Into dressage warm-up - Katchi's feet clicking on the ground like he was walking on cement. Despite the unsettling noise, it was a bit like a running track - very firm, but oddly squishy - so I thought I would just let Katchi tell me what his legs thought of it. One sore step, and I knew I would be outta there. But, he didn't put a foot wrong. I'm sure Katchi felt my misgivings about whether I was doing right by him - he was really tense and spooky in the arena. But, in watching the video - well, it wasn't half bad (putting him in 2nd out of 6)! That's super exciting, because I thought we totally lacked the power, relaxation, and through-ness we've been working so hard to solidify - but, I've learned something I was starting to suspect. With Silva Martin in Aiken all winter, I haven't had eyes on the ground on our dressage work since January 2 - but I've recently been thinking that Katchi might finally be lengthening his stride and that I've been rushing him a bit, looking for a quicker tempo that used to be necessary to get him moving his hocks. Now I have video confirmation! He actually looks like one horse - hind legs connected to the front legs - despite his mile long back!! HOW EXCITING!! And I felt like he only gave me half of what he's capable of! In two weeks, we go to the CDCTA dressage show at Morven Park - watch out you big fancy Warmbloods - my little OTTB has got his hocks swingin' and he's looking pretty fancy himself!!
When I hopped off Katchi after dressage, I found new footing - soft melted footing! Well, shit, guess there's no footing excuses... suck it up Cherie, go jump the Prelim jumps! With only a few minutes for a quick tack change for show jumping - there was no time to get nervous. It was also really lucky that I was surrounded in the parking lot by great eventing friends who keep me humble and make me laugh. As I headed out to SJ warm up, Samantha Allan said - "Remember, you just have to commit! Good or bad, commit!" That word came in handy at Fence #4, the enormous swedish oxer...
Katchi warmed up beautifully - and thanks to Kerry who set down the vertical for us so we didn't have to go from trotting the X to cantering a 3'7" vertical! That aint' me and Katchi's idea of a warm-up! And off we went to the ring... and we survived! 3 rails down (actually 4 if you count both poles of the swedish oxer, plus a standard - but who's counting?!). But what I'm most thrilled with is our ability to recover. I did not lose my focus once - whatever went wrong, I fixed the issue before the next fence so things did not keep deteriorating. Katchi kept a malleable and active canter, and I didn't let him sprawl at the base of a fence once (Jimmy would be so proud!). Yesterday was a huge step in Katchi's training - I did feel a little bad for him as he jumped the first two fences so beautifully (verticals, probably just slightly higher than Training height), and then came off a rollback turn to a Prelim oxer (I think he was coming around the corner singing in his head, "I'm so cute, look at me, cute cute cute - OH SHIT!" as he saw the width of the oxer and came down on the back rail with his hind legs) then he got *&!@! slapped by both rails of the enormous swedish oxer 4 strides later. But what I'm most proud of is what happened next - we got it back together and jumped into the 1 stride, vertical to oxer, perfectly - unfortunately poor Katchi saw that oxer coming out of the 1 stride - and after his last two oxer experiences - he took off like a helicopter (photo below - I lost the neck strap and clearly was not an example of hunter equitation!) - but wouldn't you know it, we landed, I sat up, and said "get with me on this Katchi!" and 4 strides later we had a beautiful jump over another vertical. It wasn't perfect, Jimmy would not be satisfied - but we had the most wonderful conversation and it WORKED!! That gives me great hope that we can and will work through all this, and hopefully my little helicopter will drop it down 3 feet, so we can just jump "normally" and oh, won't that be lovely?!
So, that's it - Katchi made it through 2/3 of the way to being a Prelim event horse! He had big eyes and a HUGE heart - his eyes will get smaller over time, so long as I do my job and keep his huge heart right where it is! Don't I just love that crazy helicopter horse of mine?!?! And, I learned two wonderful things myself yesterday: 1) It wasn't as hard as I thought it might be - in fact, it wasn't even as hard as some of our Training level courses have been. Katchi is listening and I'm staying with him mentally and physically - it's a wonderful thing. 2) It felt absolutely wonderful to be back jumping big fences! The last time I competed at this height was doing my CCN* in 1994 - shit, that's 15 years ago - can I really be that old?!?! It's been a huge goal of mine to get back to that level - the road has been long, with a ton of freakin' potholes, but we're very nearly there and I'm loving it!! And I think Katchi is too!
Atticus licking "snow condition pretreatment" road salt from my trailer - yummy!
Katchi & Atticus enjoying the cross country course grass while waiting for scores and ribbons.