Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poplar Place: The Heart of a Thoroughbred

Somehow, I found myself driving to Poplar at 5:15 am on Sunday. For those who know me, early mornings aren't my thing. Really early mornings very much aren't my thing. But I managed to drag myself out of bed and to the barn.

Unfortunately, Dante was extremely stiff and probably a bit muscle sore after his exertions the previous day. We jogged him up to see what he felt like, and he was definitely a bit funny behind...not as if he was lame, just as if he was stiff. We checked his legs and they were tight and cool, so I hopped on and spend about 30 minutes in the dark trotting and cantering to limber him up.

The time for the jog rolled around just after the sun came up. Dante was much looser, although not 100%. I think the hardness and the hills really got to him, and I know in the future I will hold him back instead of letting him roll.

We jogged up, and got held. The vet in the hold checked his legs and also found nothing wrong with him, which was unsurprising to Mike and I. Then I jogged him again for the stewards and we were passed on re-inspection. That was one of the more nerve wracking moments of my life, let me tell you!

I tried to get the equine masseuse out to give Dante a massage before show jumping, but when I talked to her, she said she wasn't coming to Poplar, because she thought that because it was the last day of the show, no one would want a massage! That seemed very strange to me, as I would think the day after cross country would by far be the most popular for massage. So poor Dante had to settle for handwalking and grazing.

I walked the course and thought it looked quite fun. The first line was a related distance, which I always hate because Dante isn't quite capable of the big stride yet. However, it was a very long related distance, either a long seven or short eight. So Mike, Heather, and I decided that instead of being set on a distance and trying to make that distance happen no matter what, I would simply ride to my eye and not count strides in that line. Everything else looked quite doable, and I honestly didn't think the jumps were particularly big.

During warm-up, I could tell Dante was tired and stiff. Very tired and stiff. I'm definitely going to try and handle things differently in the future for three days, particularly if the ground is hard, or there are lots of hills (even the Kentucky Horse Park isn't as hilly as Poplar!). However, he was jumping well, including a very large oxer at the end that I am convinced was Advanced height, as the jumps in the ring looked small after jumping it! I was also seeing my spot well.

In the ring, I knew I needed to give him an accurate ride to give him a chance. And I'm proud of my riding for the most part. I rode the first line to my eye and got a good stride to both the first and second jumps. Unfortunately, Dante tapped the second fence and it fell. Then he tapped the third fence, but it didn't fall. Then the fifth, and so on and so forth. We jumped by braille around the entire course, but other than the second fence, none of the rails fell. My poor tired boy was jumping his heart out, let me tell you, but he just didn't have the energy.

Then, coming to the last fence, which was right by the in-gate, I did something stupid. I had watched the rider before me run down to it, lean for her spot, and miss by a mile, punching through the rail. Since I sometimes have the bad habit of doing just that, I swore I wouldn't. And what did I do? I ran down to it, leaned for my spot, missed by a mile, and Dante had to punch through the top rail. Poor boy. So he had a rail and I had a rail. Luckily, everyone around us all had 2 rails so I ended up not changing position.

So, we ended in our first two star in 9th out of 33 starters. I'll take it. I would have liked to ribbon (they ribboned through 8th), but I still think finishing in the top third in a division filled with professionals and their future superstars is pretty damn amazing.

My flight wasn't until 8 pm, so I hung around and watched the Intermediate jump after the rain hold, and saw the CIC* as well. Congrats to Alexa Ehlers for her QR in the CIC* on In Any Event!

(The Intermediate show jumps after a torrential rain storm. In about 30 minutes the sun came out and you never would have known it had rained at all.)

Dante and I are home now. I jogged him yesterday afternoon and he looked a lot better. He'll have today off for sure, and maybe a nice walk hack tomorrow, depending on how he's feeling. He's definitely still a little stiff, but I know the last time I over-worked out, I was stiff and sore in places for nearly a week, so I don't expect him to be 100% yet. This week will be light hacks, some trot work, a little bit of dressage near the end of the week, and hopefully a gallop on Sunday if the ground is fine and he's feeling good again. We have four weeks from Poplar until Holly Hill, so there's no rush for him to be instantly put back into strenuous work.

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