Dieter and I are in no rush to run prelim (and frankly, prelim scares the living H-E-double hockey sticks outta me). I'm doing this for fun. I have a full time job that I have to make my first priority so that I have a way to afford my horses. I have a lot going on in my life, and eventing and horses is my hobby. I want it to be fun. And I want my horses to have fun and love their lives. I want to take it slow. We have no time table for success. I'm not trying to make it to Rolex by 2018. I only have my horses for so long, and I want them to be happy and healthy for the rest of their lives. So we're taking it slow. We're working up the levels. I want to stay at the same level until I enter a division and people see my name and say "Oh, man, she's in my division... I don't have a chance." We're putting in the hours and we're getting the experience. We're paying our dues and figuring out the kinks so that we can fix them for next time. That's what this year has been about.
I could not possibly be happier about this year with Dieter. We've almost hit our one year anniversary (we're about a week away), and we've had so many accomplishments. When I got him, I was terrified of his power. I remember thinking that he is so much more powerful than Coco, and I never thought I'd be able to ride him well. He had never jumped a fence when I got him. We spent hours doing figure 8 patterns with tiny tiny jumps to work on our timing and get distances. Now we can jump a course of 2'6" fences with only minor errors (typically caused by the rider). I love that I'm learning more about his personality and his wants and needs daily. This horse drinks more water than I knew a horse could drink. He loves his massages. He will do absolutely anything for treats, and he's non-discriminatory when it comes to treats (unlike Coco). He has a way of telling you exactly what he wants and needs. He won't just do what I want him to do because I want him to do it. I have to ask correctly. He's teaching me all my flaws and bearing with me while I work through them. He's a pretty incredible horse. I've got a feeling that we've got some fun stuff coming up in the future.
I woke up early Saturday morning to feed at the barn. It was nice to have some time out there where it was just me and the horses, feeding hay and grain, filling water buckets, and just enjoying the early morning quiet before the storm. I tried to lunge Dieter before all the excitement started, but the only place to lunge was on grass and it was super slick that morning. D's feet flew out from under him several times at the canter before we decided to stick to the trot, which was much better. We worked a bit on rubber bands (collecting and extending) at the trot with side reins, just to get him listening to me a little better. He was pretty good. I wish I could have worked more on his trot to canter transitions, but we could only do the best we could do. At least we were able to do some lunge work. Taylor and Duncan had absolutely no success with their lunging attempt, because Duncan was slipping all over the place on the slick grass.
The team watched Lorna ride dressage and then I headed back to the barn to braid. It takes me an hour. Always. But it's nice quiet time before everything gets crazy. I tacked up and got on an hour early for dressage so that we could have a long walk warm up. We got to the dressage ring, which was running early, and started warming up and Dieter felt like a dream. He was listening to me and we were bending and flexing and he was listening to everything I had to tell him. We didn't really push the canter too much, seeing as we had had so much trouble with it the night before. I asked for each canter once and he picked each lead up beautifully. Done. We were able to get into the ring a bit early. The test was riding pretty nicely. Dieter was listening to me, we were getting good bend, and then I went to pick up the left lead. His haunches were out, his shoulder was in, and he picked up the right (incorrect) lead. 3 times. And then we finally got the left lead about half way around the circle. We got a 3.0 on our canter transition and a 4.0 on our canter circle. Whoops. I tried to brush it off and remember that I have to ride the test movement to movement. Messing up one movement doesn't mean that the whole test is ruined. The rest of the test was nice. We ended up with a 37.0 which put us in 14th place (out of 19 starters). Just imagine what our score would have been if we had done better on our left lead canter! Check out the youtube video here.
I untacked and took out Dieter's braids and wetted them down so that he could go out on cross country without looking like an idiot with a crimped mane. Then I realized that Taylor was warming up for cross country and Chris was helping Sam warm up for dressage. I figured that maybe I could help her start warming up in case Chris couldn't get there in time. Duncan slipped coming into a couple of jumps and kept chipping into jumps unnecessarily. We finally got her to the point where she took 2 jumps in a row nicely without chipping in or sliding in front of the jump and decided to give up. He would be better out on course. Taylor went on to ride a double clear cross country ride. She left out of the start box just as Chris was headed into the cross country field. As soon as she finished, I headed back up to the barn to get myself and Dieter ready for cross country.
Dieter warmed up nicely. He jumped everything well and made easy work of a pretty big roll top in the warm up. We were ready. My main concern was to get over the first jump. I didn't want to spend too much time thinking about the tiger trap. He jumped the first jump well. He jumped the second jump well. And on the way to the third jump, there was a four-wheeler coming into my line of sight and therefore my path to the third jump. Dieter was already running sideways looking at the training jump nearby and the four-wheeler coming toward us wasn't helping the situation. Finally the four-wheeler stopped and we were able to proceed as planned. Jumps 4 through 12 rode very nicely. Jump 13 was the tiger trap. I came down the field and got complacent. My reins got too long and I had no way to convince his shoulder that it should go over the jump. He blew right past it. Totally my fault. I circled around, shortened my reins, and he jumped it beautifully on the second attempt. The water and jump 15 were good. We had a fun little gallop to 16 to make sure we were able to make time despite a couple interesting happenings on course, and we finished well. He did everything I asked him. He was pretty perfect. We dropped down a place to 15th, but I was still happy with him. I survived. I stayed on the horse. We got through it. Miles. Dieter got his hose down and his linament before a little rest in his stall while we went to dinner.
We ended up finishing 15th out of 19 starters and 17 finishers. At least we weren't last. And like I said, the more miles, the better. Plus, despite being the drop score for my team, we still got 2nd place in the beginner novice division, so I still walked away with a ribbon for having awesome teammates.
Now we know what we need to work on for the winter. Lots of jumper shows with scary new standards. Lots of dressage work with emphasis on transitions (particularly trot to canter) and collection. Mainly, I need to keep the reins short enough. It's amazing how despite thinking that my reins are super short, they look crazy long in the video. We need to school as much cross country as possible. Stone Ridge should help with that. There's a lot of fun stuff coming up, and I hope to be a part of all of it. Miles. Miles. Miles. We'll get there.