Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pau Weekend Wrap Up by Joe Meyer

Cams dressage text was scheduled for around noon Friday. I gave him his first ride at 9 am and he was feeling pretty good in his head, but still struggling in his lateral work. I know this anyway so I just needed to remind myself not to over do it and push him beyond what he is capable of right now. I put him away for an hour and a half to relax and for me to grab a coffee and look at the videos of last weeks dressage lessons to remind myself I was going in the right direction. I also rang my dressage trainer Richard for a little pep talk. Feeling much better I got changed and headed back out happy again to find that Nobie had indeed tacked up the right horse. We had our final short warm up and Cam went in and put in a smooth, nice test without any big mistakes and one slightly annoying late change on his best lead, which was my fault anyway for not positioning him correctly. We were 18th to go and as I looked at the scoreboard on the way out of the ring we had moved into first place with a score of 56. I knew there were lots of other good horses to come later in the afternoon, but I have to say it was great to get some congratulations from some of my friends - especially since it was right before the lunch break so my first place postition lasted for more than an hour! Overall he went about as good as he can go at this stage of his training and what is to come from him on the future will be amazing.

With the horses put away we headed off to the cantine for lunch for another meal of something avec frites. After Cam's good dressage test we decided we better wheel the CIC** course and with this done we sat down to watch my good friend Andrew Nicholson's dressage test on Mr. Cruise Control. 4 pm was course walking time with Andrew, this is something I have always done at big 3 star and 4 star events. I feel really lucky to have a guy like him to go around the course with, as no matter how experienced you are I glean something new and different off of him every time. It's not just because I am a New Zealander that he takes the time to walk it with me he is always happy to help people and there were several of us from all over on the walk with him giving some good ideas. After going through the tack for the next day we called it a night and had an early evening.

Saturday - What a day!!! fairly early morning with an 8:30 am start for the 2 star. I got up in time to walk most of it before it started as I always like to have a quick walk around my courses the morning before I ride them. Right before I got on I heard that someone had taken the long option at the last skinny combination that I was worried about with Don and still made it inside the tight time so I knew it could be done. Don started really well and found some nice, galloping forward distances to the first part of the course which I knew would help Don build his confidence. The first real test of bank drop, 3 strides to angled brush followed by 3 strides to another angled brush, Don popped through really well and focused and with a big pat from me we galloped on to the water. The water complex is brush ditch and wall with a curving line of 8 strides to a drop down to 2 strides to an angled skinny brush in the water. We knew this would be a test for Don. The 2 strides walked short, but as yet we had not seen a horse do it in 2 and many horses were having problems there getting a 2 and a half. Don remedied this by dropping to trot and popping nicely over the skinny. At 4 minutes through the course I was 8 seconds slow, but there was a good long gallop and I really opened him up and stuck to my plan of taking the long route at the last combination and came in just under the optimimum time of 5:36. Don cooled out great, was released quickly and we were really happy as he had never gone so fast before in his life but it seemed easy for him.

With a good ride on Don done I went off for a final walk by myself around the 4 star course and make my final plans. I got on Cam 45 minutes before my start time of 2:42. Cam warmed up great and felt good. We had a slight delay due to a hold for fence repair on course but that was no problem. It was great to have a giant screen TV in the warm up so the riders could watch how the course was riding. We started out nicely with the first question coming early at the angled brush turn to corner at 3/4. Cam had a slightly awkward jump over the angled brush as it was early on course and he was not in a rhythm yet. This caused me to lose my line to the corner and we had a brief moment of panic, but he stayed focused on the job and with a little kick from me we were over. As I galloped away I had a mental note that this has happened and that I had better take a little more time at the next few fences and combinations to make sure Cam understands the questions. The next mound, Trakehner to skinny and Cam does it really well and was very focused. First water combination came early with a huge house that has to be jumped slowly with a deep stride (which we got) with a curve to straightforward log in, and now it gets tricky with a sharp 90 degree turn which walks 4 strides. Cam went around in 5 strides so I gave him a kick on the last one up the bank and another push on top of the bank to the one stride to the angled brush. I never thought 5 strides was an option there and I had seen one person do it in 5 and have problems, but that's what I got so had to make the best of it. So we galloped off to a few nicer fences including the big brush oxer from the photo album. Everything rode beautifully. We got to the skinny chevrons on the mounds and this was the combination I was the most indecisive about as I really did not know which would be the best route for Cam. In the end I decided to take the straight route of left chevron on an angle to the other left chevron in 4 strides. Cam got it done no problem. I ended up having to take the long route at the second water after I had a not great ride over the first part, but we did that quickly and had a nice long gallop stretch after that. We got to the 3rd water and Cam had a big jump in over the boat and landed strongly on an increasing stride so I was headed at the bank out on a long, flat stride in the wrong place to take the fast route so I popped the option quickly which only took a few seconds of time. Cam was completely confident and came to the last combination on course strongly and showed some of his inexperience by jumping hugely over the A and B elements so I once again had to take the long option at C. With just a few fences to go he was a little tired but galloping strongly and came as I came into the last fence in the arena I was pleasantly surprised that we were only a little over 30 seconds over time. I saw myself on the big screen and realized somewhere along the way I had lost my hat cover which was quite embarrassing (the egghead look). I was just so amazingly pleased with Cam at the time but it didn't dawn on me until later when I saw far more experienced horses struggling a bit with the course that I realized just how well Cam had done at his first 4 star. I was just so proud of him especially since he was a homebred and I have known Cam all his life. Unfortunately, Cam had over reaches on both front feet and we knew that even though they were minor he was likely to get quite sore on them. We spent the night icing and treating him as best we could but we soon realized that it was not going to be in Cam's best interest to try and showjump him the next day on such sore feet. It was certainly heartbreaking having to withdraw him as he had done so well and was lying in 7th going into showjumping, but Cam is a special horse that has a big future and I was determined to keep sight of that and not push him when he was not quite right.

Sunday started early with a 7:45 am jog for Don who looked great and fresh and ready to showjump. Unfortunately he was a bit too fresh and came into showjumping warmup a bit looky. The shetland ponies galloping around the xc in the shetland grand prix did not help his mental state at the time! He went into showjumping like a deer in headlights and showed his inexperience by becoming overwhelmed by the atmosphere and being a bit unfocused on the actual height of the fences. Jumping down the line directly towards the big screen proved to be his undoing and he pulled some rails. I had to remind myself that I had said in the beginning that whatever happened would be a good experience for him and although he dropped from 5th to 16th he is a better horse now from having had this experience. This sort of atmosphere was what he is lacking in his education at this point and something that just cannot be recreated at home or at one day events. So we loaded up for the long trip home a little disappointed in the results, but happy to have 2 good horses that overall tried their best. It is now Tuesday morning and between the rough ferry crossing and the heavy rains and traffic we still have not managed to make it home but are finally getting close. I hope everyone has enjoyed my insights into the highs and lows of my Pau experience and if anyone has any questions please post them here and I will be happy to answer them.

See you had Badminton in the spring!


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