I didn't eat or sleep normally for the past week. Too many nerves. But Friday afternoon, I was able to get everything packed and ready to go before heading out to walk the course. As usual, everything was beautifully prepared and wonderfully set up. The course was gorgeous and inviting (and counter-clockwise; I was right!). I was so excited that I barely got any sleep before Saturday.We ended up leaving around 6am. I had to stop at a gas station to put air in one of the old tires, and of course, the air compressor was built into the building. So, I had to back the trailer into a parking spot, and the air compressor wasn't working. Further investigation (read: asking the people who worked there) revealed it hadn't been turned on. So, once it was turned on, I was able to fill up the tire and we were off.
We ended up making it to Steepleview around 8:30, which left me plenty of time to get Royal calm and ready. I let him stretch his legs in the lunging arena, and he took in all the happenings. We headed back to the trailer, and I started working on braiding him. He was good, at first, standing and eating hay. But then decided that if he was scared of the trailer, I would stop braiding. Ha! Joke's on him. All that meant was that he still had to stand, but didn't get any hay. Eventually he got the message and I was able to finish his mane and he was able to eat hay again.
He looked so handsome.
I had bought a teeny bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream, and I took a swig before heading to the dressage warm up. My parents arrived as we were warming up and took some pictures.
Royal warmed up rather well. He was still a bit fussy with picking up the left lead and bending to the right, but overall tried his best. I got a bit freaked out when one of the riders in our division (BN Rider) go off course, and for a little bit, I thought I'd memorized the wrong test. But as it turns out, she's just gone off course. Crisis averted.
The actual test went pretty well. I think the Bailey's helped me relax, and I just let Royal do his thing. He still had a bit of tension, but not as much as previous tests. Still some fussiness with the left lead canter and right circle, and a little tension in the medium walk, but I was still very pleased. Then I had to take out his braid and we rested for a bit before heading to the x-c warm up.
At first I was worried. He seemed kind of lazy, although I was thinking it was the footing. The x-c warm-up is on a big hill, and the footing was pretty slick. He skidded once and we were pretty much done galloping. We popped over a few fences, and just walked around the rest of the time. He could see the other horses on course and was too pumped up to eat. Then it was our turn. I spent a minute walking him in and out of the start box, and then it was "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!"
He kind of got bug-eyed looking at all the jumps in a little, but I gave him a little encouragement, and he hopped right over. We turned right to
He locked right on and popped over. The ground between this fence and the next one was a bit iffy. I was worried it would be torn up by the time we got there. It was a bit rough, but Royal navigated it well and we made it to
The Best Jump Evar! Our favorite was back! Seriously, I think people would revolt if the Scrabble jumps weren't on the course. Royal's seen it a bunch, so no problems here. We turned left to
Water crossing! I know the jump judges all think I'm nuts since I always remind Royal about Lake Superior. He stepped in cautiously but we trotted though ("moving smartly" as the announcer described it) and out to
The Turkey Feeder. This has been a bogey fence in past years, and they had it out in the open, not too far from the water. Royal peeked at it a bit but hopped over. We had to go through a low area which was also kind of torn up, but Royal cantered through with no problem. And the turbo engines kicked on when he saw
Up bank! At the schooling in July, our group instructor Sarah said "He knows how to jump a bank really well". And this was no exception. Royal did his best impression of Super Horse (which is quite good) and we cantered on to
I was a bit worried about this jump when I walked the course. High contrast jumps tend to weird The Fuzz out, and I didn't know how he would react to it. Luckily there was an almost identical jump in the warm-up (except it was reddish), so he'd already seen it. Still gave it a bit of the stick eye but went over. He tried to keep the rocket engines on afterward, so I had to give him a firm half halt as we went through the woods. Luckily, he responded. We had a bit of a funny moment when we spooked at a log coming out of the woods, but then I felt his entire body refocus when he saw
Lobster trap! Another familiar one, and he glided over. We went down the hill, and I had keep him balanced on the way to
This was at the bottom of the hill, and you can see the ditch in the background, so it was sort of a half coffin combination. I set Royal back on his hocks and he jumped neatly over, and wavered a bit before jumping
The ditch. Usually it's filled with dirt, but they took it out this year. It was a bit of an odd visual. But despite that, he still went over. We went across the land bridge and turned left to
No problems here, but you can see the Hilliest Hill Ever To Hill in the background. Our next jump was on the lower part, but I still got in 2-point, grabbed Royal mane, and let him bring up to the top of the hill. We had to widen out and make a slight left turn to
Tootsie Roll! No problems. We had to go back down the hill (Royal sensibly decided to trot), back over the land bridge, turn left, and canter by the tree line to
Roll top! By now the engines were really on and he sailed over. We went back up the hill a bit and turned right to
Boom! Over with no problems. We went down the hill to
Last jump! He launched over and I let him fly at high speed to the finish line.
And we were done! No refusals, and we were 12 seconds under the time, so no points added. Royal was pretty sweaty, but didn't seem any worse for wear. Although he was less than thrilled with Mom taking our picture.
And I found out that we had been in 7th (out of 13) after dressage with 38.5 points. Which is what I'd been anticipating. Our test had been good but not great, so mentally I'd pegged us at mid-to-high thirties. But we got an 8 on our first change of direction and 7s on our canter-trot transitions and Royal got a 7 on gaits! Fancy boy. And later, I found out we'd been moved up to 6th after x-c. I pretty much passed out that night, and we headed out around 7 the next morning.
I let Royal hang out and graze while we watched the Training and Novice show jumping. It was pretty hot, but there was a breeze keeping it tolerable. Still, I waited to saddle him up and we had a really light warm-up since I didn't want stress him too much.
The course was very twisty, and I knew I was going to have to keep him balanced. He jumped the first jump well, but then I had a majorly stupid brain fart moment. Blame it on the heat, sleep deprivation, whatever, but I screwed badly and turned us way too sharply to the next fence. It came up quick and Royal pretty much had to levitate to get us out of there. I lost a stirrup and he let out a few small bucks, telling me to get my act together. I regained my stirrup and we made it over the rest of the course just fine, twist and turns and all. Adding to the embarrassment, my stock tie came loose and was flapping around by the end of the course. But brain-farts and embarrassment aside, we didn't knock anything down, so we stayed on 38.5 penalties, and 6th place.
Obviously, I was really pleased. Royal was Mr. Superstar, and gave 110% the whole weekend. And I can't think of a better way to end the season. Obviously, we have to work on some stuff, but focusing on dressage and building our strength will really help us. But, this week, it's relaxation time. Royal got a bunch of cookies and mints and apples, and I'll work on getting any soreness out of his muscles. But he deserves all the goodies.