This weekend took us to the South Farm Horse Trial, where they were celebrating 19 years of hosting USEA rated events! I must say that Chris Gable and Sarah Greer had the farm looking more beautiful than ever! New split rail fence lined the field near the road, the stadium jumps were all freshly painted (my favorite was the yellow and blue striped one- I also need to find out the secret to their perfectly painted poles!) and many new cross country fences adorned the beautifully decorated and laid out course. The organization of this event was flawless with close to 200 starters, right down to the efforts to keep the warm ups and footing safe for all the competitors. The last two events here they have moved the stadium course to their newly improved ENORMOUS sand arena instead of jumping off the grass, and after such wet weather it was WONDERFUL to not be worried about the footing...what a difference!
Dressage was uneventful, with Captain and I scoring a 35.9 in Training A to put us in 8th in a large and very competitive division that included some serious campaigners with upper level horses making comebacks (Catana Deskins and SkyWalker, Victoria Frey and After Midnight, Helen Rutter and Push the Light), as well as a few upper level riders with younger horses coming up the ranks like Kyle Smith, Marina Bortmas, Kara Andrew and Kelly Sult. My student Jessica Hart and her awesome mare Zophie put in a great test to start them out on top of the leaderboard in the Training B division with a 33 at her first crack moving up to this level! This was also a very competitive division of 14 starters consisting of Adult Amateurs and professionals.
Cross country proved to ensure this was not a dressage competition, as the course had some excellent technical questions that required positive forward riding over the nicely flowing course. Captain started well, settling into a fairly good rhythm and jumped the first four fences nicely out of a steady gallop. Approaching 5ab an offset rolltop to a skinny on two or three strides depending on how you rode the line, I had him compact and on a good direct line for two strides. He jumped in beautifully, took a stride, and then uncharacteristically darted out to the left before the skinny. I didn't have a prayer of saving it so we circled around and jumped the whole element again without a problem. What I was even more surprised to find out was how much it shook him up, as it took me until about fence 11 to get him settled and a bit more confident. He did well through the coffin and through the back of the course until the new picnic table, which caused problems for more than a few riders and horses at the top of the hill on the stretch toward home, and thankfully his athleticism got us out of a bit of trouble, but rattled his confidence again. I took the option to circle again before the corner to calm him down, and again before and after the water, to give him time and opportunity to feel positive as these were the last four jumps on course. Afterwards, I think it felt surreal as I was a bit shocked at how much he got shook up due to the fact that he is usually a very keen, brave, forward cross country horse, and was questioning myself as to if I did the right thing. We racked up quite a few time penalties with the stop and added circles, but looking back, I feel good about trusting my instincts as this is a sensitive young horse, and making it a training opportunity seemed like the right thing to do. Fortunately Jessica faired much better, and all her hard work paid off with no jump penalties and only 3 time penalties to make for a stellar first round at Training.
Sunday brought Stadium, and our horses jumped out of their fur, putting in two beautiful rounds, and giving Jessica the win at her first Training level event with Zophie! She reminded me that she won her very first BN, her first N and now her first Training! What an amazing accomplishment! Jessica is a very dedicated student and has put a lot of time, training, sweat, and done ALOT of homework, to attain these results, and she really deserves it! This is a fantastic partnership, and I can't wait to see what these two do the rest of the season! Captain was outstanding, and I will post some pictures as soon as I can.
All in all we had a great event, and it looks like its time for me to go cross country schooling! Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks again to Sarah, Chris, and all the volunteers for all their hard work and making South Farm our favorite event of the year!
Ta Ta for now!