Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Last Derby of the Season

Last Sunday was the Manitoba Horse Trials final derby of the year. I was so excited for this one for so many reasons. First, nothing beats the beauty of the park in fall with leaves in full colour and that incredible smell of a crisp fall day. Second, Savvy has been showing more and more propensity to be a reliable partner and choosing to play.

All of the fierce.
Upon getting on for my warmup before dressage, it became apparent Savvy was a bit off. She was pinning her ears at all things forward. Probably cold-backed - we were all tensed up in the frigid temps so I wouldn't blame her. I decided not to even canter in my warmup because this usually worsens her behaviour and then went in for my test.

Sunday morning turned out to be crisp indeed--a little bit too much so with a thick layer of frost on my truck windows.
It certainly was not our best, but considering the slippery frost-covered grass and uneven terrain mixed in with her overall tense demeanour, we surprisingly did all the right things at the right places. I was happy with it. There was no bucking at the canter and her responsiveness for the transition is gradually improving. She was still very fussy and chomping on the bit, but I was so impressed by her actually trying to listen regardless of her tension.

Curled behind the vertical but still trying her best on a very frosty morning and I might be frozen Popsicle on a horse at this point.
I changed for xc (more like put my safety vest over my jacket and called it good enough) and had time to relax a bit and help out friends with their tack up and watch some dressage rounds. I decided to head over to the warmup area about 45 minutes before my go time to settle, spend some more time in stretchy trot to help her relax and watch some other riders go. Our warmup jumps were...interesting. She was still pinning her ears when being asked to go and it was becoming more and more apparent girl was in heat as her sides were becoming more sensitive and suddenly she hated all the other horses around her. She was bucking on the landing of the tiny cross rail which progressed to bucking on the spot when asked to canter from trot. I was starting to wonder if I should just scratch from xc but that thought coincided with my 3-minute warning and I decided, meh, just try my best and be ready to get her head up on the backside of fences, hold on and have fun regardless. They were just starter level jumps after all and I would not be jumping anything outside of our ability.

Omg, no touchy! And lets both look down at this to ensure no jump goblins are hiding.
It was funny, I think Savvy is starting to get what a start box means because once in there, a switch flipped in pony. She came out a bit hesitant about forward but after a few strides, gave in to my request for 'go' and pricked her ears at the first fence. She jumped it very nicely with no funny business on landing and my confidence meeter swung from like a 3/10 to a solid 7/10. Savvy was quite looky for most of the course but man, did she ever want to GO. We had an unfortunate spook and refusal at fence 3, but turned and got it fine on our second attempt. Another refusal happened at fence 6, but it was more of a loss of control issue long before the jump and I decided to circle and improve our approach. Most of the course I felt like I was holding back a pocket rocket and interrupting her rampage with obstacles along the way. Considering her mood in warmup, I was very happy we had completed the course with only the few issues.

Then I had time to sit in my truck with the heat blasted over lunch to thaw my frozen limbs. My next and final entry for the day was 'follow the leader' moving up to Pre-Entry from Starter level. My leader would be a wonderful training-level rider who was happy to set what ever pace I felt comfortable with. I told her to just go at a relaxed canter and I would yell if I needed her to wait. There were quite a few jumps in this round that I had never jumped before - and not even lunged her over, but there is something so comforting about following another horse (especially if that horse jumps all the things).

Flying over the last fence and Savvy using just her ears this time to check for jump goblins
Unfortunately horses were feeling frisky. You would think Savvy would be settling by this point but wild ponies be wild! The lead horse was also feeling the frisk and there were a few spots the rider had to circle her runaway beast to let me catch up. The first two jumps were quite simple logs, but fence 3 was the red barn that I have had all the feels with throughout this summer: some success and plenty of fails with, but this time we flew over it. At this point Savvy temporarily lost her mind and I had to skip the next fence due to out-of-control flailing Arabian. We jumped everything else though and with occasional circles and trotting, both of us riders survived our wild ponies (although later that day this rider would have to bail off during her xc round because her horse literally took off on her and she could not regain control).

None of my xc was pretty. From a technique point of view, perhaps it was a fail but really my main goal at this point has been canter safely between the jumps and get over all the jumps without falling off...so mostly WINNING, lol! My biggest takeaway from this year is to relax and not to demand perfect from myself - Savvy and I are learning, we are improving and there is all the time in the world for working on technique.

Xc season is over for this year here. It has been one heck of a year of learning for both myself and Savvy. She has been a fun and mostly safe horse to learn with. But how am I going to make it six months until my next xc?!!!!

13 comments:

  1. Brrr that frosty truck/trailer pic made me cold! Sounds like a good outing for both of you, the next 6 months will fly by :) I love that follow the leader idea, I've never heard of that.

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    1. It was so cold! I really hope winter goes quickly or at least isn't too nasty☺

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  2. Sounds like a good learning experience for both of you and something to use to plan goals for next year. Love her facial expressions over the jumps!

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    1. Definitely! I will be starting out starter level again next spring but moving up a level feels realistic at this point.

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  3. My sister is a horse lover and used to ride a lot and I know she would understand all th technical stuff here. I may not get the technical stuff but I do get the hundreds (thousands?) of hours you have to spend on having a relationship with such a beautiful creature and taming her into magnificence.

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    1. Lol, yes so much time spent training (I'd love to say thousands?) but it is my happy place. I am very lucky to have two great horses right now that I have such a deep bond with. Shiraz and Savvy have very unique personalities and are a joy to work with.

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  4. I always get a little sad when show season is over. Sounds like despite her heat throwing a wrench into the enjoyable department you came home with some solid takeaways

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    1. I'm so sad its over! Winter is just so horrible here, it makes everything horse related so hard. :/

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  5. I am incredibly impressed that you stayed on that 'no touchy' fence! The test photo is lovely too.

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    1. Hahaha! It was interesting. Also notice the large chunk of mane in my hand. But actually it wasn't that bad because I was already riding so defensively coming up to the jumps.

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  6. i love all these pictures - looks like a gorgeous, fun, and COLD day!!!! also lol @ "interrupting her rampage with obstacles along the way" haha, i definitely know that feeling!! what a cool final outing of the season and major kudos for just continuing to keep Savvy going with a sympathetic and encouraging ride! so awesome that you finished with a pretty solid move up course too!!!! :D

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    1. Lol! The rampage part was slightly terrifying yet hilariously fun all at the same time. Everyone seemed to be dealing with a wound-up horse that day though as it had been such a warm week and then suddenly so cold.

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  7. I'm late in catching up on my blog list - but holy cow, props to you for going out there in the cold and doing the thing!! I love that you guys had a good time.

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