At home, we had a couple of lessons with Amy where she was very adamant that I insist on enough energy from Taco. He is such a lovely horse that he can give much less than he is capable of and still be able to do everything I ask of him. Amy wanted me to draw out more of his capabilities, which makes our dressage more brilliant and our jumping more consistent. I was really pleased with the results of this at home so I was excited to try it in competition.
Taco at the Hoosier Horse Park, ready for action!
Penny Oaks was a dress rehearsal for the American Eventing Championships, to be held Sept 9-12 at Chattahoochee Hills near Atlanta. We had not been to a HT since March, so we needed to check that all systems were go. We started out with what I felt was one of our most energetic tests yet, on a par with our good ones from last fall. I even got real lengthenings! I tipped forward a little bit and his poll got a tad low in places. But it was a vast improvement from Full Gallop HT, where I rushed him without half-halting enough and got him running on his forehand. I was a little disappointed, therefore, when it scored a 38.3. However, scores were high across the board, so no matter.
I was expecting a slightly softer cross country course, since this event has been that in the past. It wasn't, really (surprising a couple of my friends who moved up there!), but the great thing about walking it was that I felt that we were quite capable of everything out there. Overall the course was challenging, but there was no one spot that really made me nervous. And I like the corridors through the trees at the HHP-- it makes galloping fun and interesting. I was a little late for warmup because I had heard that the show was running late and then the schedule got caught up. But this was actually fine, because it made my warmup very economical. Amy did her job of reminding me to keep up the energy very well. And we were off! Taco was absolutely fantastic, and I feel that I supported him and helped him do his job. I was up on the clock about 10 seconds after the first half of the course, and I let off the gas pedal somewhat on the second half. We wound up about 4 seconds slow with 1.6 time penalties. Oops! Oh, well, it was a super run and I could not have been happier with my horse.
In showjumping, I again needed plenty of prodding in warmup to ride forward enough, as the course was a very forward-riding one. When I did, I could really feel the difference! Taco had come out of his stall in the morning looking very fit, and he was ready for more action. We trotted in and I concentrated on keeping energy through the corners and my leg on up to the base of the fences. I did tend to let my body collapse forward in the turns a little bit, and in the pictures I can see that the short crest release that I prefer is not giving him enough freedom, so I need to graduate to an automatic release. Other than that I was pleased with my performance, and more than thrilled with Taco's. Double clear, and one of our better rounds! Taco strutted out of the arena, knowing that he had been a real star.
So, as I said we were 5th (out of 20) but, more importantly, we are qualified for our big goal! AND we had a confidence-building run. I rode fairly well in all three phases, and Taco was simply amazing. Bring on the AECs!