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We Are Flying Solo

April 22, 2012

Sometimes Disappointment Is A Good Ending

That was one of the reasons I have always loved Audrey Hepburn's classic Roman Holiday:  there is no perfect bow and there is no closure except goodbye.  Life doesn't wrap itself up in a nice, neat little package where everyone always ends up exactly where they wanted to be in the first place.

But before we go there, I will give you the answer you've all been waiting for, the question that has held you captive since Tuesday's Hoof Quiz:  half of you are right and half of you are wrong.


Hoof A has a robust, heavy wall and a sole that is concave, thick, and hard as a rock.  The frog is giant and the heels are strong.  There's a teensy bit of a thrushy crack, always a project.  Hoof B is narrower, with a sole that is almost flat, has little callous and jerks back dramatically in response to contact with the tiniest bit of gravel.  The middle of the frog got thrushy (grrrr) from a muddy pasture.

So who was right?  *drumroll*  A = Encore and B = Solo.  So Val, Amy, Beka Burke, Abbie, Lyndsey and RiderWriter got it right!

This has taught me the huge role that genetics play in hoof quality and integrity.  That old saw that OTTB's have crappy, shelly feet?  Well, buy one with good feet and you won't have that problem.  My QH has wussy, cracky feet that need constant attention despite six years of me obsessing over them. 

As for that little horse trial we went to...

Overall things went smoothly.  Although, there was this one time, in middle of downtown Raleigh where I clenched the steering wheel and yelled a string of very bad words, realizing in the complete chaos that was my Friday that I had remembered everything....except feed for my horse.  Fortunately, there's a lovely feed store in Southern Pines which is open for Saturday morning panic shopping runs.

Encore is a very smart horse.  As soon as he unloaded, you could see the lightbulb go on as he remembered the Horse Park and he knew what he was supposed to do in each section we rode into.  He warmed up for dressage rather well, but I still have not completely figured out what he needs.  More canter?  No canter?  More suppling?  A different rider?  I know I slipped into an old habit and tensed up as we rode in the ring.  As a result, he never relaxed and rode up into the contact, and we ended up with a mediocre score of 41.

The judge was fair and accurate and I am sure that our results were a mix of greenness and Encore just having a week and a half off due to injury.  We had ONE dressage ride in the last two weeks. 

Cross country followed and you can hate me because I forgot to turn on the helmet cam.  I'm going to start writing it on my arm.  I will post a virtual course walk when I get the pictures organized.

Now that we were running Novice, I was finally able to let Encore run a little.  Wow, does he have a powerful gallop.  It took everything in me to slow down and balance enough for the fences.  But he was bold and solid -- baby sunken road, water, trakehner, bank, combination, HUGE brush -- he gave it an excellent run and responded to everything I asked immediately.

Until Jump 16.  Three strides from the finish line.  The last jump on course.  It was a simple rolltop, although a bit narrow, and newly built out of light, treated lumber.  I knew it was a steering question and it came off an odd turn, as the whole second half of the course lacked flow in its design.  But I aimed for the middle and closed my leg.

See, the smurf has no problem with it.
Encore is a very quick and athletic horse, as I'd already learned in Februrary.  He slipped out to the left at the last second.  I was stunned.  We had already done all the hard stuff!

Then I made the mistakes that did us in.  I simply rode at it again, thinking he would just jump it the second time.  He didn't.  Then I did the same thing the third time with, unsurprisingly, the same result and that was our endgame.

What I didn't do is get proactive fast enough.  The second time, I should have switched the crop to my left hand, dug that left spur in and used a right opening rein to close the doorway he found.

But as I walked back to the barn and commenced the "Saturday Pack of Shame" of those who get eliminated on the first day, I wasn't entirely unhappy.

I was unhappy with my failure to get the riding job done, yes.  But when we were warming up for XC, I had noticed that while Encore jumped the XC jump very well, he rushed the stadium fences, getting flat, hard, and fast in the last three strides.  I didn't like it and I am fairly certain that it is a training issue that I have caused.  I have some ideas, but I need some video or sharp eyes on the ground to solve it. 

But it needs to be worked out and I did not want to run him around the stadium course like that, as that could potentially make a problem much worse and become a negative experience for us both.  As a result, I was thinking of withdrawing after XC and going home to up our show jumping game.

In the end, the choice was made for me.  So while I have a bit of wounded pride for an E on Encore's record (it doesn't stand for "excellent," folks), when I take a step back and look at the big picture and what is best for Encore's career, I see that we achieved experience in the dressage arena, got both our leads and were fairly accurate, and had a great schooling run around a Novice XC course for jumps 1-15 on a horse who was at his second real horse trial and his first go at Novice.

The experience matters.
Like Gregory Peck, I didn't get the princess completion I wanted in the end, but I got an invaluable experience for my horse and I feel comfortable knowing that our show jumping round (in the rain) today could very well have not been what it should.

And that is what makes eventing a challenge and a long game if you want to build an eventer who is confident in his rider and knows how to get his job done.  It's not all clean rounds and sunshine, but it's the hard decisions and how fast you can roll with the punches that sort the wheat from the chaff.

7 comments:

  1. You have a great attitude about the whole thing and now you have more time to prepare for show jumping. A good experience is the priority.

    My knee jerk reaction was that Solo was hoof B. Looked like a QH foot to me!

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  2. I knew A was Encore simply because I have an OTTB with back hooves that look exactly like it. You are spot on about the big picture in Eventing. Wise woman for taking a step back and taking it all for what it is worth. We had a far less than stellar show this weekend too and I am right there with you. It gives you a clear picture as to where the holes are and then it was all worth it.

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  3. Bah! Foiled by your sneaky hoof pics!

    Sucks you were eliminated. Glad you took it the right way.

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  4. It's never fun to be eliminated, but the rest of the course sounds like it went really, really well. Oh well, there's always next time... and plenty of time in between to work on what you learned about this weekend!

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  5. AUDREY HEPBURN COMPARISON FTW.

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  6. (I have got to see that movie one of these days...)

    Ah-ha, thank you for adding to my knowledge of "what to look for in my OTTB." Good feet ARE a possibility! Now I'll just need you to go shopping with me, since unfortunately I really haven't got any idea of how to evaluate for "good brain and good feet." :-)

    I'm sorry the x-country run didn't finish up as you would have liked (I wonder what Encore balked at? The new wood? The color?), but I'm glad you didn't do stadium. Definitely doesn't sound like it would have been a positive experience. Guess it's time to head back and see your super-duper jumping trainer to sort things out!

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  7. Hahaha, Lisa, I knew they would be sneaky, that's why I made a quiz, duh! ;-P

    And dressager...your comment FTW, LOL!

    RW, it is a crime against humanity if you do not watch the best movie ever made. Go watch it now. I mean, NOW!

    As for the other stuff, you just learn by looking at as many horses as possible. It's all about training your eye and it's something I have spent many years working on.

    Encore was definitely freaked out by the bright colour of the new wood. But only the first refusal was his fault. I was too complacent for the next two tries, so I left the door wiiiiide open.

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