Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clifton Jade Wins at Plantation!

Well, that's how it was supposed to read anyway. Sadly, Clifton Jade had the winning score at Plantation and then, when it was all said and done, got a big TE for Technically Eliminated, or, totally excellent as we told him. Morris didn't do a thing wrong to deserve the TE, it would be his rider (ahem) who completely messed up the CIC and CNC course and I had no idea I had done so. In fact, I was clean and fast and knew that we had won and was ready to fight when they told me I missed 16B. Morris deserved to win, he was just fantastic. Dressage was freezing, quite literally, it was 41 degrees and just surviving the warm-up was on everyone's mind as cold and tight horses were zinging and leaping all around the show grounds Friday morning. I did a pre-ride not to wear him out as much as I just wanted to literally warm us both up, and when I got on for the second time he was feeling really good. He stayed the same from warm up to around the ring, and then cruised on down the center line like he owned the place. I knew it was going to be a good day! Show jumping went well, I had a rail even though technically it was Morris' hoof that tapped it. Lots of horses were spooking at the in of the combination and even though Morris isn't spooky I didn't want to take any chances as I had seen numerous bad rides. Good news was, there was no spook. Bad news was I got his front legs right up to it and he just didn't have time to snap them cleanly out of the way. However, clean show jumping rounds were very few and far between. We went from winning the dressage to sitting second by barely a point. Cross country day on Saturday started out a little rough. I was walking the course while the riders in the early part of the division were out galloping around, and they were refusing and falling left and right! Not what you want to hear and see as you plan your last approaches and strategies. Morris was none too worried, that's for sure. It was dark and cold and blustery warming up on top of the hill and he was all business and had an excellent warm up in no time. Before I knew it we were flying out of the start box and covering ground like nobody's business. We made it through the coffin which had been - quite literally - a show stopper for most of the division. Morris was excellent, flew thru the bank, the water....and ultimately we flew right by stupid 16B and it cost us the blue! I really have no one to blame other than myself, that doesn't really make me feel any better. It did, however, motivate me to go walk Smarty's CIC** course twice more ha ha ha.
Smarty had a great weekend even if he didn't end up in the Top Ten (he was oh so close). This little Chubby pony was competing at Training Level this past February and now he's qualified for Fair Hill! The dressage is still tough for him, I thought it was one of the best starts we have had and he just got a little tired and I couldn't keep it all together by the end of the test. Had some really super moments, and even performing at less than half of what he is capable of, we were sitting 14th in a super competitive field after the dressage! The cross country course was tough. I had not been to Plantation in years, and the new layout with the arena (the footing is amazing) and the ability to see the entire cross country course from the ridge really makes it an impressive venue. I was a little disappointed in all of the twists and turns in the 2* track. It made some tough questions that much more intense and made you feel like you never had a moment to just let your horse swallow up the ground. That said, Smarty was brilliant. I thought that my round at Richland was like a hunter round at 550 mpm, and this didn't quite match that (I missed like none other to fence 15, the skinny ditch and brush I admit it!). All in all, however, he was a very, very good boy. Some of the biggest bravery questions he has ever faced were on the course, and he was so honest about the skinnies after the coffin (huge vertical log one stride ditch bounce ditch one angled stride skinny eek!). It was the fastest and most efficiently he has ever started a course and he ended with his ears pricked, looking for more fences! He is the only horse that I have ever had that went into the Vet Box and shortly after being assessed by vets was begging for cookies! He really is one of a kind and I really am so lucky to have a horse like that in my barn. Sunday he looked magnificent for the jog, thanks Trisha!, and he put in a lovely jumping round. Had not one but two really cheap rails. That was a really annoying way to end my weekend, knocked him out of a top ribbon. Next time. Well, next time will be Morven Park and maybe we should save it for Fair Hill? Sounds like a plan to me!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Richland Report

I know, I know Richland was FOREVER ago or so it seems. But what can I say, time flies when you are having fun. Or, I've been really busy with the earthquake, hurricane, and now flooding and the havoc that it is wreaking in my little daily life! More details, in chronological order:

Richland Park is one of the best events of the year. The timing this year was incredible, how did they know that I would miss both an earthquake AND a hurricane while away competing? Thank you!! The organizers and volunteers are so insanely nice, (thank you Rick Dunkerton for working your scheduling magic), the courses and footing this year were great, the FREE competitors parties (yes, plural) and the fact that all of my favorite people and ponies were there just make it a destination event. I think that Richland should apply for the AECs, after all I think it is 12 hours from anywhere and they proved this weekend that they can run what seemed to be a thousand horses without a hitch. Job well done! And my horses and Trisha get a job well done as well! Morris was great in his advanced dressage test, it was that pesky test B and he was so much calmer and focused about his half pass and flying change routine. Someone is really growing up! Smarty won the warm up and then pretty much embarrassed and exhausted me in the arena if that is possible. Last I checked, however, the reinback does not call for flinging ones head into the air, and then staring eye to eye at the judge inside her box while we somehow leap backwards into the middle of the arena. All was forgiven, however, as soon as he started jumping. In only his second intermediate, he was clean and fast around a significant track, taking all of the direct routes, jumping everything with textbook form, and Chubbs even kicked it into a higher gear this time, finishing barely 10 seconds over the time. Yay! I'm afraid I can't say the same for Morris, he was his usual clean and fast self except for the fact that he took a great disliking to the combination involving the massive ditch and brush drop fence early on in the course. I think his confidence is still a little rattled in the ditch department from Stuart, as it took some serious convincing to get him to the other side. The rest of the course, however, he didn't let a single ditch get to him. There was a VERY tough line of skinny ditch and brushes, two strides apart, and Morris jumped through there beautifully. I took the option at the coffin having already had trouble early on in the course, looking back I think he would have been fine to go the direct route. Better safe than sorry, save it for next time! His show jumping was so much better than his last appearance at Richland. It is tricky out there on the hill and Marc's course really plays into the terrain. Morris fell victim to the downhill triple, getting the rail on "C" other than that it was a pleasant round. Smarty's past life as a show jumper came in handy, we jumped a smart fast round with just a single rail down early in the course...he apologized profusely afterwards and swore it would never happen again lol.
We were smart this year and made the drive home on Monday, Trisha did an incredible job all weekend keeping the horses, Gunsmoke, Richard and I all in line. And then it was a big week for her getting ready for Seneca Valley where she and Marian and a bunch of other students and young horses were set to compete. I declare it a successful trip, even if Saturday did take forever thanks to an over-hour-long rain delay for wicked downpours and lightning. It was well worth the wait, however, with Smarty putting in a lovely dressage test and double clear show jumping round in the pouring rain. (Did I mention that we went to Karen's and she kicked both of us into action, one doesn't go magically from last to first in one week at Intermediate lol?) Marian and Trisha each are officially preliminary riders!! and are looking forward to taking that experience with them to dominate the half-star at Waredaca in a few short weeks. Lucky was the best he has been since arriving in the USA in early June. His jumping is incredible and I can't wait until he is older and wiser and cruising around a 3* track. Splash continued her winning streak - yawn - this time with owner Sabrina Valente in the tack. Her sister Nikki was hot on her heels, finishing 3rd, and let me say how much these girls deserved the top spots, they rode like nobody's business!

And finally, here I get a chance to sit in front of my computer and type. Not much else to do, it has rained 10 inches in 2 days, or something close to that. I'm afraid gallop sets are taking place tomorrow in the indoor, at least we have the world's largest indoor :) Next stop for all of us, Plantation where we aim to get some horses qualified for Fair Hill. Fingers crossed!