Monday, October 25, 2010

Waredaca Weekend Report

Yes, to you and me these are happy smiling pumpkins. To Freddie Mac, they were suspicious creatures, and the witches flying on the last fence (in background) - pure evil! However, the Fred Fred managed to put his bravest foot forward, and then leap over these show jumps with the other 3, to finish on his dressage score at Waredaca this past Sunday. Very proud of the baby, finished on his dressage score which was good enough for a 4th. Watch the video below to be your own judge of his performance!
Regardless of what you think, however, we think he was fabulous! There was only 1 reported incident of snorting throughout the entire competition, which is a huge improvement from his last outing to Morven. He had to go all alone, with big brother Morris on holiday after his super performance at the Fair Hill CCI2* last week. As the sole representative of Blue Clover Eventing, the youngster did us proud all day long. The weather was perfect and the background almost looked fake, with all of the trees changing color. Freddie was feeling pretty good in the dressage warm-up, but 15 minutes of cantering later we were primed and ready for our entrance at 'A.' I can't wait for the new dressage pads to be completed at Waredaca, as it is challenging riding a 17.1h all leg 5 year old in a small arena set on a grassy hill! While I think it was his personal best, the judge dinged him for being "too green today" and all I can say is, wow it's a good thing she wasn't judging his first couple of tests ha ha ha. There was minor tail wringing in the canter in the actual arena, his walk was not only existent but really good, and we halted on the centerline without swaggering into it like a drunken sailor. I mean, what more could I really ask for lol?
What I really could ask for was clean jumping within the optimum time, and I got it! Show jumping he was really focused. I warmed up very efficiently and he stood quietly at the in gate watching the horse jump in front of him. It is as though Freddie realizes now there is an actual reason we put him in a trailer at 5 in the morning and dress him up and prance him around! I decided to take the liverpool option at fence #7, who woulda thought there would even BE a liverpool option for novice?! And Freddie really rose to the occassion. He not only cantered the entire course; but he got the correct number of strides in all the lines, and I must admit I think he didn't add or subtract any other strides anywhere else on course! Even got a flying change or two, although most of the time he landed on his correct lead and was looking for his next fence. He was REALLY looking at the last fence, every time I had to canter by it I wound up with a spook; but when it was time to jump it he held his breath and over it we went. Very proud of him!
Cross country was by far the phase in which Freddie made his biggest improvements this weekend. The course designer did a great job (actually, everyone at Waredaca does a great job, thank you!) of introducing the horses to an idea and then presenting it as a tougher question later on. Freddie was totally with this program! He was very relaxed in his gallop, let me set him up and rebalance him for his fences without losing his focus. He understood the footwork required for the drops AND the ditch, finally! and just in time because there was a challenging approach to the water that required a brave jump down a bank and then a 90 degree turn. He totally kept his feet moving and even galloped thru the water, making a big splash. I think he was having a good time...and I know I sure was! Really looking forward to a strong finish to Freddie's first season of eventing. In two weeks he is off to Rubicon, again looking to finish on our dressage score, and this time I hope it's a good enough score to win!

YouTube Links for Freddie Mac Videos

Show Jumping:

Cross Country:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

12th at Fair Hill CCI2*

Morris found a little quiet time on Thursday morning, standing near the dressage warm up and getting quite the view of Vendor Village before all the shops opened. How exciting to be competing at the 2010 Fair Hill International in the CCI** division! There was hardly any downtime for Morris since arriving there with Lara Tuesday afternoon. He had the initial In-Barn inspection, where thank goodness my passport met all specs and Morris did his part staying healthy and happy on the 2 hour trailer drive. Wednesday was a bit stressful, not going to lie, during the 1st horse inspection. Morris and I were held for re-inspection which was a very big shock because the Ground Jury couldn't seem to pinpoint exactly what they didn't like about how he was moving; but they obviously didn't like something. I had never had this happen on knock on wood it will never happen again. We represented and were accepted and it was time to start riding!
I was 45th out of 60 to ride in the 2*, meaning that Thursday I more or less had a day off. That worked out well, because it was freezing cold and pouring down rain most of the day. Lara and I walked the cross country course that morning, getting to maybe fence 5 before it started to pour. Too late, we were committed, and we really wanted to see what was out there! More pictures to follow, don't worry. The initial walk was a fact-finding mission, and it was obvious that Morris and I had some serious work to do on Saturday! Luckily for us our stalls didn't flood and Morris and Gunsmoke were perfectly happy to hide inside the tent for the majority of the day. That afternoon we had an opportunity to ride in the main arena to familiarize the horses with the atmosphere, and I took advantage of this. Morris was very good and we did our entire work-out session right next to my competition arena.
Friday I rode Morris once before my actual test, making sure that I had him back in the barn by 8:30 because Lara had some serious work to do! She really makes him sparkle, her braids are impeccable, and it is a real pleasure to watch her work so lovingly on my #1 guy. We make quite a good team, and we didn't want to let each other down on such a big weekend! The weather was much improved from the day before, well at least it was sunny; but the WIND eek! It was really blowing and I had to challenge myself to keep my chin up and have faith that my top hat would stay in place. It did, and Morris handled the conditions like a real professional. We have been together for a year now and the difference that time has made is really remarkable. The VIP tent was making terrible noises as it got knocked around by the gusts, and the flags out front were whipping all over the place. Morris stayed focused on me, and put in the best test we have ever had together. One of the judge's gave us very good marks, the other judge did not to put it quite simply. I was very disappointed by the wide gap between the scores; however I have the video and will take it to my next lessons for some perspective on the situation. I walked the cross country course twice more on Friday, even brought out the meter wheel so that I could determine my minute markers. The time at Fair Hill is always hard to make, and I was now really motivated to get around clean and fast on Saturday.
And we did!! Morris and I were 1 of 6 double clears, and posted the fastest time in the 2*. I have an incredible horse and I am so lucky to get to pilot him around. He felt like a 5* horse out there. Twice I was going to put a slight bend in my approach to give Morris more time to figure out exactly what it was he was doing and he was offended, quite frankly. He wanted to get right to the next obstacle in the direct route, leaving out a stride if need be. Gotta love that kind of attitude! I am fortunate that he is so fast, and I used this to my advantage not wasting any time on the turns. Also, we have really practiced being efficient at getting him to come back to me. Karen has had me work on this again and again at lessons, and Jimmy, too, has pointed out how important it is because I am not a big strong person and therefore Morris has got to listen to the slightest motions that I make. He had this super rhythm going on a huge step and we just bounded around the course. We jumped around like we had springs on our feet and from the first jump that I angled in warm-up, I had a good feeling. He was so accurate and rideable around the 9 minute course. I was concerned about every water (there were 4!) because they were pretty technical as well as bold, you had to be the right combination of accurate and forward. There was a tricky combination in the main arena, which we flew right through. I was concerned about some angled roll tops after a long gallop a little after the half way, in case Morris was getting tired it was going to be difficult to keep your line. Ha. Morris. Tired. Right. Flew thru the sunken road, well we pretty much flew right through everything. I hope to post the YouTube link shortly, check back soon!
Sunday was very early, with a 9:00 2nd horse inspection. Many thanks to the awesome Team Canada, (Dr. Ober and Randy), who made it a personal mission to make sure that we were accepted on the first try this go 'round. Mission accomplished! I have never been so happy to hear the "Accepted" word, as tons of horses were getting put into the hold and quite a few got spun. The celebrating was short-lived, as Lara whisked Morris back to the barn and I walked around my show jumping course, twice by myself and then a third time with Karen. We show jump in reverse order of standing, and so going into show jumping in 12th I got to watch a good 30 or so horses negotiate the course before it was my turn. It is always an advantage to watch and learn from others, and I did tweak part of my plan. When I was 10 horses out I got on Morris (I had already done a bunch of flatwork about an hour prior) and headed to the lower jump arena. Karen met me down there and she and Lara quickly built some fences for Morris and I to work on getting out of cross country mode and back into calm and quiet show jumping mode. Morris actually clicked into gear faster than he ever has, again so so happy that all of my hard work has been paying off! We ended with an oxer down there and headed up to the end of the main arena where there were 3 more schooling fences. Morris got a little nervous when we got in there; but nothing like he would've done a year ago. So proud of him. He continued to jump well, I was happy, Karen and Lara were happy, it was all up to me to go in and leave all the rails up. And I was close! 1 down, preventable if I had a chance to do it again (and I wish wish wish I could). I was expecting Morris to be strong down a line and instead he landed and waited like a little lambkin and I was just too slow to register exactly what was going on. He was seriously annoyed that I made him hit a rail, there was some ear-pinning and some tail-swishing and that was the last rail we touched. He jumped really well through the combinations, in general he just really jumped well. His form is getting better and better with each outing. We were easily inside the time, securing our 12th place finish. Even if I had jumped clean, I would've remained in 12th so I can't beat myself up too badly :) But you know me, I can't wait to get out there and do it again and try to make it even better, everywhere, every time! It will be a bit for Morris, he has a good week of holiday with nothing but turn out and rolling and staying as dirty as he would like. He earned it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Morven Park

The video at the bottom: Freddie Mac's Novice dressage test.

We were so lucky with the weather this past weekend when we competed at Morven Park just outside of Leesburg, and I will be the first to say thank you! for letting the rain stop for 48 hours so we could compete in the cold, and not the cold and wet. Actually, by the afternoon of both Saturday and Sunday the temperatures were very pleasant and my ponies were feeling very good.
Saturday we took Morris to compete in the Intermediate. Lara Gunsmoke Morris and I had the pleasure of an extra helper, Emma, whom we hope to see very shortly in her eventing debut! I think we had an excellent prep for Fair Hill, it was frosty first thing in the morning and Morris was handling the whole situation very well. He was excellent for his pre-ride, and for most of his warm up prior to the test. He stood by his arena, yes, STOOD! which is quite a feat, and he walked quietly back from warm up to the trailer. Lara had him looking beautiful in no time and we went in for the real deal. It wasn't quite as good as the AECs; but certainly better than any of the tests that we were doing in the spring. His walk got a little tense by the end of the diagonal, so guess what we will be doing plenty of this last week before Fair Hill......Also, need to work on my canter-walk transitions. Throwing away a couple of points there, and at Fair Hill a couple of points are really going to make a difference!
Show jumping was out on the grass, which was a little surprising and disappointing as I wanted to practice in the arena...Fair Hill's show jumping will take place in the main arena. Oh well, good practice for the Morris brain as he has a tendency to assume that all jumping out on grass looks and feels a lot like cross country! He was quite good, only got a little tight and flight thru a tricky line in the middle of the course although luckily he kept those rails up. We had an unlucky rail in the triple...the rider before me gave it a good roll and I don't think it was properly reset, because Morris barely tapped it and then several seconds later it fell quietly out of the cups. Oh well. We withdrew before cross country, it was too close to Fair Hill for me to feel comfortable about running as I think it is the dressage and show jumping that need the most focus. We are going to go cross country schooling to practice a couple of exercises and I think that is safer for his health, both physical and mental, than getting to zoom around the course at Morven.
We went back on Sunday with Freddie, however, with every intention of completing all three phases and winning a ribbon! He is really growing up, it was his 3rd event and so cold and windy in the morning he would have had every excuse to act like a green bean. Lots of pats and cookies for Freddie, he really acted like he knew what he was doing for most of the time. He had the unfortunate luck of performing his test in the indoor, which is a small tight place for Mr. Long Legs. He did a really good job of staying relaxed and focused, and throughout the test he just got better and better. We were sitting second after dressage, so obviously the judge thought as highly of his performance as I did! Show jumping was difficult for Freddie with the ups and downs of the terrain; but he tries so very hard to keep the rails up and you could really see him making a real effort. He rubbed one or two and took a flying leap over one or two; but at the end of the day he was double clear and very proud of himself. It wasn't the prettiest round I've ever ridden although it was enough to move us into first. I can only imagine what it is going to feel like when he gets control and coordination lol.
Unfortunately, our being in 1st place only lasted up until fence 13. That would be where Freddie Mac was completely taken by surprise by the ditch at the half coffin. I was disappointed, as he was really having a great round. He acted like a total grown up horse jumping up the bank and 2 strides over the roll top, he cantered quietly thru the woods and had a lovely jump over the stone wall on the way out. Really felt like a big-time horse there. He was pretty brave about jumping the big brush fence, and I thought I had him motoring over the ditch until a half a stride away. And then, it was as though he'd been watching the reining competition at WEG. Front legs out to the side, hind legs somewhere by his elbows, and head straight down looking into the ditch. I did a pretty good job of staying on, I must say, and then he sat there for a second regrouping and I added leg to no avail. He picked his head up and I gave him a stern whack. He got the point and jumped from a standstill, which I consider to be a sign of progress. We didn't stand there for 5 minutes determining whether or not it was safe to cross over the Grand Canyon as it sometimes must appear to Freddie. We more or less poured ourselves over the log that was supposed to be a quiet 3 strides after the ditch; but nonetheless we were back in action. The next fence was the trakehner, a pretty big log with a faux ditch underneath. Freddie was very brave about that, and then continued with a confident gallop the rest of the way around the course.
Next for Morris the the 2* at Fair Hill, HOORAY! Freddie will have a mini-vacay until competing again at Waredaca at the end of the month. Hoping that third time is a charm and he finally brings home the blue!