Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Go Billy Go": FEI Diary For High Times

In what I hope will be a reoccurring series about our adventures in FEI competition, here is a look at Billy's first (and what I hope is his last) CCI*!!!

After a somewhat shaky first few Preliminary runs plagued with stops and slow times at the beginning of the year, Billy started to live up to his potential in May at the Preliminary Horse Challenge where he came in a very close second in deep competition. Tracy's mantra of "Go Billy GOOOO" must have been on repeat in his little brain because after that he kept the big boy pants on (which is great because I really, really hate diapers!!) and was giving pretty solid rounds across country. This gave a bit of confidence to shoot for the Galway Downs International CCI* in the Fall.

A well behaved first horse inspection

Although Billy is a beautiful Dressage horse at home and in lessons, his workmanlike demeanor unfortunately does NOT translate to the short white rails in competition. His enthusiasm for the next day's cross country run spills over into the day that is meant for decorum and graceful reservation making each movement, although generally contained, somewhat resistant. I was very proud of him here at Galway, where the atmosphere is definitely electric. He wasn't thrilled about the idea of leg yielding, and we dropped a counter canter, but all in all, he was mostly focused on the task at hand. I can only imagine that this part of our performance will improve as he is so talented and I am very determined to be creative and find that perfect warm up for him! His performance, although slightly flawed, was good enough to tie us for 11th out of the 46 entered. Click here to watch Billy's Dressage.

Billy looking sharp in formal wear
I was very thankful that we had our Dressage on Thursday for many reasons. A.) Billy was already braided from the first horse inspection earlier that day. B.) I could work him a thousand times (give or take a few) for his Dressage test and he would have all of Friday to recover before his cross country run on Saturday. C.) And I am most grateful for riding on Thursday because it was gloriously sunny and warm, and Friday absolutely poured buckets of rain all day. I am sure it was disappointing for all of those West Coast foreigners (East Coasters, Canadians and Dutch) looking for some sunny California weather, as after Thursday it was pretty much miserably cold and wet.

The footing was a concern for cross country day due to the afore mentioned weather, but Galway is luckily in a river bed, so most of the way was sandy going with a very few muddy spots to deal with. Nevertheless, Earl put in very large studs for me while I was out on my final course walk before our run. Billy's warm up was exuberant as expected, and I spent as little time possible jumping and getting him wound up.

My mission for the cross country was to get right down to business and set a forward and positive tone for Billy. He is finally out of the hand holding stage (except for at ditches, of course!) and he was more than willing to stay in front of my leg and straight. It was a very, very, VERY (did I say VERYYY??) fun round. I was glad for all of the trot sets and  aqua-tread for Billy, and the P90X workouts for me, when we came in 20 seconds early on the 8 minute course with hardly breaking a sweat. His recuperation was super quick and he had nary a nick on him. His double clear round moved us up to tied for 9th going into the second jog out. To watch Billy's cross country click here. 

second half of the double trakehners

double X's with a ditch


Ditch wall.  Are you seeing a ditch pattern here?

The second jog tends to produce a lot of anxiety in Event riders, since it is really no fun to do all of that work, pay all of that money, have an amazing round on Saturday and then not pass for Stadium. Luckily for me, the only thing I had to worry about was not getting drug by Billy down the jog lane and kicking anyone as we passed by in hyperdrive.

trying to keep up with a very forward Sunday morning Billy

I had missed the bad weather all week long, but my dime was up on Sunday afternoon when I had Stadium in the pouring, and might I add, freezing rain. Billy was a trooper in the mud, and was up for the big, turning course. I was caught out early in the five stride, coming in big and not getting him back in time for the out costing us a rail. But, everything else was spot on and pretty much brilliant under the circumstances. Even with the rail, the course caused so much trouble that we moved all the way up to fifth to finish the competition. Click here to watch Stadium. 

we had plenty left in the tank on Sunday

cold and wet
receiving his ribbon for a job well done

It was the kind of week I live for, where all of the dedication and work pay off. I was surrounded by great help so that I felt at ease and could concentrate on the task at hand. Not only that, I had the support of all my friends and family at home and my great sponsors cheering me on. I grew as a rider and my horse grew as a competitor...and growth is what it is all about. But most of all, I came home with a confident, healthy and happy horse, and I can't wait to do it again (only higher!).

Jenny and Billy

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Wilton, CA
A full service equestrian facility offering lessons for all ages, training, showing, breeding and sales.

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