I was really happy with the way Mia and River settled in to the electric atmosphere. I lunged them both before their dressage tests but they didn't wheel around with their tails up like I might have expected. Both horses were well behaved both on the lunge and in their warm ups. Mia's test was first. She was tense and quick in the warm up but relaxed a bit by the end. I don't have a proper dressage arena at home so she snorted at the little white fencing and it made me laugh and smile down the centerline. She was great! She was forward and listening, a bit quick, tense and wobbly due to her greeness and always wanting to OVER do everything I ask her for. I was pleased!
Mia warmed up for stadium well. I didn't do much with her because she's still not in great shape and I didn't want to tire her out too much before cross country. I had already done stadium on River so I knew where the spooky jumps were. Sooooo, I halted and saluted the judge right next to one of them! Sneeky, I know ;) Mia's round was an absolute dream. I remember thinking as I pushed her deep into a corner by the rail, "Hm, this is what is must be like to ride a hunter..." I felt her cross canter at one spot, but I didn't worry about it because she felt fairly balanced and was cantering in a steady rhythm. She did her footwork well (I think the jump chute really helped there) and was quiet and patient, no frantic rushing (I think being slightly tired helped there). Yay, Mims!
Mia jumped every XC warm up fence out of stride perfectly. WOW. It was awesome. We walked into the start box and was off. Her ears pricked and she locked on to the BN fence. I pulled her over to the little one and popped over it. At the second fence, there were 3 logs: N, BN, and Tadpole. Mia looked straight at the N log and was determined to jump it. Again I said, "No not that one, this one." She looked at the BN log. "No, not that one, this one!" It went on like that until we finished. I remember thinking, "She's definitely ready for BN!"
River warmed up for dressge pretty well and as I was trotting around the arena waiting to go in, the judge got out of her truck and told me she had to go to the bathroom! After a few minutes of walking a round, we were ready to go again, but without the same about of focus and forwardness we had to begin with. River was VERY behind my leg, even with the whip in my hand. I even used it a couple times in the test and prayed he wouldn't kick out at it (he didn't). We consistantly have trouble with our canter departs in tests most likely due to my tension. I really have to remember to ride the energy of the trot up into the canter instead of taking away when I half-halt in preparation. I came out of the test saying to Hub, "I've never had to work so hard in a dressage test in my life!" He said that it looked like the best test we've had so far, that River looked more forward and less fussy. I guess he was right because we recieved the best score we've gotten so far. Definitely not the best he's capable of, but improvement in a show enviornment is great.
In his stadium warm up, he was not very forgiving. I was tense and worried about him landing on pony clubbers and micro managed a few jumps. That did not go over well. Once I softened my eye and my hand before the jump, he jumped out of stride and landed very calmly. I was surprised at how wild he was once we got into the arena. She was frazzled and racing and wiggly. He also acted like he hadn't seen a stadium jump before, although I will say that the fences were very bright and unusual looking. After swerving around in the in and out which made him lose energy, I had to make him jump #5 from a stand still while hitting him with the whip (not pretty, but effective). He over reacted and consequently had a rail at the next fence. Youcan see how this is snowballing....then we came to the last fence which he stopped at dispite my kicking. He spun away and I walked him back, whacked him once, and circled him back to it. He was not impressed so he took off FULL speed and I had to steer him into the wall to get him stopped. Lovely. Looking back I should have TROTTED the course. But, like they say, hind sight is 20/20.
We went straight over to the XC warm up. I didn't do much with him. We walked around for a while and when two riders before me when in the start box I jumped a couple jumps. He was good! He looked at the fences but jumped everything. It felt like he just needed an extra second to take the fence in and I was happy to slow him down and let him do just that. He was a bit sticky coming into the water but was willing to canter out of it once he got his feet wet. It was slightly difficult to slow him down between fences. I found my self doing the pulley rein dance (alternating reins) a LOT. Amy has since given me a 3 ring gag that I'll try today.
SO....Mia came in one point behind the leaders (there was a tie for first)!! I'm so proud of my little pumkin! River was 6th after dressage and dropped to 8th after racking up an ungodly amount of time penalties in stadium.
I left the event feeling a bit defeated. The successes of the event can get lost in the crowd of critical comments. The small voice of reasurance is left in the back of my mind desperately shouting, "It's wasn't all bad! Don't give up!"
Wolf Gap is