Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lows & Highs of a First Season at Advanced by Missy Miller

The last two shows since my previous blog were the definition of low to high. Grace and I traveled to Tallahassee, Florida with the amazing help of my dad and his driving so I didn’t have to miss any classes the week before finals and I was still able to be at Red Hills on time to show. The dressage went well but Grace was sticking her tongue out most the time, which definitely offended one judge more than the other. Oh well, it was my first attempt at a 3* and I kept telling myself like any first time experience, push through it, get it done and then improve upon it every time thereafter. For those of you who don’t know, the last time I competed at the fabulous Red Hills Horse trials my partner at the time, Leprechauns Rowdy Boy, tragically passed away half way through the course at the first water. So already adding more onto the stress of my first CIC3* I had many emotions tied into this weekend whether or not I wanted to admit it. Grace has been amazing all season and there was nothing more I felt me or my trainer, Leslie, could have done to further prepare us for this. As we started out on course it was amazing and rode very well. But as it can happen at this level my horse and I stopped syncing after the first water and didn’t make it much farther. As upset as I was, while walking her back to the barn I realized how lucky I was to even be doing that. At least now I know that she is healthy and able to come out another day and try again. It’s our first season at advanced, mistakes are bound to happen and not everything goes accordingly which is why everyone makes back up plans. It was nice to have gotten through the same water jump that changed my life three years earlier. As always, Red Hills was run beautifully and is still one of my favorite events to be a part of because the whole city really gets involved and supports it. Not many events can achieve that for an entire four day weekend and I look forward to this event every year.

After our first 3* attempt we decided to enter the Poplar Place Horse Trials to make sure none of the misunderstandings at Red Hills between Gracie and I were long lasting and have a positive run before attempting the CIC3* at the Fork Horse trials. I entered the weekend hoping Gracie wasn’t holding any grudges against me for not giving her my full commitment at our last show and planned on focusing on a steady, confidence-boosting weekend. I was really happy with how she handled herself (even keeping her tongue out of sight) in the dressage and despite me having a blonde moment, we scored one of our best dressage scores at this level! Cross-country was very intimidating when we walked it, I was especially worried about two narrow cannon jumps set on a hard angle at two strides. Grace came out of the box ready to attack the course and having me holding her back as I didn’t want her to run herself too hard and by the 4th jump I felt her settle into a rhythm and she handled the course like a pro, no grudges held. Again, I realize that Grace is nothing short of a tenacious little mare in ANY situation, be it out on course, not wanting to stand in ice, or being convinced that all vets are out to get her. Nonetheless, I feel very fortunate to have her even when she is trying to give me a close up of her hind shoes. Part of me thinks she does the opposite of whatever I think/say about her just to prove me wrong and make me look bad, thus making her look good. Which again she proved to do in stadium, jumping around like a pro until what Leslie so kindly referred to as my “village idiot move” at the last jump. Can I still claim that it was a young rider mistake or does that give a bad name to other young riders that can hold it together for an entire show jumping course of 12 jumps? Well, I’m aged out anyways, it was just one of my duller moments. Good girl Grace. Now we will head to the Fork next weekend for another one of my favorite events of the year to again attempt the CIC3*. I’m almost scared to admit it, more or less put it in writing but yet again I am feeling cautiously optimistic after how well Poplar went. But I’m also reminding myself that anything can happen and trying not to put too much pressure on myself, Grace, or the weekend itself.

Tragic events like what happened this weekend to Michael Pollard’s and Jane Rusconi’s lovely mare, Dekorum and Arden Wildasin’s, Mandar really make you realize that no matter what, if your horse is back in their stall at the end of the day we are lucky to be surrounded by these animals. I wish there was something more I could say to all of them but I can’t think of anything besides sending my condolences to all involved. My thoughts are with you at this awful time.
For everyone else, go hug your horses.

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