after the tiger trap, by the bridge along the creek, and before the last fence - reminding myself that I ended up wheeling the course much tighter than they indicated and that I should aim to be a little behind on all my markers.
Five. Four. Three.
I start my watch and stop in the box, facing forward to the course. I shorten my reins.
Two. One. Have a great ride!
A little cheer goes up as I get up in two-point and send McKinna forward. She's cantering well, a little unfocused, but the first two fences are not long after the start box and they're simple. We pop over the first, no problem. By the second, McKinna is jumping out of stride and I stop worrying, knowing that she's settled into the job.
We sail over three, the big downed tree - did I ever think that thing was big and imposing? - and make a tight left to four, the tiger trap in the woods. Then a short gallop to five, the first Real Fence, a pretty big and newly-stained rolltop. McKinna nails the perfect spot and jumps neatly over the rolltop.
We land and I look up ahead to the bank, where we will canter up straight and make a pretty hard right turn to jump the down bank. As we canter up, I say hi to a friend who is jump judging there. (Sometimes you get weird moments of slowwww clarity on course. Hey, I was relaxed!) We make the right-hand turn, McKinna does her characteristic easy canter stride down the bank, and we take a hard left to aim for fence seven, a nice wide fence with a little pine tree growing in front of the center. It is appropriately named the squeeze.
We jump the right side, hugging the tree, and then drift over to get a straight line to a moderately-sized rock oxer. No problems-- we're on our game now and all I need to do is enjoy the ride. We hop over the next few fences: a fairly big log brush in the trees, a rollback to a skinny-ish coop, a tight turn to trot through a set of mandatory flags.
Now we are on the home stretch, a looong gallop around the last corner of the field with four more fences to go. They all go smoothly, even the big new rolltop at the very corner - later, the matching BN fence over there will elicit a lot of stops - and, perfectly on time, we clear the last fence and head for the finish.
I stop at the vet box and dismount, quietly telling McKinna she is the best pony EVER while trying to make her quit dancing sideways away from the vet's stethoscope. After a bit they get a reading on her pulse and respiration and send me to cool out for five minutes. I think coming in her pulse was 100 and her resp was 80, but I have no idea if that's right.
I loosen girth and noseband and walk her in big circles, patting her neck every two seconds or so and telling her how amazing and wonderful she is. At some point my Stable Manager manages to make it over, and she grabs my saddle and pads to take back to the barn. (Stable managers had a hard job this weekend with the one-day rally...too many places to be at once. But mine did an awesome job!) Shortly after that they call me in, check her pulse and respiration (which has dropped I think to 80 and 60? Clearly this is something I need to study a bit...TPR at work and good recovery rates) and tell me she's recovering well. So off I go, practically skipping with joy, to take her back to the stable area and finish cooling her out. It's drizzling, but I don't care. My horse rocks!
I hear over the radio on the way back that the rider after me had a stop on XC, so that moves me up to second place. Back at the stable area, I strip the rest of McKinna's tack and her boots, then proceed to sponge and scrape (despite much protesting on her part) until she's pretty cool. The cooler goes on, she gets a bunch of carrots, and after I deal with a brief post-adrenaline-rush stomachache, I change into warm(!) and dry (!!) clothes. I'm done for the day and it feels awesome - all I have to do now is take care of my rockstar pony and start packing up and organizing my stuff.
Somewhere along the way, the coach who helped me in warmup stops me and compliments me on how nice the two of us looked out there. She says that McKinna seems to really settle into a comfortable, smooth gallop once she's out there on course.
This kind of thing means a lot to me to hear. I know that McKinna is an amazing horse and I have always known it, but I don't think it has always been clear to bystanders. It's really nice to hear unprompted outside validation every once in awhile, and it is the frosting on the cake of our awesome ride.
So, how did rockstar pony and I do? Well...
It turns out, the first place person - the rider who went ahead of me all day on a very sweet-looking QH/Shire mare - had a slew of time penalties in stadium and XC. (Stadium is understandable - McKinna and I actually had a time penalty. Seriously? We had a time penalty. At Novice. They must have wheeled that course TIGHT!) Ultimately, with my double-clear XC round, it was enough to move me and McKinna up to first place! Barely. By less than a point. But still! McKinna! Me! Winning!
I was extreeeeeemely excited.
To make a long story short, the scoring was all kinds of crazy, there were a lot of inconsistencies, and though my score and the other girl's score did not change over the course of the inquiry process, there was a mistake in the final (handwritten) scores. Her score did not change but mine somehow jumped up a few points, enough to put me in second place.
I was bummed.
I checked with them afterward, because I'd added up my score (dressage score of 36 plus 4 faults plus 1 time penalty does NOT equal 44!). They couldn't do anything then as our TD had left, but the next day an email got sent out with corrected scores. I guess there had been a little confusion amongst other divisions too.
Anyway, in the correction email, it listed me as first place. And so I was happy.
I know winning isn't everything, but dang, every once in awhile I like to get recognition for me and my pony and the hard work we've put in! So I was satisfied, and McKinna is amazing and super fun on XC as always, and other than the scoring mistakes it was a really well-run rally.
By the end of the day I was wiped out, but I was warm and dry and I had plenty of time to pack up all my stuff before awards. My teammates also did awesome, and overall our team ended up with 3rd place in Horse Management and 3rd place riding. Go team!
On Falling Short
2 hours ago