VAHT - End of 2011

Best View of Fall Fields

       Unfortunately, this fall "season" (both Morven and VAHT) have been plagued with unusually terrible weather this year. At Morven, we toughed it out and ran through the freezing rain, and came out feeling great about ourselves. This weekend at VAHT was predicted to get colder than tank-top weather, but until today, we didn't really know how bad.

      At 9:45 this morning, Intermediate and Preliminary riders were called to a meeting to tell us that our Cross Country would run after dressage in the afternoon instead of tomorrow morning...because the forecast called for SNOW???? I think I need to move further south! With only a few hours notice, we were allowed to motorbike around the course for speed, but cross country was running at 3 no matter what. There was a lot of exclaiming, and some grousing, but everybody left the building at the speed of light towards the course. 

      I returned the the barns and got ready for my dressage test. Nyls warmed up brilliantly, even though it was pretty chilly, and I went in the ring confident. He proceeded to have the most rythmical, consistent, correct test that he has ever performed. I was THRILLED. The only fly in the ointment was that a piece of my hair flew out of my hairnet halfway through and it was driving me CRAZY. I kept looking at the photographer hoping he was shooting my good side without the flopping hair. However, Nyls had brilliant extensions, which are very hard for him, and lovely canter work, even in the counter canter. Sometimes, since he learned his changes, he gets a little tense in the counter canter in anticipation. However, this time he was brilliant and I left the ring grinning from ear to ear. 

      My division was stacked with the cream of the crop at this level, and we got a 31.6, which left us tied for 3rd! It feels good to beat the big guys in my most difficult phase. Truly, what I really wanted this year was a competitive dressage test. I feel like so much of the time I place somewhere in the middle and then move up based on his jumping skills. This is fine, but I feel like a little kid. This time, I felt like a true competitor. I was in with the best of them. 

     I have been working lately with Lainey Ashker on my dressage and I'm so glad to see it finally paying off. We have found that he goes really well in the biggest, fattest rubber bit (I use it to break yearlings at the track!) on the flat. If you try the tactic of putting bigger and bigger bits on him, in an attempt to contain or control him, he simply ups his game and fights back. I've known this about him for a long time, and frankly feel like a bit of a moron for not realizing this sooner. 

       Last year this time, I was resorting to riding him in a double bridle, and he was still running off with me. Now, he can have a baby bit in his mouth, and he's much more happy and obediant. I feel like in the past 6 months, my riding has improved a lot, which is in part due to my riding 10+ horses a day at the racetrack, and in part due to Lainey getting on my case about my position and refusing to let me use my hands as a crutch. It is so much more satisfying to ride a horse who is sensitive to your body than having to pull and struggle. 

      To sum it up, I scratched from XC, simply because I would not have been able to walk my course more than once, and it would have been a scramble. I was so pleased with dressage, and I know he's a cross country machine, so I have nothing to prove there. I did some show jump schooling tonight, and for him, it was a combined test. As nice as it would be to have a pretty ribbon at the end of the weekend, I made the decision to withdraw and save my horse for another day. 

      Sometimes, the best thing you can do is swallow the fiscal losses, and make the decision that's best for your horse on that day. Nyls clearly has the ability to jump around easily, but did he really need to do it on a moments notice? No. So we now enter the winter, to work on our Advanced dressage test (get those changes down!) and get ready for a serious season next year. I have to re-qualify at the CCI** level, and in order to do a CCI***, I will be going down south early, running an Intermediate, a few Advanced, The Fork CIC*** and Jersey CCI** (again). After that, I will see if I can possibly get to Bromont CCI***, or perhaps take the trek to Montana, which would be very exciting!

    Thanks to everybody who helped me and believed in me this year, even through all the setbacks, and even though the scoreboard doesn't reflect this, we ended the season in style.


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© Kate Samuels Eventing 2011