Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Go Billy Go": FEI Diary For High Times

Upon arrival I already felt a sense of achievement. 

Let the triumphant horns sound, as Billy has returned home to Wilton as a legitimate Two Star horse. Not only did he handle all three phases (and the jogs) like an absolute professional, he devoured the relentless cross country course with aplomb. The fact that he was the youngest and truly the least experienced horse to reach a top five placement in the CCI** at the 2012 Galway Downs International Three Day was a thrilling end to a wonderful season.

Before the show started Billy and I were signed up to ride with the incomparable Buck Davidson Jr. at Kingsway farm. I can't be more grateful to my coach Hawley Bennett-Awad for organizing this great clinic every year, her tireless efforts are not lost on me. It seems that Billy was feeling a bit apprehensive about his reunion with Buck this year, as getting to the clinic was possibly more difficult than the actual clinic. So extensive were his shenanigans walking (I use that term loosely) to Kingsway from Galway, that Earl considered hooking up the trailer to come retrieve me. Ahhhh... the joys of a fit horse. The up side was that even though I was a bit late, my horse was already warmed up! Buck's challenging exercises served two purposes,  to sharpen us up before the big show and to give Billy a place to channel his abundant enthusiasm before Dressage.

Our Dressage test came late Friday morning, during the glorious Southern California sunshine and warm temperatures we all dream of when wearing a top hat. I was very pleased with Billy in this test, he was relaxed and listening... what more can a girl ask for? Although, he did slip on some packed and wet footing coming off our first centerline, and I think that slip made him a little tentative and I felt I couldn't push him quite as aggressively as I wanted. At any rate, his efforts were definitely appreciated by the judges and we were in second place, just 0.5 behind the leader, in a strong field of 29 starters.

Billy was happy to do his job in the Dressage court.
Relaxed and submissive are Billy's two new favorite words.
Billy is becoming expert at the dramatic square halt to finish.
With Dressage out of the way, I had the chance to really go over my 9+ minute course that Billy and I were due to tackle the next afternoon. Needless to say, it was the longest course that we would ever have stepped hoof on, and I was grateful for the tough conditioning program Hawley had put us on. The course itself was challenging, with few let up fences, and several combinations at the end that would test a tired horse and rider.

Saturday afternoons: The only time I don't mind a sweaty shirt.

Our run Saturday afternoon went off without a hitch. All of the fences went exactly according to plan, and with a little added encouragement from me, Billy was the fastest he's ever been and only picked up a few time penalties. We ended the day full of confidence and remained in second place, less than a rail away from the new leader. Aside from the obvious satisfaction one feels from being in such a high position, I felt enormously proud of our round. I rode with precision and focus, and Billy dug deep and truly tried his sweet little heart out for me. It was a cross country ride I will relish for years to come.

Billy looking very stylish flying one of the single fences on course.
One of the last combinations on course where Billy was still flyin' HIGH!
The corner following and Billy is right on target.
My fabulous 2012 CCI** Pit Crew.

With the stadium course being set on several short distances and all but one fence was on a related line, it was time to practice that new "patient" stride we had been working on. My goal was to not have a building step that unravels by the end of the course. Ultimately we accomplished that goal, but had a very cheap rail in the middle of the triple, but managed to leave the last fence up which has plagued us for most of the season. All of the top riders had a rial, but unfortunately I also added three time penalties to my score with that quieter round. My second place became fifth, but behind two Advanced horses and two Pan Am horses, so I really could not be disappointed with my ribbon.  After my initial irritation in myself wore off over the time faults, I took solace in the notion that if I had gone faster I would have most likely have two rails and eight faults!

Still full of jump on the third day.
A clean final jumping effort for the end of our season.

And so now I can be thankful for this wonderful horse that has come into my life who is showing me that he would like more of this adventure. I am thankful to my support team: my family that is behind me all the way, Hawley who pushes me for more,  and all my girls that I can virtually feel willing me over every fence. My sponsors have been right there with us too: CWD provides me with the best saddles available, Nupafeed USA gives Billy the "quiet" he needs for Dressage and the energy for cross country, The Soaker helps Billy stay hydrated and feeling his best, Frilly Fillies Custom Bonnets make us look boss, DKT Saddlery keeps my head safe and cool with KEP Italia helmets and my bum trim with Eurostar breeches, Kentucky boots keep Billy's precious legs bubble wrapped at all times, and The Saddle Network keeps my mind free from worry as I know my tack is protected from theft. My sincere appreciation goes out to you all. Here's to 2013 and all of it's possibilities!!!

My favorite picture from the show. My husband and my champion walking back from cross country.

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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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