Photos by Bobby Austin...!
When my alarm went off at 5am on Saturday it was cold, dark, and pouring rain. It was physically painful to get out of bed and head to the soggy barn to hook up the trailer. Added to the crappy weather was the knowledge that the day before I had had my worst ride on Jasper EVER. He decided he could not go from a halt to a walk and at one point reared straight up. Rearing is the one thing I will not put up with, and by the end of the ride we were both drenched in sweat and frazzled. I was accepting the fact that all trust gained between us might be lost and this competition might be a disaster.
Pulled into Deep Creek late, tacked up in a whirlwind while Jasper was still shaking from his trailer ride (he always unloads shaking), Serena got my number for me and we headed towards the dressage areas that were on the other side of the creek. Which he would not go near.
Finally someone noticed us and offered a lead which was gratefully accepted. I went to the wrong arena and was told they were waiting for me in the other one. It was just a warm up test, Intro B, in a sand arena (the sand arena was actually good- horses were slipping all over in the wet grass). He spooked at the letter pylons, the judge's stand, and jumped when the sand hit the white plastic fencing. At one point I actually half smiled and rolled my eyes when his whole body spasmed and jumped in place, and then kept trotting on. I'm wondering if that was what earned the comment "tactful" in the Rider's Position (keeping in balance with horse) section. Was informed by the judge afterwards that he was rooting which "is not the same thing as free walking." Gee, thanks. Good to know. 37.5.
An hour and a half later was our BN-A test. By this time the rain had let up and things (including us) were starting to dry out. Jasper was still tense and "hopping" into down transitions before we went in, but it was the same arena and the judge gave us a long time to trot around before she rang the starting bell. The test felt much better than the first one. It wasn't fantastic- he was unbalanced and throwing his head up in the transitions, wouldn't get off of my left leg, and was sucking back throughout the test eyeballing the evil pylons. He was much more relaxed though, which in my mind was a major score no matter what else happened. The video makes it look a lot better than it felt. I don't know why there's a green stripe across the top...
After a tack change we headed up the big hill to the XC course, got lost once, and arrived at the top in the crazy wind. The warm up area was within sight, and the first thing I saw was a horse spooking and bolting when a particularly strong gust made all the plastic flags marking the arena strain at the ends of their tethers and whip around.
Luckily the girl riding him got him back under control pretty quickly. I had flashbacks to 2009 when I brought Jasper here for the "Rock Hopper" (ground pole) division and it was not windy and he would NOT GO NEAR those horse eating flags.
Memories of 2009. My finger was broken in 2 places and I was wearing a splint.
I checked in and began trotting around the warm up and Jasper let out a huge sigh and started to relax. We went right by the flags, he was calm and responsive to the jumps, and even offered to stand still for a few seconds while Serena told me what the course was.
We went in for our warm-up round, I entered it mainly because I wanted to school the water. Decided just to trot everything unless he happened to land on the correct lead. I'm glad we entered it because the jumps were freshly painted and very, very bright... Jasper said whoa, those things are NOT supposed to be out in a field!
The BN course was the same as the warm up with higher jumps, an added line of 5 or 6 cross country jumps, and one more water obstacle. I rode well when I remembered to actually ride and rode crappy when I got distracted. Jasper was awesome. We almost had a stop at a tiny 12" bank, I still don't know why other than it was next to a ditch. Ditches don't usually bother him, so who knows. My friend Anke brought her whole family out to watch and so every time we went through the water or over a jump they all clapped and cheered. :)
My mom came out to support and spend her Saturday morning videoing and was able to get my BN dresssage test and the warm up jumping. Thanks Mom! Something went wrong with the camera after that.
There were 35 people in the BN division which they split into two groups. I wanted to pick up our dressage tests but had to wait until everyone was done jumping and the scores were posted for a half an hour. Really? Why? We had a 37.5 in the warm up which put us in second. We also had a 37.5 in BN which put us in third. I was pretty disappointed with that score, I thought he did much, much, much better in BN. Finally everyone finished up jumping, they posted the scores, and I got my tests. The BN test was 32.5, not 37.5! Not a 28 or 29 like we've gotten before, but respectable and it put us in first place. Woot woot!
I am a very brave horse now. You can attach flappy things to my halter.
And a few more photos from this event in 2009, just to show how far we've come...