To start at the end — We Won! Kip gave me three fantastic rides. Wow.
First Dressage. Our ride was at 11:50, and I went out with a lot of time to warm up. The theory was to let Kip get a good look at everything, and chill out, then put him to work and get him ready for the test. He really appreciates easing in to work. I cross the scary grass-chute-bridge thingy into the warm-up area and there is the bit check person first thing. She walked toward us, straight on in front of Kip, and in putting her rubber glove on, snapped it (like you do) and FREAKED Kip right the heck out. He did not know what was going on with the skin on that person’s hand, but he wanted nothing to do with it. He could not back up fast enough and his eyes were like saucers; He was in full WTF mode. Then to top it off, when she did finally get her fingers in his mouth, it turns my bit was not legal. I did not realize we were going by PC rules for an unrecognized schooling show, but whatever. So I went back to the trailer, and borrowed Simon’s dressage bridle, which miraculously fit perfectly! So back through the scary chute of tents, high grass and tiny bridge to the dressage area to warm up. Since the “chilling” part of the program was taken up with switching bridles, we had to get straight to work. Kip was unhappy none of his friends were in the warm-up, and he was giraffing around, but I put my leg on, got him going and put up with no dinginess. But this did not stop the dingy. We did not have a great warm-up. I did not let it throw me, I decided not to care.
Finally it was time to go, and we trotted in really smartly, nice and straight – I think Kip is understanding this “show business” now and realizes what is going on, becase he gave me a fantastic test, with a score of 30.5. Our best ever. One comment that we got on our canter circle was hilarious — “Try to make your circle round” HA! I love that. Also, we need more work on suppleness and impulsion. With Dressage done, it was back to the stalls for a little rest and a drink of water.
Cross-country was at 1:18, and I went over a little early, because there is another bridge to cross to get to the X-C field, and I was more nervous about getting over that than any of the jumps in the field. Kip turned a sideways ear to it, because his hoofs made a hollow, echo-y sound as we crossed, but he went over after only a small hesitation. I was so relieved about that, that my confidence for the X-C field was really boosted. Anne was able to come out to warm-up and send me over the fences a couple of times and give me sage advice: Ride Your Horse To The Jumps. It is truly amazing that this is an important thing to say, but seriously, X-C is barely controlled chaos and that was exactly what I needed to hear. Put your leg on before the jump. Present him squarely. Ride each jump individually. You know, super basic stuff — but hearing it right before I went out made all the difference. I was kind of chanting those words of advice as I went along, and that is what got me through.
When I left the start box, I thought I may jump the Hopeful log, just to give him the idea that we were jumping now — but he took me right to the BN coop, and over we went with hardly a wiggle. For 2 and 3, I just rode him to the center, and over we went. Another grass chute to number 4 — where you could see the Training obstacles but not the BN…He got concerned, so I just asked him for shoulder-in, letting him know we were not EVEN presenting to that gigantic fence, and he really obviously relaxed. Around that corner, and over #4, a very inviting roll-top. This course was very gallop-y so we had a good gallop to #5, then there was a bending three-stride to #6. Up a hill to #7 (A log! I have never been happier to see a simple log!) sweeping left turn down hill to #8, the first very dark-colored jump. It had a good ground line though and rode well. Then it was on to the water for #9. I had planned making a sweeping galloping turn around the training house to present him straight at the water, but one of the videographers was in the bushes there, and Kip did not like the looks of that umbrella (sigh). So I slowed to a trot, let him know that no, he did not have to go by that horrid thing, and made a zig-zaggy line the other way around the house to the water. He trotted right through. Jump #10 was covered in branches, and I thought he might look, he did a little, but I drove him to the base, and after that, we were back to our rolling canter. Another nice, long gallop to #11, and #12 was kind of tucked away by itself in a little dog-leg to the left, but I had made a point of not forgetting it, and it was fine. Sweep back to the right, and take a left up the weird hill-thing and down the other side (#13 for those of you keeping count.) Back across the creek for #14, a jump with lots of straw sticking out all over it, and through the finish flags! I am not ashamed to say I cried a little bit. The ride could not have gone better. Kip was so brave and just good and fantastic and he was taking care of me out there, and I was taking care of him. I wanted to go again immediately.
I had a couple of hours till Stadium, and so got to watch Cheryl go X-C with Jack, and she also had a clear round. Jack was rock-solid, and they had a really great time. I love it how when people come off the X-C field they are just beaming. It is a beautiful thing to see.
I wasn’t going to look, but going in to Stadium, I was in second place.
Anne was able to warm me up for Stadium, and was super matter of fact. I love that, just really tell me what I need to hear right now. She’s good at that. She coached us over the three warm-up fences, told me how to navigate turns if Kip was slipping — because it had started to rain, and the dry grass was getting a little slick. I had signed up early, so I moved to the head of the line, and it was showtime. By this time, we were having a full-on pelting summer rain storm. Anne had all of us Stoneybrookers “Take the tour” around the perimeter of the arena so they could see the scary judges stand by the fence #7 combination before it was time to jump it. This was a brilliant strategy, Kip gave that flatbed and easy-up a good hard look as we cantered by. The bell rang, and I could hear Anne holler “Get him moving!” so I did, we approached fence #1 a little to the right and at a good clip just like we planned and he sailed over it. Kip has “got” stadium, he understands what is expected of him in there, and he did not disappoint. We had a clean round. When I was debriefing with Anne she said, “Well, you took the six stride in eight and the three stride in two, but all the rails stayed up, so good job!” Hilarious. That is Kip (and me!) for you!
It took forever for the placings to be final, but when they finally were, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had won. We worked hard, and it payed off.