Monday, June 30, 2008

Rubicon HT - June 2008

Rubicon has been a rather large obstacle for me mentally for the past year. We were eleminated there in June 2007, and had a horrible event all around. We were pressed for time and had no warm up for dressage, leaving us with a score of 53. Stadium had gone fairly well, but we didn't make it past the first water on cross country. So, going back to Rubicon was a big deal for us. I had reserved stabing at Idyll Time Bed and Breakfast about 2 months in advance. Since Rubicon doesn't offer on site stabling, and we have to travel 5 hours to get there, I wanted to make sure that I had everything planned ahead of time. We arrived on time Friday afternoon and after getting Octavian settled in headed out to walk the cross country course. Molly was not at this event, so I was relying on myself to apply what I had learned in the past 3 months to get me through the event. The course was very similiar to the way it had been the year before, which only added to my nerves. However, after walking it, my biggest concern was the corner to table combination. A maxed out table was 3-4 strides after the corner at an offset to the left. I walked the combination several times and just couldn't seem to get the right line. I finally found one that I was comfortable with and moved onto the rest of the course.
Thankfully I had early ride times on Saturday, since there was a forecast for 100 degree weather. I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to have to warm up for dressage, but Octavian was being a wonderful boy and was listening (or trying to) to the best of his ability. I was a little worried about Preliminary test 'b', we had worked on shoulder-ins in a lesson with Gabriele, and they hadn't gone wonderfully. Unfortunately, at the time of that lesson, Octavian had a sore neck/mouth/jaw from getting vaccinations and having his teeth floated so not much work got done in that lesson, and then Gabriele was away in Germany. The next issue was the medium canter. We still didn't "have it" and our 20m medium canter circle always ended up being too strung out. On top of it all, the dressage judge was sitting in a horse trailer. Octavian didn't know what to think of that! Despite the fact that he rides in a horse trailer approximately 8-10 hours round trip for almost every event, he kept looking at the horse trailer like it would reach out and grab him at any given moment. Or maybe he was wondering what people were doing inside of one? Who knows. Thankfully we had lots of time to go around the ring, so we got to take a good look at the trailer from all angles except straight ahead of course. So, upon going up the centerline, he stared at the horse trailer with fear in his eyes. Infact, everytime we came near it, he stared like it would eat him! I really do feel sorry for him, poor guy! As I had feared, our shoulder-ins were not fantastic, but it turns out the rest of the test was not that bad. I wouldn't get a chance to look at my dressage score until I was finished with cross country, but we ended up scoring a 40.0, which was our best score yet! Still not great, but steady improvement! It left me in 14th after dressage.
As it heated up between dressage and stadium, I had thoughts of scratching and not going cross country. However, I decided that I would take it fence by fence, and if he felt tired or overheated I would retire. He was concentrating well during stadium warm up, but I kept it to a minimum because of the heat. I always love Rubicon's stadium course, especially the the hill right in the middle of it, I find it very fun! What Molly had been talking about finally clicked when I went in to do my round (the aforementioned "gallop"). I was really pleased with our round. I managed not to panick at all, and we got decent spots to every fence and had a double clear.
After stadium, they were looking for riders to go cross country, so I volunteered. I thought that it would be better for Octavian not to have much time in between, otherwise he would cool down, have to warm up again, and that would have been very taxing in the extreme heat. Before going into the start box, I briefly worked on getting him moving off of my leg by doing the canter-gallop-canter transitions. We danced around a bit before leaving the start box (he's really loving his job lately, he couldn't wait to go!), and he was pulling for his head approaching the first fence, he was being very strong. So far I had done well with spots, but for the first two fences on course, both very simple, we got two long spots. Nothing dangerous, and I guess 2 fences out of about 35-40 isn't bad, but I was hoping for perfection! After the first 2, we headed onto the big brush box oxer fence, and then down to 4 and 5. Fence number 6ab was two coops, covered by a white cloth material that had to be jumped at an angle (seems pretty common at preliminary lately), Octavian gave those a hard look (white cloth must be scary!), and I had to make sure to keep my leg on. The rest of the course was a blast, he was perfect at everything. Riding up to the corner to table combination, I found a line and kept my eye on it, and was very relieved to be through that combination! Because of the heat, I didn't push too hard for speed around the course. We came home clear, but with 12.4 time penalties.
I was so pleased with Rubicon, Octavian was absolutely wonderful, and I came away from the event very happy. We even came home with a 7th place ribbon! Our first ribbon in a long time.

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