Poor little Winston is still wondering what happened at Midsouth lol. Thanks to EN for taking and posting the above picture. I'm happy to report that we were the Best Presented for the CCI* and there is usually a price to pay for all of that fashion and beauty! For Trisha and Winston, it means numerous baths at all times of the day during all different temperatures poor grey pony! And for me, I was limping during my practice jog due to a rock in my cute little blinged-out flats! Luckily I had just enough time to take care of that matter while Winston kept his eye on the line. The ground jury does not appreciate a fashionably late appearance!
This was my first time competing at Midsouth and I was very impressed. The secretary and her crew were very friendly and accommodating, the judging was great, the Kentucky Horse Park was fabulous as always. It has been a long time since I went to an event for the first time, I hope that Winston and I have a lot of those ahead of us like major 3 days across the pond! So good to get used to all of that now! The atmosphere was fun, the show was oversubscribed and you could tell this was the highlight and grand finale of everyone's season.
Friday I had a fairly early dressage although that proved to be lucky because the winds kept picking up and the temperatures kept going down all day! Winston was not totally thrilled with the dressage complex, I hope that he enjoys the Main Arena when he heads back for Rolex ha ha ha but seriously! The walk to get there made you feel very disconnected from the show, stabling, everything. He really liked his workouts in the arenas right next to the barns, and the footing there was fabulous. Unfortunately, however, that's not where dressage was set up. We had to hack a good 10 minutes past the killer Budweiser Clydesdales, or at least Winston was convinced they were carnivorous. He saw two of them in bright red blankets grooming each other and I thought he was going to absolutely lose his mind! What was even worse was trying to walk past their giant semis, also red but with larger than life sized pictures and paintings of the Clydesdales all along the sides. I honestly think he thought they were alive and the poor guy had nervous breakdowns every time he had to go past them! Sadly what Winston didn't realize was, the worse he was the more he had to do it. I had ridden him quite a few times by the time we went down the centerline. He held it together, not only for the best test we have done so far BUT I received a personal best score ever at an FEI competition! I can only imagine what we could have done if he was really relaxed and happy in the dressage area!
Saturday came quickly and with some pretty good footing for cross country. We could have used even more rain on Friday afternoon; I say that of course as someone who did her dressage Friday morning lol. The course was I think a true championship CCI test. There were quite a few questions where the direct line and striding was VERY forward like you needed to be on a 2* horse to get the 1* done. Lucky for me, that's the pony that showed up that morning! It was the best start to a course Winston and I have had, galloping straight and more or less taking me to the first few fences. There was an approach to the third that would save time; but risky for a left drifting animal which I have and on the way to it I knew already I could be aggressive and he was game. He was very brave at the first water which was also the first Rolex water this year. It was a big brush in to a bending line skinny. I was nervous about the striding and anxious to watch from warm up. I watched the first rider get a perfect half stride and fall. Awesome. Luckily Winston was right there to listen and we negotiated it handily. I angled the big open oxer at 6 which made us both feel bold and full of running. I paid for that at 7, the second water, where my Irish pony and I had some words over steering. But we came to an agreement in the nick of time for the big log drop in. Because I didn't get the shot in that I wanted, I had to add up on the direct line which was good of Winston to stay straight, then I had to kick like hell to get a nice jump off the bend to the corner on the way out. So proud of him, two months ago he never would have thought there would be a "B" or a "C" after the drop in! Your reward for negotiating the water were these massive hedges, three strides apart and they might have been some of the most significant feeling fences I have ever ridden. I kept telling myself that I was on an Irish fox hunter and surely he's seen something like this before. The pessimist in me said yes well there is probably a reason why he's no longer an Irish fox hunter and I sure hoped it had nothing to do with his inability to jump hedges! Winston jumped thru in his perfect form good boy! Then it was off to the coffin, another obstacle that I walked a trench into on Friday evening. We are new enough in our partnership that I could see so many lines and distances and options. At the end of the day, I went direct and my horse was awesome and he went scorching around that whole field really, felt like he was eating up the ground and galloping with a purpose for the first time since I have owned him. It was a great feeling! By the end, I was riding the direct lines with the forward distances just coming right up and Winston was being such a real cross country horse, honest and looking for his next fence and giving you the feeling that he was going to get the job done. A big thank you to Trisha and Kendall for getting him cooled out so quickly and professionally after this huge effort!
Sunday was a day I think I would almost rather forget :P The highlight was my mom was there to watch me ride for the first time since 2006. It was really fun and special having her there. I had a rail in hand and was pretty confident I would be coming home the USEF 1* National Champion. Winston is a phenomenal show jumper and has had a rail I think total in all of my competitions with him. The track was fairly straight forward. The footing not so great; but I'm on a nimble Irish horse is what I told myself. The rails weren't terribly bright nor the fences decorated; but Winston is such a careful jumper I figured he would still hold himself off pretty well. I had a wild man in warm up, didn't see that coming, he started off fine and then got so fired up watching the novice horses run out on the cross country course! He was jumping well in warm up although a big exuberantly to say the least. I never thought for a moment that he was tired; but hindsight is always 20/20 and on Monday and Tuesday I watched him eat grass while laying down in his paddock! Anyway, it wasn't like things were going terribly; but I know my horse well enough to know that he wasn't firing off the ground and leaving a foot to spare as is his usual style. I was keeping it together enough until the triple, 9ABC and 10, the final fence. I got in weak to 9A and a little tight and rather than be able to wrap around it, Winston had the rail. He jumped out well but again not like I know he can. So I make my approach to the final fence which was a vertical plank. I told myself that I needed to give him a gap, that's how he is more comfortable and that's where he preferred to jump from when we bought him. We've been working so much on that however, and I'm afraid only half finished our work! So when I went to move him up for the gap, he was totally panicked and thinking that he had to get closer and wrap around the jump. So we came to a screeching halt. It was awful, I don't know if the crowd gasped or if I just imagined it although I think it was a little of both. We came back around and I just more or less stuffed him over it and he had the rail.
And that was that. From winning to right out of the Top Ten in the blink of an eye! I was so sad for everyone, everyone at Greyside who made this horse possible, for Trisha and Stacy who deserved to have a winning horse because they certainly make him look that way all the time! I was sad for myself and my mom. I felt like I let Karen down. The first half of the drive home felt like it lasted an eternity until I could pick myself up and enjoy the scenery (the drive this time of year was absolutely breathtaking with all of the changing of the leaves). I slowly but surely arrived at a philosophic and meaningful perspective. I had to laugh, the Best Presented award looked like a giant championship tri-color and the whole walk back to stabling I was getting stopped and congratulated by everyone who assumed we had won. Made me feel good that we at least looked like the winners lol. Winston tried to do everything he was supposed to do and I can say that I tried my best as well, and at the end of the day that is pretty much all you can do. Our sport is a very humbling one to say the least. I hope that Winston and I got this miscommunication out of the way early on in our career so that we can be destined for great things in our future!