First Advanced Back -- Southern Pines

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Photo Courtesy of Mikaela Kantorowski

     Well, dear friends, I am overjoyed to announce that Nyls and I have finally made our comeback to Advanced level for the first time since the "Incident of the Knee" in October of 2010. We just returned from Southern Pines, where we posted a decent dressage score, a slow but clean cross country, and a slightly rusty show jumping. However, for our first attempt back, it was excellent, and I feel that Nyls is really ready to take on the world again. I have lots of homework to do, and I know where I can improve, and how to get there. I will be more brave in pushing the limits of his dressage at our next few events, and hopefully I will learn to ride better in the show jumping. Cross country, as always, was easy for him, and I chose to go slow, so next time, a bit quicker!


   I travelled up to Raeford with Jessica Hampf and Doug Payne, and our journey was only marred by what shall be known as the "Best Flat Tire Ever" henceforth. Jess was driving my truck with a four horse trailer behind, and we pulled off the highway to grab some gas and food and meet up with Doug, and literally as we turned into the gas station, a front tire blew, and by the time we got in the parking lot, it was completely flat! SO lucky this didn't happen when we were going 70mph on the highway, and even luckier we had Doug there to change the tire. Being completely useless girls, we left Doug and a good samaritan to fix the tire, and we went to get food. When we got back, magically, it was changed!


Dressage was actually quite good for Nyls, I feel like he is finally growing up a little. There is so much less spooking at the side of the arena (although he did have a good look at the people in the stands next-door) and he is much more rideable through the whole test. His trot work is getting better all the time, and we just need to work out a few kinks here and there. We both tend to have trouble establishing a solid position at the beginning of every moment. He spends the first few strides wobbling a bit, and then is steady, which hurts our score. His canter is getting better by the day, although he still experiences quite a bit of anxiety about the right lead canter in general, and a lot of anxiety about his flying changes. I practiced changes on Tuesday, and none until the two I did in my warm up. With Nyls, the more you practice something that he's worried about, the worse he gets, so sometimes you have to just leave it alone. The perfectionist in me has a hard time with this, because when you can't do something right, my urge is to practice practice practice! However, for the first time EVER in the history of Nyls and Kate, we got an 8 on our extended walk, which really shows how much more relaxed he is in the arena lately, because a year ago, it was a miracle if I could get him to walk at all!


I walked cross country on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Some people have the stamina for multiple walks in a day, but I think once around an Advanced course per day is fine by me. It gets really long! The course was lovely, and it's always a good sign when the tables don't really look that big or scary when you walk. I know in the back of my mind that it's total peanuts for Nyls, and he won't back off anything! However, there was one jump that completely freaked me out, I'll be honest. 5A was an ENORMOUS ditch and wall two strides to a table. Not only have I never seen a ditch and wall with a related distance to another jump, but this one was really early in the course, and HUGE. Did I mention it was gigantic?? Anyway, with our troubles at the ditch and wall at Pine Top, I was more than a little hesitant about this question, because I knew after he jumped it, he would be gawking at the next five jumps, and number 7 was a tough combination. Once the spook gets in him, its tough to get it out, and I needed him fully focused to complete 7. During my warmup for dressage, they announced there would be an option for 5A, and I was thrilled. Maybe that led to my relaxed test?!

   Nyls was an absolute beast of a monster getting near the start box. He will have to be led in for the next events, because I barely could get him near the damn thing this time. He gets so unbelievably pumped, he can't stop leaping and charging and rearing and won't actually go in the box itself! Terrible. Once on course, I felt a change in him that has been a long time coming. Let's just say, Nyls has yet to discover a jump that is athletically difficult for him, or a distance that is troublesome, so it almost never occurs to him to back off anything, and I have to do a lot of work getting him to respect the jumps and not simply charge at them. This time, however, he would change gears about 5 strides out of every jump, and balance himself! Revolutionary! It only took 6 years.... My plan was to cruise around slow and steady, because the course was causing a LOT of problems. Overall, there were 5 falls in my division alone, and over 15 for both Intermediate and Advanced, which is more than I've ever experienced. The falls were distributed through both amateurs and professionals, and I just wanted a good learning run for the both of us. The four people who left the start box before me all fell off, including Jess who had an unfortunate dismount in the water, but was able to get back up and cheer from the sidelines as I came through! 

   Nyls was brilliant. He was focused, balanced, honest, and so incredibly game. It is a wonderful feeling when they lock onto a giant Advanced corner or a skinny bounce out of the water and you can feel them understand and take up the challenge. He was not ditchy at all, we had a coffin and two trakhener jumps, even though we took the option at 5A. (Phew!) I was worried for a bit that he had developed a thing, but I think Pine Top was just an anomaly, much to my relief! We finished with quite a few time penalties, but I was overjoyed, and he was barely breathing hard by the time we got back to the barn.


Enjoying his ice boots after Cross Country

   Show jumping was the most disappointing of the three phases, and I take full responsibility. I misheard my time, and realized 15 minutes before my ride time (while I was walking my course) that I was not dressed, my horse wasn't tacked, and we were on the other side of the show grounds. I ran back to the barn, Jess tacked Nyls and I basically stripped in the parking lot and changed super quick. We trotted to the warm up, and had a quick jump about a few jumps, and in we went! I was frazzled, and I do not do frazzled well. The course was huge, and all of the lines were waiting distances, meaning I had to jump the first element and WOAH to get a good distance to the second and third element. This is not our forte, to say the least. It makes me start riding backwards, and ride backwards I did. I biffed the distance to a one stride, and held onto his mouth (God only knows why) and he had those two down. I rode backwards to the next vertical, which he also had down. At this point, I had to mentally calm myself very quickly, because I realized that it was all unraveling, and I tried to ride the second half of the course less like a monkey. Nyls rewarded me by clearing every other jump like a pro. There is basically no excuse for this horse to ever have more than the occasional unlucky rail, and I felt bad for making him take so many, but such is life. 

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Tomorrow we are all going to Atlanta to contest a Jumper show, and Nyls will be doing the 1 meter 10's  the 1 meter 15's and the 1 meter 20's. This is really more for my comfort, but it will be good exposure for him as well, the atmosphere and spooky jumps will give him something to look at! For the next week, we will be prepping for another Advanced run at The Fork, and Nyls will be enjoying more "brooming" to his face, which he LOVES!!

© Kate Samuels Eventing 2011