A major heat wave has hit the area, with highs in the mid 90s and high humidity. Brego and I were definitely feeling it last Friday when we did finally schooling before the weekend Hunter show. I was debated whether to enter Brego into the 2'6" or 2'9" hunters. I knew I didn't want to wait all day until the Jumper classes.
The Friday schooling was an unmitigated disaster. Brego took down nearly every rail in the 2'3" course. He was out of breath, couldn't get his leads, misfired. We were all over the floor. I was frustrated. The last time we jumped, he nailed every lead and left all the rails up. How could we possibly go to a show if he can't even jump 2'3"?? Granted, this was a minor, minor schooling show, and hunters no less, so the humiliation factor was low. I wondered if he was just exhausted. We've been working really hard the last couple of weeks, trying to get fit, trying to get prepared for the impending eventing season. Was he just plain tired?
He was so out of breath it really scared me. He couldn't jump 8 fences without hanging his head and just blowing. After a break, I set up one final 2'9" oxer to see if he crashed through it like all the other fences. To my surprise, he jumped it from so far out and so high, I was completely thrown out of the saddle. So that deepened the mystery. If he was so exhausted, why did he make such an effort on a larger fence?
I decided to scratch the little hunter show and give Brego five days off. I would go and read my cool new dressage books, enjoying some free time in the evening (a rare thing indeed). I called my trainer and told her the situation and she recommended I give him Saturday off, take him to the show on Sunday, and just school him. Just to get him to a new place and see if he was still unfocused.
So Brego got Saturday off. Then Sunday dawned as one of the hottest days in Maine. We arrived at the show at 8:30 and then, in the grand tradition of hunter shows everywhere, we waited. And waited. And waited. Brego stood tied to the trailer, or to a fence under a tree in the shade, for six hours. Six hours! Just to make sure it was nice and hot.
Finally, the three thousand classes covering every single permutation of 18" fences were over and it was our turn. By then, most of the competitors had left so it was just 8 or so in my classes. Brego warmed up fine. We spent pathetic little time on the flat, due to the heat. I just made sure I remembered my canter cue, either lead would do fine at this show, and in we went.
The first course was fine. The corners were tight. I definitely need to work on turning. Brego is loosening up his neck in dressage, but definitely not cantering around a course. It's like he's on rails, very stiff and resistant. No big deal, it gives us something to work on. Anyway, I felt like I was really pushing him around he course, and my leg suffered as a result. It swept back over the fences and my elbows were so far out I almost took flight. I was trying to make the course look "quiet" like a hunter.
The second course was much better. Brego took a rail, and it was the weirdest thing. The stride was correct, he overjumped the one before. I wonder if he just didn't see it. Anyway, after the rail I decided I was going to screw the "hunter thing" and rode more aggressively. I even reached back and popped him before a fence. Man oh man, did Brego smarten up! He was awesome. We cruised around and I am very happy.
Finally after the 2'6" class, they had a free schooling at 2'9". I took Brego around a few fences at 2'9". He was such a pro, didn't look at anything, and really put in a good effort. Not bad for baking in 95 degree weather.
So now Brego gets his 5 days off. I will read my dressage books and try to visualize me not flying like a chicken over fences. I will plan some softening and bending exercises. And then next week, cross country schooling! The last piece to the puzzle will hopefully be put to rest next weekend and I can go into the upcoming schooling events with full confidence.