Sunday, 5 September 2010

Turnberry BE90 Regional Final - Sun 5th Sept

So… last BE report from Hopalong and me for this year. :(  We were off to Turnberry on Sunday to take part in the BE90RF in an attempt to qualify for Badminton.  I had been dreaming of an elusive top 4 finish for about 2 weeks previous but was very resigned to the fact that it wasn’t likely to happen.  However, I had done my best with dressage practice through the week, spent all of Saturday cleaning and polishing tack/pony (if only marks were being awarded for shininess of both!) and went with the intention of giving it my best shot.

The parking steward took one look at us “paupers” with the diddy trailer and directed us to parking spot pretty much at the entrance to the event which happened to be the wrong end of a flipping runway from the action.  It took a good 10mins each way to hike to/from comp areas and trailer!  Just as well my friend Nic was coming along later to help with turnaround between SJ and XC as we only had 35mins between them and that would be taken up getting from SJ to trailer and back to XC again, never mind allowing for tack/clothing change and colour coordination. ;)

For stressage, I tried some lavender/bergamot/chamomile on Hopalong’s muzzle all through the morning to try chill her out.  I also added in an extra 15min warm up time to do plenty mooching about in between stints of proper warm up work to see if this would work.  I figured as it was a step down in level her fitness should cope with a little extra dressage warm up.

She warmed up quite nicely and Turnberry has a lovely big, flat warm up area for the dressage so we had plenty space which was great.  We were last in our section to go and had to follow a friend, Irene and her lovely boy Sam, who are quite the dressage divas!  It was blowing a gale and Hopalong was not loving having to go into the wind, but we pulled off what felt like a nice enough test, at least some of it in an outline and not too many fights about it.  Ended up on 38 with the leader on 30.5 and 16th/21.  So pretty much assured of no Badminton ticket.  But still pleased with an improvement on previous outings and maybe in a normal section that would have seen us nearer the top half.

Sadly, we had a major timing clash with a XC section that Bob had to take photos of and so there is no photographic evidence of us doing one of our best tests of the year- blimmin’ typical!  He’s now trying to say maybe he’s a dressage jinx and should stay away, but I think that’s just an excuse to avoid having to watch me do dressage?! So I’m afraid you’ll just have to believe me that she felt nicer than normal and the photos would have been nicer than normal!

As we were so many miles away, I headed up to SJ for alloted time to find them running late.  Grrr.  Had a fair bit of hanging around and nearly gave Bob a heart attack when he noticed me sneaking into ring early and he was too busy blethering… then snuck out again as we were just giving a nappy horse a lead in (I tried asking for 5 mark deduction on dressage score for this gesture of goodwill, but they just laughed?! ).

Warmed up nicely and then found a totally different horse when we went into the ring (properly this time!) to jump!  She just switched on and got so buzzy I couldn’t get her back to trot to change canter lead before first fence!  It made for a bit of a sticky round as I felt I was having to fight to keep any sort of rythymn and not end up getting too flast and fast to the scary fally downy poles.  Was all going fine until no.7 where it felt like an ok stride, but she just caught it behind.  Very annoying as we can jump unaff DC SJ all day long and yet our BE SJ has gone horribly wrong this season.  Managed to chip an extra stride in to the first part of the 1-stride double at the penultimate fence, so then had 2 strides in the middle (yet kept them both up and in the vid she almost makes it look like it should be 2 strides she’s so neat!) and over the last to finish on the 4 faults.

Fence 1- concentrating much?!

Fence 3

Fence 5

My friend Philly was kind enough to video for me, so for your entertainment, here’s the round from fence 3 onwards.  You can’t really see clearly what went wrong at no.7 (green/yellow upright) but looks like we got a nice stride (not miles away or under the bottom).

So mega quick turnaround (thanks to Nic for mostly sorting Hopalong’s colour co-ordination while I got changed!) and up to XC.  We were to chase around after Irene and Sam!  Hopalong warmed up very keen- jumping the warm up fence and then zooming off looking for another one, very cute and funny!  Set off and over the log, rolltop and barrel with flowers at 1-3 lovely then good gallop into the next field and over the table at 4, zoomed off to 5ab;

Grossick Pro Pics then click along the next 4.

Then to the water and house 6ab. She had a wee look at the water, but a wee kick and a “don’t be so silly” and we splashed through;
And out over the house;

We then went up over the rail with flowers under at 7, turned down the hill over rail with straw bales at 8 and zoomed over the steeplchase at 9.  Up the hill then step at 10, along a line of fences across the top of the field rail with flowers, log and barrels 11-13, then zoomed down the hill to palisade spread fence at 14.

Popped through the rail to ditch at 15ab fine and then double of hedges at 16/17.  When walking course, I’d walked it as 2 strides but joked with Bob “so that will be 3 Hopalong strides” as she likes adding in rather than taking out.  True enough, she popped in very neatly over the first one and so got the three strides in.

No. 16 (more concentrating!);

No. 17;

Gave Philly (videographer!) a giggle as I shouted to Bob “see, told you it was 3 Hopalong strides…” as we went past.  To which he challenged us to a race… we won! ;)

Some Grossick hedge shots (plus next 4)

Over the sloping gate at 18 and then onto the skinny/corner at 19.

Grossick corner photos (plus next 3)
We then zoomed off towards the last two fences- a wee shot from Bob as we headed back to start/finish field;
Over the log pile at 20 and a proper yee-ha fabulous jump over the roll top with brush at the last to finish clear and 16s inside the time.  :D

So we finished up 13th out of the 21.  Would have only been 11th (same score as 10th place but 1s faster XC!) without the pole down.  Was good fun and she felt great XC, so much fun.  So no Hopalong at Badminton sadly, but a good fun last BE for the year.

Again, fab video from Philly.  I love how happy she looks in this- ears up and looking for the next fence.  I had been asking Nic early how to tell if they enjoy it, but from watching the vid I think she does? :)

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Drumclog BE100 - Sat 21st Aug

This was the first running of this event and a pleasant surpise of a wee pack of Likit treats and a car sticker in addition to the standard programme in exchange for the £10 start fee, a good way to impress on your 1st running of a BE event I reckon. ;)

However, the layout maybe wasn't ideal for stressy horse types as to get to dressage you had to follow corridor past the back of the tradestands (and generators), past the SJ and XC start/finish! I got Hopalong to the dressage warm up without her diverting via the XC though! ;)  We started warming up and she was going nicely enough. Not a huge warm up area compared to other events and when I spotted a nice, flat looking area no one else was using thought I'd be smart and use it... turns out no one was using it as it was a bog- Hopalong not impressed!  A few minutes later one of the judges made a similar mistake except her 4WD wasn't as powerful as mine and she ended up needing a tow out by a Defender!

Went over to arena for our test and... well, the less said the better! Gone was the nice, relaxed Hopalong of last week (was the only upside to the warm weather and sluggish H last weekend! ) and we had a 4min fight around the arena, stiff, resistant and not great.  Bob didn't even pretend to disagree and I was fully expecting a "5" on the front of the score.  Our score ended up being 40 - so somehow it beat the previous week's score by 0.5 yet was worse by miles?!  So although not a horrific score, it left us in the usual 4/5 from bottom place.

Some photos as evidence of the horribleness!
 We were happily mooching along the corridor back to the trailer when suddenly Hopalong leapt and bolted forward (with another couple of competitors and two PC score collectors on ponies in tow!) which was rather scary with pedestrians also in the corridor!  Think it was maybe something to do with electricity mast thing at the side of it and heard stories of this happening at other times through the day.  Also the exact same spot that this happened to my friend a couple of weeks ago where she fell off and broke ribs.  Very odd.

AGES until jumping meant I could course walk to my hearts content while Hopalong happily munched in the trailer and said hello to a few friends who came past while I was away.  Managed to befriend a few fence judges on the way round!  Course looked fine, nothing huge or scary with a few skinnies to test concentration/accuracy and biggest headscratch being some fairly hard areas of track and a very slippy/twisty approach to drop fence hidden off a corner.

Eventually SJ time rolled around.  Dragged Hopalong away from her haynet and wandered down (back past scary electricity mast with no drama this time) to warm up.  I had my keen Hopalong back again, yay!  She warmed up nicely with some encouragement (and help!) from a friend.  It seemed SJ was causing a few stops/plenty poles down and related distance from 4 to 5 seemed to be riding long with folk chipping in 6 strides.  I hadn't had a chance to walk the course so decided I'd need to kick on there since short strides can be our speciality!

First fence seemed to appear on a very funny angle off the corner but over this and no.2 fine.

 No.3 looked big but I think it was just on short poles so an optical illusion!  It had a horribly cut up take off spot so had to ride quite strong to this as Princess H doesn't like mud. ;)  Round to 4, got a nice stride and kicked on for 5 like it was XC... turns out this was a little OTT and we got to no.5 very easily and far too fast/flat so booted it out properly on the way up. Grrrr to jockey.  (you can just make out the front rail on it's way down in the below picture even though it looks like we've given it plenty of air, just caught it on the way up)

Got it all back together for no.6 then totally over rode no.7 which seemed to fall every other round that I'd watched, so got a little deep, but clever pingy pony sorted that out fine. Downhill to no.8;

Then round the corner to double at no.9;

So finished on the 4 faults which were totally my fault and pleased she felt miles better than last weekend.

Some more help from my pal Victoria to swap over to XC gear then off. She set off over the first brush fence fine and got a nice jump over decent sized roll top at no.2. No.3 was a small Helsinki step up the hill which we angled a little then fine over no.4;

Over the chair at no.5;

And palisade at no.6;

Then on to the half coffin, over the big roll top in ok but she backed off the ditch a little and so got three strides instead of two, but popped over fine.  Galloped up the hill, got far too close to the steeplechase fence so was forced to brush through (I heard the noise and everything!) so there is a first time for Hopalong brushing through brush! ) then downhill over log and skinny tyres nicely.

Steadied up for very hard track and slippy corner down towards the drop fence, then kicked on for direct route off drop down the hill (looked much bigger than it was as it was landing on a downhill slope) and had a steady canter along another stretch of quite hard ground along track with Hopalong trying to eye up the intro fence along the way.  Popped over the skinny roll top and cantered through the water splash no bother.

Round a very sharp uphill corner and back onto proper grass, got a lovely jump over a decent sized table, then down to gate to roll top combo, angled the first part and should have kicked on for long 4 strides, instead I let her back off and chip in a 5th one- really need to learn to ride for a more forward stride as I've been a little defensive in this respect recently.  Over the sheep feeder shortly after and down the hill to the corner.

Can't exactly recall what we did wrong here- not sure whether I over rode or under rode it. Either way, we got a horrible, far-too-close stride to it but luckily it was pretty small and pony is very honest when I kick so we scrambled over clear, but not pretty. I can do corners perfectly in training, yet seem to panic about them in competition. Yet normal skinnies don't bother me?! :(

Apologised to Hopalong and splashed through the 2nd water splash then round the corner and off the wee step into the main water, splashed through fine, both agreed on a long angled stride up the wee step out (Les Smith would have shot me for that one- "never look for a long stride on a step up"!) then a few strides to the bright saltire palisade which she jumped nicely.

Couldn't see the next fence due to a hill being in the way, but turned right, kicked on and found it!
Then onto a brush fence between trees- again, really needed to kick on for nicer longer stride here but let her get in close (Supertog says she brushed through this, maybe she'd learnt from earlier?!)

Then kicked on over last fence- house- and home clear.  Ended up with 9.6 time pens but with only 4 in my section inside the time (out of 31 who completed XC) and the fair amount of hard section that I steadied for I'm not too bothered by this.  Just really pleased that she was much more forward, less sticky and less spooky compared to last outing at Scone.

We ended up 22nd, so well away from the frillies but not surprising given the big section, our rubbish dressage and a fair number of horses in it who've been running at novice!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Spooky Scone BE100! Sat 14th Aug

We went back to Scone for their 2nd event of the year. This time we were having our first PN run here and it is known for being a beefy XC at all levels. The course designer didn't disappoint and there were plenty of up to height fences on the course! But lovely to see them be imaginative and mix it up a bit with a different route from the April event and use of different fences in different places.

We had a nice leisurely dressage time of 1.42pm, however, the weather was mega hot with no wind whatsoever and it was really stuffy and warm. This is not good when riding a cob-X who is very dark and a very naturally warm horse!

Since Scone is only 1hr away and the dressage wasn't until afternoon, I had plenty of time to walk the course on the day... as long as I didn't stop to blether too long en route! Managed to turn picking up number from secretary into a 30min mission as managed to bump into lots of pals on the way! Luckily my Dad and my friend Emma were escorting me on XC coursewalk and I managed to complete this within the 1hr allocated with minimal blethering on the way round.

It was really hot and stuffy yesterday (although even worse for those competing today) and Hopalong was very quiet. Even taking a drink when offered which is not like her! Headed over to dressage and did a nice quiet wee warm up. Was going ok, not as well as she warmed up at Strathallan, but hoped that it might mean she was saving it for the test?!

Turns out we didn't do too horrific a test, ended up with 40.5 and off the bottom by 5 or 6 places, still plenty to improve on although didn't feel like we had quite as many fights about outline as normal and she stayed in quite a nice rythym. She also felt a little more relaxed and less distracted than normal. A few photos;

One for your entertainment- Ms Giraffe McPokeyness extraordinaire!
Headed off to SJ and had a horrible warm up. :( She was being really sluggish and sticky, getting in close to the upright and having a couple of stops and the spread (down to a X-pole in front as always) and I was really having to ride her. Hoped that it was just me being a nervous numpty in warm up and we'd improve in the ring.

Hmmm... not really! We had what felt like a really horrid, sticky and spooky round getting in close to everything and taking horrible big leaps. Also managed a slip around the corner on the last turn, although my friend who was watchingis convinced this made me kick on properly and make a good stride to the penultimate fence! So although this was probably one of our messiest and uncomfortable rounds... we somehow went clear and shrugged off the recent 4-fault-itis?! Not complaining, but wasn't patting myself on the back about it either.

No.1 (thanks to George Michie for this photo);
No 2;
No.5- another cat-like display of agility from Hopalong! How does she jump from these crazy take off spots?! She was really boggling at the filler and backing off a mile away, she got lots of leg and a growl and did go... but very lucky to leave it up here!

No.6- giving it enough air?! (again, thanks to George for this)
Can't quite figure out what went wrong. She looks happy jumping in all the photos- ears up etc, she just felt like a totally different SJing horse than normal, not taking me to the fences like usual.

So although thrilled to have the clear SJ again at last, was also thoroughly miserable about how she felt and was worried something may be up. Was swithering about whether to go XC or not. Gave her a slosh down to see if that would help as it was SO warm. She was happy munching some grass and I decided to go XC and if she felt unhappy, pull up.

Warmed up nicely enough and was happy to open up the canter in the warm up area, so set off out the start box to see what would happen. First two fences were rolltops and jumped ok, but a little looky still. No.3 was a house, jumped similar to roll tops, so kicked on to viaduct at no.4, she spent the approach boggling and spooking at spectators on one side and fence judges on the other, got horribly close to it but picked up and launched;
Then kicked on with a "grrrr, let's go"!
Up the hill, round the corned to a double of barrels on a downhill slope. Walked as 2 short strides, Hopalong managed to spook so much at first barrel that we managed 3 in here! Bob managed to catch us from a distance over the 1st one, but trees hid us from view for part b! Defensive position much?!
We then at last got into our stride, got a fab jump over a roll top off a turn at no.6, popped the flower fence at no.7 and ponced through the water splash at 8. Kicked on up the hill to the top loop and got a lovely jump over a spread box with brush laid on top at no.9. No.10ab was two logs on a long curving line with funny camber ground. She was mega spooky to the first one, then we had a disagreement about which side to pass the Christmas tree in the middle! Managed to avoid it just but lost my stirrup over part b so wiggled up the hill trying to get it back before no.11 & 12, two palisades on a turn.

Then over a table at 13 which we got a little close to, but happily cantered down the steep hill to the main field again. I thought she might boggle the trakhener at no.14 so she got a wee smack on the bum and we launched over one-handed! Bob managed to catch a horrifically unflattering photo of us over this! But I'm one to share good and bad, so here it is for your entertainment! Poor Hopalong, sack the jockey!
But to prove we can jump nicely, here's a photo of us over the bench at 15 which she jumped beautifully.
She then zoomed through the water at 16abc (rolltop, ramp in then skinny brush out) fab and got a nice jump over the parallel rails at 17 where George Michie and his camera were;
18ab was a decent sized square box fence filled with potatoes to a corner. We got a nice jump over the box fence, but numpty rider saw a long one at the corner, Hopalong didn't and we didn't look very stylish over the b part! A little close, but fine over straw bales at 19 then nice jump over the saw bench at 20 to finish clear.

The looking/spooking/general oddness meant we had 8 time pens, but this didn't affect any potential placing. So first DC for us at PN, yet I'm still a little down about it?! I think I may be over analysing a little, looking back on the XC, we had more good jumps than bad overall. She was happy to gallop on and cantered happily down a very steep hill with hardcore track, so this hopefully means it wasn't soreness bothering her.

I'm hoping it was a combination of me being a bit plebby/defensive in the SJ, her being a bit sluggish due to the heat and having a bit of an off day too.