May 24, 2010

I’m sure by now that everyone has seen the final results from Jersey Fresh, but since people keep asking for the commentary, here goes…..  With our dressage all done on Thursday, Friday was a day for mental fortitude, with very little to do all day and obscene amounts of time to sit and think.  If you could ever spend half a minute in my head you’d know that second guessing is my specialty.   You can only walk the course so many times before even that becomes over-analyzed, over-strategized, and generally, over-done.  I resigned myself to do a lot of hand grazing, a lot of sitting around talking, and when all else failed, a little nap in the barn.

Saturday started off a bit the same way since I didn’t ride until 1:30.  After another walk around the course, a bit of solitary time to “think” my way around the course, and a big lunch, and I was ready to give it a go.  Finn came out feeling good and opinionated as always which gave me a bit of work to do in the warm up and when we set out on course.  The first 10 fences were basically simple galloping fences.  That didn’t really help my cause since he was running down to them with little regard for my suggestions of how to do it.  As we went along, the course became more demanding and technical and Finn got down to business and became more rideable.  Our only hiccup came at about the halfway mark where there was a two stride combination of corners on a fairly difficult line.  I arrived at the first corner poorly and opted to go the long route rather than risk a run out.  Still a bit out of sync with each other, I got him to the alternative corner poorly as well.  At both jumps he ballooned himself up and over them like he hadn’t a care in the world, straight and honest, and no question where he was planning to go.  I’m still angry with myself over the ride I gave him there, but I can find a little bit of comfort in the way Finn took them on even without my help.  Following that we had a long pull from the very bottom of the course all the way to the highest point, a good two minutes uphill with some more big galloping type fences along the way.  I let Finn pick his pace and to my utter delight, half way up he took a big breath and kicked into another whole gear.  He was running stronger at the top than he had been after the double corners at the bottom.  From there we had a run all the way back down that hill, and a few more technical combinations put in the way.  We finished up with 4.8 time penalties for taking the long route at the corners, but otherwise clear, and still leaving us plenty of margin for going into show jumping.  Finn seemed thoroughly spent at the finish and I started to wonder if I would be needing all of that margin on Sunday, but couldn’t dwell on that thought because I had plenty to do looking after him that afternoon. 

Sunday morning it became evident that my concerns were misguided because he was fresher and acting-out more than he had been all weekend.  At the jog he wanted to bolt off, and in the show jumping warm up he was leaping around when all I wanted was to walk.  Other than his expressive show of health and soundness, his warm up was near perfect, and I was feeling somewhat “cool” riding into the ring with 4 rails in hand.  We had a major show of amateurism when we spend the entire 6 strides between fence one to two brawling and arguing, with his mouth open, tongue out, yanking his head left and right, all of which resulted in a really ugly jump at #2.  From there I kicked myself into shape a bit and got my point across to him a bit more effectively as well.  The remainder of the course rode really well and though he had one rail at a big square oxer, I was happy with the go.  We finished up with more than 12 points of a lead, and Finn continued to carry on with the bucking and acting out all the way through the victory gallop and back to the barn.  I found it hard to scold him for feeling so well and proud of himself, and considering what a feat he had pulled off, I think he was entitled to a little bit of conceited celebration. 

The drive home was relatively easy and uneventful, and Finn seems to be well rested up and feeling good.  I can’t say the same about me, but then again, rested up isn’t really something I would know anything about!  We’re off to Woodside Horse Trials next weekend with the other horses, and after that, I don’t yet know.