When they rearranged the Training division into a 2-day trial, I was left on Friday with a day off work and stabling and hotel paid for - but nothing to do! Luckily, Silva came to my rescue and offered to squeeze in a mini-dressage lesson between the riders she was helping to warm-up for the Advanced and 2-star divisions. It was interesting trying to have a dressage lesson in the middle of the tiny warm-up area, while not being "that girl" who ran into Kim Severson or Boyd Martin and knocked them off their horse! Despite the chaos, Katchi was very good and Silva really helped me figure out some new ways to put him together in the show environment, so I was dead excited to give it a go on my own on Saturday.
Overall, Katchi and I had a great (wet and cold - then hot!) weekend at Fair Hill. But anyone who reads this blog or knows me will certainly know that I was far from satisfied sitting in 4th place after dressage. It's not so much the placing, it's that my fit little event horse was quite a monster yet still managed to score a 33.6 - I'm always searching for a better ride than the last one, and this wasn't the one - and we had all the potential! After my test, I took Katchi back to the warm-up area to ride more - took another 20 minutes before he started breathing! You know that feeling - sitting on a horse and you know they're getting oxygen somehow because they haven't passed out, but all you feel under you is a big puffed up evil blowfish waiting to explode! The good news is it's given me a lot of new information on how to warm-up the horse I've got now. That's the thing about training horses - what worked last year (or last week!), may not be what works today. That's the trouble with improving!
Katchi was back to his normal rational self for show jumping, and I am loving our new big boy spurs! I had the good fortune of warming up at the same time as several professional riders who had ground helpers to adjust the warm-up jumps up and down, in and out - Katchi and I took full opportunity of the various jump shapes and had the most effective warm-up we've had with complete focus on not sticking to the ground and jumping across the oxers! Our show jumping round was good with only one 1/2 stride take off, one HUGE jump (but not a helicopter - we landed going!), one rail, and a few arguments between fences on account of some resentment over the new spurs - but oh too bad my little Katchi!
When I arrived at the barn on Sunday morning, each of the horses had Easter eggs in front of their stalls - Katchi had 3 eggs filled with chocolate for me! I can only imagine the trauma he endured over night watching the Fair Hill folks place eggs for all 500 horses or so, without giving him a single treat!
I have only one word to describe cross country - brilliant!! I love when announcers at the big events say that a horse "looks full of running!" - that was my Katchi! He had to have been the happiest horse at Fair Hill on Sunday when he saw that start box and realized he was back in action! Katchi was absolutely foot perfect around the entire course until I thought, "wow - wasn't that a great round!" with 2 jumps left! I should know better! I was so far up on the clock that I let off a little and we promptly tripped up a bank that couldn't have been more than 2' tall! Katchi took good care of himself, but I looked a bit of a fool laying on his neck! I looked down and saw the next jump (just one stride after the bank, up a hill), dug my spurs in, and thought - he's damn well jumping this jump and I better be out of his way when he does! And he did and I was! And just for all those fans of Katchi's "Good Boy"s from last fall's helmet cam - if you turn up the volume on the video, you might just hear me singing "Good Boy Katchi" all the way to the finish!
Despite the long 3 days, cost of stabling, and hotel, I really enjoyed the chance to hang out and get to know some new eventing friends! Oddly, one of my favorite parts of the event was making that long trek down the rocky path to cross country and back. What fun to have all the nerves and anticipation of starting cross country going in one direction while all the joys and exhilaration of a great run coming back the other way! I passed Jan Bynny on my way out as she was finishing on one horse. I passed her again on my way back home - she was headed out on a different horse. She smiled and wished me a good ride on the first pass and asked me how it went on the second pass. I have to say, knowing the trauma she's been through the last year but not knowing her at all as a person, I was absolutely inspired by her smile and passing words! Funny how something so little can warm your heart so much!