Our preparation leading up to this competition was aggressive, but his qualifications were minimal with only having run two Intermediate horse trials prior to the 2**. We knew that Billy probably needed more practical experience in the "real world" with more runs under his belt to be competitive at this level, but I have already admitted that we weren't competitive, haven't I? Nonetheless we were qualified, and the two runs that he had at Intermediate were clean, albeit painfully slow, so we entered the CIC 2** with the idea that he was ready for the challenge and it was smart to get the qualification in sooner rather than later.
|Billy looking handsome at the trot up|
We did not disappoint when it came to the Dressage arena. As promised, a proper warm up routine was found for Billy, and he was focused and rideable in our test. We only had one clear mistake in the first counter canter, but otherwise, it was a career best for us and we scored very well to be in second place at the end of that phase.
|Billy being a professional in an electric atmosphere|
|Our test was truly a pleasure|
|Triple bars are our "feel good" fences!|
|We like oxers too.|
The (new) plan was to be ahead my FIRST minute, mistake number one. I did not settle into a comfortable rhythm out of the box, but instead ran like a banshee on fire and at the faster speed Billy was a little unsure if we were jumping cross country or fleeing from a Warmblood-eating monster fond of flashy blacks with white blazes. He was a little out of sorts and I put him to a few uncomfortable distances at the second and third tables on the way to our first combination, a pair of airy oxers with ditches under them. I rode him forward (mistake number 2!) after the third fence to set the tone and get him in gear in anticipation of the first tough question. To my delight, he did not even look at the first ditchy oxer at all (maybe because we were running at top Warmblood speed?) and flew right in to the combination. I kept the hammer down and it looked as if we were on our way to making the notoriously long three stride to the next and more narrow of the ditch oxers when I realized we ran right by it. WHAT??!! Wait a minute, I am NOT the shark in this story?? I quickly whipped around in a small turn and popped over it without a second thought and galloped down to the table-coffin combo.
|Our second attempt at the B element of fence 4|
After that jump I had a long gallop to mull things over. I had become the seal in this scenario, the victim! But unlike the poor seal, I was just being the victim of my own stupid riding! I needed to get my head clear and salvage this ride to give Billy the experience he required or I just needed to put up the white flag. Time to be the shark, no more mistakes! I resolved to think about what my horse needed to make it around the rest of the course since I already had used up my allotted two stops before ever reaching fence 7. Of course, the next jump had a ditch under it, so I would know soon enough if I was going to have a short day at the office.
Fence 7 proved to be understandably a little impressive to Billy after our ordeal, but he trusted me and went like a helicopter over it. We managed to get into a rhythm and ended up having a very positive ride over the remaining fences on the course, with strong encouragement from me over the rest of the ditches. There were several advanced questions and he answered them with a yes. We ended up on the same page the rest of the way and finished the course and crossed the finish line.
|Billy was not going to come close to touching fence 7|
|The one stride into water after fence 7. We were getting our mojo back.|
|the very advanced normandy bank|
|Dropping off the normandy bank.after one stride across.|
|We had four bending strides to a corner after the drop.|
|The corner following the normandy bank.|
So there you have it, our first CIC 2** experience together. A whole lot of growth, learning, and maturity. It's not always what you hope for, but this sport of Eventing serves up a lot of "unexpected". The great thing about it is that the journey is so remarkable, the end result can be almost insignificant.
|Billy forgives his bad driver with enough cookies|