What can I say, looks like a typical picture of Morris and Valerie. Valerie busy thinking, plotting, planning, studying. And Morris, staring at cross country, hoping that he gets to run and jump!
Run and jump we did for the past several days at the beautiful MCTA at Shawan Downs. Lucky for me, this event is only an hour away from the barn and the weather for the past several days has been pretty perfecto for eventing. I think this has been, by farm, my most positive experience at this horse trials. In fact, I haven't competed at MCTA for probably 2 or 3 years. I know last year I went to work on my judge's license and thought for a fleeting moment or two that maybe I would be willing to give it a try again. The weather is usually rainy, the footing wet and deep, and the courses notoriously more difficult than you think they should be. They offer schooling after the event, and previously charged an arm and a leg to attend. I must say that this year things were really on the up and up! All of the courses seemed to have better flow, even though the advanced still wiped out half the division and it more or less rode like the hardest course I have ever ridden. Coming off of an elimination thanks to the skinnies at the Fair Hill CIC3* (and yes I still have a very painful and broken right thumb) I wasn't the happiest of campers walking around the advanced. However, by the end of the weekend, and even after schooling a bunch of critters today, I give the whole experience two thumbs up.
The headliner, perhaps, for the weekend was an oldie but a goodie...Private Buck. He was an old prelim horse of mine that went on with his owner to do all sorts of unrecognized things like fox hunting, hunter pacing, and being a guest horse extraordinaire. We decided to go ahead and sell him and to do so wanted to get a current record. So after a week of eventing bootcamp, off to MCTA we went. I entered him in the ON, and after an early morning on Saturday (Morris started the day with an 8 o'clock dressage test) poor Private Buck didn't get to do his test until 2. He didn't get to jump until 5:30! But let me tell you, it was worth the wait. He was soooo happy getting to strut his stuff again. He really turned it on in the dressage arena and was sitting second on a 27.5. He show jumped like he had just been around a highly decorated arena yesterday, not even getting close to the rails. And then he bombed around cross country clean and easily within the time, ears pricked looking for his fence the whole way. We ended up moving into the lead with all of our double clears and taking the top spot by quite the margin of victory for novice. Way to go Buck!
Playtime had a little too much playtime this weekend. His dressage was good, unfortunately he wasn't capable of counter cantering down the hill in the corner of the dressage arena and broke to the trot. You know what that means, if you said more canter poles you were absolutely correct!! Show jumping was frustrating, actually. He jumped the first fence and landed kind of dead, distracted, uninterested in the fact that he was on course. It was a bit of a forward bending line and so I kicked him into gear; but Mr. Warmblood had a bit of a delayed response and we got to 2 unorganized, on a half stride, and he kinda stopped and ducked out all at the same time. Instantly following that was a huge leap and buck because he knew he was about to get a beating. Brat! He then proceeded to put in an absolutely perfect round, I think I barely had to touch a rein or add my leg for the rest of the course and he was sailing a foot over all of the fences. Cross country was a bit the same story. He needs to get a little better still about organizing before his fences so that we can find a nice forward move up stride. This is especially important when you are facing related distances with skinnies and chevrons, like the water jump. We had a cheap run out at the third element. Good news is, 2 months ago I probably would've had a cheap run out at the second element :) So we are making progress.
Speaking of progress, Morris made some serious progress this weekend. I ran him in the advanced and was hoping to prove our performance at Fair Hill was a fluke due to soggy boggy conditions. Morris finished the advanced in third place! By far our best finish yet, and more like his usual form we posted the fastest time on cross country. You have to have a real cross country horse to get around clean and fast and without terrifying spectators at MCTA and I feel like we delivered. Okay, so our bounce probably would've gotten a good gasp or two out of the crowd; but I promise that was probably it. We were straight up and over every skinny out there, and he was surprisingly game for the new intimidating bounce bank. The water was pretty action packed, and the world famous coffin rode much better now that it was at the end of the course and not feeling like such a steep effort in and out. If I could redo anything from the weekend with Morris, I would love another crack at show jumping. He was a little slow off the ground here and there and I should have thrown careful out the window a bit and gotten after him a little more. I know, even perfect Morris needs a little(big) tap(whack) every now and then lol.
Today I drove to Shawan Downs yet again to go cross country schooling. I took my fleet of beginner novice horses. Laugh all you want, they are the cutest, most athletic and fun things I have had in my barn in a long time! Every single one can win the dressage, and they jump and bounce and bop around in their little snaffles and they point their little toes and I cannot wait to compete them all at Seneca mid-June! Need to go schooling once or twice more, not going to lie, but you just wait......!