All things considered, yesterday was a totally excellent day. I got up when my alarm went off at 3:45 AM, was out the door by 4:15 AM, and pulled out of the barn at 5:30 AM. I’m happy to report that whatever qualms Moe had with the trailer have been settled; he followed me in without hesitation, carefully stepping up the ramp and poking his head out of the escape door while I opened windows and checked the other doors.
Traffic was extremely light and we pulled into Gallery Farm right on time, at 8:15 AM. My dressage time was 9:18 AM; I was the third rider of the day. There was plenty of time to walk Moe around, get him some water, and try to make him look a little more presentable. (His tail was in snarls and he was coated in dust- I was appalled at how gross he looked, because on Saturday afternoon he was clean enough that I didn’t think I needed to bathe him!)
Dressage warm-up was in a pretty level grass field directly behind the trailer parking. I spent most of the warm-up walking. I did a little trot and canter; Moe felt a little sluggish and was above the bit, but he settled down to business once he walked into the covered dressage ring for our ride. He gave some serious side-eye to the judge’s table and a loose banner flapping in the corner, but he put in what I felt like was a decent test. There were no problems at the show that haven’t manifested at home, and I was really happy with Moe’s free walk. He dropped his head, stretched out his neck, and walked at what I thought was a reasonable pace.
We ended up with a 38, which is a half point better than our test at Feather Creek. I was very surprised the judge gave us a 5 on the free walk- she noted that Moe wasn’t reaching enough or stepping under himself as much as she’d like to see. We received an 8 on our halt, which made me laugh, because while Moe was straight and square, he flung his head mightily on the trot-halt transition. We were tied for 3rd (of 4) after dressage- the leader was 10 points ahead of us, the second place rider only 1.5 points ahead.
Johnny and I walked the course after making sure Moe was content to stay at the trailer with hay and water. Gallery Farm’s cross country course is not spacious. They do an excellent job of utilizing the space they have, though, by making the route weave around in what are essentially endless serpentines. There were a variety of jumps- logs, brush boxes, benches, coops, houses, and a down bank that looked awfully large for Novice. I wasn’t worried about anything except jump 14: a big, wide, dark green house. I can’t say exactly why it looked so suspect to me, but it was kind of freaking me out.
I took a nap after we walked the course and woke up with plenty of time to tack up Moe. I typically don’t spend a lot of time warming him up for cross country or show jumping, because he gets hotter and hotter the more you jump. We walked for about 10 minutes in the warm-up area, I trotted him over a crossrail and a vertical, and spent the next 5 minutes trying to calm him down. When the first horse cantered out of the start box, Moe froze and watched it make its way over the first few jumps. Then he shook his head and chewed his bit and marched around with an amount of pep in his step that would have been welcome in dressage.
He trotted quietly out of the start box, but once he noticed the big log that was our first jump, the game was afoot. (I’m certain he knew the game while he was tied at the trailer and could see people walking the course.) He leaped over the log, made the sharp turn to the brush box, and galloped merrily to the third jump, a bench.
He landed accelerating, snorting and shaking his head at my half-halts, and made short work of the fourth jump, white-painted ascending telephone poles. At the point, the course took a hard left through a gate to access the back half; Moe nearly missed the turn. Once he made it, he was off and running to the next jump, another bench. I somehow remembered to stick to plan of hugging the fenceline to get a good approach to the sixth jump, a trakehener that was hidden by a couple of trees. Moe couldn’t care less about trees or trakeheners and took it galloping. Seven was the big drop- he paused mid-stride about 10 feet away, then went as if it were Head of the Lake at Rolex. I landed in a heap on his neck, turned him around to jump 8, an easy set of railroad ties, and proceeded to jump 10, a coop.
After 10, I turned him toward jump 11, a row of tires. And then I noticed a little log house under a tree that I hadn’t jumped. I circled Moe, who slowed down because he was certain I had lost my mental faculties. And then I looked directly at a jump judge and said, “Well, shit.”
I haven’t forgotten a jump on a course since my very first recognized show, where I breezed past the second to last jump on a Beginner Novice course and cried when my parents told me I was disqualified, because I hadn’t realized what I’d done. I figured I might as well proceed onward, and sent Moe on to the tires, made a tight left turn to a hogsback, and galloped up to a wide flower stand decorated with mums. Moe jumped it out of stride, and I pointed him toward the big green house. At this point, I felt like I could get him to jump anything, so I put my leg on, clucked at him, and rode hell out of jump 14.
Moe interpreted my aggressive riding to mean I wanted more speed, so he found another gear and thundered up a small hill to jump 15, a set of telephone poles. We cleared the last jump, a pheasant feeder, and I convinced Moe to trot before he burst into the warm-up area and terrorized the starter division riders.
Johnny met me and I slid off my snorting, sweaty, wild-eyed creature and passed him the reins. I told him I missed a jump and was disqualified. He was quiet, then said, “It looked like you had a good time, though- right?”
He is right. I did have a good time. I had a great time. Moe felt phenomenal. He was eager to go, annoyed at my requests to slow down, and he attacked the jumps. After yesterday, I feel confident again. I didn’t realize what a blow Gina has dealt me. She isn’t a dependable jumper, and my nervousness about her carried over to Moe. But as long as you give him a decent ride without a lot of surprises, he’s happy to go over anything.
He cooled out easily, took a few swigs of water, and hopped back on the trailer for the long drive home. Once home, I turned him out with his buddy Roscoe, who chased him around their paddock for a minute. Moe cantered around, bucking and snorting, long after Roscoe stopped paying attention to him. I like to think Moe is proud of himself, as well he should be.