Do I Live in Seattle Now???


    After about two straight weeks of rain, I have to say, my weather sensitive and naturally complaining tendencies really came to a tipping point. Living in Virginia makes one particularly prone to feeling personally affronted when the weather isn't beautiful, and I'm not sure why. I mean, am I expected to actually function in this kind of perpetually damp existence? Seriously? Obviously, being made of primarily sugar, I fear the worst in terms of melting and dissolving. Nyls agrees. 

   However, I bravely soldiered on both at home and at the track. I have confiscated any photos of myself wearing goggles and galloping in the rain, because I look more than a little special needs in that outfit. Nyls and I got ready for Morven to run Intermediate after a 6 month break from competing, and left on Friday in lovely weather. 

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Yes, they  have strange "ginger people" on the package.

    I was very nervous, anticipating both the best and the worst. For me, a lot of competing is a head game. Nyls has proven again and again that he can easily handle whatever I throw his way, even if I am operating at the level of a mentally damaged monkey on his back. However, this does not tend to soothe my nerves, and I have to pump myself full of these little ginger candies, which prevent nausea. Make fun of my Gin-Gin's all you want, but those puppies work miracles. 

   Saturday dawned for me at around 4:30 AM, and I left the hotel to find that I needed to locate all of my lost winter clothing in the trailer and promptly don all of it. It was absolutely miserable. Around 40 degrees, raining steadily, and wind blasts that went right up your tail. As if the prospect of early morning dressage wasn't bad enough, eh? 

   All summer and fall, I have been working hard to explain dressage to Nyls a little better. He used to get really stressed about movements like counter canter, changes, and walking. When Nyls gets stressed, his immediate reaction is to use his strength to bully through you, scare you, and hopefully avoid the movement all-together. However, I had a mini-revelation this spring: the bigger the bit I use, and the more I fight, the more he fights. So, I put a softy-soft rubber Nathe bit on him, and stopped cranking his flash, and suddenly  I had this super sensitive, incredibly relaxed horse on my hands. Instead of taking the route of forcing him with more powerful gadgets and harsher bits, I went down the road less travelled and came out on top. Honestly, I can't believe it took me this long to realize this, I think I knew it all along, I was just programmed like most people to respond to strength with more strength. 

   So, Morven dressage begins, and I try madly to keep my white pants resembling an off-white (which is about as good as it got) and ran from the barn to the indoor, where my test was held. My teeth chattering, I forced myself to relax, ate some Gin-Gins, and Nyls warmed up great. The last time the two of us were in a dressage ring was March, and I made a few mistakes. I worked the week before with Lainey Ashker on how to ride my test accurately, and that was incredibly helpful. I've never known how to put a test together, only how to basically ride the movements separately. Lainey helped me identify my weaknesses, and get the most out of my horse and myself. We misread each other coming to the first shoulder-in (he thought lengthen, I thought NOOOOO!!) and one of our halts was not so impressive, but we ended up getting five 8's, most of it in the canter work and the simple changes which we really struggle with at home. I was a little bummed, because as usual I imagined myself coming back the most victorious dressage rider in the world, but we didn't score as badly as I imagined, and ended with a 35. The scores were fairly high all weekend, and some horses that I know are fancier movers with more experienced jockeys got higher scores than me, so that helped a little.

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Thanks to the best groom in crap weather: Addie French

   My outfit for show jumping was this: t-shirt, long sleeved fuzzy shirt, vest, show jacket, and rain jacket. And I was STILL freezing. I could have used goggles to see my jumps, and the warm up was a pitted mess. The craters before and after the jumps were pretty bad, so I limited my warm up jumps to a few verticals and two oxers. The actual show ring was a little better, but still pretty rough on the landing side of the big oxers. 

   Basically, show jumping came down to the fact that I thank God my horse is a ridiculously freaky jumper, and I raised him from a tiny tot to expect all sorts of idiocy from my end. I thought he would experience some "haven't-jumped-in-a-while-jitters" and pull his usual prop and pop moves, but I guess I misread that one. He was all business, approached the fences with his eyes firmly in his sockets (unusual) and actually took the distances I asked for. Now, if I could only see some reasonable distances.... He was a little surprised by the triple, and something weird happened in there where we did a one stride and a trot step?? But, as I mentioned before, he's a freak and jumped clean. I was mostly proud that he jumped the liverpool without snorting or bugging the eyes, because he has a longstanding relationship of hatred with liverpools. Maybe my baby is growing up!? It's only taken him until he's ten...

   Cross country! As seen above, it was muddy, muddy, a little rainy, and more muddy. There were four Intermediate divisions, and most of the people in the last two divisions withdrew due to the footing. My division went second after the Pan Am division, and I decided that, what the hell, I haven't run in so long, why not? The course was fairly straightforward, not too big, and not too many crazy combinations. Maybe I've been out of the game for a while, but I thought it was fairly simple. However, it caused a lot of problems for the people who did run. The footing was mucky in some places, but actually dried out pretty well overall. 

   I pulled out some of the biggest studs that I own, and off we went. Nyls was....phenomenal. I could feel his excitement and happiness to be back out on the course. He absolutely lives for Cross Country. I haven't felt such a good trip on him since the summer of 2009 at Jersey CCI** and NAJYRC CCI**. He cruised around, answering every question with ease and aplomb. I didn't kick him once, and he didn't fight anything I had to say. What a difference to last fall when I was running out of bits to try and make him stop running off with me! I didn't feel that I was going all that fast, but apparently I was braver than most, because I had the second fastest XC time of all the divisions, with only 10 time penalties. This moved us up to 2nd place overall, and Nyls got to sport a fancy red ribbon! 

   I was so happy with how he came back into the game. So much has happened to the both of us this past year that has made it really hard to get back in the groove, and Morven proved that we both still have "it". There was lots of room for improvement, but even when we are not at our best, it still stacks up pretty well against our competitors, and that feels great. I wish that I could bottle the feeling of riding Nyls XC and sell it. I'm fairly sure that it's better than any drug currently available.  

   Until next time!

Kate at PF '10 412K

Plantation Field 2010 Advanced


© Kate Samuels Eventing 2011