Short and Sweet Alberta Season Wraps Up at Alhambra

Chilling in the Red Deer river at Alhambra Stables. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer. Chilling in the Red Deer river at Alhambra Stables. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Last weekend saw the sad end of our short but sweet eventing season here in Alberta. Alhambra Stables in Red Deer hosted the final event of the season and also the provincial championships; we had a great turnout with over 150 horse and rider pairs attending.

While the weather was gorgeous for the event on the weekend, the couple weeks leading up were a bit of a nightmare as mother nature surprised us with cold temperatures and a large dump of snow, putting a damper on the event preparation. Cross country course designer Barry Tyerman had a bit of an adventure trying to build the cross country courses in the snow, bundled up in long johns and a toque — frozen hands be damned!

After the competitor’s supper on Saturday night, Alhambra Stables sponsored a bareback competition under the lights. Essentially a “Ride-A-Buck” class, riders entered were given a ribbon they placed between themselves and the horse, and the announcer called out instructions that gradually got more difficult until only one rider remained with a ribbon in place. The winner was Kayla Noble riding She’s A Diva, who received a free entry to a 2015 Alhambra event!

Photo by Kelsey Soldan

Photo by Kelsey Soldan.

Sunny and I had a great weekend overall. Our dressage warm up was lovely, and our test was decent, but Sunny was just a little bit fussy in the ring and not as connected as we were in the warm up, so we didn’t quite get the scores I had hoped for.

Stadium went very well, except for the one fence I always seem to mess up! The first six fences I rode perfectly, and Sunny was jumping out of her skin over every fence with tons of room to spare. Then coming around to the triple combination, I lost my focus for a few seconds, and we had the first fence of the combination down. Right after I kicked myself for screwing up, and the rest of the course was beautiful.  A single rail down in an otherwise perfect round is light years from where we were a year or two ago, so I was very happy with our round overall.

Not touching those poles!  Photo by Kris Waldo

Not touching those poles! Photo by Kris Waldo.

The cross county course looked insanely fun with lots of combinations and excellent questions for the championships. While many of the fences weren’t necessarily big, everything demanded very accurate riding, and I was confident that Sunny and I could rock it out.

I basically had the cross country round of my life that day. Instead of the tiny red freight train I usually find myself on, I suddenly had a soft, rideable, listening partner that I felt was almost reading my mind! Usually Sunny is so strong and gung ho that I have to start half halting to set her up 100 to 150 feet before a fence. Well on Sunday I was absolutely shocked that she was coming right back to me in four or five strides with just my voice and a couple small half halts. I honestly couldn’t believe it.

Sunny flew over everything easily, and we absolutely rocked the bank complex with a tight jump off turn back to the corner. She was so on and with me every step of the way. I was absolutely THRILLED when I crossed the finish line, and I definitely may have had a huge lump in my throat and a few tears sneak out when I hugged her after I dismounted.

Photo by Kris Waldo

Photo by Kris Waldo.

Because of our new found efficiency on course, we ended up coming into the last couple fences nearly a minute and a half under time. I slowed down as much as I possibly could but we still ended coming in seven seconds too fast. Those seven speeding tickets cost us the win in both the open division and the championships, but it’s just a ribbon anyways, and with the ride I had just had, there was no way I could be upset or disappointed.

Everything up to this point has been just a stepping stone on the way to something bigger; this event was not our Rolex. Winning is nice for sure, but instead, Sunny gave me a greater gift with the ride I have been working so hard for and exactly the ride I needed to know that when we move up to Intermediate next year, we are going to freaking ROCK IT. With that ride, we can conquer anything.

Sadly I am not able to make the trek south this fall, so this was the end of our eventing season for 2014. It has been an incredible year though, with lots of firsts and milestones for us. We have a few clinics planned for the fall, and Sunny will get some much deserved time off, and then we will start prepping for 2015.

Huge thanks to Ulrika Wikner of Alhambra Stables and all of the volunteers for all their hard work putting on a fabulous event, and to Sarah at Victory Tack for providing her sponsorship and great prizes yet again.

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