Sometimes improvement is subtle. Sometimes, it’s dramatic. This weekend, Marly and I competed at Richland Park – with dramatic improvement from our last trainer-less show experience!
Now, I should mention, we didn’t enter Preliminary. To be safe – and knowing that Richland Park is notorious for having big and challenging (though fair!) cross-country courses, and knowing that I wouldn’t have anyone to yell at me and remind me to ride with confidence – Bill and I decided the best choice was to drop down to Training Level just for this event. A confident, if possibly mildly bored, ride at a lower level is always a better precursor to the next event than hanging by a thread at the higher level! The Training Level cross-country course did provide lots of challenges too; complete with a full coffin combination, two water jumps, and a Normandy bank.
Our dressage test was… well… mediocre.
As much as I hate to make excuses for things like that, the photographer standing by our arena was wearing a floppy hat that kept blowing in the breeze. Now, Marly is plenty old enough to be a gentleman and ignore the woman’s hat. (After all, it was actually quite a nice hat – you know, as far as horse show functional hats go. It had style.) Marly, however, disagreed. His dislike for the floppy hat was emphasized by his best llama impression every time he was *forced* to trot or canter in its direction. He had a lot of nice moments too and I really wasn’t too terribly disappointed – only enough to revert to calling him “donkey” for the rest of the day instead of his proper name. Somehow, Marly didn’t seem to notice. He’s kind of oblivious to anything but praise.
When our scores were posted after dressage, I was fairly pleased — we were in 12th out of 22 in the open division. Not good, but very fair regarding our dressage test. The test was well-scored with what I felt were very accurate and constructive comments. At the bottom the judge had written “Nice big, talented, athletic horse needs to focus to produce a more consistent test.” Yup – that’s spot on!
Stadium jumping was on grass, which, while there had been slipping issues all day, actually made me happy. It was a very open course with mostly sweeping turns. Marly is best on grass – if he can be fooled into thinking he’s in an open field and there’s no one watching him, he’s on his top game. With appropriate studs in his shoes, we were ready to rock – and rock we did! Marly jumped nicely around the entire course with no faults with a round that moved us from 12th to 7th.
Cross-country was the highlight of the weekend. He was fun in the warm-up but wayyy wound up. Poor George (our program director and my eyes on the ground for the weekend) got to experience this when I asked if he could check my girth – apparently someone walking toward Marly was a good excuse to leap sideways. We did some sprints around the field, had to do a bit of a brake tune-up (they were non-existant at first) then walked to the start box. (Okay, we jigged sideways to the start box. Same difference.)
Although he exploded out of the box – slightly worrying me about my ability to slow him down – he was AWESOME. I let him gallop strongly with three rules: he had to be absolutely balanced, he had to be between my leg and my hand (not running out from under either), and he had to slow down for the jumps without fighting with me about it. He fulfilled all of these, so I had fun and let him go at a fast, but comfortable, speed. (Okay, it might have been pretty fast… I wasn’t wearing a watch and we did receive a few speed faults for going under the minimum time. For where we are, that’s not necessarily that bad, considering that, in September, Marly and I head to Georgia for Poplar Place, where we’ll be running Prelim again. Being able to run a balanced and lovely cross-country round that might be a little too fast for Training Level just bodes well for Prelim.)
And, better yet, even with the speed faults we finished 5th at Richland! I didn’t take pictures of Marly with the pink ribbon, as he’s not man enough to let his feminine side show. He’s a gelding and I think he’s a little insecure about it, so we’ll leave that alone. He was mostly just pleased to have a short trailer ride home that ended with a bath, poultice, wrapped legs, and a good nap.
All in all, a successful weekend to mark our return to Michigan.