Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nose to the Grindstone

Time flies when you're busy! The month of October is passing by quickly, although it's going by a little too quickly if you ask me. This is the first fall since 2008 where I've still been eventing at this point in time. In 2009, I was at the long format CCI* in Kentucky and last year Dante was recuperating from an injury. In 2008, I just about killed myself from exhaustion as I competed every two weeks for two months while moving up to Prelim at Holly Hill at the same time I began my second stint at college, taking 18 hours of Physics, Technical Writing, Calculus 3, and other time-intensive classes. It was a bit much.

So of course my final fall hearkens back to my first fall. My class load is light; twelve hours, three of which are online. Two of my classes are business, which are just that much easier than my engineering classes. However, one class is my senior design project, which can be time consuming and will only grow to be more so as the year progresses. And the thing that is taking up most of my time right now is studying for the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam, which is a fun 8-hour exam that tests everything I ever learned ever. Hooray! And when do I have to take this exam? Why, the Saturday before Galway!

Apparently I have a thing for picking two stars that fall immediately after big tests. I left for Jersey on Wednesday morning immediately following finals last semester on Monday and Tuesday. Before Galway I have an exam Monday and Wednesday for my normal classes, the FE on Saturday, and then an online exam the Monday following Galway. Yippee!

Balancing work and riding will be tough, but balancing school and riding is no picnic either.

On the horse front, Dante is looking and feeling great. Fall arrived earlier this week, with highs in the 60s. I absolutely love fall weather and the brisk cold and so does Dante. We jumped on Tuesday, and both of us were dead on everything so we only jumped a couple of courses before doing trot sets. It really is lovely to not be overheating while warming up or doing trot sets.

In between studying breaks I've been avidly stalking old Galway Downs video to try and get an idea of the grounds. It looks flat like Texas! I wouldn't mind some cooler weather because Dante's coat has slowly been growing in despite me praying to the hair gods for it not to. He isn't getting clipped before we go, I have no time and he really doesn't have enough of a coat to clip anyways. Hooray for Thoroughbreds! One of my friends is moving up to Intermediate at Holly Hill, and she had to clip her Thoroughbred in preparation because he was a hairy beast. I guess I should say to hooray to my Thoroughbred and his skimpy coat! Clipping is definitely a January chore, not an October chore.

One week until the horses leave!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

All Systems Go

This past weekend was very much a checklist for Dante and I. We attended Greenwood horse trials in Weatherford, Texas. Greenwood is our local event, being only an hour from the barn. As a result, it's a good event to go to during the semester and it has a more casual feel to it than other horse trials. This year we participated in the Intermediate Championships, simple because we were qualified and because we could. There were several things I needed to check off my list in order for us to enter and attend Galway CCI**.

First was dressage, for obvious reasons. The back injections seemed to vastly improve his sensitivity to palpation until it was completely gone, but it hadn't been tested in competition atmosphere. Dante was very calm both times I rode him in the warm up before dressage, almost shockingly so. He was also very calm in warm up, but got tense in his test. However, he was a normal amount of tenseness, rather than the tight ball of muscle I felt at the AECs. We performed an ok test, highlighted by the ridiculously slow canter serpentine that felt as if we were moving through molasses. I knew it was slow and subtly attempted to create a more forward gait with my seat, but he ignored me. I was afraid a stronger response would elicit a bad reaction, but looking back I definitely should have tried a bit harder. However, overall it was a much better test, simple changes excluded (anticipation much?). We scored a 41.7 which I felt was fairly accurate and left us tied for third...out of four.

On another note, I was mildly surprised how many people asked if I was happy about my test. Was I happy? No, not really, it was a mediocre test, and on par with what we put forth all last season before Jersey. I was pleased that we had dug ourselves out of the hole we had regressed into. I was no longer embarrassed after walking out of the ring. But happy? I'll be happy when we put out improvement. I think relieved is probably the best word to describe how I felt about the test. Dante is capable of so much more, as he shows at home. He'll never be a world beater, but I see no reason that we couldn't consistently score mid-30s if we just did the same test at home at the shows.

He did flip behind once, but I feel strongly that this was not a result of his back hurting as it was a response to me accidentally grabbing the curb bit instead of the snaffle bit. Flipping has always been his response to something that upsets him since I bought him as a four year old, whether it's due to pain or annoyance. As I went to adjust my reins just after our walk to canter transition, I accidentally grabbed the curb rein. Oops. My mistake. However, his back pain seems to be resolved.

Next item was soundness after cross country. The ground at Greenwood wasn't as hard as I feared, but it was still hard. The organizers did a fantastic job aerating, but with the severe drought in Texas, there was only so much they could do. As a result, the entire Intermediate division cruised around, including me. We came in 40 seconds over and since time is always extremely difficult to make at Greenwood, 40 seconds was pretty good. Interestingly, the other person tied with me for third also finished exactly 40 seconds over so we remained tied.

(Dante leaps over the first element before the water.)

After cross country, I iced Dante in Jack's Ice Boots once, then did the Game Ready while his feet soaked twice more. Poulticed and wrapped. Jogged up for my trainer, who said he looked good and sound. Yay! Step two passed.

The final item was soundness the next day. I got to the barn early to braid and rinse his legs. We jogged up and looked good again! Hurray! His coffin joints seem to be doing very well.

Show jumping wasn't on the checklist, but we're going to be working on it now. I was very unhappy with the way I rode my round. I had forgotten that Dante tends to lose all quality of canter in the big show jumping grass ring at Greenwood. He must feel as if it's XC again, and gets offended when I try to correct his assumption. We had a lovely warm up, went into the ring, and lost all semblance of a good canter when I confused forward with running and Dante obliged by attempting to pick an XC pace. I couldn't see any of my distances when I was seeing everything in warm up, and I am absolutely certain that it's due to fact that the quality of the canter was not good. So now, that is what I am going to be concentrating on during any jumping lessons.

So, barring anything serious happening, looks like we're headed out to Galway in early November. I'm excited, I've never had the chance to compete out in California, and I'm probably unlikely to be able to in the future. This is a great chance for me to check out eventing, West Coast style.