So...... after a whirlwind month of emotional and physical stress.... I ended up getting to go to Virginia after all :) (Danielle and Rusty were going for the CCI* and Beth said we should go to and run Novice and help in the vet box and groom and hitch a ride). Between Fleck being sick and being at the vet school for 10 days and me thinking we might lose him, me being sick with bronchitis or the flu or whatever it was, stressing about Mike and my marriage, and then Mike's Dad doing very poorly and going back into the hospital... I wasn't actually planning on going. I even emailed the secretary and scratched. Because Fleck got to come home Saturday and I didn't want to leave him so quickly! But then I saw that my entry fee and stabling fee were not going to be refunded (fair enough, it was last minute) so I emailed her back asking to NOT scratch me just yet. I wanted to see how things would pan out. And.. they were pretty good for the most part. Mikes Dad got sent home from the hospital and Fleck was doing well at home. His chest culture came back negative Monday afternoon and I got to pull his IV catheter and switch him to oral meds. Which also means he got to be turned out!! Which made him soooo happy! So.... I called Beth and Peri and Danielle and we decided that I needed a "stress free" (HA!) weekend and we would change the plans again so I could go. :) So.. Peri did Fleck's meds for me and kept an eye on him. I packed up the trailer and took it to Morning Run and we got Danielle's trailer all packed up for an early morning on Wednesday. That way I also got to keep an eye on Fleck another 12 hours before I abandoned him. (I still feel bad for leaving him but he forgave me.... I gave him a ton of butt scratches and found some really itchy spots for him and groomed him and loved on him and bribed him with treats!). So... I got everything packed up as tidily and compressed as I could and dropped it off. Then I came home and got my stuff packed up. Then I slept for 2 hours, got up and took care of Fleck and snuggled and then... Dan and I drove to Morning Run to be there at 6:30 so we could pull out at 7 am.
Dan loaded great and although he was a bit long... he fit. :) We managed to get all of us and all of our stuff in the trailer and off we went. It was a beautiful drive. The leaves were gorgeous and I fell in love with Virginia! It is sooooo pretty! We got there in 9 hours. There was a few stops for fuel and food and pee breaks. The boys unloaded and got settled in their stall and we got everything unloaded and the trailer unhitched and ready for the evening. We took the boys for a walk and Dan wasn't too wild. He wasn't great though, so I was glad I had the rope halter. The Virginia Horse Center is pretty cool. The barns were so much warmer than outside and they had showers and bathrooms for us that were nice and heated too. We slept good and then Thursday was still a down day. Danielle had her in barn inspection and her jog that afternoon. I took Dan for a walk in the morning and he was a nut! He was spooky and dancing and getting all worked up. Granted, things were busy and coming and going and lots of cars and golf carts and such popping out from behind other places. They had vendors set up too. But we managed to keep him under control and walked some and grazed some. I had a lesson with Beth since we didn't lesson on Tuesday. And of course once I got him in the arena he was quiet and almost lazy. We worked on my canter transitions. I was still struggling with him picking up the right lead instead of the left. We worked on getting him into the bridle and on my aids. I had to keep my elbows at my side and think of riding his hind legs up into my belly button and keeping my connection steady so he could be ridden up into it. Then I had to ask for bend... and it really helped by getting him bent around my inside leg. I almost thought about riding him into the outside rein and almost leg yielding him out into that rein. (and as I type it, I'm realizing. ... well DUH! Idiot... jeesh). So then we noticed that if I just asked him to canter, I could usually get it, but if I overthought it, I would mess it up. And if I thought about squishing my left shoulder blade and pelvis together, it made me lift my left hip. In an effort to lift my left hip, I was dropping it and digging it into Dan's side. Plus... if I crossed my left hand over his neck, he would get the wrong lead. Sigh... I swear... it's just a left lead canter!! But we managed to get it repeatedly a few times in a row and then we got the hang of it. I also had to focus on the downward transitions because I would throw away all that nice collection we had gotten and just collapse into the downwards and soften too much with my reins. So then we did a fun exercise. We did a figure 8 at the canter with simple lead changes. The goal was not to do as few steps as possible, but to get him straight, bent and in the outside rein and then pick up a correct canter. The goal was also to maintain a steady connection and not throw him away or let him invert. We played with that a bit and then called it a day. It was hard work for us both. After that, while we were waiting for Danielle to jog, Beth and I tidied up Dan's clip job. Then Beth said I should do his face and legs too so we started on his legs. Then it was time for the jog, so we went and helped Danielle. They both looked great! After that, it was time to walk XC. Beth and Danielle walked hers and I walked mine so I had an idea and could get one walk in. It was GORGEOUS!!! At first, I was a little intimidated. Some of those fences were wide! And then Fence 7 was uphill to a ramp, which I don't like. Then a fake corner bendy line to a table, which... looked fun really. Then another simple little fence, and then... straight down hill with a 90 degree turn along a tree grove to a hammock!! I was terrified that Dan would just roll down the hill with me and we'd never get to the fence. Then another simple cabin, then up to the top of a hill over a little hanging log with a down hill run to a ditch! Ack!! I was a little nervous about those few. After I finished that, Beth and Danielle still weren't back so I finished clipping Dan. I managed to get all of him done without even a halter on until I got to his ears and poll. I managed to get most of the right side done by twitching his nose with my hand but couldn't get the rest so Beth had to help me. We still couldn't finish his left ear. Even with twitching him. We got all but one spot though, so I just gave up. We got dinner and then walked the ponies again and let them graze. Dan was much better behaved this time!
Friday morning was a late morning as Danielle didn't ride til later in the day and I didn't have anything to do. It was supposed to rain too. So... I got up and walked Dan with Danielle and Rusty. And holy moly he was TERRIBLE!!! He was spinning and rearing and dancing and jigging and twirling. We were creating a commotion and I was trying to keep him calm so we didn't upset the people warming up to show. We got to the top of the big hill and Danny reared straight up at me and pawed out. He managed to just get my forearm with one foot. I tried to beat him and backed him up and almost backed him off the edge of the hill. So then there was an arena right there so I lunged him. He was power trotting like a standardbred!! Around and around he went. I let him power trot for a good 5-10 minutes and then asked for a canter. He kept cross cantering, both ways, but... never fixed it. So we did some more trotting and then I started asking him to yield to me (crouching tiger!). He did, but I only got one lick and chew. Sigh... We managed a tiny bit of grazing and then I wrestled him back to the barn. Danielle let us walk in the front and that helped. So then we put Danny back in his box for a bit and got things organized. I got tacked up and rode again and we worked on the same thing again but added in a bit more from the test, like the change of direction across the middle of the arena. Danny was good and of course, perfect under saddle as far as spookyness and buckyness. I ended up giving Dan a bath after to get the hair off him and get his socks cleaned again. Then it was time to watch Danielle ride. She had a GREAT test and they scored well!. Then Beth and I walked my cross country course. It looked much better that second time around and Beth told me exactly how I was going to ride those questions that concerned me. After that, the rain started. We headed to Dover and I bought some braiding spray, some shampoo (the Lucky Braid stuff) and spur straps. Danielle bought some coat shining spray and shampoo, and Beth bought spur straps and bell boots. After that we went to go eat because we were starving and then we decided that it was supposed to get super cold so we went to Walmart to get long underwear. When we got back the rain had stopped so we walked the ponies a bit more and then I had to braid. I grabbed my bag and realized my spur straps weren't in there. I was hoping they had fallen out in the car. Argh. I braided Dan (we had also pulled his mane when we tidied up his clip job) but it looked terrible! I put his slinky on and figured it was the best I could do with what I had. And.. he wasn't running the one star, so.... ;) Ha! I got back to the trailer and looked in the car and didn't see my spur straps. So then Danielle and I looked at the receipt to see if maybe they never charged me for them. And it was her receipt. Hmm.... So then I went back to the car and found her bag of stuff... which was MY bag of stuff and lo and behold.. there were my spur straps. Son of a ..... So yep.. I had grabbed her bag... and proceeded to braid Dan with coat shining and shimmering spray instead of quick braid. In my defense... both were white spray bottles and then we both got shampoo in white bottles. Oh well. It was a done deal.
Saturday morning was COLD!!!! Thanks goodness we had bought long underwear. Danielle was up first and rode Rusty to get him loosened up before she ran XC later in the day. I decided not to try to graze Dan but just get on. I would walk him once I was on. Besides I didn't have a ton of time as I rode dressage at 9:21. He walked fairly nicely to the arenas and was a good boy in warm up. He was a bit stiff and not wanting to relax his neck into the contact but Beth helped us through it. I was laughing because she told me to ride with T-Rex arms... in other words, keep my elbows at my side and not soften too much by opening my elbow and tipping forward. Team T-Rex!!! We did our figure 8 serprentine again and then practiced the change of direction. Beth said to sit for the test after all. And then it was our turn. Dan was a bit up and braced as we got into the arena with the new change of scenery, but as usual, he went right to work once we entered the white rails. We had a quite lovely test, I thought. He was pretty animated and up hill and into the bridle and I didn't think he was behind my leg. We got both our leads and while he inverted a bit (more to the left than the right) they weren't bad. However, our halt kind of fizzled out at the end. Drats. We ended up scoring a 28.3, which put us tied for 2nd out of 40! Okay... I'll take it. Only I didn't want to know before XC, so I didn't find out til after. :) Beth was pleased with my test too, minus the halt. ;)
Danny and I only had a short break before XC so I pretty much untacked him, gave him a few minutes to chill while I went to the bathroom, changed into my XC shirt and put my dressage clothes away and got my saddles swapped out. I tacked him back up, put in studs and boots, and off we went. He was on a mission and was power walking and we got to warm up. He warmed up okay, but we needed a bit more ooomph. We managed to create it and then it was our turn. At this point, I actually wasn't really nervous, but more excited. I just felt like Danny was going to go and it was going to be fun. And it was!! We had a great run. The first few fences Beth said he wasn't really on the bit but was more huntery, but he jumped everything and we carried on. He felt pretty rideable and never bolted and listened to me. He even collected and balanced down the hills! He was a little wobbly going to the water but I don't think it was because he was hesitating to go in, more that he was trying to decide which fence to jump in! Nope, just canter in Dan... then we can jump that jump a few strides out of the water! We went up the hill to the ramp and he was game on! Except right at the base of that fence, his hind end slid almost into it! Bless his heart, he managed to get us out and over it and we carried on. Unfortunately he slid at the next two fences too, the corner and the hanging cabin thing. But he kept going and carried on. Dang! GOOD BOY!!! And then.. he was brilliant down the hill to the hammock. He stayed with me and balanced and didn't get sucked down the hill. We took a slight flyer to it, but that was more me than him. I felt it and tried to shorten him up a bit, but maybe I either shortened too much or didn't get it done quick enough. But he was fine. We jumped the cabin beautifully out of stride (much like most of the course!) and then up the hill to the hanging log. He jumped that nicely and I half halted and didn't get the trot, but he collected and was game so I knew he was going to just pop over the ditch and not be silly so we kept the balanced small canter and sure enough, he just popped over the ditch!! Wheeeee!!! Then I realized we were pretty up on time so we had a nice polite canter over the next three fences with some wide sweeping turns!! YAHOOO!!! That was so much fun. And it was 400 mpm and we were still pretty close to speeding tickets. And he was still ready for more and not at all winded. Granted, it was cool enough and breezy enough and a short course, but still. He barely broke a sweat under his saddle pad. I was reaching down to give him a pat and a golf cart came back and he spooked and spun and almost dumped me. Twice. ha ha! Goober! But... that was fine because DOUBLE CLEAR!!! And such a fun course. :) :) He got lots of carrots, iced, and then some more alfalfa. I then went and helped Danielle with her XC. Holy moly they were amazing!!! We got Rusty cooled off pretty quick and she headed back to the barns. Beth and I took the truck back across the street and... I got us stuck!! With all the rain, it was slick. And I would have been fine, but when I backed out, I got a lot closer to the edge of the road than I wanted in order to get turned around enough because of the angle I had parked in. Unfortunately when I put the truck in drive to go foward, it didn't stick and was actually in neutral so we started rolling backwards!! Eeeks... I managed to catch it but not before we got stuck. Sigh... so the tractor had to come tow us out. Soooo embarassing. But we weren't the only ones that day. Or that weekend. Once we finally got back to the barns, Dan got to graze for a good long while as his reward for being awesome!!! What a great day!
Sunday morning dawned fairly early but not too bad as we had the time change too! It wasn't too chilly and Dan was already braided. We hadn't been able to walk the course yet so after I got Dan grazed and walked (MUCH improved with the dressage whip and after the XC run the day before) and got him unwrapped, we walked stadium. It was a fun course. But man those fences looked HUGE and wide! The course designer agreed and dropped a few of them a hole, which helped immensely. So then I went back and got Dan's poultice cleaned off and get him groomed and ready to go. Warm up was tough. I just couldn't quite get in the groove. I thought I managed towards the end to get him pretty forward and revved up but not running. I needed to half halt with the outside rein before the turns and then balance and ride forward through the turns. So... we were finally ready, more or less. In we went and... I reverted back to my original state. We managed to get over the first oxer, but the second vertical... I just held the whole way and so... he was inverted and took a rail. Sigh... our first rail at recognized... His first score where he didn't finish on his dressage score. Sigh... Oh well. I managed to get a little better after that and we went clean from then on, but it was definitely a sketchy round and definitely not something I was proud of. I'm not sure what happened, but suddenly.. stadium is my bugaboo. Sigh... So... oh well. He tried very hard and did his best. I knew that was our issue going into it. We just ran out of time to get it resolved before the show. But ... winter goals. :)
Anyways... turns out... we still ended up 4th of 20!!! And when they did the amateur status, we moved up to 2nd. Which means... we are qualified for the AEC's (pending two more clean XC runs!). Whooo hooo!!!
After stadium we iced and then watched Danielle go! They were amazing and jumped some GIANT jumps! I thought mine looked big, but damn! She ended up 8th Nationally and 9th Internationally. Out of like...44!!! How awesome is that?!?! We managed to get packed up fairly quickly considering and headed home. It was a nice trip and we managed to make it in 8 hours. Once we got to Morning Run, I swapped Dan over and threw all my stuff in the back and we headed home. I think we got home at 1:30 am Monday morning. :) But it was worth it. SUPER fun weekend and I'm so proud of Danny. That was the most ridable and balanced XC run we've had. :) YAHOO!