For those who want the short version: Taco was perfect all weekend, and for once I feel good about how I rode. We had a nice dressage test that scored well (26.3) and put us in the lead of the division, and we maintained the lead through a wonderful cross-country day that I will never forget. Heartbreakingly, Taco got injured, most likely on Phase D, and we had to withdraw at the final jog. As of this writing, we have not yet completed the diagnostics to know exactly what happened, but I should know more by the end of the day. Meanwhile, Taco is comfy and safe in his stall at home. He is a winner to me, and the real prize of the weekend was the seamless sense of partnership that I experienced with him.
For a more detailed version, read on:
We left Panther Springs Farm on Wednesday morning, with a great sense of anticipation and adventure. Carol rode shotgun and the two dogs had the luxurious crew cab back seat all to themselves. All went smoothly except we hit some traffic near Cave City, Kentucky, and then I closed my left index finger in the truck door when we stopped for lunch south of Louisville. Ah, the intelligence and coordination of eventers! (Well, at least this one.) The upside to the physical pain of this mistake was that I was spared the emotional pain of braiding all weekend. I was forced to hire two braiders, both of whom did a great job.
We rolled in to the Hoosier Horse Park and got Taco nicely settled in and ready for the activities of the next day, Thursday. The educational component of the 3D (three-day) started with a briefing by the officials over lunch, followed by a tour of Phases A through C (Roads and Tracks and Steeplechase) by one of the volunteer clinicians, Melissa Miller. Then it was back to the barns to primp for the first jog. I must say, Taco looked great. He has been building muscle and his coat is glossy, thanks to the Pennfields Fibregized Omega that he has been eating and the APF herbs I have been giving him. Carol helped me shine him and his bridle up, and then we were ready! I was so proud to lead him down the jog lane.
We were accepted and moved on to the dressage. I wasn't able to bring Amy to Indiana with me to coach, but I was extremely lucky to have Mary Fike fill in. Those of you who know Mary know that she is truly an encyclopedia of eventing knowledge, and I also found out that she's great at sports psychology too. Even though she wasn't familiar with Taco and my riding, she had some very helpful pointers as we got ready for our test. And then we went in! Taco felt fantastic. He wanted to show off, it seemed, and he gave his all to responding to my aids brilliantly. Our practice really paid off and we put in an accurate and energetic test.
|I think that went Ok!|
Next was the steeplechase school, which I really needed, it turned out! As at Hagyard Midsouth last fall, veteran 4-star eventer Dorothy Crowell was our clinician. She is a huge supporter of the classic format and, with Melissa and Cathy Wieschhoff, was generous enough to donate her time to us. She had us practice moving from a gallop to a preparation position several times, and then had us gallop to a triple bar, which mimics the shape of a steeplechase fence. These first exercises went well for me (especially after I made a bigger effort to get OUT of the saddle at the gallop and then SIT in it on the approaches). Then we were to jump the triple bar again and move on to the practice steeplechase fence. This is where I had some trouble. First, I made too short a turn to the triple bar, and never had the right pace. After I fixed that mistake, I proceeded to jump ahead of Taco at the practice steeplechase fence. Dorothy helped me fix that, too, and then she was satisfied we were ready to go.
|Ready for steeplechase school (practice fence in the background)|
I had already walked the Phase D (cross country) course twice by myself. I was impressed. It was truly a championship-level course, with five combinations, which was one more than the AECs had had last fall. It was also in the somewhat twisty-turny terrain of the Hoosier Horse Park, with a variety of wooded paths and open meadows, and it was to be run a maximum Training speed, 470 mpm. Mary and I walked it again, and she helped me puzzle out the questions. One of the most helpful things that she did was reminding me to be assertive with Taco. Yes, he knows his job, and he knows it well, but he must take his directions on pace, line, and balance from me. She showed me places where I would need to make my instructions loud and clear, and places where I could let him work out what he needed to do. I felt much more confident after our walk, and ready for the next day. Another quick bike ride around phases A through C, and it was off to bed to rest up for the Endurance Day.
To be continued...