As I may have mentioned… prior to the beginning of the spring season this year, it had been a long time since I had competed regularly. Maria had not evented in 4 years, and Houdini hadn’t evented in 5 years, with the exception of one show last spring. Prior to that break, I had competed regularly, meaning almost every horse trials in addition to local dressage and hunter/jumper shows and clinics, for over 10 years. A whole cascade of events happened from 2010 to 2015, which I’m sure I’ll cover another time, that really made me feel the need to take a step back. I missed competing and I always knew I wanted to get back to it, but I threw myself into other things and found myself unable to compete even when I wanted to.
Then, at the beginning of this year, I suddenly found myself completely free to compete as much as I wanted to! Both Houdini and Maria came back to competing without missing a beat, with 2 shows for Houdini and 3 for Maria, prior to travelling to Colorado to compete in the American Eventing Championships! The whole season thus far has been kind of a dream come true, especially coming back after so much time away. I’m equally excited to finish out the fall season and spend the winter working and training for new things next season!
In Area V, our spring and fall seasons are slightly abbreviated as we don’t have a ton of venues, and there isn’t a lot going on over the summer at all, due to the unbearable heat. My own fall season is going to be even more abbreviated due to some other conflicts, I’ll be missing the first show of the fall, Willow Draw on October 6, because I’ll be out of town on a family trip. I also decided to miss the second show of the fall season, Pine Hill on October 20, because both horses competed here in the spring, and will both be competing the following weekend, October 27-28, at Holly Hill. I haven’t competed at this venue in years, and it is a much longer drive, so I didn’t think either horse needed the mileage (travel or competition-wise) to go back to back weekends. Both Houdini and Maria will be running Beginner Novice at Holly Hill, and I am the most excited because it’s just so much fun to have them out together! There is a local schooling dressage show the weekend before Holly Hill, I’m planning to take at least one horse, possibly both. It’s only about a 10 minute haul from home and Houdini can use all the time in a dressage ring that he can get!
Maria will be competing in one more horse trials before the end of the year, November 10-11 at Texas Rose. She’s competed at this venue twice this year and ran great over the terrain of their cross country course and the princess in her seems to love the dressage and show jumping rings with all weather footing. We are also very excited to be participating in a clinic with Kim Severson the following weekend at Pine Hill! This clinic was initially scheduled for last December but had to be cancelled, and with Kim’s busy schedule, was finally able to be rescheduled for this November. I was supposed to take Maria to a clinic with her in January of 2015, but she came in with an abscess the week before the clinic and I ended up taking Brandon. He was not a horse who thrived in a clinic environment, but Kim was so accommodating to him and we learned so much, so I have been anticipating riding with her again ever since!
Texas Rose in November will be the last show of the 2018 season, so I am also planning to do some cross country schoolings during the month of December when we don’t have much else planned. My trainer has a facility with some low level cross country fences to school and there are also some local venues we can travel to for some slightly larger schoolings. My plan is to move Maria up to Novice at the beginning of next season, so I’m hoping to get her out over some bigger fences before we get back to show time next year! I’m also considering moving Houdini to Novice as long as his fitness stays where it needs to be.
My ultimate goal is always to finish on our dressage score. I think that’s really the best you can hope for in eventing. There will always be more you can do to improve your dressage score and make your jumping rounds go more smoothly, but finishing on a (hopefully) respectable dressage score with clear cross country and show jumping shows that you were well prepared and were able to put it all together at the right time.
So far this season, Maria’s dressage scores have been (in order): 31.9, 31.1, 30.5 and 30.5. She has been really consistent, and trending in the right direction, so my goal with her is to complete the two tests we have left this season with no bobbles and to break into the 20s. I know she is capable, I just have to ride her the right way to produce that kind of score. Houdini’s dressage scores were: 41.1 and 36.9. The first score was mostly the result of a scheduling error at the show, which resulted in my having approximately 45 seconds of warm up before the judge rang the bell for us to enter the ring. It was an honest mistake on the part of the organizers, that could have been handled better, and I was admittedly disappointed because I hate having that kind of score on his competition record. He’d warmed up great the day before and I was really hoping to put down a better dressage score that weekend. We were able to improve on that score the next time we competed, so my goal for his score this fall is to get below 35. He is not a fan of submission but he’s actually a lovely mover and if I can get him in the correct mindset I think he can produce a competitive score.
As I said, finishing on our dressage score is priority for eventers, so I am, of course, aiming for clear cross country and show jumping rounds. Both horses have jumped around great all spring and summer, so I’m mostly working on polishing everything up a bit. Houdini is quite opinionated about lines and strides, and truthfully he is usually right, so we just need to stay in synch to make it as pretty as possible. Maria requires to be ridden a very specific way, so I’m working on smoothing our approach out a bit so that it doesn’t look so much like I’m having to work hard. My favorite quote from a clinician came from Jim Graham, he would explain what he wanted us to do, absolutely textbook, and he would expect us to execute that way, but he would always add “in an emergency, do what you have to do.” That is what I always think of when I’m walking my courses, we make our plans and try our best to perform exactly as planned in the moment, but you have to be able to ride what you have when you get in the ring.
Texas is starting to get the memo that it’s FALL, so I’m mostly excited for lower temperatures! Let me know in the comments or on Instagram what your plans are for the fall!