I am confident that my horse has what it takes to compete at the top levels. He is scopey, brave, and all heart. However, I am very green at this level. Before I acquired Bug off the track, I hadn’t ridden above Training level, and I have only been jumping for 10 years. I did not get the opportunity to be a working student for anyone and be in an upper level program. One doesn’t realize just how much you can learn from that sort of environment. I am now learning and absorbing as much as I can from Bonnie Mosser in my lessons.
If any of you have been following along with the journey Bug and I have been taking, you are well aware of my debacle at my first CCI*** at Bromont last spring. It really tore me apart to have let my horse down so much, especially after we ran around 3/4 of the course before being pulled up. I struggled a lot with mentally beating myself up after that. We have been working very hard for the past year and a half through a lot of ups and downs. However, I felt that Bug and I were ready for the big CCI*** at Fair Hill this year.
After walking the XC mutiple times and listening to the big names talk, I knew that the course was very stiff. The words “three and a half star” were floating around quite a bit. However, I knew that Bug and I could get it done if I was on my game. The lines were very tight, so there was not much room for error.
After the ups and downs of my year, I told myself before I went to Plantation that I was either going to get myself in gear, or I was going to go home and fix it. I want to be competitive and do the VERY BEST by my horse. We rocked around Plantation well, and I was ready to take that mojo to Fair Hill.
During the time between Plantation and Fair Hill, I was unable to compete at Morven due to the Retired Racehorse Training Project. I did not see this as a bad thing and just kept doing Bug’s gallops and working on tweaking things. However, when cross country day at Fair Hill came, I realized my horse was a lot fitter than I thought. Not only was he fitter, but he was more in front of my leg than he’s ever been. This was definitely a great thing, but I also hadn’t ridden this new horse of mine over cross country. However, he felt amazing in warm up, and I was determined to bring it home.
Bug came out of the box guns blazing. He was jumping bigger and bolder and landing going. Normally, he likes to add the little chip in front of the fence and we balloon up over everything and land stagnant. Everything was going great until fence 7AB. The question was a huge brush ditch and wall in five strides to a skinny triple brush. Unfortunately, I missed my line a bit. I saw it in the air, but Bug landed going, and I struggled to try to get him back to the skinny. He never really saw it, and we had a run by. I collected myself and jumped the skinny thinking, “Okay, get yourself together.”
We jumped a few more fences before coming up to 10, 11AB. Ten was a large brush fence with a drop on landing in 5 to 11A, a huge oxer, in a bending 6 to a big brush corner. The lines were very tight, and there was not much room for error. Bug jumped in great and was right on the 5 to the oxer. However, upon seeing we were there, I just softened a bit too much, and he added his chip. We ballooned way up over it and landed stagnant.
If I had the experience under my belt to react faster, I would have pulled right and took my time getting to the corner. But, I was on the line and thought I should keep kicking. However there was absolutely no distance there, thus run by number two. At that moment, I quickly ran through my options. I decided at that moment that it was better to retire and call it a day. Today was not our day, so why risk my horse and myself?
It was terribly disappointing, but at the same time, I left with a smile on my face. My horse is amazing. He felt absolutely phenomenal. I just need more experience at this level. Because I pulled up early, Bug only ran about 3+ minutes. I can take this chance to go to the CIC** at VAHT and ride him while he’s still this fit around a course that isn’t quite as imposing.
In this sport, we are constantly presented with the tough decisions. Whenever I am presented with one, I try my very best to do what is best for my horses. The competitive drive can be hard to overcome at times, but without these amazing creatures, this sport wouldn’t be possible for us.