Monday, September 20, 2010

Rosaryville Rollercoaster

I've been trying to think about how to summarize yesterday's Marlborough Horse Trials at Rosaryville Park - but the day was too bizarre - amazingly fantastic and extraordinarily sad. There is no way to summarize it. So, I'll just start from the beginning...

Katchi had Tori as his trailer-mate, which caused a bit of a ruckus for both horses this time around. They traveled together to Loch Moy in July, and were perfect angels - separating for their competition times and being entirely professional. At the end of the day, I felt a bit ridiculous for being so obsessive with the careful choreography of distracting and separating them. I wasn't so vigilant this time around, which was definitely a mistake. Katchi hollered through a good deal of his dressage warm-up, but put in a solid test, putting us tied for 3rd out of a class of almost 20. He hollered once during the free walk - but I think the entire park exploded in whinnies as I started to let my reins out, so I guess I can forgive him. But the test definitely had the slight feel of riding dynamite.

Debi and Adrianne had their dressage rides at nearly the same time I was in the show jumping ring and off to XC. So, I only got to watch a bit of their warm-up and rides from a distance. But, with Adrianne winning the dressage (YEA!) and Debi just 3 points behind her and tied for 4th (out of 11) - they clearly held their own! Meanwhile, Katchi put in the show jumping round of his life - I had to hold back the tears as I came out of the ring!!! Even with 4 jumping faults (a very unlucky rail at the first) and 4 time penalties (that's what I get for trotting to change leads 3 times) - I must have been the happiest rider in the entire show coming out of show jumping! Yesterday was the first time I didn't feel like I was riding a llama around show jumping - it's been getting better and better - but yesterday was THE ROUND. That was it - that was show jumping - Katchi was perfect. Really, I almost cried - I was that happy! Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch, so I have no video proof of our fabulous-ness!

Circling the XC start box, the starter says "hey, didn't I just see your photo on the cover of the PVDA newsletter?" Wow! Didn't I feel like a celebrity?! We had a good laugh about the silly photo of an eventer (with wine bottle in hand!) on the cover of a Dressage Queen newsletter! And then it was - 15 - 10-9-8.... and we were off! My plan was to get ahead of the clock through the first 5 fences, and again between fences 8-9-10, knowing that we were spending a good chunk of the course in the woods at the end, which never goes as fast as you think it's going. So, we blazed over the first and were rockin' and rollin' down the hill looking towards the hill back up to fence 2.

And then I screamed louder than I think I have ever screamed in my life. Thank God Katchi has outstanding brakes. Just as we were about to reach the lowest part of the dip between hills, a golf cart came flying out from behind the trees - full golf cart speed - right into my path. When I started screaming "HEADS UP", the driver slammed on the brakes, and the cart went to a screeching stop. It was truly the most frightening thing I have ever had happen to me on XC. Katchi slammed on the brakes, swerved left around the back side of the golf cart (at least I had the sense to swerve behind it in case it started going forward again!). Honestly, if Katchi had been 2 seconds faster, I think we would have collided (or jumped it - I think Katchi would have actually tried at least!). We carried onto the second fence, but it took me a while to regain my composure - my mental toughness went out the window. It actually took me until after fence 6, when we successfully made it through the down bank combination, before I realized it was time to get my head back in the game and get back on the pace. But the damage was done on the clock. Katchi had a fabulous round - he even jumped that scary as "*!&!" trakahner without even blinking an eye! But we came in almost a minute slow. It's partially my fault - I know that. I should have gotten back in the game faster. But, that golf cart really did me in. I've been thinking how fun it would be to go around with a helmet cam - I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or thankful that I didn't have one on yesterday!

On my way back to the trailers, I stopped by the secretary's office to let them know what happened - they already knew. They heard the scream. I told you I screamed loud! They were so kind and apologetic - and Katchi got about 10 molasses cookies out of them! They said they would remove all my time penalties and give me a free schooling pass. I didn't go up there to protest or get anything out of it - but that was scary beyond anything I've ever experienced. And there's especially no excuse for it between the first and second fence - you KNOW a horse will be coming every 2 minutes. You just don't come out of a blind tree line into a galloping lane not having any idea when the next horse is coming. In the end, they took off 30 seconds from my time. That still left me some time penalties - and we finished up in 8th. Even though there was no ribbon to prove it - this was by far Katchi's most successful event to date and I couldn't have been more proud of him - especially his ability to deal with rogue golf carts!

After XC, Katchi really knows he's a star and can get away with anything! My mom was exhausted by the end of the day - she couldn't even eat in peace!

Shortly after getting back to the trailers, the unexpected hit again. Hearing a bit of commotion on the other side of my trailer, I went around to take a look. There was a horse in trouble. Big trouble. He was going down, but he was still fighting. The vets were on hand within minutes and everyone dropped everything (in my case - there were studs and a wrench that went flying) to come to help with anything we could do. But there was nothing that could be done. I didn't know the horse or rider, but I'll never forget either. There were a lot of tears around the trailers. Our horses were quite good - my mom graciously took Katchi (in his ice boots) for a walk away. Tori, unfortunately, saw too much through the trailer windows before I realized she was watching. Adrianne got back from walking a final look at the XC course just before the end. It was hard on everyone, but especially on Adrianne who still had to run XC. I always thought my worst nightmare would be to go home from an event with an empty trailer. Now I know it's worse than I thought. How do you leave an event, with your dead horse in your trailer? I realize he needed to be moved and delivered for the necropsy, but I guess I assumed there would be some other way. I never really noticed that horse ambulances are only around at the upper level big events. Katchi got a lot of extra hugs and peppermints yesterday.

But the show carried on. Debi & Adrianne were off to jump. Tori was full of shenanigans, but Adrianne really held things together - she retained her lead through show jumping, but the up-bank on XC was her nemesis. But any number is better than any letter, and Adrianne finished with one stop on XC and a number by her name. Meanwhile, Debi pulled off two fantastic jumping rounds - her 2 double clears bumped her up the placings and she WON the Beginner Novice Rider division! She was all smiles when she came of XC, but she was really all smiles when she came back with her winnings!

To end this very bizarre day of highs and lows, Katchi and Tori gave us the most fabulous laugh! Check out this video of them playing with a bucket of ice - do you think horses can get brain freeze?!

And to end this very long post - a special thanks to Adrianne's husband Erik and her dad, and Shane, Laura, and Ilkim who came out to cheer us on! And of course to my mom! It's great to have fabulous friends and fans!

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