1. November 2009 12:00
After the fall horse trials I was eager to break out of organizer mode and back to riding and competing mode! My horses had not competed since Rebecca Farm and my goal was the CCI** at Galway. So both needed to jump well (and clean xc) at NWEC to have a qualifier within 3 months and so we would feel prepared. Luckily they were both super, clean xc with some time and double clean SJ. Both Whitney Weston and Chelsey Sevigny were aiming for the CCI* at Galway. Whitney had a great weekend on Ted at NW, so was also ready to tackle the challenge of Galway. Chelsey had an unfortunate fall off Stormont at the keyhole which proved to be educational as we discovered schooling after that Story was a little unsure of how to jump keyholes. So, hoping we had filled in that little hole in her education and gaining confidence from the fact that she and Story have had a fabulous season, we set off for the long trek to CA. The horses arrived feeling quite fresh thanks to a relaxing overnight layover and unusually chilly and windy CA weather. They schooled well all week, with Chauncy getting more and more settled as the week went on and the wind died down. I made sure to spend extra time relaxing him in the walk as the test had A LOT of walk work which can be tricky for him. All four AF horses passed the jog with ease so we could breathe a sigh of relief and really focus on dressage. Uno ( Ogopogo ) got the early draw, I was first and last in the CCI** with having two horses. He was on form and ready to put in a brilliant test but unfortunately I was not! He scored a 52 which could have easily been in the 40's if I had ridden a more accurate test to show him off. Determined not to make the same mistake with Chauncy since he can't afford to give away marks, I watched some tests and got myself mentally prepared. Chauncy had his best ever test and I was able to ride for every mark. I was practically in tears I was so happy with him!! He is not naturally gifted in the dressage department and has made huge improvement with a lot of hard work. So we scored a 55; I was hoping for a little better but overall thrilled. Chelsey and Story had a lovely test showing huge improvement in Storys gaits and also scored a 55. Whitney and Ted had a pleasant test but a few bobbles left them on a 61. The xc courses were quite challenging but looked like they would ride very well. The CCI* course had a lot of questions and really tested the horse and riders ability. I loved the CCI** course and was eager to see how my horses would handle the second water. It was a decent sized bounce in and a bending 6 strides to a left point corner in the water. Neither one of them had done a either question and left corners are their ( or perhaps my?! ) harder side. There was an angled ditch & brush question early on in the course that I had decided to ride a different line through than most riders, I wanted to try to put a bending 3 strides in instead of the more direct severely angled 2 that most were planning on. I missed my line coming in with Uno and ended up pointing him at the right flag of the second brush. He still tried to jump and hit his head on the flag, pour guy. We circled and popped the second one and were on our way. He jumped the rest of the course brilliantly, a little green in places but very honest and brave. I of course was kicking myself, and still am, for presenting him so poorly at the angled ditch & brush. Chauncy again benefitted by being second as I went the straight way on him and it jumped great! He really felt like a pro around the course, it's easy to forget that he is only 7 when he makes it feel so easy. I was up on my first minute marker so made the mistake of backing off a bit in the next couple minutes which of course was full of technical stuff so got behind and couldn't make it up. I ended up with 14 time faults. I hope I am slowly knocking the rust off my upper level riding!! Chelsey and Story had a super day finishing the course with just 1.6 time penalties! Chelsey was more nervous than I have ever seen her but she and Story have a great partnership and Chelsey is a very strong competitor. She has an amazing ability to perform better in competition than at home which is rare and I think a very valuable tool. Whitney had an unfortunate run out early on; Ted was thinking about which way the barn and his next meal was instead of his job! He was able to focus after that and the rest of the course looked spot on. Our horses were very sound and happy after the xc so it was a fairly easy night as far as three days go! They all got their fair share of ice and hand walking but no major concerns and no nasty surprises in the morning. An uneventful jog so another sigh of relief and on to SJ! Whitney rode a very nice SJ round but Ted thought he had worked a little too hard the day before to pick up his feet so had an uncharacteristic 4 rails. Chelsey and Story gave us all a thrill by jumping clean and moving from 7th to 3rd place!! It was a pretty special day for Storys owner, Cindi Carrell. It was also Chesleys best finish at a major competition and her mom ( Shelley) was there to share it with her. Thank you to Cindi for allowing Chelsey to ride your amazing horse! My SJ skills decided not to be present that day much to my disappointment! I got flustered with having to be in a rush, with two horses in a small division, timing gets dicey with SJ. Luckily my horses tried to jump well despite me, Uno had 2 rails and Chauncy had one. So Chauncy finished 9th and Uno 14th. Not quite what I was hoping for but on the positive side I have two very nice confirmed CCI** horses that I have done all the training on so now I just need to believe in them and myself a little more next time so I can be more competitive. On top of helping Chelsey, Whitney and myself ( thank you Jon!!), Jon was also coaching the Area VII young riders team in the CCI* long format. The team members were MacKenna Shea on Landioso, Tessa Beckett on Sound Prospect and Brooke Bailey on Savoy Six. Jon walked them through the full format process having done it countless times himself and really pulled the team together. They all rode to the best of their ability and finished with MacKenna in 1st place, Tessa in 2nd and Brooke in 5th. Well done!! So after some minor truck trouble we made it back to rainy WA and the horses are enjoying a well deserved vacation. We plan to do a few schooling shows over the winter ( including the derby series here at Aspen Farms) and then head back down to Galway in March. Thank you to my super groom Caitlin for your hard work, to Jon for your support, advise, help and coaching, to Chelsey for helping Caitlin and I with my two, your superb packing skills and for riding so well, and to Shelley and Cindi for your help and for providing snacks!