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Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2009 Retrospective

Well, it snowed.  A lot for Nashville-- I read somewhere that we haven't seen this much snow since 1996!  Taco was used to it from his Michigan days, of course.  Still, he looks a little annoyed here, in this picture that Amy took yesterday:

Our street has not even seen a plow yet, and the city seems to have ground to a halt.  It seems unlikely that I will be able to visit with my Handsome Guy today.  However, it is always fun to relive some memories.  So I've copied and pasted some of my competition notes from 2009.  Here is my USEA online competition record (you can click on "Cat Burglar" to get earlier shows he and Annika did), but the stories behind the numbers are so much more interesting!

Our first show last year was Jumping Branch in Aiken, SC, which was a fabulous experience for both of us (link to video).  Then Taco was hurt for a few weeks with a bruised hoof and a new cut on his left hind's scar (both caused by a sprung shoe that I should have prevented, ay yi yi).  But he recovered and we went on to May Daze,  where I rode a mediocre dressage test and showjumping round and we smoked the cross country (link to video).  Then Champagne Run was next.  It was my first win ever at a recognized Horse Trials.  Here is what I wrote right afterward, with pictures.

Taco and I had a great show at Champagne Run. He is a truly lovely horse.

In dressage Jim Graham was our judge, and he gave me the familiar comment that I need to energize his hind end more. Also I let his poll get a little low. But a respectable 34.7, tied for 4th.

Then XC he just came out ready to roll! Actually, it was a little interesting getting to the warmup because we had to go up the steeplechase track and something Very Scary was blowing around on the fenceline. I was a little worried that he would explode in warmup but he got better and better as I jumped some fences. Amy was there and encouraged me to create more energy when I wanted to be a little tentative. We left the start box just cicking along and he was really looking for the next fence after we did each one. I loved the two brush fences on course-- practice for steeple chase! He was a little exuberant off the drop and I had to regroup some, but we had lots of room to get down the hill to the logs before the water (see below pic) and splash through (link to video). Double clear and we moved up to second.

Then in showjumping I got him more forward, as I have been working on. He stepped up and helped me in a couple of places and I did my best to help him do his job.

 Double clear, and it turned out that we had moved up to first! It is my first time winning a recognized H.T. so that is kind of nifty. I won a Moxie saddle pad and a director's chair. Yay blue ribbons and swag!

We did it, Taco!

 We had a couple of good events later in the summer, too.  I took him to Penny Oaks in Indiana in early August.  I had improved the energy in the dressage but lost some of the steadiness and consistency (link to video).  Our jumping was awesome-- a blast on cross country and a solid showjumping round.  I was especially proud because Amy could not be there to coach and I did it all on my own!

Then we went to Kentucky Classique and had our best dressage score to date, a 26.3.  What made a difference was a bit of unorthodox but effective advice from Amy: "trot as fast as you can!"  By golly it worked.  He was swinging through the back and steady and wonderful (link to video).  We cruised around the cross country-- the biggest and most complex I had done yet, I think (link to video).  In showjumping I was pretty nervous, and he saved my @$$ a couple of times (link to video).  What are friends for?  We finished on our dressage score, which was good enough for first place.  This was also the Chronicle of the Horse Central US Adult Team Challenge, and our team came third (that's what the big yellow sash is for).

This photo, taken by Carol, is featured on the USEA Adult Riders page!

KY Classique was the perfect prep for Jump Start, my first Training level event ever.  We had worked up to schooling some Training level jumps over the summer, as in this video from August at Percy Warner Park here in Nashville.

Now it was time to see if our preparation had paid off!  To say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement.  But I knew I was on the best horse in the world.  So off we went!  Here is what I wrote afterward:

This past weekend (Sept 26-27) was my first Training Level event! Taco the Wonder Horse and I went to the Kentucky Horse Park for Jump Start Horse Trials. Training level is the level that has jumps 1 meter/ 3'3" high.

I was quite miserable on Saturday morning, a bundle of nerves, rain pouring down and a huge puddle in front of our stalls, Carol not there yet (she arrived later in the morning), and having walked what looked like a huge stadium course the night before. Taco was his usual easy show self as I braided him and got myself together. We did dressage around noon and went down to the complete mud pit of the dressage warmup, where he did not bat an eye at the other horses splashing and cavorting around him. Amy helped me with some turns and transitions (we got a couple of killer lengthenings!) and then it was into the arena. Right after the judge blew the whistle, he must have seen something on the road because his tail went *over his back* and he started to prance. He was still prancing a little when we went down center line and we think it helped his trot wrok, which was quite nice! 31.6 which we thought was quite respectable for a first Training test (link to video). Our lengthenings were not as good as in warmup, of course. But we will work on them and on keeping his poll up in the canter work.

Showjumping was what I was the most worried about. I have had trouble all season developing an energetic canter inside the arena, and the jumps looked so big in there! But I kept telling myself that Taco would find them easy, especially if I got him to them with enough energy and in a good balance. We warmed up great and went on in. And I survived! After letting him get crooked to the first fence, I had trouble getting my lead to the second, then had a nice big jump over the third (a maximum oxer) that landed us a little too far inside a two-stride line. Oh well-- he fixed it for me (good boy Taco!). At the next two fences, both oxers, I started to let him get flat, and he tried hard but we knocked a rail off the second. Then I ran around the next few fences with him in a bit of a flat canter and getting a few chips as he compensated for me (thank you Taco! sorry Taco!). We jumped the last, a triple bar, very nicely and I was done! Coach Amy was very constructive with her comments, noting that I was forward enough but then needed to harness that energy into a springier, not longer, canter. I was so happy with Taco and thrilled that the fences seemed easy for him, despite my mistakes (link to video).

Cross country (link to video ) was just fantastic. The rain had let up during Saturday afternoon, but there was more rain overnight. Still, the turf at the KY Horse Park had been able to absorb an amazing about of water and the ground seemed fine. A few fences with bad footing were taken off the course and warmup (thankfully) was moved from a mud wallow near the start box to one of the arenas. I was nervous, but felt ready and excited about the challenge. My biggest worry was the fence crossings and trying not to fall down. Taco seemed to know that I was especially excited and when it was time he leapt from the start box and over the first fence before I had a chance to take a breath, it seems! Then, running along between the first and second fences, a grin broke out on my face. He was just sailing over things-- he took an amazing leap over a max table, did not even look at the trakehner that had been causing some problems, and was full of enthusiasm. He was just like a Border Collie: " where to next? This one? OK! " We came in with a clean round and about 30 seconds over time. I was thrilled with how wonderful Taco was and I had really enjoyed myself. I wished I had pushed for time a little bit more, because Taco was still full of running at the end, and I think I never got going fast enough again after trotting through the especially icky spot in the fenceline that I was the most worried about. But that all will come! We came in 7th in a division of 20-25 people. And we got a qualifying score for the Training Level Three Day, our goal for 2010!

We go to Middle TN PC in two weeks, which will be our last event of the year. And what a year it has been. Taco is the best!

 Then Middle TN, where we finished on our dressage score of 27.0 (link to video). This is an excerpt from an email I wrote to Annika afterward:

I think this was my best XC yet and the most difficult course I have ever done.  I had never asked him to go faster before today, and he was very willing to do so!  We came in just a few seconds under optimum.  I did my first angle combination, my first coffin with terrain (ditch at the bottom of a dip)(link to video), my first bank up-bank-down-2 strides- house combination, and my first time jumping into and out of water with a log two strides after.  We flew over all of these, plus the fly fences, trakehner, etc..  Then when he was done and I washed him off he just stood with the look of eagles and surveyed his domain.  We are now joking that we are "King Taco" and "Countess Curwood" (because I count audibly to all of my jumps).

I also had a great SJ round-- even Amy was happy with it!  It just flowed and felt easy.  We were in perfect sync (link to video).

Shannon Brinkman got some great pics, and I spent way too much money ordering some....

I drove him home and led him into his field and told him "well done" and he acknowledged me with "thank you kindly, it was no problem." Then I slipped his halter off and he trotted away like he hadn't done a thing today.

Weekends like this one don't come very often... I am savoring it and feeling that life is good.

Our score was good enough for first place. That qualifies us for Area III Championships, and with one more clear round cross country, we will be qualified for the 2010 American Eventing Championships.

It's hard to top a year like that, but I am excited to begin the 2010 season... which will start at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken March 12-14.  I sent the entry this week!

And, just to show we do have fun besides prepping and doing competitions, here's a video from one of our grooming sessions last summer.

Stay warm everybody!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Stacy, you make me excited to start 2010!! Right now, I've got a horse who hasn't been ridden since Penny Oaks, but I have goals and plenty of ambition :) Now, just to get this baby-having stuff out of the way so that I can get back on and ride... See you at MSEDA next weekend!