The Brego was great today at our combined training schooling show at Echo Ridge Farms. This was a big test because it would be our first cross country round over a course he had not previously schooled. At all previous shows, I had been able to get to the course in advance and show him around. Another element of concern is that a lot of the cross country elements were brightly painted, which is not something we have schooled before. We tend to go au natural.
The morning was a little rushed because it took longer to walk the beginner novice course than expected (read: the course was LONG). The course consisted of 15 fences and it started, derby style, over fences in a field but then quickly wound its way through a forest. And thanks to buckets of rain the last two days, the forest trails were very wet and slick. The farm had tried their best to put down shavings and shore up the footing, but I knew it would be rough going. Since this was just a schooling show and the track was not timed, I decided to trot most of the forest work and only canter over the fences.
As I said, I did not have as much dressage warmup as I would like. Brego was very stiff and looky, taking in all the sights and sounds. I had a lot of trouble getting him to relax and soften, which is evident in the test. He would be working nicely and then suddenly stare off far into the distance and resist the bend. Such is a show atmosphere. I tried to stay calm and soft, but I did stiffen through warmup. About halfway through my test, we finally relaxed and we managed to get a really nice right canter. Overall, I am pretty pleased with the test. It was not as soft as our schooling at home, but much improved since the last show. The judge agreed, and awarded us with a 68% or 32 penalty points, which was the highest score at the entire show.
Then came cross country. The derby style course was very technical, not in fence height, but in terrain and footing. Everything was wet and slick and the hills were definitely a factor. It took awhile to get Brego warmed up to the course, but by fences 6A and 6B, we were cruising. It was around that time that I sat back and rested on my minor accomplishments and we promptly took a rail at fence 7. It was completely my fault. But then I shifted back into high gear for the rest of the course and we went around as well as could be expected. The footing was so bad up one hill that Brego was cantering in place, he could not get enough traction and slid with each step. The mud was the thick oozy kind where there is no purchase to be had. I trotted most of the forest trails but as I approached one coop, I knew I was in trouble. I could see the skid marks from the horses before me as they tried to jump the coop at the bottom of a steep hill. Since I kept Brego pretty slow down the hill, I thought he would be fine, but he still slid into the base as he tried to jump. He made it over, but took the coop with him. I checked him up to feel him out but he just wanted to power up the opposite hill. He felt really good so I let us continue and he jumped the nice maxed out flower box at the end.
All in all, he was awesome. The rail was my fault and Brego was a trooper on the rest of the course. Although I was pretty upset about the footing, Brego did not seem traumatized and finished strong. This is a real milestone for us because he had not schooled any part of the course before. He started pretty iffy, sucking back (although never looky), but as soon as he figured out we were "on course" he really rose to the challenge. I think he is starting to "get" cross country and how it's a big gallop and jumping fences even if they look strange. I mean, there was one fence painted like a cow!
Even with the rail, our dressage score kept us in first place. I am so proud of Brego. He performed so well, especially considering the heat and humidity.
I am excited to get back to some basics over the next few weeks in preparation for the big show on August 17th. I am going to continue with our dressage work, longe lessons, shorten my stirrups in jumping and get more training.
Many thanks to the two generous ladies who helped out at the showing. They were awesome groom/photographers/moral support/fan club members!