Blood, Sweat, and Tears: A Fair Hill Story, Part 1
|The last of our intrepid team with our hard-won satin, incoming storm in the background!|
This past weekend, Dino and I made the trek down to the July Fair Hill Starter Trials to make our very first appearance at this venue as competitors. While I've acted as spectator and groom at Fair Hill many, many times, I'd never competed there. But this year, it was time.
As Emma so rightly put it, Fair Hill's Intro course is the biggest, baddest Intro course in all the land. It is, essentially, a BN course with all of the questions and elements one might see at that level, just with jumps that are 4" smaller. With the incredible upward progress Dino and I have been having this season, I became more and more sure that Fair Hill was going to be the right choice for our "big" mid-season event - and a true test of our mettle. It turned out to be a day full of ups and downs and unexpected events, ultimately ending in success for our entire crew of brave eventers.
I arrived at the barn in the pre-dawn blackness that is 4am only to be greeted by my very worried-looking friend and barn owner, still in her PJ's and telling me that my pony had kicked Chance's mom, Kim, IN THE FACE and there was "blood everywhere".
Cue panic and nausea.
I ran down to the barnyard to find that Dino had only accidentally clocked Kim in the eye with his head as she had bent down to feed him, but the impact had split a pretty deep cut over her eyelid that definitely needed stitches. She was shuttled home to her dad, who took her to the ER to get the cut taken care of, and I was left with two hours to kill before I had to leave for the show, since my ride time was a good 3 hours after Kim's. So, I unloaded all of Kim's stuff from my truck, turned her horse out, braided Dino, and took my time getting ready to leave. At about 6:30am, I saw I had a missed call from Kim. I called her back, and she informed me that she was all stitched up, feeling good, and had called the show office to have her ride times moved later in the day. Kim was going to Fair Hill come hell or high water!
So I re-loaded all her stuff in record time and wrapped her horse and we were off!
Part the Second: The Sweat
We arrived at Fair Hill in good time, and got Kim and Chance ready for their dressage test while waiting for the rest of our posse; Michele and Emma and their local friends, to arrive. Due to some rather inappropriate responses on behalf of a dressage judge and grievous management errors, Kim was eliminated from her Novice test before she even had a chance to start, made it very clear to the event secretary that telling a person that there would be accommodations made for them and then not fulfilling that promise was totally unacceptable, and then was placed in the BN division and allowed to complete the entire HT. It was dramatic. But if we can convince Kim to start her own blog, I'll let her tell that tale of woe.
|Big and Little Blogger Steeds chillin' at the trailer|
And it was hot.
Any grand plans I had for wearing my show coat in the ring were immediately thrown out the window by the time I was done tacking up and sweat was already dripping into my eyes. No matter, I was wearing my new whites and I looked pretty damn good if I do say so myself, minus the ugly pinny. I really ought to get myself a bridle tag for dressage...
In any case, we got down to the warm-up with about half an hour to get ready for our test. I wanted to give Dino all the time he needed to get working, but it turns out I only really needed about half of what I budgeted. As soon as we got into the ring, my Wonder Pony lit up and went right to work. He felt great - forward and responsive and moving over his back. I gave him a little break and stood around chatting with Emma and Michele since it was so hot and muggy out, and just trotted and cantered him around a little bit right before our test to get him back in work mode. He felt good, and I felt we were ready to put in a good test.
|"Nice horse!" YES HE IS!|
|so many 8's!!!!|
We had a nice, long 3+ hour break before I even needed to start thinking about the jumping phases, which was enough time to watch Emma and Charlie's dressage test! That pair put in such a solid effort, and it's easy to see how much Charlie has improved since Emma got him almost a year ago. He's really starting to figure out this whole show horse thing, and it's so cool to see him try and seek out the right answers to all of Emma's requests.
Guys. There is almost nothing cooler than riding your heart horse into the ring at a show and hearing the announcer call out, "And now in the ring, number 122, Allison Stitzinger from Pennsylvania riding her German Riding Pony, Caradino." I heard that and felt a huge grin spread across my face. I was competing the pony I loved most in the world and worked so hard with at an awesome venue and we were here and ready to Do The Thing. It was a very, very cool moment.
Dino heard the whistle and sprung into a great canter, and we headed towards Fence 1. Up and over, no problem. The second fence was off a right roll back and was a long line of two oxers. I had to half-halt all over the place in this course, but Dino was really game and attacking all the fences and jumping GREAT. Another left rollback deposited us at the bending line of 4-5, which Dino jumped handily. A looooong tour around the ring led us to Fence 6, an oxer on the diagonal. (which incidentally didn't even make a blip on my Anxiety Radar.) Fence 7 was off a really funny, long and narrow left rollback that we needed a simple change to get through, but jumped fine, and then we were headed towards 8 and 9, a long line headed towards the in gate.
We jumped in just fine over 8, and it was then that, in hindsight, I should have made a decision to come forward for the 6 or settle for the 7.
I made zero decisions.
Dino was blasting down the line with a huge, open step for the 6, and all too late I realized that I did NOT want to take a flyer to that last jump, and pulled for the 7. Dino had already committed to the longer distance, but Good Boy that he is, jammed in another stride and jumped like a deer over that last oxer, absolutely clobbering it with his hind legs and costing us a rail. Video courtesy of Emma's helmet cam and featuring Charlie's cute head is below:
I was incredibly frustrated with myself that I, Reformed Hunter Princess Extraordinaire, did not bother to look for a distance in that last line and botched the last fence so badly. But, with only 4 penalties added to my awesome dressage score, I held out hope for a good finish! Dino had also jumped SO well in stadium, and overall it was a bold, smooth, confident round. I can say with certainty that the 2'3 stadium courses are getting a little, well, boring for me at this point! And that is a good, good thing.
I had a drink of water, jumped a warm-up XC fence, and headed into the start box feeling like I was about to vomit.
But that, friends, is a tale for tomorrow!