Finally, I get to update! This past Wednesday, I once again made my way down to Love Field and flew into Orlando late that night. My flight was relatively uneventful, thank god.
On Thursday, I had an 8 am jump lesson with a couple other Intermediate Gold Chippers who had flown in the day before, and then flatted at 10 am. Normally I would be strongly opposed to doing so much riding the day before Dante was to do both dressage and show jumping. However, I haven't ridden in three weeks since Ocala. My eye for jumps is rusty, and Intermediate is NOT small. So knocking off some of the rust is pretty much a necessity if I have a shot in hell of jumping respectably around the show jumping. We had an okay jump school (my eye got better for sure by the end) and an okay dressage schooling. The other problem of having my trainer ride him while I am gone is that we are less in sync for dressage. Also, my trainer's idea of light in the contact is different than my idea, because I don't have man muscles. So Dante was a bit heavier than I would normally have him, and we just weren't quite clicking.
I must say at this point that I will be so, so glad to have him home where I can ride everyday again! This not riding and then showing thing is NOT easy.
Then Dante got a nice bath using Microtek, because he suddenly became covered in fungus on Tuesday and now is sporting several large bald spots. He looks like some sort of strange Appaloosa. Apparently quite a few horses got it, but mine was the only chestnut, so he looks the strangest. It didn't seem to bother him any, but he was not the most attractive specimen this weekend.
On Friday morning, I got up quite early for my 8:07am ride time. I got on about 7:45, and this turned out to be the EXACT perfect amount of warm up time. Just as I felt that Dante and I were collected, up in the poll, and responding well to one another, the person before me halted and I began circling the ring. I have started circling the ring at a canter, because he stays more relaxed overall. I then come back to the trot before we come down the center line and his trot is much more forward and fluid.
Dante was a very good pony and we did a pretty accurate test with no big mistakes. It wasn't the most stellar test we have ever done, because we still felt slightly out of sync (and I was tired from sitting the trot!), but it was pretty good. I even got an 8 on one of my medium canters because I really pushed for it. I thought I pushed for the other one too, but the judge wrote 'conservative' and gave me a 6, so again, I need to see the video to see what the judge is seeing.
Then I hopped off and walked my stadium course once more. The course was pretty interesting, to say the least. It began with an oxer, then a rollback to a vertical for #2. After 2, it was a sharp left turn to an oxer at 3 with four normal strides to a vertical at 4. Then came the fun line. After 4, you cantered down the short end of the arena and then did a roll back to a large oxer with a liverpool at 5, six forward bending strides to the right to 6A and 6B, which were a vertical, one forward stride to an oxer. Then turn right to a triple combination across the diagonal, roll back left to another oxer, bend right to jump a vertical on the angle, right to a swedish oxer, and right bending seven to the final vertical.
The six strides to the one stride ended up by far being the toughest line. While it walked a bit forward, it rode VERY forward. At least one horse packed two into the double (while leaving it up!), many put seven into the six. The trouble was that if you put seven into the six, there was almost no way to make the one, even if it was a nice seven. But many horses had to run to make the six, and got too flat, pulling one of the double combination jumps. There were lots of falls, lots of stops, and lots of rails at those three jumps all day long, both for prelim and intermediate. To be perfectly honest, it was kind of a terrible line, but it would have ridden MUCH better if the one had been a normal 12 foot stride. Then riders could have opted for the six or the seven and put in a nice one.
Unfortunately, I went quite early, so I only saw a few people ride that line. My plan was to jump the liverpool oxer and immediately turn right, cutting most of the bend out of the line, get there in six, and jump the double on the right side.
In the end, my show jumping was better than RH1 and Ocala 2. I made decisions. I also missed a few times. After the second jump, I turned left much too sharply and all of a sudden, there was jump 3 (the oxer) with a terrible distance. I had no time to correct anything and poor Dante saved my sorry behind, packing in a tiny half stride and leaping over the oxer. Clear. Good boy! Then I wisely decided to put five in the four stride line and we jumped the vertical clear too. I got moving forward again, and then came the tough line, where my plans promptly went out the window when I found a long spot to the liverpool and got jumped out of the tack a bit in the air when Dante made a big effort to clear it. By the time I got myself sorted, we were two strides into the turn and we ended up making a nice seven. Which would have been great, but the distance in the one stride was so long that he flat out couldn't make it, and got one and a half where there was no half. So we went through both top rails on the oxer. Then jumped clean around the rest of the course. I would have been so ashamed, but my ride through there was sadly NOT one of the worst rides through there all day. It seriously was a showcase of the Bad and the Ugly through there, all. day. long.
The course was pretty nice. Lots of tables and gallop fences. Gallop fences for the first four jumps, then an oxer bending right to a skinny that was either a forward three or short four. I decided that Dante and I would do it in a short four since it was still early in the course. Gallop fence, then skinny table bending four left to a corner. Gallop fence, then our first water combination. The first part was this tiny jump on a slight rise with some brush on top, then a good drop on the backside and what we originally walked as three strides direct to a wedge through what was basically a large puddle. Then trakehner (Finally I get to jump one of these in Florida!), table, and a quarry combination which was two small rolltops set on the tops of knolls with quite a steep incline and rise between them. BAT table again, then the second water, which began with a hut, turn five strides to a roll top down into the water and straight across in seven strides to another wedge. Then table, table, then to a coffin that was one to one straight. Then another table and then an interesting corner combination that was either a six or a five (depending on your bending line) from a palisade to a corner, then a forward three to an angled fence. The last fence was another table. We also thought the time was going to be quite tight, because we were short 170 m of the finish when we hit the number of meters written on the course map. Heather told us to go as fast as we could safely go, because at this level, that is basically what you need. Key word is safely!
I got up early the next morning and walked the course again with Jacob, then we both got ready to go. Heather rode the course first on Cherye's horse Maisie and we ran into her coming back. She had jumped the first water in four and the final corner combination in a short five. Now Maisie has a massive stride, so if she got four in the water, I was sure Dante would too. I decided to make a decision on the corner combo as I was coming to it, since it was late in the course when Dante's stride has opened up quite a bit.
I also wanted to make sure I rode every. single. fence. Especially the second fence!
Our cross country round was PHENOMENAL. Okay, we had two times where we were galloping up to a table, I knew we were on a half stride and tried to get Dante to add one, and Dante said nope, we're taking off HERE. So on the whole course, we had two long spots to smaller tables. Other than that, it was foot perfect. I have never had such a good round in my life.
Found our spot to all of the other gallop fences. To every single combination, I had Plan A in my head and rode accordingly, and every single time Dante responded perfectly and we rode Plan A with style. He was AMAZING. Love this horse, so much! Then, after every jump, I put the pedal to the metal and we galloped. Dante is fast, let me tell you. His stride isn't as long as it could be, but he moves like lightning. Then we would come back three or four strides before the next jump, then immediately move out again. He didn't feel tired in the slightest.
We ended up twenty-two seconds under time. Oops. Seriously though, I did not think for an instant we were going to be that much under the time. I never once felt unsafe, I felt that we came back correctly for each fence, even the two tables where Dante disagreed with me on the take-off. I asked multiple people (who are knowledgeable) afterwards if it looked like we were going too fast and they told me that although we were speedy between the fences, we didn't look at all unsafe because we set up for the fences. I would never have thought twice about it if we hadn't been SO far under the time. Sometimes though, what you feel and what other people see are two very different things, and in no way do I want to be an unsafe rider.
Heather did tell me that I need to get my shoulders UP before fences. I do have a terrible habit of not bringing my upper body back enough. I need to start working to strengthen my core because a big part of that is that I literally do not have the strength to lift it.
Overall, we ended up in fourth, only two points behind first place. No rail and we would have won, but oh well. We also scored in the 30's for dressage (35.6!) and even though it was in the IR division instead of the OI division, I'll take it! Still working towards jumping clean in SJ, but that's all on me, not on Dante.
So the conclusion is that Dante is a rockstar, my strong point is cross country, and I'm very glad that they will be back from Florida on Monday. In the meantime, I have a machine design exam on Monday and a make-up heat transfer exam on Tuesday. Ugh, now I have to study. But after this week, I have spring break, and then Poplar the week after! Dante and I will be going for our first CIC**!