"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Waredaca N3D prep

I knew nothing about eventing until after college. For the last seven years, I have tried to learn as much as I can about the sport. There is a lot to know and I'm still trying to practice the basics correctly. When I found out that Waredaca Farm offers a long format three day event for Novice I was thrilled! It seemed like a huge goal but I set it as a long term goal anyway.

Turns out I found the right horse and we have qualified and entered for the N3DE(Novice 3-Day Event)!  Things happened in the last year that led me to believe entering the event was very possible.  Last year I bought Sherwin (Win) in July.  We completed beginner novice at Carousel and then finished second at Fair Hill.  We moved up to Novice at Plantation and won! We finished the year at Maryland HT.  Win and I had experience now and knew what we had to work on over the winter.

We started taking dressage lessons with Kristin Severson.  Lauren Clark stayed on my case until I finally rode with Kristin and thank goodness Lauren made me! Kristin took us back to square one.  Win is much more confident now. She taught me how my actions influence his movement and brain.  Kristin taught me how to work with Win in a way that he builds muscle and confidence first.  The fancy moves will come easily after a good foundation is laid.

In the spring, we went to MDHT not long after returning from Aiken.  I was quite pleased with Win's dressage test.  He is often very nervous and distracted during dressage.  Stadium was perkier than I preferred but XC was a breeze. 

I finally had to start spending the big bucks for recognized events because the N3DE requires novice entries to have four competitions with numerical scores.  So our next event was MCTA.  Dressage was quite unpleasant.  I was nervous and had left my small spurs on from a jump lesson the day before.  However, we did all the movements at the right time and stayed in the ring! We had time on stadium because I took a tour of the ring.  XC was quite positive.  Many riders had a stop at a new bank going down but Win didn't care! Granted, the road crossing was terrifying! 

Yes, I'm going to recap event event.  This blog is a good way for me to remember and analyze things again.  It also serves as a way to document what brought me to my goal. 

Fair Hill's novice course didn't scare me as much as it did the year before.  Dressage was greatly improved.  We were in the ring by the grandstands and it went better than expected.  Win was almost too slow.  Show jumping was a disaster.  We pulled 5 rails! Front and back legs caught rails.  XC went well and we were easily under the time.  Our show jumping round meant we were enrolling in Sally Cousins' boot camp.  Extra lessons and extra work! Win is more likely to pull a rail than not.  I know this and while I try to go clean, I accept that it may happen.  One rail I can forgive, five I cannot. 

Once in bootcamp, we decided that there was no reason not to enter at Plantation in early June.  Sherwin likes Plantation! We were first in our Novice Rider division after dressage.  I was thrilled!  We were walking out of the ring and the judge yelled for Sherwin.  I was so nervous that I had done something dumb.  It turns out the judge was Mary Grace.  Mary, or a student of hers, owned Sherwin before I did.  She was extremely happy with how he went and how happy he seemed.  We pulled one rail in show jumping because I didn't ride the first two jumps at all.  The XC was massive and long! 21 jumps back and forth across the field in the mud.  There was a brush jump from the light into the woods and other big questions along the way.  Win was focused and almost made the original time set for the course (prior to the mud).  Lauren and Poleon moved up to third and we finished fourth.  I couldn't complain!

By this time we had 3 of our four qualifications.  MDHT #1 was next on the list.  I don't do summer heat very well thanks to my extra squishiness and an air conditioned office work environment.  I had heard MDHT does well with the heat and boy do they ever! Dressage was almost a bit too quiet.  The judge wanted to see more out of the trot, but if I did too big of a trot, I wouldn't have anything worthwhile in the walk or canter.  I'll take a 6 or 7 in the trot work for 8s in the walk and canter! I was so excited to be in the same division as the amazing Tipperary Liadnham.  What a big, cool horse! We had two rails in stadium. A silly one over the smallest jump and one of the red planks! I was not happy with the red plank faultsCross country was an easy course and Win did it without issue.  We made the time but I felt like Win and I both had a tough time with the warm air. 

We qualifed for the three day! 4 events without cross country faults and respectable dressage scores.  Show jumping was improving so I wasn't as worried.

Six weeks later, mid August, we ran at Waredaca.  I didn't want to compete in the heat but it would have been a mistake to pass up the opportunity to compete there before the N3D.  Dressage was better for the judges than for me apparently.  Win spooked at every letter.  The letters were hinged pieces of wood next to the white fence.  At least I know he doesn't like them now!  Stadium was our best round up to this point.  Sally was nice enough to warm us up.  We did fine except for fence eight which I didn't read well.  Still, we recovered and rallied through the end of the course.  Unfortunately, spooky Sherwin showed up for XC.  We did fine for the first 4 fences and then the monsters came out.  The pond was scary, the people were scary, and the jump decorations were scary! This didn't help my confidence as it was a big, long course.  We had to trot two sections and didn't make the time.  I also realized we weren't fit enough.  There were positives such as jumping a real corner, getting through the hardest combination (log, hard right through a swale, to another log) we had done, and simply finishing! I needed a day like that to remind myself that I can ride Win.  When I ride better, he goes better. 

After Waredaca, I started Weight Watchers again.  Sherwin and I also incorporated hill walks into most rides and at least one fitness day around the field going up and down the big hill.  I also started yoga.  I did a month of classes and what a difference it makes! I feel better overall and my body isn't as tight in the tack.  10 pounds down and I feel better.  Now to take a few more pounds off.

In late August I was forming my plan to make sure we were ready.  I entered on opening day and my entry has been accepted! I talked to Sally and Lauren Gress.  We decided to enter Seneca and Morven.

Seneca was mid-September.  The weather was gorgeous!  The dressage test went very well.  I was pleased with our score. We have been between 30 and 35 since Fair Hill.  I know Kristin will improve those scores but I am not at all disappointed. For the first time, we jumped clear in stadium! I was elated.  Sherwin listened to me which meant we had balance and the correct speed.  The ground was hard at Seneca.  I went first in my division following a lunch break.  Believe me, the XC fence judges deserved a break.  However, the warmup was 3 trailers away from ours and Win started to be quiet antsy about Napoleon.  If Win is working, he doesn't mind as much.  I thought about making him work but with the hard ground, XC coming up, and a delay to the start, I let him walk circles.  Sherwin came out of the start box a little distracted.  The first jump was in the fence line so he had no choice.  I tapped him on the shoulder anyway before it.  I usually do that anyway, more for me than him.  The second fence was a little red cabin.  In the approach I started to think about how well the day was going and how great Win felt.  Note to other riders - STAY FOCUSED ON THE FENCE IN FRONT OF YOU! Bam, we glanced off the right side of the fence for a run out. 20 points just like that.  I was so mad and disappointed at Sherwin.  I rode the rest of the course with determination and it went very well.  Win listened and jumped well.  We easily made the time and Win felt great at the finish.  After crossing the finish line, I realized what I did and I was mad at myself.  It was my mistake.  Competition pressure is not something I am used to and it will play a part of the 3 day.  I have to tell myself I want to complete the event and have a happy horse.  That is my true goal.

We head to Morven on Sunday. I have never been and am excited. We had a wonderful jump lesson with Sally last Friday.  I have to keep doing what I'm doing and we will be ready.  Win feels good, both mentally and physically.  I am doing my best to maintain him for the next three weeks.  We have one more lesson with Sally and Kristin between Morven and Waredaca.  Sherwin had body work done last week. I learned different ways to engage his back and stretch his body.  I incorporate that into our daily routine now.  Sherwin's ulcers seem under control and his overall health is good. 

Sherwin and I will leave early Wednesday morning the week of Waredaca.  My dad is meeting us there to help me get set up and through the horse inspection.  Dressage is Thursday along with steeplechase practice.  Friday is endurance day.  LG and Jen will be there helping me.  I couldn't ask for two better people to help us! Saturday wraps up with show jumping. 

No matter the outcome, I am certain that this goal has been worth the time and money.  I have had a great season so far with Sherwin.  Fingers crossed it only gets better and we make it through the event in one piece!