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!