Wow….what a weekend! Michelle, Jordan, Gus, Oreo, and I headed to Erie, Pennsylvania this weekend to compete at the Lost Hounds Horse Trials. I purposely picked this event to be a nice step up from the Preliminary event at Greater Dayton in May. Gus was extremely fit after his Training Level 3 Day at IEA, and I felt really good about riding at this event marketed as a course “average for horses with some experience at this level”. No problem.
Michelle was scheduled to ride all three of her phases on Saturday. I was set to ride Dressage Saturday and my jumping phases on Sunday. We got to Erie with plenty of time to walk our cross country courses for the first time. Michelle took off to walk hers while Jordan and I went to walk the prelim course.
It started out friendly enough, but by the first combination at fences #4a-b I knew I was in for a “big boy” course. I just wasn’t aware of how big it was going to be yet. Fence 6 was a huge trekhener in the woods, fence 8 was a double bank up with just a bounce between them, fences 10abc was a water complex, fence 12a-b was a huge fence to an offset corner, 14abc was a bending line coffin, 16 was another water fence to 17 which was a skinny (barely wide enough to fit my horse over), 18 was a jump that looked like you didn’t have ground on the far side, and the last 3 fences were fairly normal. Half of the jumps were flagged intermediate. It was during that first walk that I started to feel like I was going to throw up. I walked the course one more time, stopping at the double bank bounce to call Dorothy for some advice on how in the world to ride the thing. I had never ridden anything like it before, and I felt better after talking to Dorothy.
On Saturday I put in what I thought was a horrible dressage test. Gus warmed up really well, but by the time he got in the arena he was tense and hyper. I got so flustered by the crazy extended trot he did (and was about to take off with me) that I forgot to turn down the centerline to salute at x. I lost 2 points for losing my way for a second. I later watched the video of my test and thought to myself….not too bad. It looked way better than it felt, and the extended trot was actually fantastic (and got me a 9). I ended the day in 8th place after dressage out of 26 riders. I felt really good about that , but the reality of that x-c course was setting in. Michelle had a great dressage test which put her in 4th place in her Beginner Novice division after dressage. She and Oreo had 2 rails down in the stadium and made it through the x-c course with just a few issues here and there. She ended up in 13th place at the end of the day.
Later in the afternoon I walked the x-c course again with a friend, and yet again with Diana Rich–a level 4 instructor from Cincinnati. Still feeling sick about it, I at least felt that I had a plan for my ride.
We ended the day with a great meal and some really cold drinks. We were all sunburned from being out for 2 days. It felt great to get back to the hotel and take a shower.
Sunday came way too soon. Gus was wound up after his bath, and seemed to know what was coming next. As I tacked him up and got dressed in all of my xc gear, I thought I was going to pass out. I have never in my life felt so scared about a course on any horse I have ever ridden. I prayed a lot about my ride, and then I climbed on. When I started my warmup, I started to feel like myself again. My horse felt great, my distances to the fences were good, and he was pushing off with ease. I got into the box all by myself—which is a huge change from the past.
10, 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1…have a great ride!
We were off. It was absolutely thrilling. Gus rode every combination with ease and was listening to everything I told him. The rest is history. I finished the course with a big smile on my face and just a few seconds over the optimum time. The ride put us into 5th place. I could finally breathe.
Stadium jumping was last. I walked my course a few times, and got my horse tacked up again. It was quite possibly the worst stadium course I have ever ridden. Gus had warmed up well, but by the time he went in to do his course he was tired. I rode him hard, but it was a miracle that we only had one rail down. Everyone else was taking 2 or more rails and had time penalties. Only 2 clear rounds out of 26. I ended up in 2nd place after stadium. Our victory gallop was great, and I came home with a dressage ribbon, a pretty red ribbon, $200 in prize money…………..and thoughts of intermediate in my head. This will be the best night’s sleep I have had in a long time:)