So.... if you haven't done a long format horse trails, DO IT!!! Just Do it!! It is so much fun. I had forgotten how much fun. :) And it's such a good way to build your relationship with your horse and get to know them better. The fact that Southern 8th's farm offers a Beginner Novice and Novice 3 day in addition the the Training 3 Day (and probably Prelim next year) is such a cool thing! It allows you to gain all the benefits from the T3D but at the level of your comfort. Totally worth it!
Here is the video of the whole thing (minus our dressage error!)
So.. this will be scattered because it was just such a fantastic week and I'm still so psyched about it. I am so pleased with Dan. Not just his performance, which was brilliant all weekend, but with his attitude and confidence. Like I said last time... I know it's just a horse show and there will be others, but it's really gratifying to have all of our hard work show. And it's gratifying to know that I helped create this awesome beast. Little ol' me... And it wasn't too terribly hard. I had a TON of help, good help. But it's really just kind of cool to take my "homebred" (not exactly but pretty much close) and have him do so well and just be so awesome. :)
Okay... the details...
So... the long format is basically a regular horse trail with some extra fitness and a whole lot of extra educational aspects. Southern 8ths' did it up right too! We were treated like royalty and had some of the finest people helping us.
I had been a little worried about our fitness the month before but everyone kept telling me to not worry. Turns out everyone was right. But I was glad that we had been doing our hacks AND I was especially glad that I took one ride the week before to check the requirements and do the math. I was able to figure out that Dan can trot a mile in about 6 minutes happily and comfortably. So, for the 3 day we had to do 1.5 miles (roughly) in 11 minutes and then 3 ish miles in 21 minutes. Easy peasy. I also made Dan trot 10 straight minutes twice that day with a little canter in between. I started to worry that while he would be fit enough to do A, B, and C... maybe he would be too tired to then do phase D. (I'll explain in a bit). So... turns out I was really glad I did that fitness day.
So anyways... we hauled up with Kerry Tracey and Jasper and Peri came along to help out and do the life pulse. We didn't have any troubles getting there although we almost had troubles fitting all of our stuff in. I forgot HOW MUCH stuff I pack for a 3 day. Hee hee. Although really, other than jog outfits and extra hay and feed, it shouldn't have been too much more than normal. ;) Perhaps it was more the fact that I packed 8 jog outfits because I wasn't sure what to wear. ;)
We arrived at the beautiful facilities and got the boys unloaded and settled in their stalls. They ended up putting Danny in the stall right next to the office and in front of the wash racks. I laughed and immediately told them they would regret that decision as Danny proceeded to fling the office door back and forth and chew on it. They eventually got wise and propped it just out of his reach. But it actually turned out perfect because it gave him a lot of stuff to keep him entertained and there was no one next to us who I had to warn to keep their stuff out of his reach. It also put me right next to two proper bathrooms. :) (very important for me at horse shows!). I was really impressed with how Dan handled it. He didn't get stressed about it and genuinely seemed happy to be at the busiest part of the barn. It kept his ADHD brain occupied and happy I guess. :) Although I do feel terrible that he chewed up the door some.
After we got them settled and had the first in barn inspection, Kerry and I went for a hack to check out phase A and phase C. (Side bar... the first vet inspection is basically making sure they are healthy and getting your baselines. They had a quick glance over and got their vitals taken. Any lumps and bumps were noted).
So... in a long format you have roads and tracks. On the second day, endurance day, you have basically a 11 minute trail ride warm up - Phase A. It's timed and you have to follow the path. It's set for 220 mpm (basically an 8 mph trot). You can go faster but you get time faults for going too slow. The goal is to warm your horse up for steeplechase without wearing them out. So I ended up doing a smidge of cantering to help open his "windpipe" before steeplechase, even though for us, steeplechase was just a brisk canter. As you finish phase A, you have a start time for Phase B, which is steeplechase. For beginner novice, you had to briskly canter (400 mpm) the track and we didn't get to jump. We had 3 minutes to do it in. From there you start phase C. Phase C is about 3 miles and also set at 220 mpm. Because it starts as you finish phase B, most people will let their horse walk a smidge to cool off from steeplechasing and then pick up the trot. Because you walk some, you may have to do a bit of cantering to make up time. The goal is to let your horse recover from steeplechase and stay warmed up for cross county but keep him from over-exerting himself so that you have something left for XC. Then from there, you have the 10 minute box where they check the horses vitals and it has 10 minutes to chill and relax and recover before you start XC. So.. anyways... we were allowed to hack Phase A and C so that we could see where we were going and the horses could travel it. It was a nice path, well marked, and in the woods. The footing was great and we had a pleasant hack. There was some turns and a nice open stretch shortly before steeplechase for a good canter if we wanted. Danny and Jasper were both good though they did spook at a few things here and there. I wish I had paid better attention at the time as it didn't dawn on me that I would need to make sure I followed the path correctly in two days, but.. it all worked out. It was marked well and I figured it out.
That afternoon they had the dressage demonstration. Kim Keeton was there and rode a horse to show us the test and the judges judged her out loud and basically gave us a lesson on what they were looking for. Kim rode the T3D test and the N3D test... NOT the BN3D test. (This is important later!). She did a great job and it was helpful. (Or maybe this was the next day... I'm can't remember now... )
Then it was time for the jogs! I ended up wearing a navy polka dotted top and navy polka dotted shoes with white capris. I thought it was cute. But then Mike said I was cute but looked like my Mom and now all I see is a soccer mom outfit. Ugh. Oh well. Dan looked pretty spiffy and his braids actually looked decent. He tried really hard and our jog wasn't terrible. He was flinging his head around trying to eat the reins so I'm sure it was hard to see his trot some. And towards the end, I swear he did it on purpose, he sort of side swiped his front foot out and basically knocked my leg out from under me. I tripped and yanked him in the face as I was tripping, which made him throw his head up and spook. Doh! So embarassing. But at least I maintained an upright position and didn't fall. And... Accepted! We were both sound enough to continue. Hee hee. Oh Danimal....
Video of the first jog and Dan almost tripping me
But a cool thing happened after the jog! John Michael Durr, the cross country course designer and a big name rider up in Tryon, stopped me and asked if I owned the appy. I told him yes and he said he watched him jog and asked how much I wanted for him. :) He said that his conformation was fantastic and his trot was fabulous and said if he jumped like he trotted, he wanted him! I told him he wasn't for sale and thanked him. Then I laughed and told him that he could try asking me again next time I had to braid him as he was a bit of a punk and might be for sale then. Ha! Not really. He's not for sale. But it was nice to have a professional be impressed with him. :)
So anyways... I ended up putting a slinky and a sheet on him and HOPING that he would keep it intact and his braids wouldn't be destroyed overnight. I had enough time before I rode dressage that if I needed to, I could rebraid and rebathe, but I figured I'd give it a shot. Turns out he was great and everything stayed in place. Good job baby horse! Of course Friday morning when I went to hand walk him he was bouncy. I figured he would be and had my long lead line on him but not the rope halter. He was being good and walked to the far end of the pasture we were allowed to graze in. I had just finished my breakfast shake and given it to Peri so I could lunge him a little when he reared up, slapped the lead rope out of my hands and took off. Doh! Luckily a few people saw and closed the gates so he was contained. I'll be honest.. I let him run a bit before I tried real hard to catch him. I figured it saved me the trouble. ;) Of course he was a bit muddy because it had rained about 4 inches that night. So... I caught him, lunged him a little, and then took him back in and gave him a bath. Finally it was time for dressage. The rain had made the arena's pretty muddy and everyone's white socks were coming back neon orange! I figured my white breeches may not be so white anymore! But we looked sharp!
Dressage!! I was the first in my division. The warm up was pretty sloppy but we found a good area to warm up in. Dan almost felt a little lazy but I timed my warm up better this time. I went into the arena area and was warming up and noticed the judges had arrived. We had 2! Cause we're big time with the 3 day. ;) So I walked around my arena, introduced myself and gave them my number. Then I went back to the "top" to warm up and wait for my whistle. I heard "Holly... Holly... You can go in the arena now". The ring stewards were calling me. Wait? What? So I went over and she was telling me that I could circle the arena as it was already 1:25 (my ride time was 1:25). I was like "I know.. I've done that and am just waiting for my whistle!" Eeeks... let me go so I can hear it! So then they blew the whistle and in we went. We trotted down centerline, tracked left, did a 20 meter circle at E, then came down centerline and.... the judge blew the whistle. Wait? What? The judge said "I have to ask you what test you are riding"... and I thought.. okay, maybe she's confused. I told her the BN3D test, which was Novice Test A. She asked if I knew it, and I told her I thought I did. Turns out... I memorized the 2010 Novice Test A instead of 2014 or 2017 or whatever it was. My brain started panicking. Oh man.... How did I blow this?!?! From the very start too. Luckily, the judge was SUPER nice. She told me to NOT leave the arena or I would be disqualified and walked over to show me the test. Thank God it was the exact same test but instead of down centerline again, I cross the diagonal. I don't really 100% know the letters so I was looking at the rest of the test panicking and thinking how I was going to learn a test in 10 seconds while panicking. I sort of said screw it, it looks the same, let's hope for the best and went for it. I did catch that the halt was at X and not G, but otherwise it was the same. Yay!!! Because no way could I have learned a new test. The judge told me to start again and she would start judging after the first circle. Another good thing was that Dan stood there quite politely while I was freaking out and trying to listen to the judge. So we started again and he put in a lovely lovely test! It was just... fluid and soft and supple. He was throwing his shoulders out just a hair in places but overall I was quite happy with the test. I thanked both judges profusely and embarasingly walked out. Sigh... off to a great start! :)
After dressage we were supposed to go do steeplechase practice. Then we had a roads and tracks meeting and a vet care meeting. I didn't quite realize that the time frame was so tight so I got back to the barn and untacked Dan and pulled his braids. I changed out of my white breeches. And studded him (because of all the rain, everyone kept saying to stud). Then I realized that I was way past my steeplechase practice time and the meetings started soon. So I rushed up there and met up two other girls in my division who were also rushing to get there. We were able to work with Carol again. That woman is amazing! She worked her tail off that week/weekend. Because it was beginner novice, we didn't have any fences, so we just worked on pace. She watched us go and told me that we were a bit too fast for 400 mpm and that he was a bit strung out. She said my galloping position was good but told me to take a hold of the reins and put him into the contact. I needed to make him gallop in contact and use his hiney. Okay! Will do. And she was right. He felt much more balanced and she approved.
Then the girl who was the last rider in our division had a go. I ended up waiting with her so she wasn't out there by herself. I don't think her horse would have cared but I know I appreciated someone staying with me when I was the last rider. So I waited for her and we headed back in together. She was a super nice girl with a cool horse. We chatted some and had a good walk back. Once back, I had to pull Dan's studs and untack him and get him in his stall. That made me late to the meeting but oh well. The meeting was helpful and basically re-explained roads and tracks. Carol also did the math for us so we didn't have to. Yay! Super helpful.
So... for phase A, there are 2 gates to go through. Those are the "yes, she went the right way" gates and you have to pass through them. They are like XC flags. Then there are 2 markers... A1K and A2K. Basically they mark the 1000 m and 2000 m distances and our total was 2420 or something. She did the math and said at A1K we should be at 4 minutes and at A2K we should be at 8 minutes, which would put us coming in to the finish right at 11 minutes (or a hair before). And I may have missed it but we may have had 12 minutes and 11 was to give us a second to collect ourselves and shorten our stirrups for steeplechase or something. Then for phase C it was the same thing but 4 gates and our times were 6 minutes, 10 minutes, 14 minutes, and 18 minutes, which put us coming in at 21 minutes. The first section was a bit longer to allow for a walk break. So a helpful meeting. They also went over what happened in the 10 minute box and what we should bring. Then we had a cross country course walk with Holly Hudspeth. It was helpful! I love that they do that! So that those of us who don't have coaches with us, still get help. :)
After that I ended up looking at the scores and it turns out that even with my 2 point error (thank goodness that's all it was!) we were in second!!! And we wouldn't have been in first even without the error, so I didn't have to beat myself up too bad. The nice girl I waited for at steeplechase was in first. I had a 31.1 and she had a 28 something. So... we would have been in the 20's again had I not messed it up. Go baby horse go!!
Saturday was a great day and the weather was perfect. The Southern 8th's crew had spent a good chunk of the evening trying to dry out the puddles on roads and tracks and make the footing perfect. It was a bit sloppy in places and I walked in a few spots to avoid sucking a shoe off, but overall it was decent footing. I tried to get ready not too early but my watch was a little fast so I got up to the start box of A fifteen minutes early. As we walked up to the corner I heard a crack. Dan stopped and suddenly this giant tree came crashing down about 15 feet in front of us. There was a loose horse that had been caught and was being driven up with a golf cart about 15 feet in front of the tree on the other side and neither horse moved a muscle. Of course after that Dan got all riled up. The golf cart and loose horse came around the tree, another golf cart came up, the bleachers attached to the tractor showed up, and Dan got wild. Well, he got bouncy. Luckily a friend had finished her XC and was walking her horse back to the barn and offered to hang with me during my 15 minute wait. That helped calm Dan down significantly! I'm so grateful. Then it was our turn to start!
We were off! I hit start on my watch and out we went. Dan was like a drunken monkey and we zig zagged the first bit of the trails. He was spooking and we ended up cantering some because he was so bouncy. We hit the first A1K sign and I checked my watch. UGH... I hadn't hit start!! Oh no! I thought, well, I can look at my watch and check the time because my start time was 12:00 on the dot. But my watch was fast and I wasn't sure if it was 4 minutes fast or 6 minutes fast or 10 minutes fast. Ugh.. I didn't know what to do. I asked the gate keeper if she could tell me the time and she said she didn't know, so I told her not to worry about it. I started my watch and figured I'd see how much time it took me to go the second 1000 m and then go from there. Then I panicked a little and figured too early was better than too late so we cantered a smidge and power trotted the rest of the way. I came in to the finish area but was confused and stopped just in front of the finish flags. Ugh. I sat there for about 30 seconds trying to figure out what I had done and finally the guy was like "You know you haven't actually crossed the finish yet right?". Crap!! I did... and then I realized I needed to get to the start of steeplechase because they don't wait. Luckily I had 30 seconds before my start time, so I guess I had timed it right. I'm pretty sure that once A starts, you only have the allotted 11 or 12 minutes before your start time on steeplechase, so.. since I made it to my steeplechase start time on time, I guess I was within my time. :)
We happily steeplechased and made it well within the 3 minutes. I hit start on my second watch but wasn't right on the dot as we crossed the finish flags so I knew I had to add some time to my time. Cindy waved and said we had all four shoes and we felt fine so we walked on off and started C. We took a little breather and then started trotting. We made it to the first marker ahead of time and kept trotting. We hit the second marker well ahead of time and by the time we hit the third marker we were almost a full minute ahead. I decided to just keep trotting because he was trucking along and I knew I had a few extra seconds added since I hadn't started my watch right on time. Besides he was power trotting! We spooked at a tractor in the woods but did not spook at the dog jumping in and out of the golf cart passing us. :)
We made it back to the 10 minute box well within time and Dan was breathing heavy but not that sweaty. I jumped off and Cindy and Peri went to work. They were a great pit crew. They loosened his girth and sponged him and offered him water. His respirations went down from 100 to 44 in about 3 minutes and he was cleared for XC. He recovered really well. I hopped back on and then I warmed him up over 2 cross country fences. The start box told me I had 2 minutes. Cindy and I thought my saddle had slipped so I jumped off, fixed it and she gave me a leg back up. The guy was like "1 minute... so you've got time to do that again if you need". hee hee. Nope!
Then "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, have a great ride" and we were off. Dan jumped the first jump without looking although it was a little awkward. But from then on he pretty much was game and looking for the next fence. He wasn't dragging me around and running away with me but he was game and going. We jumped most of them fairly well but a few were speed bumps with him rolling over them. I should have sat up more and prepared him a little better. He didn't even spook at the owl statue in the middle of the turn. Yay! We came around to the water and I honestly thought he had it. I even yelled "Charge" as we came around. He was going and then at the last stride or two he hit the brakes! He didn't completely stop and he didn't go backwards but he propped hard and took a step or two sideways, then went forward, then almost propped again before finally going in. Ugh... Close call!! I should have trotted to it. But it worked out. It didn't count as a stop because he never went backwards. Phew. After that he was game again. He FLEW over the ditch. Hee hee. Good job baby horse. And then he was great over the bending line and didn't blink at the plank thing. I did realize that we were coming in pretty quick and by my watch, we were super close to having speeding tickets. So I cantered very politely (I thought, though you can't tell as much on the video) from the second to last fence to the last fence and over. He still rolled over it though. Guess it's my fault for not setting you up more and/or we need bigger fences. But we finished and he felt great. His vitals came down super quick and he was grazing within a few minutes. We were cleared to head back. On our walk back the tractor pulling the bleachers came by and I thought Dan was going to take me and the jump judge out! He was spinning and snorting! But we figured it out and the guy passed and we walked uneventfully the rest of the way home.
Turns out, no time faults and no speeding tickets so we were now still in second place on our dressage score! Yahoo!! Go baby horse go!!!
Southern 8ths has a few paddocks that were available for use so Dan got to go out and stretch and roll. And I didn't have to worry about losing him. ;) While he was doing that I went to the stadium course walk. It was given by the course designer, which was very helpful! It was a big long course but the fences were on the small to normal size instead of being bigger. It looked like a very fun course. Of course Dan rolled while he was turned out, but that's okay. He earned it! Since I was giving him another bath, I decided to go ahead and braid him that night so that I could watch my friends and not have to worry about it the next day. Although I didn't jump until 1:30 ish or later; however, we did have the jog at 8:30 am. Peri pulsed him so he was quiet enough and I braided so we didn't waste any time. He got his slinky again and a sheet again and we hoped for the best.
Sunday morning he was pretty dirty. He had a mild poop stain on his butt but his braids looked good. So he got a butt bath. And then I took him out in the sun to dry and decided I should jog him again for practice. Good thing because he was rowdy! I was able to punch him (ha ha!) and he settled and we were much better behaved for the actual jog. He didn't trip me this time. ;) Although there was some head flinging and some grabbing at the reins or me. But we were accepted. Then I grazed him (in the rope halter! Lesson learned!) for about 30 minutes and then went and watched friends.
Finally it was time to start getting ready. Sort of. ;) I figured I should stud because of the grass. I'm not entirely sure I needed it, but it didn't hurt to have them. However it didn't dawn on me about boots. So I ended up doing open fronts and his fetlock boots, which made me nervous. We finally got on and headed up to the stadium ring.
I was early, of course, so I let him graze a bit while I was waiting. I didn't want to wear him out. While we were standing there he had a bug land on his neck. It was one of those scary hairy lightning bug things and he freaked out and was trying to get it off with his hind foot. NO!!! Let's NOT slice your jugular with studs please baby horse! I flicked it off for him and then he put his foot down. Phew. So then we started warming up and he was a bit behind my leg. I think I corrected it and we got a few good fences in and then had a good rub on one because we took a flyer. I went and watched a few rides and then it was almost my turn. So we jumped two more fences and then it was our turn. It rode great! And I was proud of how rideable he was and how my eye was. I saw every fence... 3, 2, 1, jump. We felt like we were in good form too. So far we were doing great and had no issues. We got to the 3rd to last fence from home and he sort of took a flyer. It was a vertical, 7 strides to an oxer, 2 strides to a vertical to the finish flags. And heading towards home and all his friends. We came around the bend, slightly on the downhill, and he took that flyer. I knew what was going to happen and tried to sit up and half halt but we took the 7 in 6 strides and then we did the 2 strides in 1 stride with a superman reach over the last one. But.. he went clean!! Whooo hooo!!! Way to finish on your dressage score Danomite!! Which would have been in the 20's had I not ridden the wrong test at first.
So then the girl in first went and I felt so bad for her because she had one rail in the middle of the course. And she couldn't afford it. It moved us up to first. I really wanted her to win it. She was so nice and kind. But I was not complaining about being in first. :) They called us all back into the ring and while they were doing the others, Dan sniffed the grass and then made that fhlemen response. Hee hee. Act dignified son! So then it was our turn and they said that we had won the BN3D but that we had also won "Best Conditioned" and that Dan was the fittest of all the 3 day horses! Whoo hooo. Plus we had won the area 3 adult amateur low score award. Wowza's! Dan was very well behaved and we went to get our picture. We won all sorts of cool stuff... a cooler with the Souther 8ths' classic eventing logo. They wanted him to wear that so we put it on him and got our picture. I realized after the fact that it covered up his spots! boo. But it was pretty cool. I opted to not wear it for the victory canter so we got spotted butt photos there. Although that wasn't why I opted not to wear it. I didn't think about it at the time. I was just worried it would fall off or spook him. But he was well behaved and we cantered politely.
So yep!! Quite the weekend!!! I'm so proud of how much the rugrat and I have accomplished. He was pretty well behaved the entire week/weekend and did everything I asked of him without any complaint. He really was a good boy! And the icing on the cake was that we had a lovely dressage ride, an awesome roads and tracks and smooth brave (mostly) XC ride, and I thought our stadium was one of our better rides. So excited about him and the future. And just so proud of him!