So Sunday came round very quickly and my alarm was set for 5am to be there in time for my dressage test at 8:12! I'd built in plenty of time, got to the yard and chucked the final bits in, gave B a quick groom and we were on the road before I knew it. The journey to Mattingley is pretty easy and we pootled along loving the fact there was no traffic, I was feeling pretty relaxed, I had my plan and knew what needed to be done.
Arrived, grabbed my number and walked the SJ. The courses at Mattingley are always bright and up to height so I knew I'd have to ride but it was a fair test and nothing in particular I was worried about. B was pretty lit up on the way to dressage but I found a quiet corner and started working in. He felt good and was listening to me. We had a slight discussion about controlling the left shoulder in our first canter but after a short reminder he was on form. I timed the warm up perfectly and it was soon our turn to go in.
The arena was on a slight slope so knew I'd have to keep him balanced to get the best picture. As I trotted round he did the biggest spook at the boards but after a quick reminder that it was not acceptable behaviour (!) he started to concentrate and down the centre line we trotted. BE95 is the shorted test in the world and it was very quickly over. I was really pleased, I'd ridden it and although there were a couple of bits that needed improvement I know what they were and how to correct them. We've not done a test on grass since last year and I'd forgotten how much different it is to ride on but I was pleased.
Quick break and onto SJ. The warm up was pretty hard so I kept my jumping to a minimum and just made sure he was forward and off my leg. We went in and they read out our dressage score which was 32 and ended up putting us 8th out of 49 so I was chuffed! Good jump over the first, dog leg to 2 and then round to an oxer at 3 which he looked at but I kept my leg on so he popped over, round to the first meerkat jump at 4, tiny oxer at 5 which he clunked and we had down, through the double, round to a big bright fence at 7, big oxer at 8 which he flew despite a slightly wide line from me and then the final fence at 9 which we also clunked as he got a bit long to and also clocked the other horse in the ring and just tapped it out behind. So 8 faults but I know I let him get a bit flat and it was pretty spooky so I'm really pleased with how he went.
Then it was time for a quick change and onto the big test... the XC. He was sharp in the warm up and so I did a lot of walking, making sure he was paying attention to me and was off my leg. Popped the warm up fence and he was feeling eager and before I knew it we were being counted down in the start box... He stormed out, took the bridle and was off! Over the first, down the hill and he spooked at the fence judge (!) so a slap down the shoulder to get him to concentrate and we flew the second. Into the woods and he was gawping at the fence judge for the third fence so another tap on the shoulder and "focus please donkey" and we were in a rhythm. We flew onwards to fence four and the sun was shining on it and the fence judge had an umbrella which is Buddy's pet hate so I sat back, kept my leg on and he took it out of a nice forward stride. By this point I was beaming because he felt like he'd finally got it and felt so, so good and was eating up the ground. As we galloped up the hill I saw the previous competitor at the next fence so I yelled for them to move over and we popped through the double of pallisades. I kicked on to the next fence and met it spot on then it was the double of tyres on an angle which he ate up and then it was the first question - the drop. I bought him back to trot, he spooked at the change of surface and I came back to walk to let him see the drop. He span round - first refusal - and then I just couldn't get him off the edge! I don't think we actually stepped back three times but the previous competitor was creeping up on us so I think the fence judge eliminated us a bit quick but I don't think I would have got him off anyway.
So we did the walk of shame home. I was absolutely gutted. On the way back I analysed what had happened - had I ridden him well enough, was he feeling his feet, am I cut out for this?! I had a little cry as I was just so frustrated after all the hard work we've put in to try and get this right. We are a few days post event now and I have had a serious think about the next steps. I cannot keep doing the rollercoater of nailing two phases and having a chance of a placing for it to all go wrong XC. We have BCA on Sunday and I am still going and will have an XC session on Friday to try and elimate some mental demons but BCA is definately d day for us.
B is not a naturally uber bold horse and despite having bucketloads of talent that is not enough. If he was a 'normal' horse then I would just take him XC schooling every week but I do not want to put unnecessary mileage on his legs and feet when it might not work and I need to be realistic as I have a very full on job and I'm not sure I have the time to commit to that level of work. I want him to stay sound and to enjoy what we do so I may have to accept that eventing just isn't his thing. I am trying hard to not let this outlook affect our performance at the weekend so I will make sure I sit up, kick on and try and enjoy it!