Anyways, the plan was to ride Saturday afternoon. As we finished jump judging the very last rider, the sky got super dark!! We managed to literally finish up as the storm rolled in and we barely stayed dry. I was supposed to ride Dan that afternoon but the rain had a break when I was about to get on, so it worked out well. Plus they had the covered anyways. And man... that covered footing is amazing!! Dan was so sproingy! We had a good mini lesson with Beth. We worked on our transitions. Walk to trot to walk and then canter to trot to canter transitions. The big take aways were... sit a few steps between the transitions, plant my right hand at his withers for the upward into the left lead canter to help keep the outside rein connection (because I tend to throw him away, and by keeping the connection he maintained his throughness and our canter was lovely from the get go rather than having to reconnect and then get that throughness). We also worked a little bit on our free walk on the short diagonal to centerline and halt.
After that it was bath time! I got him all sparkly clean, got his stall cleaned and got him fed. Then I adjusted Mighty and Atlas and tweaked Josie. Then I took him for a quick walk to the dressage arenas as he was spooking going past the tents earlier. Of course he wasn't spooky when he had Josie and Mighty to keep him company. There was a bunch of water puddles, so we "schooled the water" on our way out to the dressage area. It was so gnatty out there though that we couldn't stand it and brought them right back in pretty much. By then Cindy and I were starving so they got one last stall pick, fresh hay and water, and we headed out. We still managed to be finishing dinner at 10 pm. (We had taco sushi... yum!).
Sunday morning was an early one and thank goodness. I'm not sure how, but Dan had a HUGE green poop stain on his right hip and thigh AND a giant green poop stain over his buttocks on the top of his back. Like he would have had to have rolled completely belly up and smashed it in!!! How on earth? Especially since all of his poop was up against the wall and not in the middle of his stall! I have no idea!! So... he got another butt bath in the morning and then I braided him. He was actually REALLY good for his braiding. I tied him to the corner of his stall and he just chilled. Okay, so he nibbled on my shirt some but he never tried to bite and it was only some, but he mostly just stood there. :) :) His braids didn't look fantastic but they weren't terrible. I definitely need to shorten his mane though.
I managed to not get ready too early and timed my warm up just about right. We had a good warm up and did more transitions and then in we went. It was a decent test. Really, it was a pretty good test. I was happy with it. Our first trot circle was geometrically challenged as Dan was throwing his shoulders out and I forgot to ride with my outside leg so it was more of a square. And as we came down from our second canter to trot to walk on that side, he tripped twice in the grass. I'm sure I didn't balance and square up my shoulder blades into the downward like I had practiced in warm up so I wasn't able to balance him as well as I should have. But I was happy with it. We scored a 31.8, which put us in a respectable 8th place out of 18. (In the open division, as I can't ride in Rider anymore since I've ridden training in the past 2 years). I was okay with that! Beth had a fabulous test and scored a 23.8, which put her in first!!
We had a brief lull where I was able to untack, rinse, let him chill, and meander about for 30 minutes or so until it was time to get ready for stadium. At this point, I didn't know my score and didn't want to. The stadium course looked really fun as did XC and I just kind of wanted to go have fun. I didn't want to be stressed about my score... whether it was because I was near the top and nervous or because I was near the bottom and irritated or whatever.
The stadium course was in the big arena with awesome footing. The course used ALL of the arena and even had us riding deep in to the rail for the turns. And the fences were all elaborately decorated. I was a little nervous that Dan would be spooky. But he wasn't! He was actually really great. It felt like one of our smoother stadium rounds and I was so super proud of us both! Until I saw the photos. Ugh.... Seriously??? It felt so nice, but the photos show us both looking like crap! Okay, so maybe I'm being too harsh... There were some nice shots, but there were more not so nice shots. I think that when he gets deep to the base, he really doesn't pick his knees up. When he can take the long spot and launch he seems to pick his knees up and jump better. But we're working on getting him to sit and push. Which, the photos also seem to show, that he does not appreciate and gets all grumpy about. Almost to the point where I wonder if there's something bothering him. Something more than just a "I don't wanna use my butt, it's hard work". So... I'll have to talk with Cindy, Beth, and Kelly and see if I can figure it out. But in general, the round felt pretty smooth. There wasn't much loss of balance or cross cantering. In fact, I think we either got some changes or landed on the right lead because I don't think there was any cross cantering or even counter cantering. He waited when I asked and went when I asked. I felt like we were together for most of the fences, instead of me throwing myself ahead or being left behind. It just felt much smoother than most of our rounds.
We then went straight to XC pretty much. I let him take a big long drink at the water trough outside of stadium and watched Jennifers' round. Then we headed over to XC and I let him get another small drink. We jumped one XC jump and then headed out on course. I was pretty excited about the course. It was a really fun one! It wasn't anything technical... all pretty much single fences with no ditches or banks. However we had two waters and the second water was very looky! While jump judging I saw at least 2 riders get eliminated and at least 3 others have one or more refusals. And those were the novice and prelim riders. My original plan was to "school" that water... that way I could canter him in and practice but if he stopped, it wouldn't count and then I could go in again through the flags. But Beth said to base it how he did on the first water. But anyways... the fences were fairly big and wide, which was really nice.
Fence 4 was after a long stretch, then up and down a little mogul and over a little coop. Then it was a fairly tight turn to the roll top for 5 and then a sharp left turn to the first water. I pulled Dan back to a trot as we made the turn to the water and was going to trot in. He saw the water and picked up the canter and in we went. However, at the first step, he broke to a trot, then quickly to a walk/stop and tried to drink! Dingbat!!! You just downed a bunch of water after stadium and even took a sip or two right before we left the startbox!! Go go go!!! hee hee. It was pretty funny. He almost felt like he was going to go down and roll at one point. I managed to keep him going and I don't think he even broke from the walk but we picked the trot back up and carried on. So... water number one... NOT a problem! Well, not a problem getting in... getting out perhaps!
We got back on track and happily cantered the rest of the course up to the second water. He didn't even blink at the fence with the chicken and rooster statues, although I was thinking he probably wouldn't given Cleatus. He was cruising happily and well within time, even with the water slow down. We came up towards the second water and I waffled on what to do. Unfortunately there was very little time to make a decision and since he was game at the first water, I chose to let him canter to the second water. It was also right off a tight turn from the fence before it but was much lookier and busier. Dan was cantering happily until the last second when he slammed on the brakes, threw his butt to the left, like he was a car skidding out, and then lurched back forward into the water. So... NOT a stop, but not ideal either. At least he's getting better about it. At Southern 8th's it was very much a stop, sideways, stop, sideways, sidle in... This was a forward, almost stop and sling sideways with the butt only, then lurch forward. So better... but still frustrating. I'm mad that I didn't take the time to school him, but oh well. We trotted through and over the cabin and then he happily loped the rest of the way home. I did have to very quietly lope home to avoid speeding tickets but we weren't as close as we were at Chatt. But we also didn't have two water slow downs at Chatt.
So yep... It was a better XC round over all as far as rideability. And we finished on our dressage score in 3rd place out of 18. And... if you took out the pro's, we were first as amateurs, so... technically that was Dan's 3rd first place in a row at recognized, or 4th first place in a row if you count the schooling show too! Not too shabby! I'll take it! (although I will admit to being irrationally bummed about our stadium photos and the water issue.... I'm not sure why I can't just be proud of us both.... ugh).
Ahhhhhh.... a lovely celebratory roll in the mud as soon as we got home! At least he kept all four wraps on for the drive home. :) Now he gets a week off! Because so do I! Mike and I are heading to the beach. Hopefully I can ride the feral beast when we get home without getting bucked off because 5 days after I get home, we leave for Area Champs! And... it sure would be nice to keep the "in the ribbons" trend going. :)
*To clarify... I'm really super proud of Dan.. and a little bit of me. And I'm really grateful! It's really nice to have a horse that does understand his job (mostly) and enjoys all 3 phases and does them well. I'm just in a weird place right now and I have a lot of people telling me how lovely he is... and then I want them to be right... so it's hard when our photos show us looking terrible... maybe it's because I hear them tell me how lovely he is and then I go and mess him up and make him jump terrible because of my poor form or poor riding... or maybe it's because of the pressure of actually having a nice horse that's winning or placing consistently so I feel the need to "perform" whereas with Fleck it was always a pleasant surprise to end up in the ribbons. (Disclaimer... Fleck is still the most magical and wonderful unicorn and can never put a foot wrong. Fleck was amazing and is a better jumper than Dan currently and went above and beyond for me and I owe him so much.. but I realize that he was not the most floaty of movers in dressage. Therefore, we always had to claw our way up from dressage... mostly... other than when I actually was in first after dressage at our first prelim of all things... and then had two wimpy stops that were totally my fault!). Anyways... I'm trying to be humble and not get too carried away by all of Dan's scoring, but also be very proud of him and give him lots of credit. It's hard to balance that!