Sunday, July 21, 2013

Roebke's Run 2013 Professional Pics

I got pictures from the lovely and wonderful D & G Photography at Roebke's Run, and they turned out fabulous as always. You can see the disharmony in our dressage test (and how wet we were), but Royal looks fairly confident on x-c and show-jumping. My equitation/biomechanics got pushed way down on my list of priorities, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. So, thank goodness for small favors, I suppose. You can also see what a gorgeous facility Schweiss is. I think it's well on its way to becoming one of the premier facilities in the Mid-west, if not the country.


Love this one

No monsters here!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Roebke's Run 2013

Well, it was a learning experience.

This was the only recognized event Royal and I had ever been to besides Steepleview. There was the disaster of the unrecognized HT with a meat grinder of an x-c course last year, but until that weekend, we'd never ridden on a x-c course besides Steepleview. I had a vague idea of what to expect from helmet cam videos and photos from previous events, but nothing compares to seeing the course with your own eyes.

The truck and trailer went through their seemingly unbreakable pattern of being fixed, not fixed, then fixed again before the event, but by Friday morning everything was ready to go. I had tried to find a cheap hotel close to the venue, but the cheapest and closest hotels were over $80 a night and 20-30 miles away, so I planned on camping on-site in the trailer. I borrowed sleeping bags, air beds, coolers, and wheely-dealies from my family (thanks so much everyone! :) ), somehow managed to fit everything in the truck and trailer, and Royal and I were on our way. We got stuck in traffic twice around downtown Minneapolis (the only road that bypasses it is under major construction, and I would rather eat glass than drive through there), but eventually bopped along with no major traffic woes. It was a tough drive as a very strong wind was blowing northeast and I was driving straight into it, with gusts that kept knocking the rig off balance. My knuckles were alabaster by the time we arrived at Schweiss Stables 3 hours later, but it was gorgeous.

The water complex from the truck

The whole facility is beautiful and no expense seemed to have been spared. They built permanent event stable that looked like it was capable of holding around 200 horses.

View from the northwest. Royal was stabled on the east side.

I checked in, found my stall, and got Royal settled in quickly. He hadn't stayed overnight in a stall since we left Last Chance Farm nearly 9 years ago, so I wasn't sure how he would fare.

I ran into my first little snag when I found out the door wouldn't latch properly, because a piece on the latch was slightly too big. I tried it shut with a spare savvy string and hoped it would hold. I ended up having to park the rig on the other side of the barn, wheeled the essentials over to the stall, and told the office about my uncooperative stall latch. And went to walk my x-c course.

My expression pretty much the whole walk
I want to clarify some terms: there are jumps, and there are jump-like objects. Jumps are straightforward: logs, brush, ramps, trekehners, ditches, banks. Stuff that you don't need to explain over and over to your horse, and that all look fairly similar no matter where you go. Jump-like objects are objects in miniature. Little houses, animals, vehicles, etc. Stuff that needs to be explained over and over, because it always looks different. I'll cop to having no more course designing cred or knowledge than your average eventer, but I prefer to aim my horse at jumps rather than jump-like objects. I feel that courses at BN and N should consist mostly (if not entirely) of jumps, and jump-like objects shouldn't really become prevalent until Training, if not Prelim, when the horse is very familiar with the whole idea of x-c. At least, that's my opinion. In my experience with Royal, it's a lot harder for a horse to gain confidence around an x-c course if the rider constantly has to reassure the horse that what they're aiming them at is actually a jump. I strongly prefer to aim Royal at jumps, not jump-like objects. And this course was full of jump-like objects.

Another thing: horses are not color-blind, but they don't see colors the same way humans do. They especially don't see red very well; it looks grey-ish and they can't distinguish it from green very well. Placing red jumps on green grass can cause horses to have trouble sizing up the jump. There were also a lot of jump-like objects on this course.

I'll have the actual photos later on, but needless to say, I was freaking out. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and I had no idea what was going to happen. The stall latch was fixed by the time
I got back, and I saddled Royal up for a little ride. He was fantastic, soft and stretching. He had to get his zooms out, but settled in quickly. He offered some very nice trot-canter transitions, and beginner leg-yields. He felt great.

I settled him in for the night, cleaned out the horse area of the trailer, pumped up the air mattress, laid out the sleeping bags (yes, plural. I may have been camping, but I'm still a diva), and tried to get some sleep. I eventually got a bit of sleep, but was woken up by rain during the night. Oh boy.

Saturday began bright and early, and I don't think Royal had a much better night than I did. He had eaten some hay and drank some water, but not nearly as much as I hoped. When I gave him his grain, he kind of picked at it. It didn't help when not one, but two horses got loose when they were lunging and went galloping around the stable, riling all the horses up. By the time they were caught and I got back to Royal's stall, his eyes were just about popping out of his head, and I knew I had to get the tickle out of his feet, fast. I waited until there weren't any innocent bystanders walking by and sent him out the stall. He EXPLODED out, hitting the end of the line, rearing and running backward. I walked him through the barn in a partially disengaged position to prevent injury to ourselves and others, put him on the 22-foot line out behind the stables, sent him out on the circle, and asked him to boogie. And boogie he did. It took about 6 repetitions of "you'd better run" before he even thought about grazing, another couple before he really started to connect with me. I got a couple cones out of the trailer and sent him out on the figure-8 pattern. Again, it took him a while to connect, and I'm sure I looked like a total lunatic, but once he did, he kept sighing and yawning and releasing his tension. We went back to his stall and I braided him using bands. I've tried the yarn thing, but haven't been able to make it work, so bands it is. I don't care if it looks uneven, it's easier for me, and Royal tolerates it fairly well.

I didn't ride until 12:38, so I had plenty of time to get all the dust and crud off Royal and get warmed up. Like Friday, he was great. Soft, stretching, beautiful transitions, it was all there. My smile got bigger and bigger as I knew we were going to have our best dressage test ever. There were two dressage rings going, but he's familiar with a lot of activity around dressage. I wasn't worried at all.

And then it started raining.

And not just raining, but pouring and the wind blew is right in our faces every time we turned south. Royal went into survival mode and started putting his head to his chest and ears back, trying to keep the rain out of his eyes and ears. And both of us could hear the thunder rumbling in the distance. Right before our test. We didn't stand a chance.

The actual test was awful. We'd been out in the rain for about 20 minutes at that point and Royal was trying to tell me to get us back to shelter pronto. He could hear the thunder (even though the rain had lessened at that point) and knew it meant nothing good. So the whole test was very disharmonious, with him trying to get us to safety and me trying to go though the motions. When it ended, I knew it was bad. And that was confirmed later when I found out we were in last place with 55.2 penalties. Yowch. About 10 minutes after our test, the competition was paused due to lightning. So all we could do was wait and see if what the deal was going to be with x-c.

The lightning passed fairly quickly, and the competition resumed a half an hour later. I had been scheduled to ride x-c 3 hours after dressage, and when I talked to the x-c starter, it seemed like that might not be too off target, as they were trying to make up for the delay. Around 2:45, I got Royal's boots on, tacked him up, and headed to the warm-up. It was full of x-c style jumps, which ended up being a good thing. We could progress from a little roll-top to a max height curved face jump, giving Royal a chance to practice being forward and bold. We were the third BN pair on course, and I felt sick before we started. I figured all we could do now was our best and let the chips fall where they may. Then it was "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, have a nice ride!" and we were off.

Red. The first of many. It was in the middle of a row of 5 jumps, and at first, Royal wasn't sure which one I was aiming him at, so I said "the middle one!" and focused hard on it. He scrambled in front of it and jumped awkwardly over it, we continued on and swung left around the corner.

More red. He also scrambled in front this one and we had another awkward jump. We continued straight on to...

This one had the added eye-pop-factor of someone standing behind a nearby tree, which freaked Royal out a bit. I was able to refocus him and he jumped it a little better than the last two. We swung a little leftward and over a small hill too...

Not red! But very bright. He still took a while to size this one up, and scrambled a bit. We went over and down a small hill to..

This one was in the shadows, so he still wasn't quite sure how to get over it. Another awkward scramble. We went up the hill and turned left to...

Red and a jump-like object. I trotted him to this one and kept telling him "look at it, look at it". Luckily, the long approach gave him plenty of time to size it up and it jumped fairly nicely. We went out of the woods and turned right to...

The up bank. He was a little confused by the Training/Prelim/Intermediate elements next to it, but hopped up without too much fuss. He seemed really unsure of his footing and trotted down the hill to...

Another jump-like object, with a reddish top. His eyes bugged out but he hopped over. We turn right to...

"Lake Superior, buddy. We can do this!" He inched in, but soon was able to trot right through. It was a short distance to...

A jump! With no red! Easy to size up, and Royal jumped it smoothly. We then went across the field and through the woods. I took the very long approach and gave Royal plenty of time to see...

It's hard to see in the picture, but more red. The ridiculously long approach works and he jumped it fairly smoothly. It was a short way to...

Odd shape with red on top. More scrambling and awkward jumping. We then turned left, went down the hill and turned left again to...

Fairly straightforward except for the ditch you can see behind it. A sort-of half coffin. I wanted him to approach it slowly so he wouldn't explode over it and get taken by surprise by the ditch. He jumped it fairly well, and I urged him on over...

The ditch. He kind of deer-jumped it, but a lot more confidently than he usually jumps ditches. I also was disturbed by how deep it was. A 6" deep ditch doesn't look significantly different on approach than a 2' deep ditch, but I feel the 6" deep ditch is a lot safer should a horse or rider make a mistake. But Royal got all four feet on the other side with no issues, so we went a little ways and turned right to...

This took a LOT of riding. It was max height and wide. Luckily Royal was able to navigate it with no problems. We turned left left and went across the field to...

A simple down back. No muss, no fuss and we swung to the right of the pine tree to...

Another red one and I would just like to point out that THERE IS A HUGE ANT ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE JUMP. WHY. Luckily Royal didn't seem too bothered by Monster Ant and went right over. We swung slightly left to...

Simple, straightforward, and the last jump on the course. We were done! Our first x-c round with no jumping faults (yay!), but all the long approaches and trotting gave us 14.4 time penalties, leaving us on a score of 69.6. But both of us were exhausted. Royal looked tired, like he's just galloped at full tilt for an hour. We moseyed back to the stabling, I hosed him off, gave him lots of cookies and praise, and let him eat in peace. There was an awesome competitor's party that night, although I still didn't have much an appetite. Afterwards, I took care of Royal, stuffed his hay net as full as I could, and went to bed. I basically passed out that night and slept like a rock.

Sunday morning, I was pleased to see that he's eaten all his hay (and drank quite a bit of water), but he still seemed on edge. I was able to watch the Intermediate show jumping and even some Prelim and Training. Overall, there were about 160 competitors that weekend, so we didn't end up doing show jumping until nearly 2pm. As I watched the other competitors, I noticed that there were a lot more not-exactly-pretty rounds, even from teams I've seen before and who usually put in amazing rounds. I think it may have had to do with the fact that the arena was an actual arena and not a big field. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It may have also been that the jumps were pretty and unique.

We had moved up to 14th after x-c (I think that was probably the first time we moved up in the standings), and watched the previous division go before it was our turn. And then it was our turn. The course was full of turns and curves, and it felt awkward. It probably looked very ugly, and felt horrible. I felt like I was pushing him into everything, and both of us were mentally exhausted when we finished. We moseyed back to the stabling, I tacked him, wheeled everything back to the trailer, congratulated our neighbor who won our division, and went home. Both of us were tired and cranky, and I was very happy to have the weekend behind us. We ended up finishing in 14th place with a total of 69.6 penalties.

Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever take Royal back there. The course wasn't quite as bad as the meat grinder, but it still felt like we were way over faced. It was less of a confidence building course and more a test of whether you and your horse were ready to move up to the next level. I have no intention of moving up to Novice, so it was a bit too much for us.

Still, it was an educational weekend. And I couldn't have been prouder of Royal. He really tried his hardest.