Well I guess you could say the 2011 eventing season really started off with a BANG for the Blue Clover Eventing Team - because BANG would be the noise you heard upon my air vest blowing up on cross country. Not really how one intends to start a season. I guess enough time has passed now, however, that I can sometimes laugh about it. No, that is a lie. Thinking about it is still infuriating and embarrassing although I think at this point others are laughing about it.
Things started off great on Saturday. It was very cold, so much so in fact that my arena was frozen for dressage! Morris really was a champ in there, we have his warm up routine for Intermediate at least down to a science and I had the same horse in my test as I did going around the arena, very exciting. Winter drilling in the indoor certainly paid off. Unfortunately for The Morris, the lack of floaty gaits combined with a rock hard surface didn't do much to help him look like a ballerina. I think the judge was kind in some places, and a little stingy in others. Regardless, we were sitting in 8th after dressage and not even a rail out of 3rd, the scores were very closely bunched together. The real feat of dressage was keeping a counter canter, we have been practicing so many changes for our advanced debut that I thought it would be a little hit or miss about whether or not I could successfully execute the lack of a flying change lol.
Show jumping was pretty good as well, for his first time out that season I should say it was very good. It was by far the most consistent round I think we have ever had at Intermediate, and again he stayed focused and rideable leaving the warm up and getting into the main arena. Just coming back from my Karen lessons, I had a lot of feel and advice floating around in my head and I could really apply what we had worked on the prior week to the course at Pine Top. Morris still needs to get a little stronger, and my timing could be a little sharper, but surely on the right track. He jumped really well through both the triple and the in and out, and I will consider that a victory.
Cross country on Sunday I'm afraid is another story. Beautiful morning, beautiful course and very appropriate for the beginning of the season. Morris knew exactly what the taped boots and studs meant while getting tacked at the trailer, and Lara had him looking the part most certainly. We cruised through warm up and he just felt awesome, maybe a touch strong in an excited sort of way as it had been since Fair Hill in October that he got to go run around a course! I met a couple of the oxers on super move up galloping distances, and then ended with some angles and quietly cantering the oxer as though it was the log at the beginning of the coffin, or the water. From this point on, wish I could hit the rewind or do-over button. There was some sort of a problem with time, and so as I am walking up to the box the started was kinda frantic and asked if I could go in 20 seconds. Sounded fine to me I thought, Morris and I certainly know what we are doing when it comes to a cross country course! So I kinda trotted helter skelter up the hill to the start box and as she was saying "2....1...go" we zipped in and out. Problem is, I think, Morris and I have this routine where he likes to get to the box about 1 minute before we actually go. He stands beside it absolutely motionless and just stares down the start of the track. He won't move a muscle until I hear the starter say "Go!" and then I nudge him and boom we are off and running. I didn't think it was that big of a deal; but I'm thinking now that Morris, who makes very few requests, would really like to start things his way. So he spends the entire gallop to the first fence not really galloping but cantering with a drifting left shoulder back towards warm up. It was a little awkward up and down a hill and I thought I had it fixed just kind of casually as we kept going. I guess I should have nailed him with a stick or spur or both and roughed him up a little bit! 5 strides out or so I'm finally straight, and while Morris was looking at the fence he wasn't really taking me to it. I see a stride or so later that it is going to be long. I add leg. No real response. I then really dig in to tell him to now take off long as there's a good half stride of a gap. He delayed and kind of went to tag his feet down and then take off again, or so I think. I don't really recall. I heard a whack, or multiples. I had mane in my face, I hear my air vest blowing up, I know I say a bad word and I slip my reins. I'm then over his left shoulder which at the time seemed way too close to the ground and I'm rolling because I can't prove or disprove that Morris has his feet on the ground. I finish rolling back up to my feet, still holding my stick (how does that happen??) and watch my cross country machine absolutely flying back towards warm up. Then he goes right through the middle of the warm up, terrorizing everyone I'm sure, and proceeds to fly down the dam where I was told later they stopped him at the double gates. Lara had Foxy going as fast as she would go. Too bad she didn't take up the offer to track him down in the Ferrari!
No one from my crew witnessed this, because who is really watching the first fence? Lara had the video camera and was sprinting towards the water to catch me there. Richard was on his bike and kinda saw it from behind. Bad words. Lots of bad words. Bad words because I am okay, and my horse was just fine. If that hadn't been the case, well we don't want to think about that. I went home and jumped every horse in the barn to prove that I could see a spot and to make sure that I didn't get too mental. Makes you so happy to have such a great team, and that they were all on their 'A' game on a day when Morris and I obviously were not. What I can say now, other than lessons learned, out of our system, and behind us (hopefully forever!).