The September Poplar Place Horse Trials did not get off to a brilliant start.
New discovery: Mapquest LIES. When it told me it was only a 13 hour drive from Albion, MI to Hamilton, GA (a little south of Atlanta), I was surprised but thought “Hey – cool! I can totally do that in a day!”
Leaving Albion at 3am Thursday morning should guarantee arriving at Poplar by mid-afternoon Thursday, right? Plenty of time to unpack, settle, hack Marly around the grounds. Too bad at the 13-hour mark I hadn’t even reached Atlanta!
16 hours after packing up and leaving, I finally pulled into Poplar to remove a very disgruntled horse from my trailer. Luckily, my ride wasn’t until 2:30 Friday, so plans could be flexible. I decided to forego riding him Thursday and just get him out early Friday morning instead. After unpacking and getting Marly set with dinner and lots of bedding for a good nap, I left him alone for the night to see if he would forgive me for the 800 mile trailer ride.
Friday morning I awoke to discover that I couldn’t breathe out of my nose and swallowing hurt like heck. Oh goodie. Luckily, this was a pretty easy fix — somewhere between SMZ’s, a ridiculous amount of orange juice, and a free bottle of an immune system boosting acai blend from the MonaVie lady, I was feeling good enough to hold Marly together. (Note – I have no clue if MonaVie actually works, but it does taste a lot better than similar products.)
Friday’s dressage was adequate but not stunning. It was quite hot (98 degrees by the time I rode!) and I warmed up for longer than intended. By the time I was trotting around the ring, Marly was literally dripping sweat from his belly and was past his prime. We held it together fine and had good moments, but it wasn’t brilliant by a long shot. Holding the counter-canter around the end of a small dressage ring on Marly, who happens to be 17.2hh and very long-strided, has a tendency to feel like attempting to keep an elephant on top of a beach ball. Not impossible, but very very awkward.
Saturday, cross-country day, dawned hot like the rest of the weekend. While riding at 2pm wasn’t ideal weather-wise, it allowed me to walk my course again in the morning (looked solid, but do-able) and watch the CIC*** and Advanced horses go. It also allowed me plenty of time to get ready, which turned out to be a very good thing – as I was putting the studs in Marly’s shoes, he snatched his hoof away from me and, in the process, stepped down on his other foot. With studs in. This action gouged a small hole in his coronet band (right above the hoof), which began bleeding.
Luckily, though touching the wound was unacceptable, Marly trotted off perfectly sound, so we began the “patch-it-up-best-we-can” plan. After washing, disinfecting, packing with triple antibiotic, wrapping with gauze and topping that with a healthy dose of Elastikon, Marly was good to go.
Marly warmed up for cross-country like a rock star. He was right where I wanted him to be for every jump. He came out of the start box like somewhere had lit his tail on fire and we went on from there — the only thing I would have fixed if I could have would have been to install a better braking system, he was FAST, and towing me to everything! However, he did come back when I insisted. He absolutely FLEW over the fourth fence — a steeplechase brush that was up to my shoulders when I walked the course! (Another note – Marly has not yet grasped the concept of “brushing.”) That’s ok. He was super over everything, with a bit of a scrappy ride over the corner (it was a set as a 3 stride from a table to the corner, and Marly made it in 2-and-a-half), but clean. I did take more time than I should have at all the technical elements, knowing I would have time faults, but not wanting to risk a preventable run-out.
As I walked Marly off the course, there were several people with USEF badges grouped together, talking quietly and looking at Marly. Uh-oh. Marly was selected for random drug-testing – a first for both of us. The drug tester was very pleasant and incredibly patient, though. She was great about encouraging me to spend as much time as necessary cooling Marly out. Marly, in turn, was a total gentleman about getting his blood drawn, even if he was very modest about supplying us with other necessary fluids. Finally, all samples were collected and Marly was free to take his afternoon nap in peace.
Sunday we were scheduled to jump stadium at exactly noon. (See video above.) This ended up being a good thing, as the rain began with a vengeance no more than an hour later. After a good round with one unfortunate rail (a little bit lazy over the last oxer), we very happily finished sixth — a qualifying result for the CIC*! Upon receiving my ribbon, the race to get on the road began – just as the rain did. The rain was followed by thunder. Then the power went out.
With the help of our whole crew, my trailer was loaded and I was on the road again in a matter of two minutes flat. This time, though, I was smarter. I drove to Bill’s in Nashville, TN, and over-nighted there before completing the journey home. We made it safely back to Albion the next day and I think Marly and I both slept at least 12 hours before becoming fully functional beings again.
All in all, a very successful (though exhausting) weekend!