Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Average Aston le Walls

I was so excited to get to ALW I was like a kid at Christmas, waking up at 6am with those little excited butterflies in my tummy fluttering away. I'd done all my preparation and felt ready to put everything into practise and had my chimp semi under control (or at least he was quiet for the moment). We arrived with plenty of time to walk the course, have a look around and get ready. My lovely YO had plaited and quarter marked Buddy so he was looking mega smart and I was ready to show him off.

Looking smart in his 'The Herbal Horse' kit
He warmed up well for dressage, he had a few tense moments when horses came cantering towards him but he just went tense rather than doing a 180 like he used to. He was reactive and off my leg so I was pleased with him. I also felt rather relaxed which was unusual! As we went over to our arena Buddy tensed up and so I used the time around the arena to get him to relax again but as we came down the centre line he went a bit giraffe like but I got him back once we'd turned the corner. It was turning out to be a pretty sweet test until after our first canter when my mind went blank and I completely forgot whether I was supposed to be going across the diagonal or doing a circle! I stopped for a second and went for the circle option which was thankfully the right one. I was a bit disappointed to get a 34 as I thought it was a 32 test but I got a 0 for the stopped moment (!) and a 2 for my free walk as he jogged which I thought was a bit harsh but that's dressage and it was a mistake so I need to take it and work on it for next time.

Off to show jumping and B was feeling rather sharp as I walked down to the warm up. I hate SJ warm ups and so I know I get tense and B was really playing on it so I started jumping quite quickly after going in. He was feeling bright over the cross pole and I had it my head 'shimmy, fanny, leg' after my lesson with G but I really struggle to let go when B charges the last stride and with the stress of competition I held instead of shimmied and he was just crashing through all the poles. He respected the oxer I popped so I went in hoping that the fillers would back him off a bit in the ring.

We ended up having two poles as he was just fighting me. They were my poles as I just didn't ride well enough.. I was defensive into the first (no idea why as he was so onward bound), he charged to the second, we had a nice jump over 3 and 4 (as I actually rode) then got close to 5 and took the pole with his front legs. Watching the video I let my reins get far too long, I should have shortened them several times round the course but I didn't and so they got long, he got long and that's why we had the last. Annoying as they are my poles but I think I might also need to have a look at the bitting again.
Galloping towards the last
Quick change for me and onto the XC. I had a feeling he was going to be rather exuberant and I wasn't wrong. We warmed up well, he was super sharp off my leg and stormed out of the start and locked on to the first fence. He then took the bridle and we were off! Flew over the second, got a bit close to three as he wasn't really listening to me, over the house at four, didn't blink at five then spooked at the water (!) so came back to trot and we picked up canter on the other side and I kicked on to 6. 7ab was a step up, drop down and he had a hesitation at the top but a kick and we were off again to 8 which was a lovely wide oxer which he ballooned but was getting pretty strong at this point. Twisty turny round to 9ab which was drop to skinny and I couldn't get him back to the bouncy canter I needed to pop off the drop and get to the skinny and so he flew off the drop without leaving us the space to get to the b element and we glanced off it. Popped it fine when he realised he had to jump it and then kicked on to the corner. People had asked me if I was going direct here and it hadn't even crossed my mind to do the alternative - he'd been fine at BCA and he flew this one too! I kicked him on and we had a gallop to 11 and took this out of our stride, onto the max dimension (110cm) brush which was the only thing that backed him off and we had a much more controlled jump over 13. My arms and core had started to ache by this point after all the setting up and trying to balance him into the fences and I relaxed going into 14ab and ended up having 2 glance offs this fence too where I just couldn't hold him together and then we galloped home and over the last.

I wasn't especially happy with my performance as I knew I could have ridden better and we wouldn't have had the run outs at 14ab but I couldn't have done anything about the first one. I know I still don't ride as well at a competition so that will come with time but I also need to have a look at the bitting again as I think I need to either put two reins on the Pelham or find something else and as I struggle with one set of reins (!) I think I'll really struggle with two right now. I am delighted though that he is really starting to look for his fences (usually from the next class up) and is thoroughly enjoying his XC now so that's my positive from the day. Realistically I think he finds this all a bit too small and too easy and he is probably ready to step up but I'm not completely comfortable taking that next step as I will need to be totally positive, help him out a bit more and as I haven't ridden competitively at 100 level for 15 years it feels like a big step for me and where things become a bit more serious.

Buddy's just read his upcoming schedule!
We've got area festivals this weekend and then no competing for a few weeks as I'm going on holiday and he's got a busy time coming up after that with RRR, Moreton Morell which is our next BE, Regional Finals for Team Quest then Littleton and Broadway BE to finish the season.

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