The week leading up to RH1 was hot, hot, hot (not compared to Texas summers, but come on, it's January!). I am a complete wuss when it comes to heat and will complain about it as soon as I start sweating. Between the heat and the humidity, I was sweating a lot. I realize that everyone comes to Florida to escape the winter, but I just want to be able to wear long sleeves or a sweatshirt. It came as a huge relief when the 'cold front' arrived in Altoona, bringing lots and lots of rain on Friday.
As a result, Dante and I got very, very wet during our test. It was a chilly rain as well, and Dante was pretty tight as a result. However, I'm not really sure whether he was tight because of the cold rain, or because it was dressage. In any case, I was extremely happy with how well he listened to me despite his tenseness and I thought we put forth a very accurate, decently performed test. We did break in the first medium trot pretty badly simply because Dante wanted more and more trot, even as I asked him to maintain what he already had. Eventually he broke about halfway down the diagonal. However, the rest of the test was pretty mistake free.
I was very proud of two things in my test. The first was how consistent in the bridle Dante has become, both during extensions and lateral work. The second was my thought process, which I have been specifically practicing. I have never had a very good mental game, and tend to freeze up quite a bit in the dressage ring. I have started mentally running through my test and deciding what I will be thinking at during each moving, and practicing my thought process. It absolutely helped me. After Dante broke in his first medium, instead of dwelling on it, I immediately moved onto thinking about bending through the turn. It truly worked, and I look forward to further developing my mental game.
We scored a 43.6, which is a touch higher than I was hoping for, but they seemed to be rewarding relaxation quite a bit, and Dante was definitely tense. I hope that in the coming weeks, he will being relaxing at Rocking Horse, and that for the Advanced it will basically be a test at home.
Show jumping is still a work in progress. I thought the course was very nice. Last year there seemed to be lots of lines with huge striding, but this year there was only one line with a large step. Dante was nice and spring in warm up with a quality canter, but the instant we stepped into the ring, his head went straight up and he stopped listening. I managed to wrestle him into a quality canter about a third of the time during our course, but the rest was a bit of a battle, resulting in misses on my part and rail rubs on his. It's the hole in our training that we discovered at Greenwood. We've been working on it in lessons, and have made progress (or I wouldn't have been able to get a quality canter at all), but obviously he needs to learn that this lesson applies to shows as well as lessons. Hopefully, a few jumper classes at Rocking Horse next Saturday will help continue his education.
We did still finish with a double clear, our first at this level. Quite exciting! However we played jump by braille quite a bit and hit one fence particularly hard, but it stayed in the cups. I'd like to rely on something other than luck for my clear rounds, thank you very much.
Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. I am very seldom nervous anymore for cross country, because Dante is simply so good at it. I'm sure I'll be nervous in a couple of weeks at the Advanced, but this Intermediate was on the soft side to begin with. After tackling the course at Jersey, not much at this level intimidates me anymore! We had a couple of tough corner questions at the very beginning, but other than that it seemed sailing.
It did end up to be cake for Dante, but I was having one of those days where I was either seeing long or short spots all day long! Argh. I missed badly to a couple fences at the beginning (including the in to the toughest corner combo) and was gapping or putting Dante right to the base at several others. My eye finally kicked in for good at fence 15 and I didn't miss again after that. I'm confident that all the rust is knocked off now, and have to keep telling myself that I haven't actually had a run since late September! Dante was an absolute star, taking everything in stride and leaving when I asked him to, whether it be long or short. He never looked once at anything (which he often does at the beginning of the season), and took a bounce bank combo and the water with absolute confidence. He is so wonderful to ride cross country, and I came off the course with a giant grin on my face.
(Dante jumps happily into the water.)
(Of course, he did refuse to slow down between fences for the first half of the course, despite my intention to simply cruise around. Although he slows down and sets up for the fences, there is not much I can do to contain his enthusiasm for galloping between until the edge comes off. So we only came in fourteen seconds over time despite my intention of coming in around thirty over time.)
All in all, it was a great, educational outing that knocked off the rust from our skills this year. Next up is a schooling show here at Rocking Horse next Saturday, where Dante will be practicing the Advanced test A and B, and jumping in the 3'9'' and 3'11'' jumper rounds. Perfect practice makes perfect!