I didn’t sleep at all on Friday night. I mean, I probably napped and dozed a bit, but there was no true sleep to be had. It was warm until the wee hours, and never really cooled down enough for me to need any blankets. To add insult to injury, it turns out that you use/twist/stretch the ligaments in your knees a lot without realizing it. A lot like every time you roll over or change positions, which it turns out you do a lot when sleeping on hard ground, you will be reminded of your injury with shooting pain up and down your leg. So when braiding time — 5 am — rolled around I was already awake and peering out at the ponies. Murray was snoozing quietly, so I took my time slowly getting out of my sleeping bag, putting on some clothing, and hobbling over to the bathrooms. Murray and I braided in the slowly lightening pre-dawn, and while it wasn’t my best job, it held for our test.
I wasn’t going to let my knee prevent me from riding in the show. Murray had been so phenomenally honest and fun after my tumble during schooling that I knew we could pull off a solid cross country run. We just had to get there first. I downed three ibuprofen while one of my friends went out to get me some more, and got on right on time at 7:35 for my 8:00 ride. My knee did not feel great, but it wasn’t too bad, as long as I didn’t lean on the right stirrup too much or move too quickly. This definitely changed how I approached the ride. Based on how Murray felt a little behind my leg and small, but still relaxed and round, I wanted to push him forward for more ground cover. But I knew that if pushing led to any kind of antics the likelihood that I would be able to stay on through them was small at best. Also, squeezing with both of my calves hurt!! So I kept it low key and just asked for little bits of increased ground cover and impulsion.
I developed a new warm up routine last week that I wanted to use at the show. It focused on transitions on a circle, which have been problematic for Murray and I in the past: I always tend to just ask for a canter and pray that it goes well in the test, because the transitions are so explosive in the warm up. This time, I wanted to really school the transitions and get Murray listening to my seat for the transitions to hopefully minimize tension and make the transitions more every-day feeling.
Murray was so quiet during the warmup that I was done early, and we walked over to the dressage court to see if I could head in a few minutes early (the one perk of being the first in your division). Murray tensed up again when we went into the new arena, but I went back to our transitions on a circle, and he settled. He still wasn’t as round as he had been in warmup, but it was still very good for us.
The test itself felt fantastic. I haven’t been practicing my centerlines, and haven’t had a measured court to practice in for a little while, so my geometry was not what it could have been. Like… my first circle was more like a 15 meter circle. I realised that we were pretty far off the rail during the circle, but there wasn’t much I could do about it since we’d already started turning back toward the centerline. I held my breath for the right canter transition, but it was beautiful. I mean, there’s not really much more to say. You can see for yourself.
Gaits – 6.5, some tension
Impulsion – 6
Submission – 6.5
Rider – 6.5
Overall – Need to develop rounder topline, some tension, try to place down trans between letters, work on throughness back to front
It was awesome. It’s taken a while to get us to work together so well in public. Feels pretty amazing.
After dressage I hung out and watched Olivia’s ride while luxuriating in my friend’s Back on Track quick wrap. It felt niiiiice. And even better, my knee felt way better after taking the BOT wrap off. I didn’t walk my cross country course because, well, there was no way I was gimping around that thing on foot. It was mostly on the same track as the BN course from June, and I read the course map, so I figured we’d be fine.
Fortunately for me, my knee felt pretty awesome by the time we got around to cross country time. Almost normal again. We jumped a few warmup fences, had a little gallop, but kept it pretty quiet. I knew we’d be making a conservative cross country run, because all I wanted was to jump all the things and not fall off.
Murray was a total champion on cross country. I just had to point him at a fence and his response was “that one? okay, let’s go.” It’s a good thing he was feeling so honest, because at one point when we started going the wrong direction and had to make a sudden (albeit shallow) change of direction, my knee let me know with some stabbing pains that such maneuvers would not be repeatable. Even better, we managed to ride pretty much according to plan! I planned to circle Murray well in advance of the trakehner to avoid him galloping down to the fence and not seeing it in time. If you recall from June, the approach to the trakehner is downhill, and Murray tends to turn into a little snowball running downhill, gathering momentum and ignoring everything in his path. We circled well back, but Murray ate up the ground between the circle and the trak. I gave him just a whisper of added leg, and over we went.
We did have two stops, neither of which I gave a second thought to. The first was at the first water entrance, which is a new pond on the back side of the course. The water was dark, brown, and frothy at our entrance, and I do not blame Murray at all for not wanting to walk in there. He wavered back and forth for a few minutes before leaping over the foam and running through. The second was at the down bank, which Murray understandably suggested we just skip. We came in just barely under optimum time for no time penalties.
We totally deserved the stops, but at the same time I feel like they don’t really count. Maybe I’m having my cake and eating it too, but what horse doesn’t want to stop at a muddy water trap that looks like it might be harboring lepto, and a down bank that ended rather poorly very recently? Maybe it doesn’t bother me because I know that those are two really easy to fix issues — we just need more practice. No deep, underlying issues that will take months of backtracking to fix. No evidence of serious training holes that I’ve neglected for years. Just surface scratches that we can buff out with a little wax-on-wax-off.
It felt pretty freaking awesome to know that we conquered our first Novice course with so much more success than our move up to BN two years ago.