Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fancy Pony's Run

I have to say that I am not thrilled with my own performance. I’m not getting all down on myself or anything; I’m just saying that there is quite a bit of room for improvement on my part.  Despite my lackluster showing, Fancy Pony rose to the occasion.

This post will be wordy, and there aren’t many pictures to illustrate the adventure.  I’m sorry for that.  I hope the adventure itself is engaging enough…  Things got a little exciting for me…

Warming up for Dressage, the Fancy Pony felt soft and stretchy.  She felt forward.  She felt great, really!  I headed down centerline feeling confident that I was showing off the best my horse had!  I halted at X and saluted…  And the judge rang the bell.
DAMNIT! I knew that!  There is no halt at the beginning of the Beginner Novice test.  Now, I was flustered.  I took a deep breath, set it behind me, and rode my horse.
Honestly, my dressage test was unremarkable.  My lines were straight.  My circles were round.  Our canter was the most balanced and relaxed it has ever been in a dressage test!
The judge wanted more acceptance of the bridle and suppleness of the back.  I was a little disappointed in the differences between my thoughts on the ride and the judge’s thoughts, but I filed that away for later analysis and focused on preparing for my stadium ride…

Fancy Pony seemed to get stuck in this really compressed canter.  It had power, but I couldn’t seem to get her moving out like I wanted.  I must have been giving her mixed signals…

Yup. We know we're jumping!

Finally, we got to a point where we were happy with her jumps.  Basically, if I just sat back and stayed out of her way, we were fine.  So, I headed into my stadium round.
I turned onto the line for my first 2 fences, and as we popped over the first fence, I lost my left rein.  It was gone.  Not in my hand.  We’re already veering right, and I need to stay on this line and get over that 2nd fence…  I scrambled to gather my reins.  As I did so, Fancy Pony weaved with every movement.  Somehow, despite our pole-bending performance, we made it over the 2nd fence.  We had a hard right turn to fence 3, and my horse still wasn’t quite back together.  The corner tried to suck us off course, as we had anticipated.  With a kick of left leg and a leading right rein, we finally sighted in the fence on the uphill climb.  We popped over fence 3 and rode the bending line to fence 4.  Finally, it felt like we were back together after the rough start.
Alas, I was fooled.  She broke to trot as I tried to make the tight right turn to the downhill line.  She popped over the vertical, but I was having quite a difficult time lengthening her on the downhill slope.  The oxer felt like she was trying to jump me out of the tack!!
So willing!
I took a large sweeping turn to fence 7, which rode beautifully, and my husband even snapped a picture!!

Fence 7

One more large, sweeping turn to fence 8, a white oxer.  I sought “attack mode”.  I got “hunter canter”.  I decided I’d take that for now.  Again, I felt like the downhill approach compressed us, but we sailed over that oxer, and I celebrated inside!  I was still alive!!


Sailing!
I really couldn’t understand why I felt like I was pushing my limits.  The heights weren’t bothering me, but I was finding it to be a lot more work than normal to get the jumping horse I was used to riding…
We now know that I was on my second horse of the day, 5 rides down with 1 more to go, and I had strep throat which had not yet been discovered, let alone treated with antibiotics…

Before I could think too much about the ride ahead, I headed to the start box.
Remembering the issues I’ve had at schoolings, when my typically calm pony worked herself up during the pretend countdown, I took a second to just stand there before quietly trotting out of the start box.  Yes, friends, I was riding very conservatively.


We approached the first fence, and I felt “attack mode” kick in.  I got tense in my hips over the logs.  I think I forgot to ride my rhythm in the last stride or so…  At the coop, I focused on sitting up and tried not to notice the mud at the base.  Fancy Pony ate it up and charged on!  Through the trees we went, and suddenly a peace washed over me.  On that short, shady path, it all came together that I was doing what I live for!
We emerged into the sunshine and turned up the hill, where I knew the steps were waiting for us.  I remembered Coach hollering, “More canter!” the day before, so I put my leg on to charge up the hill.  As the steps rose from the horizon, I looked at the treetops at the far side of the park and counted strides.  We surged over the steps as if they were nothing (and really, they aren’t, but I’ve been fighting a little bit of a mind game).
We galloped on (at least, it felt like a gallop to me, although it was probably just a forward canter) toward the mushroom top…  I looked at the trees, I closed my leg for a moment, and I felt Fancy Pony lock on her tractor beam…  And suddenly we were sliding to a halt at the base of the jump!
Yo! Fancy Pony! You were on a roll!  What’s the deal??
 - Oops!  Sorry!  Peeked at it.  I’m over it!

Take Two at the mushroom, and we were back on a roll!  Onward to the related roll tops followed by a red barn.  I lined her up in the middle, watched the barn as we hopped the roll tops, then refocused on the treetops again as we approached the barn.  I pushed for more gallop then asked her to balance and gather.  I felt her shoulders lift and her hind legs swing under her.  I felt the blocks line up and balance.  I widened my hands and pushed her forward again 2 strides out.  She never wavered and jumped the barn that had become so problematic the day before…

Next up was the sharktooth thing that was one of our easiest jumps during schooling.  It looks like the front half of a coop with dark brown triangles pointing down and orange triangles pointing up.  We rounded the corner, zeroed in, and when I felt her look at it and commit, I looked on up the hill. The blocks were in alignment…
Suddenly, my world was spinning!
I was on my horse’s neck, hugging with everything I had (there was lots of hugging involved).  To my left, I saw the toe of her left front hoof digging in about halfway up the jump.  Her knee was next to my head.  Time slowed waaaaaaay down…  Her leg scraped the rest of the way down the face of the jump.  We scrambled to a standstill.  I was heaving to catch my breath.  She was heaving to catch her breath.  My hands were shaking.  Was my horse OK? Did I need to retire?  Did I need to go on? 
My whole being was shaking…

I walked Fancy Pony back the way we had come.  We had 4 even beats…  We trotted…  We had steady, even strides…  We cantered… And her ears flicked forward, seeking…  I turned onto the line to re-approach, and Fancy Pony turned on her tractor beam as if she were a heat-seeking missile!
Butterflies exploded in my stomach.  All I could see was the mud at the base of the fence where she had just slipped.  She told me in no uncertain terms that she had this.  I put my faith in her and rode her to and over the jump.  She landed and pushed up the hill to the up-bank, then on over the top where we had to prepare for the cordwood.
Nope, she wasn’t ready to quit.
Over the cordwood we charged, then I nearly panicked when I realized we had another related distance ahead.

For some reason, the wooden walls felt tricky to me.  They ride straight-forward, but they made me nervous every time I approached them.  So, of course, I compensated by riding aggressively…
I widened my hands and closed my legs as we popped over the first one, then Fancy Pony got wiggly.  They were really the first wiggles I had noticed on the XC course.  I insisted with all of my might that she needed to go straight over the second wall.  We survived that, and I was filled with euphoria again!

Then… I heard a very familiar voice behind me…  Coach had caught up with me on her own Beginner Novice mount!  That’s what I got for wasting so much time with refusals and slips in the mud… And muddling through to my decision to continue…

I splashed through the water and over the cute little logs.  As I galloped away, I heard Coach splashing into the water, too…
We pushed to the blue roll top, and confidence was brimming as we soared over it!  I knew Coach was riding faster than I was.  I knew she was going to need to pass.  I steadied Fancy Pony on the way up the hill to give her plenty of time and space to make her move.  We chatted briefly as she passed, and she was out of sight when I finally arrived at the mini-table.  My Pony was flagging a little, but she engaged Attack Mode again and galloped on toward our last fence: the stone wall.  She had been wiggly to the wall in practice, so I gathered her between my legs and my reins.  Again, the tractor beam locked on.  Our rhythm was set!  Over the wall we went.  For once, there wasn’t all that extra effort to jump a foot higher than she needed to…
I pushed for a gallop, and she gave me what she had left!  She got flat and long and surged beneath me with every stride!  It was exhilarating!
And I was exhausted…

We finished on a number!  We survived!
…and that is how I finished on a score of 117…


Returning Victoriuous!
...or, still alive, at least...

10 comments:

  1. But you finished! I wouldn't have been brave enough to continue. Good job!

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    1. Everything inside me was quivering after the slip in the mud. I completely relied on my horse's feedback to make the decision to finish!
      I was also petrified that if I didn't just pop over **something** (you know, like getting back on the horse) that both of us might take a major hit to our confidence at fences! Since I was still on course, the fence we just slipped at was our only option, so we took it! LOL

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  2. I love endurance for its motto, to finish is to win. Way to go girl!

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    1. I've always loved the endurance motto! And when you bump up a level for the first time, you're not going for the big win, anyway. I feel pretty accomplished just to have survived!!
      ...thank goodness, I seem to have beat off the strep throat, now... That was a couple weeks of sheer misery!

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  3. You survived and have WAY more guts than I do!! Way to stick with it and get your pony such a good learning experience! That's what counts.

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    1. My goal was a positive experience for the pony. The slip was unfortunate for both of us. However, I'm pretty sure that it is Fancy Pony who is the one with the guts... I was kind of just along for the ride on this one... ;)

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  4. Sometimes you ride like you're on track for the Olympics [or whatever the weenie adult amateur version of that is] and sometimes you ride like an idiot. We've all been there, but I'm glad you stuck with it and finished! And you gotta love the Fancy Pony for keep on keeping on!!

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    1. You are so right! And how did I get so lucky to be able to ride this amazing/crazy horse?? =D

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