Dante certainly lived up to his show name of Divine Comedy this weekend. We had Paradise (cross country), Purgatory (show jumping), and Inferno (dressage).
Inferno: I've already discussed dressage, but I want to add that I now think Dante's back might be bothering him a little bit...not enough to affect his jumping or his dressage when he's relaxed, but enough to affect his dressage when he becomes nervous (and therefore tense). Whenever I tried to use my seat to communicate at the canter during the test was when he flipped behind. I'm having the vet out on Tuesday to determine if that is in fact a problem.
Paradise: Cross country morning began quite early, and as I drove into Chatt Hills, the sun was just dawning over the horizon. Dense fog sat heavily on the hills, muting the greens of the grass with morning dew. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and none of the photos I took did it justice. By the time Dante and I had hacked down to cross country warm up, the fog had vanished but the morning dew still persisted a bit. Dante warmed up beautifully; we only ever jump about five fences in warm up. At the box, Dante knew exactly what was up and was quite wild, refusing to stand and backing up impatiently. He left the box with gusto as usual. The first half of the course was slightly wiggly, and a touch behind the leg, as he stared at the strong morning shadows cast by the jumps. The first combo came up quickly, a short run up a steep incline to a hanging log, then a sharp decline bending line to a wedge. I should have had more gallop to go up the hill...he largely lost impulsion and had to jump over the log from a crawl. However, he galloped down very nicely to the wedge. Then, through the water, he was a bit behind my leg and bulging to the left. The combination was a fence, two very short strides to a drop into the water, then five strides to a brush rolltop and another four to a skinny brush rolltop. They were all in a straight line, and Dante definitely bulged his shoulder out to the left before the final element. Luckily, he's as honest and game as the day is long, and as soon as he saw what to jump, he was happy to oblige. Video (borrowed from Eventing Nation) of the water can be seen below, starting at 0:53. We also did two to six to four. The two was short and once in the water I knew we wouldn't be able to get the five, so we waited for the six, then I pushed for the four. We almost didn't make the four thanks to Dante bulging left, but it must have felt worse than it looked.
By the bank complex, we were rocking and rolling. The bank complex was pretty technical, with a hanging log to a large bank off the edge of the hill, then down an incline to two houses on an angle with one stride between. Dante was perfect through that, was great through the coffin, and wonderful through the giant kahunas on a bending line at the end of the course. (On a side note, those kahunas were either bought from the old Maui Jim event or were designed to be identical, and it's always been a bit of a dream of mine to jump them, so that was wonderful for me!) The footing was so amazing and the course was wheeled generously, so we were able to make time. Of course, so were 11 other riders, but that's beside the point. After dressage, we moved up to 19th place.
Purgatory: Show jumping was a bit of a mix of the good and the ok. Dante felt slightly tired and was tapping the fences in warm up. This wasn't really surprising to me, because he's only been back in work for a month and has only had two gallops. I hadn't originally planned on going for time, but with the footing being so amazing and the footing at Greenwood in two weeks likely to be EXTREMELY hard, I felt it was better to put forth a run here, and go conservatively at Greenwood. So a touch tired for show jumping made a lot of sense. Dante was still jumping well, but didn't quite have the sharp edge he needs to cover for any of my mistakes.
In the end, we had two rails. One was mine completely. We swung around to the second fence which was a large, airy vertical with no ground line, one of my least favorite types of jump. Sure enough, I picked a bit to the base and got him slightly buried (not as bad as I have done in the past, at least!) with not much power. I don't feel he had much of a chance there, and sure enough, he tapped the front rail hard enough to have it down. Then, coming through the triple, he had too much power coming to the third element, a big square oxer. I half halted, which was the right idea, but I didn't half halt enough. He came to it slightly deep and had it up front again. He maybe could have helped me out a bit there, but like I said, he was tired and unable to cover for my mistakes today. I was really proud of how accurate I was overall though, as that is something I struggled with all last spring.
After the show was over, I realized how lucky I was to experience the AECs. Although I didn't come home even with a ribbon, let alone any prizes, I loved experiencing the high level of sponsorship the AECs enjoy. I can't wait to come back in the future.
Finally, flying back on 9/11 gave me a completely different perspective of the weekend. I was 15 on 9/11; I remember sitting in my world history class and watching the towers fall on national television. I remember the shock and horror that permeated everyone's actions, and the fervent patriotism that abounded for days afterward. I'm now 25 and although I have reflected seriously on each 9/11 in the past nine years, the tenth anniversary of this date has caused me to reflect upon my own life and how far I have come. So much has changed in the past ten years, and I can't imagine where my life will be when the twentieth anniversary comes around. On a day like this, I am so proud to be an American, so thankful for everything that has happened to me, and above all so thankful to just be alive. I can't help but think that among all those who perished that day, at least a few must have had a beloved horse whose owner never came home. So today I will hug my horse, thank him for being in my life, and give him a carrot for all those horse owners who didn't get to come home to their horses.