Monday, May 21, 2012

Hands down, best mare ever!

This weekend was the big move up.  We were finally going Training!  I can't even begin to describe the emotions going in to this day.  Life has been so insane lately that I wasn't really able to stress about it, which is probably a good thing.  I've been crossing our t's and dotting our i's.  Lissell got checked out by the wonderful Dr. Scullin, got her teeth done by the awesome Dr. Lewis, and her feet done by super farrier Mike Poe.  In between all these appointments we've continued our lessons with Kelley Williams and Jane Seigler.  With monthly visits from Stephen Bradley and Susan Graham White.

To say the least, I love this horse.  Going into Saturday's event at Loch Moy, I had reasonable expectations.  I knew the dressage wouldn't be great, but I prayed for something passable.  I figured the first few stadium fences would be a bit sticky until she realized the jumps were bigger.  And on cross country, I was just hoping that she didn't find the large tables/rolltops/etc too hard.  The horse is fit and sound, but she's still 20 years old.  And the biggest disservice I could do to her would be to ask her to do something that is physically difficult for her.  But there's only one way to find out if all your hard work is working ... so off we went!

Dressage was a bit more dramatic than I was hoping for.  Lissell had a hard time settling, and threw in some lovely drama mama mare behavior, which did nothing for my nerves.  But on the other hand, were my nerves causing the drama??  Probably.  In any case, I just kept Lissell working and did about a million and one canter transitions until she was doing them quietly.  Of course all this work makes her gaits a bit dull, and this test has 2 trot lengthenings, 1 canter lengthening and a free walk on the short diagonal.  But I figured an obedient test was better than leaping.  Mission almost accomplished, but I still came out of the ring a bit disappointed.  I know that Lissell isn't a dressage diva, but I know that we're both capable of more than what happened in the ring that day.  After a quick pep talk via text from Scott, off to our course walk!

The course was a great move up.  The first 3 fences were small Training/large Novice.  Then we had our first complex.  Garden gate, a few strides to a down bank, then right turn to a skinny log.  There was plenty of room between the bank and the log, so I wasn't too worried.  Then, there it was, a big 'ol table thing.  My nausea began here and didn't really stop until the day was over.  The rest of the course looked doable.  The only thing I wasn't happy about was the large bank out of water.  But whatever.  We had to get through stadium first.

So next up is stadium.  Lissell warmed up like a dream.  As soon as she pinged over the first large vertical, I didn't stop smiling.  She was tossing in lead changes when appropriate, and I knew she felt good.  Then, we went into the ring.  And I'm still not sure what went wrong.  She was very backed off, and behind my leg (same thing that happened the last time we were at Loch Moy).  Which of course makes me want to chase her to the fences.  Bad!  This finally resulted in a stop at the in and out, and I honestly didn't know what to do for a moment!  I have never, EVER had a stop on this horse in competition.  But I re-grouped and finished up.  At this point, I kind of wanted to go home.

Quick pep talk from Katie and Mary, plus a little strategizing, and off we went.  I gave Lissell a crack with the whip out of the box, and I think that was the best decision I made all day.  She attacked that course!  Oh how I love this horse.  You just put your hands down and she does the rest (hmmm ... maybe I need to do more of this in stadium!).  The bank complex wasn't perfect, but we made it through ... even angling the skinny log.  The giant table ... no problem.  Corner, trakhener, coffin, giant oxer in the woods.  Check, check, check, check.  The bank out of the water was a bit hairy, as Lissell climbed up it a bit.  Lissell tends to back off in the water, so I was so focused on keeping a forward pace through the water, and we came to the bank on a half stride.  Lissell shook it off, and charged towards the next fence.  Love, love, love.

I of course burst into tears at the finish line.  This mare has been through so much, and just keeps stepping up to the plate.  What more could you ask for!?

So what was my favorite part of the weekend?  Watching my awesome boyfriend trot my awesomely sound and happy horse for me the next morning.  I iced her once more for my own sanity, gave her a few more carrots and turned her out.  Today we'll go for a hack if it ever stops raining.

Thanks to everyone for everything.  Katie, Mary, Lauren and Katie's parents for babysitting all day.  Kelley, Jane, Stephen and Susan for all the great prep work.  And the countless texts from friends checking in.  The icing on the cake was seeing that Lissell was 9th (out of 13) after dressage.  Not being last or second to last after dressage ... on a bad day ... I think I can die a happy woman now.

Next up ... Waredaca!  With Kelley's supervision this time.  :-)

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