I know better than to plan, with horses. I have vague aims, a distant point I am aiming for, but I know better than to say (or even to think) “I intend to do x, y, and then z” because every time I do that, a giant spanner gets dropped into the works. Hence using my favourite Yiddish saying as the title for this piece. ‘Man Plans and God Laughs’. Ha, indeed.
We made it to Prestwold Hall to do our first Novice, YAY!!! (Blog on that is HERE). We had a great day, she let me ride her in the dressage and felt fantastic in the jumping phases, double clear, making them both feel very easy. Woohoo, we were finally getting somewhere. My brain said optimistically, “she felt SO good round that, about 6-10 more Novices and we can step up to Intermediate. A few more Novices this season…” and on it went. Running away with Big Exciting Plans for the Future.
Everything went fine at home before our next run at Moreton Morrell. We are still hampered by having No Arena (the one at our new property is unusable unfortunately, far worse that I had thought when I checked it before we purchased) but the hacking is great and the fields have good going at the moment. We jumped at home and she felt super.
We got to Moreton Morrell for another Novice run and, due to satnav weirdness, were a tad late, even my 1/2 hour extra buffer having disappeared, so I had a slightly shortened warm-up time, but it was okay. She did another nice enough test, although not soft enough over her top line. I walked the XC course, it looked perfect for her. Big enough, with some interesting questions.
The SJ warm up was fine, a bit hectic, everyone circling the same way all the time, as at a BS show, but we coped. I didn’t get any horrific spots, and she was really pinging.
We went into the arena, and I did a circle before starting. It felt good, and I remembered to keep the power round the corner and saw what looked like a good spot to the first fence, which wasn’t small. Then it all went wrong… on the video it’s clear that she falters and adds a trot stride or two instead of the last canter stride on take off. I have no idea why. Surprise at the size and colours of the fence? Worrying about her footing in the suddenly deep going? (The going wasn’t great at that end, the whole Novice course was squeezed into the other end of the arena, possibly to avoid the deep part?) She lost all forward momentum and, in spite of trying very hard to clear it from an impossible spot came down on the back bar. This rattled us both, and, to avoid her doing that again, I stepped it up a gear… in retrospect, not the right thing to do on a twisty course where everything was close together.
The result was a very tense mare rushing and fighting for her head, which, coupled with having no martingale (rookie error two, but last time out it worked!), didn’t go well, and two more came down, both the front bars of parallels which she tapped out behind. I rode the final line, triple bar to double, far too strongly, to make sure she didn’t try to add one before the triple bar, and although she went happily forward for the stride I saw and left them all up it definitely wasn’t the right thing to have done. I am not at all happy with the decisions I made in the heat of the moment. Disappointing.
The cross-country course was lovely and I felt confident although she wasn’t quite her normal self in the warm up… because of the dodgy SJ round, I reasoned. Because she got a bit of a shock at the first xc fence last time out (when I had her too quiet out of the Start Box), I made sure we started positively and I rode for a good forward shot to the first, which she took on well… but again, in retrospect I don’t think it was the right thing to have done, it rattled her a bit being ridden that strongly, she felt chased to the fence. A few fences later she accelerated downhill to the steeplechase fence with drop and turn on 3 strides to a skinny brush, and, having ignored my attempts to steady her all the way down the hill, she got a shock when she got there and saw the drop and next fence, and just about dropped her belly on the fence as she boggled on take off. But she carried on, and fortunately they were separately numbered so I was able to circle without penalty before the brush. The next few fences were okay, although she added a stride in the distance between the corner and skinny… again, unusual for her.
The step up to skinny palisade and then run down to skinnyish brush was also not done in copybook style, because she ignored my attempt to set her up and accelerated past my distance, but stayed straight and managed to jump it all fine, good girl. (I can only apologise to the FJ and spectators for saying “SHIT” rather loudly as the mare did whatever she did up the step but somehow stayed on her feet.)
Through the water she accelerated again (got to love these Trakehners and the “If in doubt, Charge The Guns” mentality which has been bred into them for generations!) but made a good job of jumping the fish in the water (definitely the biggest thing she’s jumped in water… I would have liked to have gotten to it a lot steadier though) even though the still from the stride before looks horrendous!
We did manage a good calm approach, perfect spot and lovely jump over the last fence to finish on a good note, anyway. So, we got around clear but she was scooting a bit to her fences and ignoring my half-halts… it wasn’t calm, rhythmical and easy like our previous run.
The good news is that she stayed straight throughout, with ears pricked, and kept really wanting to jump whatever was in front of her, and we did manage to put a clear on the board, but I have gone right back to the drawing board re: bitting, martingale (not making THAT mistake again), and how I ride her (I absolutely MUST stay soft if I expect her to!)… sitting down and driving is absolutely not the way to go.
We were supposed to be running at Dauntsey tomorrow, and, discretion being the better part of valour, a couple of days ago I requested to move from Novice down to BE100+, which they very nicely did. I’ve experimented with a couple of Bombers bits, with promising results so far, especially with the Dressage Control Plate, which she seems to really like. Unfortunately yesterday, after a hack out, for the first time ever Daisy had a small sweat patch on her RH backside, usually a sign of a pulled muscle or possibly neurological damage. The same day she had felt slightly uneven in front during our first trot of the day, coming down harder with the LF. So, pulling more on that diagonal to alleviate the sore hindquarter?
We were supposed to be going for a practice SJ school and then XC school yesterday afternoon, but that idea got shelved.
Reluctantly, but knowing that I wouldn’t be happy to run if there’s a chance that I could exacerbate any small injury, I have WD from Dauntsey. Our final run of the season was supposed to be at Broadway Novice towards the end of the month, and I will probably withdraw from there too unless there’s absolutely no sign of the sweaty patch all next week. Frustrating, but so be it. She’s too precious to me to risk. I am consoling myself with the fact that it’s a very minor thing, and it’s better to have a sound horse to play with all winter than to risk making a minor problem into a major one by running her when she’s just incurred an injury. So, good luck to all at Dauntsey… wish we were there!