Sunday, October 2, 2011

How to Ride a Fire Breathing Dragon!

October 1 was not only our first horse trial in over 2 years, it was also the first day that fall finally made an appearance!
I had been anticipating the schooling show at Rocking Horse for some time. Finally employed again and somewhat healthy (although still dealing with a torn miniscus and occasional cramping from last years blot clot in the calf), I am ready to finally start seriously showing Tucker!
My fellow pony club mom Pam, was talked into going with me! Even though Pam hasn't ridden her Thoroughbred, Copper all summer, her daughter Brittany volunteered to ride him in a dressage test. Whenever I want to go somewhere with Tucker, I call upon Pam to come with me. Tucker travels best with a companion, and Pam and I always have so much fun!
We decided to go up to Rocking Horse Friday night, rather than having to get up at the crack of dawn.
Unfortunately, that thing called work meant a late departure and we didn't arrive at Rocking Horse until almost 10:00 at night. We got the horses, who traveled perfectly, tucked in their stalls and made a beeline for the ever so quaint Fox Den, a few miles away.
For those not familiar with the Fox Den, it is, according to their website, a renovated 1950's era hotel. It is clean, but I believe they renovated it with furnishings from a vintage store! It is a hodgepodge of 1960's and '70's furniture, but that just gives it more of its charm.

The whole reservation was done by email...

ME: "I need a room for this date"...

FOX DEN: "the door will be left open, leave the key and the cash or check on the desk when you leave and lock the door behind you."
When we arrived, there was a sticky note on the door, welcoming the Tankel Party!
You don't get that kind of service at the Hilton!
This kind of service makes Pam nervous however, and we had to check under the beds and the closet, and I will admit however, that as I showered, I did envision Norman Bates lurking outside the room!
As I said, Saturday was the debut of the first day of fall. The temps were in the mid 50's, which was about a 20 degree drop for us.
Needless to say, my normally sedate Tucker was replaced by a FIRE BREATHING DRAGON!
Giving him a much need bath at 7:30 probably didn't help!
As I attempted to hand graze him, he spooked at the food caterer. He would buck. He would jump at the grass blowing. He spooked at the golf carts and scooters. I realized that drinking my hot tea and trying to hold him would not work.
I am really terrible at managing my time, and suddenly, I realized I needed to have been on and warming him up about 20 minutes ago. Our dressage test was at 9, I wanted to be on him at 8 and here it was 8:20.
We tacked up and headed out to the big front field where the dressage rings are. I didn't realize how bad he was behaving until a woman on a horse trying to come through the gate stopped to let us pass first, and commented how "we should have the right of way." "What does THAT mean, I wondered?" Meanwhile, Tucker was snorting and bucking and than broke into a handgallop.
I ride Tucker in a snaffle.

Suddenly, I wished for a piece of barbwire in his mouth.
Our warmup was, well, entertaining. I am sure we gave several riders quite the scare.

But, I soon realized, we weren't alone. There were other fire breathing dragons warming up, some worse than Tucker.
Long story short, I contained Tucker and got the bucks out of him so that we could ride our test. It was not pretty. It pretty much sucked. We blew through our transition from a trot to a medium walk. His free walk was horrible. He was stiff. He wouldn't bend. He was hollow. I felt like I was riding a camel. I didn't need the comments from the judge to confirm what I already knew. But you know what? He didn't buck, he stayed in the ring and I didn't fall off! So, despite our score of 42, I would have to say it was a success!
He walked out of the dressage test suddenly a much mellower horse. Could we have a do over, please?

Stadium jumping was calm and collected and focused.
Cross country was a total blast! I did not have time to walk the course....remember how I mentioned how I am not good at managing my time? I had arranged with a friend to use her ATV to do the walk, as I was afraid that if I walked the course with my torn miniscus, I wouldn't be able to ride. Well, not thinking, I figured I would have time in the hour between stadium and cross country. Well, first, the cross country had started by the time I finished stadium, so I couldn't take the ATV out, and second, there really wasn't that much time! So we headed out to the course, map in hand, and I watched the other riders go. And eventers, being the kind people they are, gave me tips. Comments like "after fence 9, be looking immediately for the opening in the woods and be ready for jump 10," and " after you come out of the woods, look for the 2 big intermediate benches and the ditch will be on your left," really saved us!
We came out of the start box, looking for the jumps that had numbers on a yellow background and off we went! Imp could count down and would shoot out of the start box like a rocket. Tucker hasn't learned to count backwards yet and it takes a few strides to get him up to speed. Once we got going, Tucker ate up the ground, attacking every jump like a seasoned pro. We settled into a steady pace. At one point, I thought I would emmulate the great Ralph Hill, who is known for singing rock songs as he barrels his way cross country. The first song that popped in my head was Old McDonald Had a voice caused Tucker to bolt a bit (not surprised, my singing has that affect on everyone). I belted out that Old McDonald had a horse, EIEIO and then decided that while singing may help Ralph breath, it was having the opposite effect on me, so I quit! I think Tucker was happy that I did!
We went double clear, finishing on our dressage score. I couldn't be happier! The last time Tucker was out on cross country was last spring, and we hadn't even jumped anything since then, until last weekend, when I set up some of the jumps at the new barn. I remembered to look up over each jump, as pictures from our first event shows (as evidenced in the photo above, which was from our first trial in 2009) show me looking down at the jump, as if I were saying to myself, "wow, we really are jumping that!" Tucker was pretty well recovered, so I am happy that our conditioning plan works. The optimum time was 5:47. We rode it in 5:04. Funny, it didn't feel that fast, so I guess we need to work on his pacing. His huge stride really covers alot of ground. Final results had us tied for 6th.
Next up, December at Rocking Horse! Look out, we are ready for some serious cross country fun!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a blast! I know the dragon feeling...except it's my hunter who gives me that impression sometimes.