Monday, April 18, 2016

Recap of our first event of the season!

Yesterday, Tillie and I competed in our first event of the season...her 4th BN event ever, 6th event in her lifetime (8th in mine!). Boy am I tired!!! I feel like I got hit by a bus today, probably mostly due to being too busy to remember to reapply sunscreen often enough so I am a but sun dehydrated (you know when you feel worn out and tired from all the sun). But also probably because I had a 4am wake up call and walked over 25,000 steps. I ended up walking both the novice course with my trailer mate in addition to my own BN course. We got a little lost walking the novice course...but that was an adventure and another story lol

The entire brigade ready to go at 6am
I really liked this particular venue...while I felt the course was a bit soft, it was a great season opener and was exactly what we needed - a confidence boosting event to make us feel ready to move up. Walking around I reflected to my lesson the day before. I ended up hauling up to D the- remember my trainer from last year before he left for Aiken!? Well hes back and at new digs! So I squeezed in a light jump lesson with him to fine tune us and boy am I glad we did.

Fancy footing at D's new place
He hasnt seen Tillie since before he left and it was nice to hear him remark that she looked much better trained. He had us practice slowing the trot and canter and then letting it go bigger. He really pushed me not to have too much contact on the inside rein and scolded me slightly when I went to give that contact away...he corrected and said rather than do that, just add MORE outside aid. Tillie happily obliged and was a good girl. We moved on to jumping applying the same idea and I was a bit bad about getting ahead with my shoulders...but we did just fine. He gave me some tips to jumping and prevent her from locking her to half halt (timing) and then ride forward out of the turn. It came in handy the next day but Ill recap more on that later.

Point being I knew I would need to use some of these softening techniques in the jumping for this event.

Mane pulling the night before...apparently it puts Tillie to sleep
The drive to the event was pleasant enough and I loved that I was in such great company to help keep my nerves at bay since those have been my worst enemy. I am happy to report it worked and this is the least nervous I have ever been for an event.

XC course
Walking my own course while Brita got her horse ready, I was feeling confident. There were many options to make it an easier BN like skipping the water, bank and ditch options. I went into it knowing 2 things. NO trotting downhill and to do all the harder options to see if we were ready for novice. So water to the bank up at jump #6, actually doing the bank down rather then the jump next to it #8 and doing the ditch rather then the jump next to it for #13.

After walking that and the stadium course, I started preparing mentally for dressage.

Tillie stood on the trailer like a seasoned pro and I kept her on there until right before it was time to get ready. She was pretty calm and looked around a bit but nothing too crazy. I hopped on and she was soooo tense - Not unlike previous events. So I took a deep breath and new it was all about getting her comfortable. She ended up relaxing and warmed up quite nicely...until we walked over to the dressage arenas and Tillie could see the XC courses, stadium and the 4 dressage rings. Her little brain just blew up.

Now, she behaved for the most part...and wasnt doing anything to get us noticed. But the mini battle that happened at this point has made me realize this will need to be something we figure out for future events.

We got through our test relatively unscathed.

She would suck back behind the contact then lean on it and get quick, she would go straight like a board and not bend to over bending and blowing through my outside aids to only go sideways and not forward. I just kept talking to myself to stay the course and keep working through it until we were up and try not to feed into her baiting. Despite all her spooks and quirks I managed to get some ride ability back although nothing like the wonderful relaxed warm up we initially had.

Tillie feeling allll the feelings

We were on deck and  I shockingly wasnt nervouse at all...Tillie had one more final diva moment for our final lap before entering and off we went:

A few obvious being my own in our free walk doing the long diagonal rather than the short which, being the coefficient, cost us some silly points. Tillie was a bit backwards and you can see a few moments she sort of bounces back and forth between being ok to OMG I cant continue. It also didnt help right after left lead canter to trot transition I lost my inside stirrup.

Ah well...all in all the test was fine and we got ourselves a 26.

Left lead canter circle kinda got a bit too big...luckily judge didnt notice as much

Right lead canter...Tillie says no I do NOT bend right

Free walk in between rude rooting 

The scribe for the test is actually an occasionally fellow P lessoner in our group and he made sure to tell me after the show the judge was super impressed!

Next up: Stadium. 

I was feeling a lot more settled in at this point and apparently so was Tillie...even though I had the worst dry mouth and kept having to annoyingly ask poor Brita to hand me water. I was a bit apprehensive about it being on grass, but we have to get over that sometime right?!

In warm up Tillie tested the pelham a few times, just for good measure, but warmed up beautifully. We did a few closed strides and a few open with the main goal of the course to stay on the slower rhythm and do the adds if unsure...the purpose to keep it quiet and to set the tone for XC. It may not be the way to do it, but at least I had a plan. Now that she was able to do it QUIETLY (WOOO!!) I feel confident this year to start allowing a bigger more accurate canter to happen.

While our stadium wasnt flawless, I am happy with the rhythm and eager to start refining the rough edges.

Finally: Cross Country

ALLLL the media!! Tillie was eager to go so I made sure in warm up I just kept her walking. We came out of the start box a little too eager and the pelham did what it needed and I was able to use some techniques from my D lesson the day before to get her soft before the first fence. 

She landed balanced and fence 2 rode well even after being on an uphill approach after a downhill dip. Fence 3 I knew I needed to approach and ride well with it being a skinnier brush fence. Tillie did look slightly, but leg on and chin up she launched threw it no problem.

I let her roll over the next few and did let her out a bit coming up to the water and sat up a bit just before knowing she would probably back off the water. She did, but obediently kept the forward in and out. 

Water jump out

The next potential hard question was the bank down and Tillie proudly trotted up it and down - I smiled inside finally not fearing the ride down the bank!! Remember my irrational fear of them? Well I kicked its butt least for now lol.

The next few fences rode super easy and the next potentially challenging portion was the ditch off a downhill approach at an odd angle in shade and needing to land and take a hard left to the next fence a few strides after. I stuck to my guns and made myself keep Tillie cantering and took a bit of a risky angled approach to the ditch to set us up for the fence right after. Tillie ate it right up and we cantered up to home to the final fence. 

Love her expression here
Watching the bit of footage you can see us, it does look a bit slow paced, BUT the goal was to keep things easy peasy in light of our last event XC being a major issue with blow ups, bolting and general non-obedience. BUT I am really proud of Tillie and do feel like we achieved what we needed to with a new goal of now testing our training to allow a bit more speed and a bigger canter.

Tillie walked back to the trailer barely sweating despite and really warm 70 degree day with a swing to her step. You could tell she was really proud of herself. So with that said, I think it was the event we needed and potentially means we are ready for our Novice debut later this month?!


  1. I haven't watched the videos yet. But you guys kicked butt!!! Awesome job!!!

  2. Her XC pace looks pretty spot on for BN!

    1. You think so?! That makes me feel a bit better!

    2. Definitely. It's much easier to lay on the gas pedal as they go up the levels than to always be pulling and making you both tired. Just a normal canter at BN is perfect.

  3. You guys look so great!! And seriously-she is so shiny!

  4. Yay Tilly!! Sounds like an easy breezy outing! I love olde hope bc even tho the course is soft it still asks most of the questions so you still get to practice inviting versions of stuff you'll see as the technicality increases.

    1. Def a venue I would like to go back to!

  5. Wow - she looks amazing! Your hard work has not gone unnoticed!!

    1. Thank you Cathryn :) Its nice to hear!

  6. That looks and sounds like the perfect season opener - aside from the dressage rings being super close to stadium and XC. If the dressage arenas are within sight of XC I can just forget it with my horse. You guys did fab.

    Also had to have a giggle at that mother-child convo in the back of your stadium video. "Pick up those chips". haha.

    1. bahahaha i love hearing the side conversations or brita behind the camera saying "good girl!"

  7. Congrats on a super successful first event of the season! Great photos :)