Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Best. Score. Ever.

So some people might chastize me for giving away a major highlight of my weekend in the blog title.  I'm ok with that.  You can either assume we had a great weekend at the Come Again Farm Fall Horse Trial & Dressage Show (and you'd be right) or you can keep reading to find out ALL the details (because "Best. Score. Ever" is only part of it).

The weekend started by hauling Noble to Hoosier Horse Park.  I was asked to announce the stadium portion of their Combined Test (they being the Indiana Horse Council at their Octoberfest Charity Horse Show).  Noble came because it made more sense to bring him along to Indiana, than to drive back and forth to get him.  He just got to hang out in a stall while I was working. 

And work I did.  Turns out the CT was being organized by H/J folks.  I did a LOT of advising, suggesting and general helping out along with announcing.  Everything from score running from dressage, to scoring dressage, scoring jumping, posting final scores, advising the organizer and even advising the jump judge (he was a Jumper judge and the rules are a LITTLE different for eventing).  But all in all, it went really well.  Didn't get out of there quite as early as I hoped and with the weather, plus a food/gas stop, we didn't arrive to CAF until dark.  Thankfully, the farm is very easy to find.

I've been friend with Lee Ann for many years but this is the first time I've made it to one of her shows.  I went knowing that, because I know Lee Ann the way I do, the show was going to be fairly organized, run by the rules, and the courses would be appropriate with some challenges and safe.  I was very much right and would go to any of her shows again in a heartbeat, as well as suggest them to others.

Noble and I were entered in the 2'3" Starter division.  We were one of 16 entries.  My goal was to improve our showing over the Blue Grass Pony Club a few weeks ago.  At home, Noble has been making big improvements and I was just hoping to show some of them.  The boy did NOT disappoint!

First, let me say that the wind was desperately looking for someone to carry back to Oz.  WOW.  I don't know exactly how gusty it was, but it was definitely blowing up some skirts.  There were some horses that were NOT happy about the wind.  Noble definitely showed his calm QH side with it and I was happy then and there.

Dressage came first of course.  We warmed up a bit in one of the 2 indoor arenas then went outside to walk a bit as we waited.  They were running a few minutes late so we had 3 riders in front of us as we went out to the grass waiting area.  No worries.  Just kept him walking.  Picked up the trot and did some trot/halt transitions as the horse in front of us was finishing.

The test went very well I thought.  I knew our walk wasn't up to par and I knew a couple of my circles weren't accurate.  Oh and then there was a single buck that Noble opted for in the middle of our right canter circle.  Silly boy.  But as the judge pointed out, he came back and finished the canter with no issues.  Walking out I was laughing at him but overall very happy with the performance and hoped for a decent score.

When you're training a horse WITH someone else not to mention FOR someone else, there may not be any expectations... but I put expectations on myself.  I know Anita has put a lot of time and work into Noble's training and I certainly don't want to disappoint her, or Jen.  This time, I was successful.  The judge agreed it was a nice test.  We scored 6s on both the medium walk and free walk, a 6 on the canter (buck) circle and a 6 on submission in the collective marks.  She gave us an *8* on the left canter transition and solid 7s for all other movements.  Our score was a 32.0!!

I should note that in 11 years of eventing with Char from Beginner Novice through CCI*, plus a couple events with Frankie and a few events with various other horses (Raz, Thumper, Stormy and now Noble), I have scored below a 40 ONCE.... in 2004 with Char at our final Training 3-day (one of the 2 judges gave us a 39.5).  To be in the LOW 30's is a dream come true.  On top of that, we were sitting in 5th place!

Show Jumping was next after a very short break -- enough to change tack without feeling rushed but no real down time.  Our warmup was sticky at best.  Of course he didn't stop, but it wasn't pretty and I knew it.  First time over the oxer, we came down on the back rail hard enough to break the plastic jump cup.  He jumped it better the next time, but I still wasn't happy as I made my way to the arena.

SJ was a little odd in that 7 of our 9 fences were grouped on one side of the arena.  Gave the baby ponies a LOT to look at as we jumped through the course.  But Noble did great... and got better and better as the round progressed.  Double clear SJ meant we kept our 32.0 going into cross country and moved up to 4th place!

The XC course was fantastic.  Lee Ann has done a great job with it and it looked like a LOT of fun!  There wre a couple fences that I knew I was going to have to really RIDE -- including the blue rolltop at fence 3 and the "library" at fence 5. 

The Blue Rolltop (Fence 3)
The Library (Fence 5) - bank complex in the background

In addition, fence 6 was a bank.  The approach was a ramp and then you had the option of a ramp down or a bank down.  Noble has never seen a bank, but I was going to go for it (unless we had had major issues to that point).  His attitude is such that I thought if I just told him to go, he'd peek at the drop and then hop off.  If not, we'd collect our 20 points for the refusal and take the ramp, knowing it was something I would have to work on for the next time. 

View from the top of the Bank (Fence 6).  The optional ramp is to the right.
Stadium is obviously in front of us with the barns beyond that.

We also had a Mandatory Flag at the water.  It was placed so you could go through the water or around it but either way a stop wouldn't get penalized.  With that in mind, the plan was that Noble WAS going to get his feet wet.  Even if we wracked up a ton of time faults, he was going to go through the water.  He'd schooled water once before so it shouldn't be THAT big of a deal.

Warm up was awesome.  We were out earlier than I would have liked, but just walked around for quite a while.  Noble didn't seem to mine.  3 horses out, we picked up a trot and canter to warm up.  2 horses out we started jumping.  It was a totally different warmup as he was almost pulling me to the fences. 

The Water.  The Mandatory Flag is laying down in this pic.  Plenty of room to "skirt" the water.
Fence 8 is in the distance - far right.

He was a rock star on course!  He did look a bit at the blue rolltop at fence 3 as expected, but not nearly AS much of a look as I was prepared for.  He didn't look hardly at all at the red roof cabin that was the "library" at fence 5.  And the bank?  You'd think he has been doing drop banks his entire life!  Didn't slow to a trot as I expected, didn't peek as expected.  He did jump out/off a bit bigger than needed, but if that's all I get, I'll take it!  And he trotted through the water without issue.  Even sped up a bit over the last 3 fences as I thought we were really down on time.  He was flat out AMAZING!

Extra Picture -- Rolltop at Fence #4 (the middle one)

I thought we picked up 10 seconds of time faults.  But they had us coming in 18 seconds under optimum and CLEAN!!  Not only did we finish the event on a 32.0, but we finished 3rd!!  Only 2 points out of 1st place.  I can't be happier with his performance.

I am going to enter him in the November 4th Walnut Creek Pony Club mini trial.  The only question now is Starter or Beginner Novice? :)

 Did I mention I took Monday off work so it was technically the weekend and therefore my weekend ended with Anita riding Spider AT the farm?  I get to do it tonight. :)

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