Monday, October 5, 2009

Pine Hill 10/4/09

My weekend started out rather interestingly - Friday night late I went to check to see if ride times were up, and they were - but I was not on the list. I had turned in my entry form in the box at Pine Hill on September 5, when we went schooling there. And my name was not on the list of ride times!!!

I called Pine Hill early Saturday to see what was going on. Apparently they had never gotten my entry, although they had received my coggins, release form, and fee for schooling that day. This was really odd, since I had bundled everything together in one little packet and paper-clipped it all together. Ok, no matter, they could fit me in, and they had a stall as well as RV hookups as I had requested. So it was a GO after all.

But first, the list of chores was quite long. Fill up the truck. Pick up the trailer ($970 gets you new brakes but no ramp - the ramp will be ready on Tuesday). Find some Wellies (we went to FOUR STORES before we found any, but Academy had some for $20 and they're super cute). I also happened to get a few new dry-fit shirts while on the quest for Wellies, so that was a bonus. Oh, and then lunch, because by then Fuzzypony, who had agreed to be my partner-in-crime... er, groom, for the weekend, and we were both hungry.

Wellies! Fortunately, my step-daughter and I wear different sizes... otherwise, I'd never see these cute boots again, except on her feet!

We finally made it to the barn and loaded up, then pulled out around 2 p.m. It started raining about halfway to Pine Hill, and was still raining when we got there around 4:30. We unloaded, got Saga comfy, and got set up. I tacked him up to go for a short ride and look around the place - in the rain.

The maniacal grin of someone trying to convince themselves that riding in the rain is in fact fun. Saga has other ideas.

We headed on down to the dressage arenas and worked in both, since I wasn't sure where I would be riding the next morning. Saga was very looky and distracted for about the first 10 minutes, as there were people out schooling on the XC course nearby. He eventually settled down and we got some nice work in, although he had a tendency to kick out on the left lead canter departs. That was new and odd.

After riding, Fuzzypony and I cleaned Saga up, tossed him some hay and alfalfa (OMG he thinks alfalfa is CANDY), and then headed out for some tasty Mexican food. I ordered a burrito that was as big as my plate, and managed to mostly do it justice. Apparently I was hungry! After dinner we headed back to do night check. We found a couple of friend there who mentioned that there was a good chance the show would be cancelled tomorrow, since it was still raining and the forecast was calling for rain through noon on Sunday. I have to say, I wasn't too upset about that, since riding in the rain and negotiating super-slick footing is just not all that fun. Saga was cheerfully munching his neighbor's hay (why, but WHY do they always do that???) having finished all his alfalfa, and had sucked down most of two water buckets. We refilled buckets, replentished hay and alfalfa, mucked, and headed to the camper for bed. I think we were asleep by 9 p.m.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to hear the rain positively POURING on the camper, then woke again at 6:30 a.m. to hear more of the same. Figuring that the show was cancelled for sure, I went back to sleep till 7:30, and which point I rolled over, looked out of my window, and to my surprise saw someone carrying a saddle and wearing a pinney. Apparently, the show was on after all! And it was STILL raining!

I got up, got a power bar, and headed down to the barn to feed. Saga was napping but came over to inspect breakfast. After feeding him, I went down to the secretary's booth to get all our paperwork taken care of, then headed out to paddle through walk cross-country. The footing was actually pretty good except for fence #13, a rolltop with a slightly downhill approach. Due to the rain, the whole course was pretty much one big water obstacle. The most challenging part of that course is that many of the fences have awkward approaches where you can't see the fence till 4-5 strides out. Many of the fences are very small (single logs), so it's a nice inviting course. I planned to trot most of it, given the footing situation.

While I was off taking care of that, Fuzzypony was back at the barn braiding Saga for me. Didn't she do a lovely job?
Saga decked out for dressage. Look at those lovely braids!

I tacked up and got all my stuff on, including a raincoat over everything, since it was still raining. Our ride time was 11:00 a.m., and we were right on schedule.

Warm-up was a mess. Saga started off high as a kite, but settled down within about 10 minutes. The footing was miserable, and understandably he wouldn't move out much. The canter transitions were nice except that he kept kicking out with his hind on the left lead departs (I think I have figured out that I am cueing him too far back and he objects to my leg on his butt), but immediately went back into a lovely canter. He was very slow and careful, and very balanced, I think because of the footing.

Lovely warm-up footing. And yeah, it's still raining.

11:00 approached and we went to the arena, waiting for the rider I had been told was in front of me to go. Then I noticed another rider circling the arena, and she told me that she was next. The arena steward said I was next. Since she had been waiting for some time, I let her go first, assuming that I would be able to go immediately after. No, I was told I had four more rides to go now. So we went and stood. With two riders to go, we started warming up again. Saga was a little more heavy but still responsive and careful. We went back to the arena and started circling, then the judge told me that I was not next but had been moved to go last in the division. I was upset but tried to be gracious about it. I went and stood for another four rides, then warmed up again. Saga was heavy. He was ready to be done and was not at his best. He was still kicking on the left canter departs, and when I dropped my whip before going into the arena, he refused to even do a canter depart. When I showed 10 years ago, whips were not allowed in dressage for eventing, but I had seen several people go in the arena with a whip and figured, what the heck. It was either ride with a whip or have a disastrous ride without one. So, in we went, with whip in hand.

Our ride was actually very nice! He stayed steady, bent, and listened. We didn't careen around any corners and the bracing against my hand was minimal. Our canter departs were beautiful both directions (thank you Saga for not kicking out in the arena!). The canters were a little heavy but he was tired. Our free walk wasn't too great because we didn't get much stretch, but it was on the short diagonal in a 40 m arena so there wasn't much time. I'll ride it better next time. Overall, I was actually happier with that test than the ones from the show last weekend!

video
Unfortunately, the dressage judge this week wasn't quite as nice as the one last week. We got 7s on most everything except the free walk (a 5) and the halt (a 6) because his haunches were left. AAARGH! And we have been working on that! Oh well, we scored a respectable 33.2, which landed us in third place. (NOTE: If you are ever with me at a show, please DO NOT tell me what place I am in until everything is done and over with. You can tell me my score, but don't tell me how I'm doing in relation to everyone else!)

After hurrying up to wait for dressage, we had to do a speedy turnaround for stadium. I pulled off my coat, threw on my armband, shortened my stirrups (woohoo! jumping in a dressage saddle!), and changed bridles. I did end up getting a Waterford bit for Saga last week and rode him in it once, and he definitely didn't lean into it as much as the other bits I have, so I had decided to go with that for jumping.

We did a speedy warmup consisting of three fences, then headed over to the stadium arena where we only had to wait for a few minutes for our turn. The arena was incredibly sloppy even though it had stopped raining for about an hour. All divisions used the same basic course, so the path was well-worn by the time it was our turn to go.

video

I would pretty much describe our stadium round as a train wreck. Saga just got more and more sprawled out as the course went on, and I simply could not sit back enough to balance him. You can't quite see it in the video, but I lost my left stirrup after the barrels when he jumped really big and barely got it back for fence 7. We came in crooked on several fences and we were just unbalanced in general. I think we were both kind of tired after dressage and just didn't put in a good round. Somehow we managed to make it around without refusing, knocking anything down, or me falling off. Not quite sure how we managed that, but I guess it counts.

After that we had quite a bit of time before cross-country, so we untacked Saga, hosed him, and then I went to get lunch and lay down for a while. Fuzzypony even made me a sandwich! At 2:40, when the BN XC division was set to start, we headed back down toward the barn only to be told that if we were riding BN, we'd better get our butts down to the course NOW because they were almost done! Fuzzypony and I did the speediest grooming/tacking/getting ready job EVER, then we zoomed down to the warmup, jumped two fences, and went straight to the start box. I was the last rider in the division to go and we'd made it just in time.

Saga was a total MACHINE. We trotted to the first fence since it was downhill from the start box and I knew the footing would be bad, and from there out we cantered most of the rest. The footing was surprisingly good and Saga just got into cruise mode and WENT. It was such a change from having to fight with Cash to keep a steady pace! The problems we had were where I had to balance him in front of a fence and he didn't balance well, and then after the fence he would be sprawly for 6-10 strides before we could get it back together. Somewhere around fence 4, I remember thinking to myself "Holy cow, we're not even 1/3 of the way around and I'm SO tired. I'm going to DIE!" But Saga just cruised on and took pretty good care of me. Some of the fences were pretty klutzy but we made it around OK.

Time wasn't an issue but I had my watch going and checked it a couple of times - optimum time was 5:31 and we made it in at 5:44. There was a section toward the end of the course where the footing was rocky so we trotted and lost a few seconds there. But, apparently his cruising speed is about 350 mpm, which is good to know. Obviously we will need to bump it up a notch or two to actually make optimum, but for our first go I was very pleased. Fuzzypony managed to get video of our first two fences and the last fence - everthing else was back in the woods.


video

I was SO TIRED when we hit the finish line. I am WAY out of shape for this. Saga was blowing hard and didn't recover quickly either. Part of it was the humidity - it was super hot and even though it wasn't raining, very humid. But most if it is just that he's not in shape. We haven't been conditioning and he's been standing in his stall for most of the past 3 weeks due to the weather. Clearly, even if we have to do interval training in the arena, we have to do it. And me, I have GOT to get in shape. This desk job of mine is not doing me any favors.

Tired after XC, but I'm pretty sure there are bugs stuck to my teeth I was smiling so much!

After XC we could see a storm rolling in, so we loaded up and got ready to go as fast as we could. I put poultice on Saga's legs and wrapped him, and just before we left they posted the scores for my division. Second place, and we finished on our dressage score!

Yeah baby! Not bad for having 10 years off!

As soon as we pulled out, the skies opened up. It thundered, lightninged, and poured so hard we could barely see to drive. Fortunately the storm was short-lived, but it rained HARD. The drive home was fortunately uneventful, and we arrived around 8 p.m. Saga got his legs hosed, then tucked in his stall with his dinner (1 g of bute just in case) and a full net of hay and alfalfa. I still have to clean out the truck and camper, although the trailer got taken care of for the most part, and drop the rig back off at the trailer place so they can fix the ramp and figure out why my left turn signal won't work (no, it's not the bulb or the fuse - the problem seems to be in the connector to the truck). But for now... success is sweet!

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