By the time I entered at A Eeyore was the most rideable he has probably ever been. Of course he was sore and exhausted which I didn’t really pay attention to at the time, but still he was rideable and I had a good feeling about the test.
My only goal for this phase was to go in and ride the test this time. I didn’t want to survive it. I wanted to ride it.
And to that end I’m actually quite pleased. When he lost his focus outside the arena, I dragged him back. My circles were larger and more round. I asked for bend and while we didn’t achieve at home levels, we were much closer to what we can do than the last time. I was more proactive about slowing him or bumping him up and he felt much more even paced because of this.
Other than him breaking from the left lead canter early (a warning sign of what was to come, this horse never chooses to stop cantering on his own) I really felt the test rode 100x better than our prior attempt. I was super proud of Eeyore and myself as we left the dressage court.
In reality, it scored 1 point worse than Jumping Branch with a score of 39.7. It was fair though. We got 7s for the left trot circle, left canter transition and right trot circle. I got dinged with a 5 for the break in the left canter circle and then another 5 for the return to trot afterward with the comment “could be more supple”. Other than that it was a bunch of 6s and 5.5s. End comment was that he needs to be off the forehand and is a bit braced and stiff into the contact which happen to be the main focus of our flat work these days, so yup. Spot on judge.
I had about an hour before stadium which gave me time to put him in his stall to rest a little while I showed Dusty the xc course and he made a plan of where to stand to get the most fences on camera. At Jumping Branch I had gotten on too early before stadium, so this time I waited and gave myself 20 minutes of warm up time.
And this is when I knew we were in trouble. I had Dusty set up a small vertical and Eeyore just sorta plopped over it from a trot and refused to canter on the backside. We did it again and he was better but the horse was half asleep and not wanting to move. He cantered away from the fence for about 3 strides before putting on the brakes and asking to be done. This from who generally gallops off into the sunset after each fence. Typically once he gets pointed to a fence, he lights up like a Christmas tree and tackles it with obvious glee. Not this time. This time he put in the smallest effort possible and with a glance over at the massive looking course we had before us, I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty.
Now here it gets a little confusing. The course looked huge to me. It was supposed to be 2’3” but it didn’t appear any different than the just finished BN division and nobody had seen anyone change the height. I asked the steward to make sure it was in fact set to starter and was told that it was the lowest it was going all day and to go when I was ready. I popped him over the vertical again, asked the steward yet again about the height and then assumed I was just being a wimp and entered.
What ensued was a bloodbath.
Rumors after said it was still set to BN height especially since some of the people entered in starter were seen jumping a much smaller, simpler course though when I asked about it I was told they were doing amoeba and it was correct. I don’t know. What I do know is that Eeyore and I were over faced. We were not prepared to go from our prior experiences of tiny verticals with no fill at our last starter outing to a beast of a course that was 90% oxers, overloaded with fill and brightly colored. I’m not saying the course wasn’t fair. I’m saying we weren’t prepared for the massive jump in questions we were asked.
I’m posting the video here but be nice folks or I’ll haunt you all in the afterlife. It’s embarrassing and ugly and if I wasn’t such an honest person I’d hide it.
I came in to the first fence, which had a huge wall under it and was a wide oxer, backed off and Eeyore said “no thanks”. My fault. We came again and he pogo stick jumped it then proceeded to do the same until jump 5 which was finally a plain vertical. On my end I got left horribly behind and had a hard time figuring out my own body as he would come to the base under powered and behind my leg, then ask to stop, I’d add more leg and he’d launch over at the last second. I couldn’t get in sync with him which didn’t help his confidence at all.
Jumps 5,6,7 went pretty well but then 8 was another heap of ugly and coming to 9 you can see him take some not good looking steps on his front left. We eeked it out over 9 and 10A/B to finish with no rail and 1 refusal, but folks my horse was done. Fried. Kaput.
Cross country was immediately to follow and I had a bad feeling about it. What little fumes Eeyore had been running on were long used up after the efforts he put in to not kill me in stadium. His mental health was shaken by my poor riding and Dusty said he saw some bad steps on his front left.
I headed to cross country hoping the longer stretches of cantering would help loosen him up and we got counted down.
There were three jumps on course I was worried about. A palisade at 4, a scoop/coop option at 11 and massive table option at 12. The rest were logs, cabins, a fake ditch, straight through the water and a down bank.
Well, we came out of the start box and I knew I needed more power so I got him in a canter and he said no. He ran out to the left which I knew was a possibility since the right was blocked by the BN fence. We came again and the same thing. A third time and we were done.
The start guy yelled that I could still go on, so I did thinking maybe it was that fake log/tootsie roll thing that had him backed off. A violent no in a sloppy muddy hole right before the jump told me we were done for the day.
And you know what? I wasn’t upset at Eeyore. I told him he was a good boy. Thanked him for the effort he had put in during stadium and walked him back to his stall to drink while I grabbed my dressage test and packed up.
Eeyore may be a lot of things, but he is honest and brave and loves to jump. Him saying no like that was about as loud as he could make it that he didn’t have it in him to do it. I could have been more forceful and he may have gone over but why? There was no way we were going to make it over 12 jumps that way and the footing was sloppy and slippery from all the recent rain. All I could think about was him getting hurt. He saved my ass in stadium over the hardest, highest course we had ever done and I was thankful for that.
As far as I’m concerned we did the best we could on Sunday. The decision to work him Saturday was based on past experiences and recent life choices and it ended up biting us in the butt. I do think that had I not done that, we likely would have completed. Or at least made it past fence 1. I won’t make that mistake again. Easy fix. We were also outfaced in stadium. The leap from amoeba to starter was bigger than I anticipated and while I know we can do that height, we need a lot more work before I do another full course at that height in competition.
Eeyore got bute in his dinner Sunday night and will have a few days off. Dusty examined him closely and believes he is just muscle sore. Hopefully that is the case and we can get back on track quickly. I have a lot of thoughts of where to go from here, but thankfully none of them include giving up. I know we can do this, we just need more time to get us both on the same page and a better base of fitness.