After our interesting clinic with Sam Lyle last weekend, I felt very confident with Tux's cross country abilities. As Sam put it, he's "very bold"! That really translates into being highly-adrenalised and pretty much galloping at whatever I point him at. Over the course of the clinic with Sam, though, I managed to find a good balance of letting him roll on to the jump but trying to set up a good speed well before we get there. There is no point mucking around with Tux much more than 5 strides out as he seems to get quite worried about that and starts head tossing and swinging his quarters, taking his eye off the ball. That means, however, that if I get the speed wrong (ie too fast) we're in for a bumpy ride!
There were a few hurdles to getting to Wagga and I was very close to pulling the pin. My poor husband had been sick (and turns out to have pneumonia!), my kids were sick, I was sick, and Tux didn't get ridden all week. Then I got the draw and I was supposed to be riding at 8:30 Saturday morning!! That wasn't going to work and the wonderful Wagga organisers were luckily able to fit me in to a slot in the afternoon as someone had scratched. Note to self: next time ask for a late draw when you enter! And finally, my good mate who lives in Wagga had gone to a funeral and wouldn't be there.
But, screw it, I thought. This will be the last event til October and we've worked pretty hard over the last month so it would be good to see if we've improved. And my friend Nicki had offered to come over Saturday morning and plait up!
So, off we went to Wagga. When we arrived, Tux seemed more tense than usual. And that's saying something! But he pulled it together and actually did a much improved test. Tense, yes, but no rearing and jogging (there was actual walking!). Unfortunately, it was extremely boggy and slippery, so I tried to shave off half a meter on the circles to keep us out of the bog. The judge was pretty harsh and seemed to simply ignore the conditions, despite the slipping and choppy trot. She even knocked marks off for my circle being too small! Ah, well, everyone had the same judge so you can't really bitch too much. The only thing I really have a problem with is, once again, I have met a judge who is mainly negative, with no encouragement and no constructive criticism. I don't mind the marks, we're definitely not up for 8s and 9s yet, but the comments are very important to riders and I don't think many judges consider that.
With our crappy dressage, we were running 19th out of 25. Kinda takes the pressure off, being that shit!
The showjumping seemed big and was also very slippery. Tux has gotten slightly better over the last month in terms of simply jumping then cantering and slowing (albeit with some serious rein aids!). He still stood off fences as we would accelerate into them like cross country jumps which we really need to work on, but all in all he feels a lot less crazy.
He was a complete champion in the jumping as it was incredibly slippery and he is very green. He jumped about half of them really nicely and the other half were a lot less scary than they have been! We ended up with a rail (it was really the whole jump!) down and no time penalties. Most of the class copped a rail or time penalties so we were doing ok.
A nice night's sleep in a cute little motel and I walked the course again on Sunday morning. The going was boggy and slippery and the jumps were great. I was excited about riding it as it was challenging and interesting. There was a testing double of logs on angles so a straight one stride required a decent angled approach. A good trakhener (our first), a couple of decent drops behind logs and tables and a couple of skinnier jumps to test straightness. I thought Tux would eat it up. And he did!
To be honest, Tux had been much more tense this weekend than the last two, and I do think that was partly the atmosphere - it was much louder and busier than Harden - and partly the lack of work the week before. I could not get him to settle in the warm up and I wonder whether he is starting to learn the signs of impending cross country and is starting to anticipate the galloping.
Tux watching the other horses go over fence 1 before we headed out
He was very strong across the country, almost out of control. It was not the most pleasant or easy ride. Every time I just sat quietly he would get faster and faster, not just maintain his speed. It was way to slippery for that kind of speed, and it took quite a lot to pull him up before jumps. Still, he jumped like a champion, never looked twice, did come back to me when I really needed him to (ie before the two doubles) but was really just a speed machine the whole course.
But it worked brilliantly - we got only 1.6 time penalties and a clear round which bumped us from 17th after showjumping to 7th overall. Bloody amazing. The only person to go clear on time and jumps ended up winning. From 15th!! Says a lot about the conditions. Most rode much more slowly to deal with the slipperiness so there were even a couple of eliminations for going over the maximum time!
A great end to the weekend but quite a lot to work on, as always. I'm planning on putting in 6 weeks of solid work with him at home, taking him to a couple of local days, and aim for Wallaby Hill in mid-October.
I need to work with Kirsten our awesome trimmer on the traction issue. I doubt studs made much difference in that going, and it's interesting that we pulled one of the fastest times in our class. I do want to explore the options available to barefoot horse owners regarding filing ridges in to the wall. I really don't know if that would have made a huge difference but every little thing helps!
Looking forward to a quiet weekend next weekend!