Whitney Weston

Whitney Weston Eventing

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My First Advanced

My apologies for blog absence. It has been a few crazy weeks of training at BDJ! But I am happy to report that all that hard sweaty work paid off at Red Hills International Horse Trials last weekend. 
Took this pic driving in the front gates!

Red Hills is the talk of eventers every spring. It is renouned for its competitor parties, thousands of spectators, and crazy challenging courses. Check out the fantasticalness at: http://www.rhht.org/

The venue was beautiful, with security surrounding the horse barns (which had cool "circus-like" tents over top the stalls). Grooms had to wear gold admission bracelets and riders green ones. The staff was so friendly and were constantly driving around in golf carts offering competitors and grooms rides to their destinations! I was really happy about this since the xc course was 15 minutes of backroads away from the stables. I'm not joking: I made the decision to never try to find the course on my own because I got lost in the woods the first time. Luckily it was so easy to hail a "cab"! 

It seemed like every night there was a dinner or activity for the competitors. Thurs night we had Red Hills traditional "bang bang shrimp". Yum. I have never seen a competition with such involvement of the community. The police were there guiding traffic, security officers patrolling the grounds, mounted posse, buses bringing in spectators from the town center, and van shuttles taking spectators to the cross country and show jumping courses. There was a huge trade fair with shops, pony rides, fair food, and even a shark pet tank! This really pumped up the volume and atmosphere. When I rode to cross country, there was a white chain link and post lane parading us right through the trade fair where spectators clapped, wished us good luck and checked us out in the program. I felt like a celebrity! The same on course: so many people there (with security of course) cheering on after every fence!

Now on to the details. Even though this competition had so much atmosphere, it was still important to ride our very best and focus on every moment. Fizzy was first in the prelim on friday. Fizzy trotted out from the security area at stabling and saw the wall of spectators, stopped dead in her tracks.
Fizzy: "you want me to do WHAT?"

Oh yes. With some coaxing she walked past all the spectators flashing cameras at her into the warmup area.      Fizzy was definitely "high", but was focusing well on the task at hand. Buck said that TB's were bred to canter and felt more comfortable in the canter. So I picked up steady rhythm, did counter changes of rein just allowing her to flow off each leg, relaxing in the counter canter. Amy, my fantastic groom, cleared a pathway so we could do a gentle canter through the crowd and around the ring. Fizzy really relaxed well and focused despite the crowds. I was so proud of her!! She had a great test putting her in 6th place on a score of 33.

Lusty and I had had a fantastic dressage school on-grounds the day before. We were all "schooled up" as Buck said and just needed to keep her relaxed throughout the day. This made me a bit nervous because there are so many technical movements in the advanced test: half passes at trot and canter, flying changes, pirouettes, made me think I should practice as much as possible!  Even so, I gave lusty a relaxed ride very early in the day. Then Amy gave Lusty plenty of hand walks so she could graze and be relaxed outside her stall. Then I got on Lusty just a rider or so before her dressage time. Lusty had the same reaction as Fizzy with the crowds: "!!!!", but I just kept relaxed myself and lusty went right to work. We had the best test to date, 41 in advanced, I was so pleased!

I had my work cut out for me in cross country. Not only was I unfamiliar with the course, but every jump was hidden and sneaky around a turn, which you couldn't see because of the thick forest. I walked both the prelim and the advanced track 4 times. Thats a lota miles......but well worth it. I made "friends" with the courses and felt ready about every line, every turn, every jump. I was so fortunate to have Fizzy at Red Hills so I could test out and feel the terrain before taking lusty out advanced. Fizzy was AMAZING. Never putting a foot wrong, I never took a tug, and she just ate up that course like it was sunday brunch. Fizzy had the fastest time out of all the prelim horses. 

Lusty and I taking a nap before XC
A great start to the day, I knew I had to ride Lusty just like that and really go for it. I was able to watch some three star horses go (our courses were very similar with only a few different combinations). Buck was great and walked around the course with me commenting on what riders did right and what I should not duplicate! 

After watching a few combinations I felt calm and ready to go. This course had everything: maxed out galloping fences, (some around blind turns), skinny combinations up and down steep hills, corners, the biggest trakhener I have ever seen, and my favorite: a steep gallop down hill to a big drop into water, three strides, up bank bounce to a vertical hedge. It was a challenge for sure, but everything rode beautifully. It was an amazing feeling, like winning a huge battle. And really it was a huge battle, all the mental and physical training in these past few weeks really came together and gave us the confidence and skills to tackle these obstacles smoothly.

Amy shouted "breathe!" at me as I walked to the start box. Lusty left the box very relaxed almost asking me if we could really go for it. I told her yes by closing my legs and we were off! The course was amazing and more challenging than anything I had ridden before. The jumps just kept coming! Everything rode just as planned, except for the last water combo: Lusty tripped into the drop and almost fell! I circled in between A and B, not sure if I could get her safely back on her line without flipping her at the B element. In the moment I was protecting her, hopefully in the future with some experience I will know if we could still have gone for the B element. But you can't look back all you have on course is your experience and your instinct, and I followed both of those the best I could. I was so ecstatic with the day, very proud of my girls! 

After a long afternoon of icing walking and poulticing, a nice dinner was well deserved, great BBQ Red Hills!

Sunday left show jumping. Fizzy was at the end of division B (3rd place good girl!), so I was able to watch a few rides in A. This was Fizzy's type of course; it was set on a steep hill with rolling terrain and thick grass. The ring was surrounded on two sides with high bleachers filled to the brim with spectators, the third side a huge tent with people a table eating brunch, and the last side with banners and flags as tall as the trees. To say the least there was a bit of atmosphere ;) Even so Fizzy jumped amazing and smooth, zooming around the turns and staying so focused! She ended in her 3rd place and we had a nice interview with Samantha Clark at EN, see below:

Fizzy show jump
Fizzy victory gallop!
Lusty's course was the same as the three star, so I was able to walk a little early and watch some of the three star ride before I got on. As always, it's a little daunting riding right after Phillip, but ride we did! Lusty was great, and we finished with a few rails, but overall I am so proud of the weekend. Fizzy has really stepped up to the plate this winter and I finished my first advanced!!! And what an advanced it was, I now feel ready for whatever the season will throw at us, pics of the weekend coming soon, Thank you all for your support!!!!
Jump like you mean it!!!

Me sitting on a large advanced table, wider than I am tall!!

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