Sunday, September 16, 2007

Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

Brego went to his first ever show this weekend and competed in all three phases of combined training. It was a very big thing to ask of a horse who has been in serious training for a few months, but he always seems so sensible, so I knew he would do well.

And overall, he did very well. We arrived Friday night, so he spent two nights in a strange place. It was his first ever dressage test, jumping course, and cross country course. It was my first ever dressage test, jumping course, and cross country course. Surprisingly, he was the second youngest horse at the entire show. Greenie mistakes were made by both of us, but I would have to say that Brego out performed me on Saturday for dressage and jumping. And it was my turn to pick up the slack when he finally had enough before our cross country round on Sunday.

Our dressage test went pretty well. It was not the best ride we've ever done, but considering the show environment, and the scary judge in the pavilion at C, he certainly put in a reasonable test. We scored a 44 (or 56% for dressage aficionados). The judge's comments were very fair and constructive with an overwhelming theme of Brego being on the forehand. I was happy with both the test and with the comment sheet. It was so wonderful to read what the judge was thinking.

The jumping round was a little crazy. There was no schooling in the ring before hand so we were coming in cold. Brego sucked back from fence 1 and then I cut the corner to fence 2. We sort of started to hit our stride for fence 3 and 4. I thought fence 5 was well setup, but Brego boggled it, or at least, he disagreed. He did an impressive series of flying lead changes before fence 6 (too bad it wasn't dressage) and ended up with a hard rub from his hind legs. The pole stayed up though. After fence 7, I started to feel pretty ill. Five fences was the longest course I had jumped so far and I was beyond done with this adventure. Which explains why Brego had to save my butt on fence 8 and 9. I took him to the outside for fence 10 and then, once again, completely stopped riding for the final fence 11 and Brego managed to squeak over it at a 45 degree angle or something. So much for setting them up for him. He really showed his class and honesty to be given such a poor ride and still come out clean. Especially since this was the first time he had ever been asked to do something like this before. He got lots of pets and scratches and cookies. He was the hero of the day.

And then there was Sunday.

Midway through warmup for cross country, Brego decided he was about done with the show. His buddy was calling him from the parking area. He was tired, undoubtedly sore, and just sick of jumping over things. He exploded without warning into a big buck-and-fart and half hearted bolt across the arena. One trainer commented to me that she felt the earth move. Har dee har har. A pulley rein brought him back and we continued our warmup until he tried it again, with less enthusiasm, but enough to spook me. Finally as we were exiting the warmup area to go on course, he went completely behind the bit and just started pulling me where ever he wanted to go, jigging, spinning, snorting fire, etc.

In case you haven't noticed, he's a big and strong horse and I admit, he scared me. He's generally very good natured, but when he pitches a fit, I feel ill equipped to affect a positive outcome. To this point, all his problems are rider problems. If something is wrong, I fix myself and we go on our way. But this was a horse problem. He was done and he knew how to get out of my hands. Of course, I did not wear gloves and my reins were slick with sweat so I felt even more uncomfortable. Oh, and the girl on course ahead of me had about 4 refusals at every fence so Brego got to watch a horse galloped hard and then punished at the fences with a frenzy of kicking and hitting and it added to his already elevated energy. Thanks, crazy girl!

We made it out on course though, but I decided to throw out my carefully constructed and gorgeous game plan and trot the course. I could give him no opportunity to get away from me, especially since the path headed for the trailer during two parts of the course. And cantering him out by himself when he had already proven that he was in no mood to humor me was a recipe for a Very Bad Learning Experience.

So much to everyone's utter boredom, I trotted most of the course. I even walked one part to regroup before turning towards the barn. Of course, super jumper Brego cared not at all about trotting the itty bitty fences. The only fence he looked hard at was the first one I attempted to canter with him, and my position was so weak that he had every excuse to suck back.

Let's just say it was a learning experience.

Things I learned:

  1. A 1500 lb horse that goes behind the bit and lugs forward does not have a good set of brakes. You are riding a runaway freight truck at that point.
  2. Brego, in all his wisdom and patience, is a green horse and is entitled to green moments.
  3. Riding a jumper course is completely different than a hunter course. That is, it requires some input on the part of the rider. This rule is also known as "Thanks for saving my butt, Brego".
  4. Even rubber reins are slick when your palms sweat because your horse tried to kill you in warmup.
  5. You always ride in spurs, even when you think your horse has energy, because they are a tool to keep him from dropping behind your leg, and behind the bit, and lugging you like a runaway freight truck.
  6. Brego doesn't need a lot of warmup to perform, but he is fitter than he acts, so too much warmup is better than too little.
  7. Brego is a very honest jumper and he tries very hard, he's just green (and his rider is, too).
  8. Eventing is only for the brave. It's not supposed to be fun yet, right?
  9. We, as a team, are not ready for a recognized event, but we're on the right track.
So I am going to pass on the November 10th Pine Hill show and start going recognized next spring. We need miles and I need serious lessons. We ended up finishing on our dressage score (because there were no time faults on xc) which was more than I had hoped for. And ending up 3rd (even out of three) on a 44 is no small feat. We were only 3 points behind the leader. It was just a rough ride for both of us and I think we can only go up from here!

The videos are somewhat embarrassing, but they are an accurate representation of where we are in our training, so I posted them:


Anonymous said...

Many years ago I went to an Amoeba event and it kicked my butt! I have video of myself with two little girls saying what is she doing? While I was walking the jumper course that was way bigger than the one I had done at home. HAHAHA. If I had to guess what was going on with your big guy before XC I would guess he was scared. He was acting like they do when they are turned out at a new pasture and they run around (afraid) until they check it all out. SOunds like a good weekend all around. I like dressage b/c I hate to be afraid on a are a good, brave woman! Congratulations!

Serena said...

I just found your blog from COTH (and i saw Brego on fuglyhorse a while back too . . . ). You are AWESOME! I have a half-Perche and never though she would be athletic or able to do anything, but you're inspiring me! :)

Daun said...

Thanks and welcome tot he blog! Brego continues to amaze and inspire me as well! I am learning not to underestimate him or make excuses because he is a "draft". We just try it and see how he does.