Kirsten Cowan: Waredaca Classic 3-Day Part IV

Kirsten Cowan, author of The Beast Eventer blog, made it to the Novice 3-Day at Waredaca this weekend with her mare Keeping It Classy (Ariat).  After rocking it around Endurance Day, Ariat was sadly not able to complete the event.  Still, Kirsten is grateful for the experience and encourages everyone to give the long format a try.  Many thanks to Kirsten for writing, and thank you for reading.  [Read Part I]  [Read Part II]  [Read Part III[Waredaca Live Scores]

From Kirsten:

Why we are eventers — Waredaca Classic 3-Day Part IV

Photo by GRC Photo, used with permission
I am having a hard time starting this blog because I can’t quite figure out how I am feeling exactly.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Keeping It Classy (Ariat) was not accepted through the second jog at the Waredaca Classic Novice 3-Day.  For those who don’t know, this means she trotted up unsound (in Ariat’s case very stiff and sore, extremely doubtful there is anything major wrong, but definitely not able to jump today).  When I was asked to jog Ariat a second time I knew… I was watching her cool out in the D Box yesterday and could tell she wasn’t feeling right behind.  We took extra long cooling her out, keeping her moving, and keeping her warm once she was cooled down enough to start bundling against the cold weather.  I hand walked her throughout the rest of the day and into the night and was right back in the barn bright and early to get her moving again.  Unfortunately, it was not enough.  She was more than just a bit stiff, she was very sore.  So for us the competition was over.
Photo by GRC Photo, used with permission
Between 9 and 10A on Phase D
The very first thing I thought of was, “I am the worst horse owner ever!  I set my horse up for failure, I did this to her!  She is now hurt because of me!”  However, after I thought it, I came to terms that some of that might be true… I did decide to compete a heavier horse in a long format event, an event where lighter sport horses rein supreme.  Without me, she would be living in a field doing nothing but eating and picking on some older morgans.  However, on the flip side of that I have been borderline neurotic for the past 9 months building this horses fitness from the ground up.  She had a decent baseline and I slowly added to it as the months went on and I’m not sure I would have done it differently even now.  I prepared both her and myself the best way I knew how, but sometimes you just can’t fight nature.  Ariat as a lot of brute strength that makes her a supper awesome Horse Trials partner, but out there getting it done through Phases A, B, C, and then D was just too much.
Coming in off of Phase A

So you tell yourself this, and you try to believe it, but there is still a part of my brain that goes, “no, you asked too much”.  And again, maybe I did.  But she was solid throughout the summer, improving on a daily basis, and never ever said no to a single question whether it be the distance ride we did or the big xc school I took her on the week before we shipped down here.  Before I even presented Ariat this morning I was not convinced we would be jumping today.  This horse deserves the world for everything she has taught me and has allowed me to accomplish.  I feel horrible she is so sore and ouchy right now, but time and lots of bare back halter hacks should help that and until she is feeling 110% again I can be damn proud of what she and I DID accomplish this weekend.  Firstly we got here!  We qualified to compete a classic format, second we survived dressage and had a LOVELY warm-up that had multiple people telling my groom extraordinaire Christine what a nice horse I had!!  We immediately lost all of this the second we went into the dressage ring…. But so goes our dressage life.  Third, we completed Phases A-D with zero jump penalties and time faults within the expected amount. And fourth my “little” event mare rocked it by my standards!

Photo by GRC Photo, used with permission
So on one hand I am crushed and crying because I wasn’t good enough to bring my horse in sound through the event.  And on the other hand I am smiling and crying out of pure pride and sheer respect for that mare and everything we have done up until this point and everything we will do in the future.
In the D Box after finishing Phase D

While I do not believe Ariat and I will be back competing a classic format, I somehow need to try to get across how amazing of an experience this really is.  I have never been so terrified and yet so excited in my life.  I was on the phone last night with my mom bragging about my beasty mare’s great day and I told her I think I’m in trouble…. I loved this…. I want/need to do this again!  It will take some time, I need to become a stronger and more secure rider up in the irons and I need to figure out my horse situation eventually.  But for now I have my Ariat and will shift my focus on things she is happy and comfortable at (hopefully 1 or 2 Novice HT next summer) and really drill my position and feel.

For those who are concerned about the cost of a Classic 3-Day:  I have to tell you I complain about paying money for anything, but the cost for this educational experience is well worth it!  I don’t believe I mentioned in previous entries that on Wednesday and Thursday night of this week the riders were provided with (a delicious) dinner and educational speakers!  Wednesday if you recall was our introduction day and right before dinner we had the chance to walk our Phase D for the first time.  Many of us were feeling stressed and confused about the entire process of endurance day and our speakers were Dr. Julie the (VOLUNTEER!!!  THANK YOU!!) vet about the 10 Minute box and what to expect.  And as if the show organizers knew exactly how we were feeling the second speaker was Andrea Waldo on StressLess Riding.  She did a fantastic job pointing out a few things we could do this weekend to try to help us out and I know Christine and I walked out of dinner that night feeling better about Phase D and when we course walked the next day we kept reminding each other to stop telling stories!  (She told us to not tell stories such as, “my horse will spook at that bush” or “he will definitely stop at fence 5”  it hasn’t actually happened yet, therefore it’s a story!).  And Thursday night we heard about the 10 Minute box from Pro Sharon White about what it is like from a riders perspective and then also the grooms.  This was perfect because at 9am the next morning I was up to groom for Christine and I wanted to make sure I had everything she would need in the box!  We also then heard from Jessica Morton from Southern States about different feed components and she did a wonderful job using different candies and examples to make the topic easy to understand and also fun!  All of that learning is part of the event.  These classic 3-days are an educational experience and it is a shame more people are not partaking in it!

For those who are concerned about the dedication it takes to train for the long format: I’m not going to lie, it is a lot of time and a large commitment.  However, most of you will not being doing it on a heavy horse and that in and of itself will make it easier for you than it was for me!  I also want to note that lots of draft crosses have done this and I saw multiples today jump around stadium in fine form.  Unfortunately, it was just too much for my specific horse for her to turn around and feel her best this morning.

For those nervous to take on such a large endeavor, think about it like this: Phase A is a 15 minute trot set, Phase B is a 3 minute gallop, Phase C is a 20 minute trot set, and Phase D is your normal xc!  At least for me its hard to be nervous for Phase A because you are literally trotting through some of the most beautiful trails and you have to focus on making your km markers on time.
Then you are suddenly at Phase B and they are counting you down, you don’t really have time to be nervous!  You shorten your stirrups remember to kick on and keep your shoulders back, and suddenly its 3-2-1- Have Fun!  Then just as soon as that started you are clearing out your watch and trotting out onto Phase C!  Maybe your groom is there to check for shoes or sponge down your horse a bit, but then you are on the go trotting back down the trail of Phase C, smiling like a buffoon when you cross paths with other riders who are heading out on Phase A.  It was so much fun to smile and wish everyone good luck!  Then again while on Phase C you are paying attention to your horse, your watch, your km markers, making sure you are going through all of your gates, by the time you get to the vet box and your groom takes over cooling out your horse THEN and only then can do start thinking about Phase D!  Of course you are also concerned about how your horse is going, so you are keeping an eagle eye on them as they get checked out by the vet and re-checked, and then you are cleared and someone yells “#59 3 minutes!!”  (Your xc time starts on your PRINTED start time so if you are late to the start box you are SOL and better boogie or expect time penalties).  So you tighten girths and nose bands, wipe down reins, hop on your horse, and trot up to the box.  Once there you get your 30 second warning, then your 20…
 then 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Have a good ride!  And you are off galloping around Phase D.
By this time you have already survived steeplechase so NONE of the jumps on D seem big anymore!  All you have to do is ride and try to remember this is fun!  Then you are through the finish flags and into the D Box and you realize you DID it!  It is literally the fastest most challenging yet most fun 60 minutes of my entire life.
Photo by GRC Photo, used with permission
I DO NOT smile when I ride… But here Ariat just nailed the direct option here at the black flag option and dropped into water without hesitation.
I’m not sure how else I can try to convince you that you all need to give this a thought and hopefully a try!  The last thing I will say is that Ariat and I actually had a disconnect starting Phase D until about fence 4.  She was a lot more tired than I was used to and I was riding her like I had a fresh horse.  It wasn’t working and as her rider I had to read her and adjust my riding and then it *clicked*.  I was able to figure out the ride she needed (stay up out of her way and don’t try to run her off her already tired feet) and she was perfectly happy and willing to run and jump for me!
Photo by GRC Photo, used with permission.
Figuring it all out around Fence 5

Preparing and competing in a long format will make you a better rider and more importantly a better horseman.  End of story.  Something else happened today that made me feel a bit better about not completing.  The volunteers and ground jury awarded me the Sportsmanship award which meant a lot after how long of a journey this has been and how abruptly and unfortunately it ended.
Accepting my award during the Novice award ceremony… Yes I started crying here too… Partly because we did not complete, but I think mostly at this point for how much Heart my mare showed everyone by never hesitating to answer the questions I asked of her.
The absolutely wonderful swag that went along with the award
 And also because Waredaca decided to put us all onto teams this year, despite the fact that we didn’t finish, we got a fancy neck ribbon!
Laying to rest my previous concern of a neck ribbon not fitting her neck!  It does if just barely.

And you are probably wondering what happened to that Christine girl huh?  Well Christine and Zoe laid it down again in stadium jumping double clear to complete the Training 3-Day on their dressage score in 11th place just out of the ribbons by 1.5 points!!!  Her Training team ended up in second so she and Zoe also received an awesome ribbon!
Kisses for the perfect mare!

Christine’s swag including a C4 belt she won as a door prize during one of the educational dinners!  Navy & Silver to match her xc colors of course!

I was going to try to name specific names here to say thank you, but I don’t believe that is even possible due to the fact there are just so many volunteers necessary to make this event happen!  If you have never run a horse trial you have no idea how much work goes on before you roll in on dressage day ready to ride.  Not only did Waredaca run the Classic 3-Day this week but today and tomorrow they are running a normal Horse Trials!  Whether you helped to put on the show or if you were a volunteer gate judge, THANK YOU so much!  I’m not exaggerating when I say it would not happen without you!  You are out there on course making sure we are safe and sound and able to continue doing what we love to do!
There you go Eventing Nation, this concludes coverage of the Waredaca Classic 3-Day.  Eventing has its ups and its downs, but at the end of the day it is all about the partner we take to battle with us, our horse.  Without them we would be lost and bored (but possibly rich?!) and it is my mare that lent me the confidence to get out there and give steeplechase a try, something I would have NEVER believed possible!  This is why we event.  This is why we are eventers.  This partnership, through the good and the bad, the partnership is there and it grows if you want it to.  What are you worried about?  Give it a try!
Go Long Format!
Photo by GRC Photo, used with permission
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