Monday, May 13, 2013

Goals Met ... mostly

I can unequivocally say that we had a BLAST at the Come Again Farm May Flowers schooling show.  Lee Ann does a phenominal job at her farm and everything was wonderful and yet relaxed.  So... on to the recap.

Shirley was entered in 2 Event Derby divisions: Green as Grass (18") and Starter (2'3").  We did both dressage tests before any jumping.  I can't say they were outstanding tests.  I think the first was in the 44 penalty point range (56%) and the second was around a 48 (52%), but there were MOMENTS... fleeting for sure, but definitely moments, that were lovely... especially in the 2nd test.  I have to disagree with the word choice that the judge used often in that test: "unbalanced".  There isn't an unbalanced bone in that mare's body.  I am not arguing the score... simply the description.  Above the bit for sure.  Unfocused, definitely.  Unbalanced?  Not a chance.  Either way, it put us in 3rd in GAG and 7th in Starter going into our jumping rounds.

I've never done an Event Derby before.  The jumping is part show jumping, part cross country.  Figured it should be interesting.  Our first round was the 3rd time I'd tacked up Shirley that morning.  She was less than thrilled and preferred a nap at that point.  But she was a good girl.  Our warmups were VERY limited.  She was already warmed up and I didn't feel the need to overdo it.  Remember... Goal #1 at this show was to give her a good experience. 

The first and last part of the 2 courses were the same with only the adjustment in height being different.  GAG was crossrails, while Starter was verticals and an oxer.  2 stadium fences in the sand arena then out to the field to jump 3 fences, then off the bank, then back into the ring for the last 3 stadium fences.  Shirley was very good overall.  She jumped like a champ, though she would rush a bit after the fences and was spooking at everything else (there were MANY jumps in this field).  Shirley is also convinced at this point in her education that steering is merely a suggestion.  GAG went EXTREMELY well.  She even went off the drop bank!  We trotted a LOT but ... see Goal #1.  Starter went really well too in the beginning.  Unfortunately, we had our first refusal at the biggest fence on the course -- a red roofed cabin.  It was in a lovely spot but there were other jumps and with the steering/focus issues we were having, we did not get straight to it and thus Shirley did not really see it until we were on top of it.  It was too big to take like that.  A small trot to approach it straight and she sailed over it.  In the arena she was jumping well over the bigger fences.  Fence 8, the next to last, was an oxer.  I remember thinking it was a fantastic jump.  Unfortunately, I didn't ride well afterwards and combined with our steering/focus issues meant that I rolled over her left shoulder and was promptly deposited on my butt.  Shirley was an angel and stood still while I got up and led her off.

We did a small bit of XC schooling after the jumping was done that afternoon.  She went in and out of the water like a champ (a green champ at first but settled nicely), even doing an up bank out of the water.  We had some issues with horses cantering too closely behind us.  More focus issues I think.

I learned a lot about Shirley and about what she needs and where I am in regards to providing it.  First, whatever conclusions I come to post-event have no bearing on how proud I am of her performance this weekend.  She was a wonderful.  She was the patient and kind Shirley to work around as I tacked and untacked her *5* times in the course of 6 hours.  She was the athletic and talented Shirley I've come to love when we were competing.  What she needs is focus and experience.  What I need to do is give her the ride she needs to be able to focus.  I have gotten into the bad habit of looking at her and not focusing myself on where we're going, both when she's needing correction as well as when on course.  In a stadium round it's a bit easier because the fences come up faster.  What this showed me is that I need to have a specific and definite plan on landing even off XC fences or Shirley will make up her own at this point.  I also need to continue to work on my fitness and balance.  I think I did ok... except when I lost my balance as she spooked as well as when she LAUNCHED herself off the banks.  I can only apologize to my big girl and hope we can get past my mistakes.

I do believe I accomplished Goal #1.  This show was low key and positive.  I think she had a good experience and gained a lot of knowledge that will help us going forward.  Goal #2 was to complete our rounds.  Well... we mostly did that.  Everything but 1 jump.  I can live with that.  Of course wanting to do WELL was in the back of my mind as a hope, not a goal.  That hope was fulfilled in the Green As Grass division where we finished 2nd.

Ella and Thumper did the Starter and Beginner Novice Derbies and did well -- finishing 6th in Starter and 3rd in Beginner Novice.  Anita and Cerveza came to "practice" showing and did 3rd level Test 1 and 4th Level Test 1.... finishing 4th and 3rd respectively.  Again, we all had a FANTASTIC time at the show and are looking forward to going back to Come Again Farm for another show.  Thank you Lee Ann, and everyone at the show that made it work.

Here are some pictures... all taken by Lee Ann Zobbe.

Ella & Thumper at Fence 9 in the Beginner Novice Event Derby -- on their way to a 3rd Place finish!

The amazingly infectious smile of a 12yo having fun.

Shirley over Fence 2 in the Green as Grass Event Derby

Shirley on her way to our first bank.

LAUNCHING off said bank.  Yes, I was bad and didn't ride properly.  I think I apologized to her all the way to the next fence.  I think we may have been the only ones to take the drop in that division.  And we finished 2nd!

Fence 2 on the Starter course... looking to head out to the XC field next.

Shirley coming off the bank in the Starter Event Derby (our 2nd ride off the bank)

another LAUNCH off the small bank.  And yes, we did need to turn left... I just could have done it a bit more politely.

What I think was our best fence... Fence 8 on the Starter course. Just wish I would have ridden better this so we could have finished.

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