My first and main goal was to complete a BN event without crying, puking or getting eliminated. Team Challenge was more of a lofty goal and a “maybe we’ll see…”. A few weeks before opening day for TC I texted Julie and said “If I enter TC will I die?” and she responded with “NO!!” I was still not convinced I wasn’t going to meet my demise somewhere on XC.
I bit the bullet and entered. On a sponsored team no less. No pressure no diamonds right?
The team-MSEDA BN
I was selected for the Midsouth Eventing and Dressage Association Beginner Novice team. Prior to Friday, I had only met one person on my team, a barn mate. The other two turned out to be awesome. I won’t lie that I was pretty intimidated by the team-I was the only one new to eventing so I felt a bit of pressure to not let them down.
Marcus was higher than a kite warming up for dressage. The warm up rings were busy and small and people were not paying attention when circling. I hate when trainers feel like they should give a lesson in a busy warm up ring. Not the time nor the place. I was a bit concerned M would be looky and tense in dressage but as he trotted up the center line, he was all business. He was soft, round and forward. We had a few bobbles but nothing major, and overall a huge improvement from our last test. We ended up with a 32 and even more important, I got a 7.0 on rider position! That sat us in 4th out of 25 going into stadium.
Dressage warm up was nothing compared to stadium. Stadium was a mess-a small ring with far too many horses in it and people not calling where they are going. Marcus was tense, and spooky and I’m sure my nerves amplified it. At one point, he spooked and took off across the ring with me. Once we started jumping, it cleared out a bit and he settled enough to not dump me in the warm up.
Our stadium round was straightforward but with Marcus being spooky and up, I would have preferred a course with some roll backs and unrelated distances as it backs him off a bit and gives him something to think about. He was strong, and I had to cowboy around quite a bit. We had a rail in the out of the 2 stride (our first ever L) and then cleared the last fence to end on 4 faults. We dropped to 7th after that. I walked out of the ring pissed as can be at the rail and the fact that he was such a spazz in there, but I cooled off once I reminded myself that last year I wouldn’t have had the confidence to ride through that last year.
My favorite jump-Eventing Nation
Fence 7-I loved this one because it looked like DNA!
I never let myself walk XC before stadium. It’s just better for me mentally to take each phase as it comes. Dressage, then walk Stadium. Stadium, then walk XC. On the map, the BN course didn’t look too bad and we had schooled quite a bit of the jumps at Kentucky Classique, so I wasn’t that worried. But Sunday morning as I was walking it, I got more nervous and more intimidated. There wasn’t anything crazy about the course. Most were maxed out, but that was as expected. We had two water crossings and a ditch. Some of the questions were a challenge-a bending line to 1 right out of the start box, a short approach from the road to fence 14, a dark water entrance.
I made myself a little reminder on M’s MSEDA bonnet
Based on how spooky he was in stadium, I was worried he would be distracted on XC by the shadows and people all around. As I warmed up I was shaking I was so nervous.
In the start box, he was pretty relaxed and as Deb said “3,2,1 Have a great ride!” I took off and he locked onto the first jump. It was a bit of a bend towards the warmup, so I watched several riders get stops there so I added leg and growled a bit. He bulged but jumped it bold. Next was a shiny pine table which he attacked and jumped awesome. Fence 3 was a huge brush shared with N set in between trees in the shadows. He started to spook and I kicked hard and made him go. Off that one, he was as different horse-we headed to the fandango, then ditch (which he spooked hard over) to the roll top. From there, it was a right hand turn to another pine table which he jumped huge. We galloped down to fence 8, a red cabin. He cleared that and I landed and had a huge grin on my face. Fence 9 was the one on course I really didn’t like-a hanging log oxer set up on the hill. I rode up to it and kicked and he jumped it great.
I landed off that one to hear my two barn mates screaming for me-they knew that fence scared me-and turned down hill to the blue cabin. I hate downhill approaches but I’ve been trying to just let go and let him figure it out. He did and we went up the little hill, turned left and jumped the brush and approached the water.
Our course had two waters-the new water and the Head of the Lake. I figured he would have no issues with the new water since it had a nice bright approach off a sandy shore. Nope. He spooked and ran sideways, so I had to smack him and get him in. I figured at this point I had a refusal. We got through the water, and came out to jump the logs. From there, fences 14-18 were across the road. We headed down, and again he spooked hard at the people in the road. Fence 14 was another that I didn’t like but it rode super well. From there we had the Skittles jump (aka Fiesta table) to the Rolex water. He jumped into the water no problem, and came flying out to a roll back to fence 17, a blue roll top. We opted to go around the Head of the Lake, which cost us some time, rather than come back through the water. We ended over the half saddle rack on a time of 6:04-44 seconds under OT! My friends checked with the TD and my water issue didn’t actually count as a stop because he never stopped going forward so we were double clear!
Only 10 riders in my division made it through without jumping faults, so we moved up to 3rd! Not only was I ecstatic for the placing, but that also meant I got my second AEC/A8C qualifying score for 2017. Our team placed 5th out of 20-25 teams. Not too bad!
Once I got home and it was quiet, I broke down and cried. I felt silly but it was a whole mix of emotions and feeling overwhelmed with this whole weekend. We’ve worked so, so hard this year to battle some really major fear and confidence issues. To tackle Team Challenge, the hardest and biggest even of the year, and place, was just unbelievable to me. I think I was so excited and had my mind occupied that when I sat down and through about it, it just hit me and I broke down.
Our plans for 2017 will be to do BN at Spring Bay, then move up to N at May Daze. I’ll take this weekend as a great way to end my season!