Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Our first Prelim at Equestriad April 2015

Well, after a long gap in blog posts, I am finally getting around to adding a few big ones about major happenings in the last couple of months. Annie's first EvA95 and our first appearance at Equestriad in Camden was definitely one of those!

I had never made the trek up to Camden and was assured that, a) it was a real family event and would be perfect to take Charles and the kids to and, b) it's a really great course and a good one to upgrade at. Both were not entirely true but it was still a really awesome weekend of eventing at probably the biggest event in the Southern Hemisphere!

So, with kids in tow, we set off for Camden very early (but not disgustingly so, thanks to a really nice dressage draw time) looking nervously at the weather given it was supposed to rain pretty much all weekend and the maximum temperature was about 29. In April?? Thank god I clipped her the week before!

The event is literally ENORMOUS. We pulled into one end of Bicentennial Park and had absolutely no idea where everything was and, more importantly, where my dressage test was! Turned out it was about 2km away....need some signage, people! But I was fine. It was poor Charles, pushing a pram containing the 2 year old with the 5 year old moaning along behind, I was feeling for!

The humidity and heat when we arrive was quite overwhelming. I was dripping with sweat before I put my jacket on and it really didn't get any better. After warming up by walking the couple of kms to the dressage arenas, Annie warmed up really well - pretty calm to start with. It was interesting that, as we got over to the arenas, she started to get more and more tense. There was certainly a lot to look at, with cross country jumps right next to the arena and lots of people swarming over the cross country course situated a hundred metres from our arena.

I got lucky in that the arena next to ours had finished and I was able to use it to warm up in. After five minutes of lots of transitions and changing direction and gait, I felt like I had Annie's attention back. Then I went over and walked and waited next to the judge's car. Big mistake. She was back to 'tense giraffe' mode after just a couple of minutes of not working. In hindsight, I think that waiting and talking to the judge is a mistake for this horse. It's not a requirement and I think just trotting and cantering around the arena is something worth trying for next time.

So, the test was pretty tense. Not much else to say. Not many 'mistakes' but the whole quality of the test was pretty tense. We did score 8.5 for the free walk, but I have come to expect marks like that for her walk as it is really very good.

Showjumping in the stifling heat was mercifully quick. The course was actually a bit smaller than I would have liked. She's becoming a bit careless about smaller jumps and we had the first jump down which was a bit of a disappointment. It certainly cost us a few placings as the majority of our class went clear. If I'd been in one of the other EvA95 classes it wouldn't have been so bad - for some reason heaps of others had rails! Ah, well.

Off to walk the cross country while the kids and their ever-suffering dad munched on some afternoon tea and watched the EvA80 horses do their cross country, especially the water jump. The course proved to be unexpectedly technical for a Prelim course and would require a bit of jumping, especially for the young horses. I was both really excited to be jumping a course that wasn't 90% logs with the occasional ditch or rolltop, and also a bit worried about just how straight and confident Annie was.

The rest of the very busy Saturday was really fun. Catching up with friends, watching some of the best riders in the country do their thing and then watching the 2* and 3* showjumping under lights that night. What a difference the lights made to the horses (and probably the riders). The rails were certainly falling! We left during the 3* as the massive thunder storm promised by the BOM rolled in. We headed back to the comfort of our outrageously expensive hotel room and left them to it!

Cross country was a complete blast. The footing was very slippery after the downpour overnight, let alone the big rainfalls the area had been receiving over the weeks before. I rasped about 8 notches/hooks into each hoof, front and back, though we don't quite yet have enough wall to really work with in this regard. I'd like a good 8mm to 10mm but we have about 5mm right now. That will obviously change with time!

Annie was a machine. The only hairy moment we had was the little steps early in the course (fence 4ABC) where she was completely distracted by another horse coming down the course on the way out to the flat half and missed the first step to sprawl a bit. But she picked up and kept going. Silly girl.

The going was treacherous in places and many combinations fell or had near misses. The turn from 5 up the hill was simply awful and we had our own near miss there. But as far as technicality went, Annie made it seem easy. The water was ridiculous - heaps of people all over the place, Shane Rose driving a massive piece of machinery right next to the approach for the drop into the water...but Annie, after slowing down to a walk to make sure she got a really good look at everything (despite quite a bit of kicking on my part!) popped down into the water and splashed through to go out over the rolltop, then round the corner (now pulling and being a bit of a tool) to pop over the bounce of logs. Pretty good really.

We got time penalties, but practically everyone did. I don't think Annie found the going any more slippery than the shod horses with studs in. Overall, I was pretty stoked. Lots to like about this mare!

The only downside I'm noticing from the notches/hooks in the hoof is the need to rasp them off within a day or two. I really couldn't without bringing her wall to short for comfort (and frankly, I don't have the physical fitness!) so the end result is the breaking off of little bits of wall as the 'cleats' succumb to the pressure. It is all cosmetic at this stage, and I'll be interested to see if it's a real problem over time. I'm thinking of using only one hook in each hoof when the going is not too bad, but the going at Camden was awful and I needed all the traction I could get. Watch this space, as usual!