This is one event that could have gone a lot better. Most first events of the season are supposed to be rough, but maybe not this rough. We were loosely planning to get to the Carolina Horse Park before dark, I was supposed to walk the course with Caroline Dowd and it was our first time going to CHP, so getting there before dark would have helped us find stabling assignments, water, and parking. However, we ended up getting a late start and did not arrive at the horse park before dark. We managed to find everything we needed and get to bed on time for the early morning ahead of us.
I ended up walking the course alone with next morning. I had an early dressage ride time, and in March, the times aren’t quite as nice as they are in say, June. In March, it gets dark between 6:30-7:00 and doesn’t get light until about 7:00-7:30. I managed to get a quick course walk in and felt thankful for the arrows pointing in the correct direction at certain points on course.
After riding a dressage test that could have used some improvement, the day was not off to the best start. However, I recognized the importance of staying positive and accepted the fact that we still had quite a bit of homework to do. Of course I was disappointed, but I had cross country to look forward to and had not yet seen my dressage score.
Upon warming up for cross country, Octavian felt very “controlled”. While for most other horses this would be a good thing, Octavian’s good control is basically controlled energy. On this particular day, he seemed to be lacking the energy part. However, upon coming out of the start box we had improved that factor. The first few fences went wonderfully, and galloping between 3 and 4 he felt strong and exhilarated. We negotiated the down bank to the log pile well, and were off to tackle whatever lay ahead. When we got to the next fence, he started to back off a bit. The first warning sign. Upon coming to the first major combination on course, a log, one stride to a down bank, it seemed that I forgot how to ride and became more of a passenger than anything else. We had a stop at the bank, and because I was a passenger, I took the drop by myself. It is said that when you fall off and get back on, your adrenaline starts going. This is very true. We made it through the combination on the second attempt, and headed off to the trakehner which rode well. The rest of the course went okay; we had a sticky moment through the coffin, which was rumored to have been on the intermediate AEC course a couple of years before. Upon coming to the water combination, Octavian seemed much more interested in what was going on around him then the combination itself. We had a sticky ride through the water, but made it through and were off to the big galloping field. After the field, and a rolltop to corner combination, we headed off to the second water. We had another sticky moment, and upon landing in the water I thought about retiring. However, Octavian picked up a gallop by himself letting me know that he was not tired as I feared. I did not ride well to the next fence, a corner, and we had a stop at it. We were clear on the second attempt and crossed the finish line.
After looking at the scoreboard that evening, I would say I was a little disappointed, but it was about what I expected after having such a rough day. We were in last place, on a score of 200 and something. We had 2 stops on cross country, as well as my fall, and about 46 time penalties, combined with a dressage score of 50. So far, it was definitely not our event.
Sunday morning it was freezing. It had been in the 70’s the day before, but it seemed that a cool front had moved in over night. Because the stadium order of go was in reverse order of standing, I was scheduled to go first. Unfortunately, no exact times were posted, and I came to the stadium ring late. Thankfully everyone was super nice about it. It seemed that our stadium round was the only good part of our weekend, we were double clear.
Needless to say, we returned home from Southern Pines recognizing the need for change.