Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Carolina International

This past weekend was the inaugural Carolina International Event at the Carolina Horse Park. It was also, Union and my first FEI event.  I entered the CIC*, I was so excited to be able to do an FEI event and to be able to do it at the horse park was icing on the cake.

I had dressage and stadium on Friday and cross country on Saturday. The in barn horse inspection took place on Thursday, so I took Union over, after several baths, to jog and get checked by the vet. Union then remained fully blanketed until I left the next day!

Union can be quite, let's say, exuberant in dressage so I decided to hack him in the morning to try and take the edge off. I didn't have dressage until 1:30 so I had plenty of time. I took him out and walked and trotted for about 45 minutes, it seemed funny to be out hacking a braided horse. After our ride I was able to turn him out for another couple hours and then re-bathed him and took him to the horse park.

My warm up with Union is pretty unique, I work him long and low with no pressure. I don't do many of the movements of the test before going in, it seems to amp him up. I do a lot of walking and before I go in I bring him up. At this point I can't ride him as active and uphill as I do at home, without losing our relaxation. Maybe in the future when he is even stronger and more comfortable with it, he will be more engaged at events.

All in all, I was very happy with our test, it was relaxed with no "freak outs!" A huge bonus was I was able to wear my shadbelly for the first time! I have had it for a couple years and was over the moon to finally wear it. My test was much improved over our last event so I was quite happy and I think our early morning hack helped!

The show jumping course was quite twisty and was decently big. I was the last competitor of the day to jump so I had seen several rounds earlier in the day. Rails were falling like crazy, especially the first fence! I warmed Union up and he felt amazing! He was pretty excited when I got the the warm up, so when I wasn't jumping I tired letting him stand still so he didn't wind up more. We jumped one last oxer before heading into the ring, I got him a little bit deeper and he cracked his back and jumped to moon over it! Coti and Tesla were standing next to the fence and I said, I think I'll go on that! They both laughed and agreed.

I went in the ring and like so many before me, had the first rail down! Aside from that, I had an amazing round! Union was so rideable and was jumping so well. When I finished I was so ecstatic with our round, I don't think he could have been much better. It left me with a great feeling heading into cross country!

The next morning I went over to the horse park and watched a few rounds while walking the course one last time. The first horse through had two run outs at the first corner question on the course. The next horse went off course. This isn't exactly what you want to see before you mount up! I watched another horse come through really well, and I moved on.

I had a good warm up on Union, he was much more amped up than he was at our first event of the year. He came out of the box full of run, the first several fences were straight forward galloping fences. Union was much more rideable than he was at the first Southern Pines event! When we came up to the first combination, I knew I would have to really get him back and listening to me. It was a skinny then up a bank, turning down hill to a corner. We jumped the skinny and up the bank well, I then really brought him back and made the turn. I saw that I would have to gun it to make the distance or wait, I decided to wait. In doing so it killed the canter and he didn't have the momentum to jump. So we had a stop, I circled around and he jumped it well. We then continued on and jumped the rest of the course wonderfully! The next turning question to a corner, I didn't make the same mistake again!

One thing I usually don't have to worry about with Union is the water. This water was a house in, two strides up a bank, one stride off a drop, and then out of the water to another house. Union surged through this line like a gymnastic! He finished well and after the 10 minute box he looked like he was ready to go again. It is such a relief to see just how fit your horse was when you finish the course. You always think you have them fit enough but having that tangible proof at the end is very rewarding.

Overall the weekend was a success for us, hindsight is always 20/20 and I am kicking myself for not going more at the corner. Live and learn. It's amazing how many ways there are to mess up in this sport, you just have to move on and try not to make the same mistake twice. That's all part of it, learning and moving on, not dwelling on your mistakes and feeling terrible about yourself. Now, onto the Fork!

Thanks to David Frechette for these videos: