I know you’ve all been eagerly awaiting more helmet cam footage. I can picture you now, pacing by the computer, “when is she going to post that footage??” Wait no further!! It’s here!
Between my last post and this one, Chip and I ran training level at Full Gallop and then at Pine Top for our culmination. Full Gallop was wildly successful for his first recognized attempt at Training, with only time penalties for XC added to his dressage score. And, if Chip had run the way he wanted, we’d have had none of those. But, my primary goal with that run was to stay safe and finish–a purely educational run. I wish I’d worn my helmet cam for that one, because as you young’uns say, “we were on point.” He answered every question with easy precision, with only one bobble at the drop into water, and even then, he just needed a moment to take a look before he leapt.
I knew Pine Top would be much tougher. I prepared. We did trot sets, galloped, dressaged, and gymnasticized in the weeks leading up to both Full Gallop and Pine Top. I had a long, frank discussion with my OB about the risks of running horse trials while five months pregnant. I did a lot of research. Ultimately, my doctor and I made the decision that the risks were acceptable given the safety precautions, and the fact that I would withdraw if my body told me I couldn’t handle it.
Dressage morning, I braided in the dark at the trailer by lantern light. I love the time change, but it wasn’t working in my favor that weekend! Chip was uncharacteristically a little anxious. I chalked it up to the fact that he’d spent the night listening to momma and calf bawling for each other at the cattle farm where we stayed that weekend. I doubt he got much sleep. However, he put in a solid test, and I managed to steer us around, despite almost forgetting where I was supposed to go when I turned at B.
Stadium was daunting with maxed out verticals and oxers and bending lines and triples, Oh My! But, the course rode really well, and our homework paid off. We had one rail at fence 2; the course designer was pretty smart with his placement of that vertical. Chip was busy looking at the warm-up area beyond it, and he only snatched up his legs in time to jump. The baby had a greenie moment–can’t begrudge him for that!
By now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “oh just get on with it!” Or maybe you scrolled past the text just to get to the video footage–I don’t blame you. I walked cross-country three times before Sunday morning. (In fact, I walked a total of 20+ miles that weekend, according to my Fitbit.) Knowing my horse, I figured we might have a couple of look-sees, and I was a tad worried about the trahkehner and coffin questions at 6 and 8. And perhaps the hay trailer at 12. Ok, yeah, I planned on gluing the seat of my breeches to my saddle and keeping my shoulders squarely behind my hips for nearly the whole ride. Not gonna lie. Like the superstar he is, though, he came out of the box ready for action. That monster trahkehner at 6 was barely a glance. In fact, I had to pull like heck to keep him from jumping the prelim trahkehner on our way to 7! He locked on, and I literally had to sit up and grab his face. The coffin combination at 8? Easy peasy. But, fence 9. That maxed out double brush monstrosity that I figured we’d just up and gallop over? Chip galloped up and said, “whoa, mom, that’s kinda big. Are you sure?” By this point, I truly had jello for legs. Ol’ lefty, missing the PCL and sporting a barely attached MCL, just up and quit on me. He thought about running out, and all I could think to do was shout, “Nooo, Chip!” We’d worked so hard, and Pine Top was our culmination–I wanted redemption. That horse. That giant heart of his. I admit, I’m prone to anthropomorphising sometimes, but I swear he heard the desperation in my voice, and he just leapt. I should’ve let him run out. I certainly didn’t whip or kick, but he jumped that fence for me. And it was awkward. I wish someone had gotten a video. I lost both my stirrups and grabbed his neck for dear life and somehow stayed put and galloped on to fence 10. Fence 11 was a rolltop into the water, bending line to a corner. Shoot, we’d schooled drops with bending lines to corners, so why would I worry about that one? Once again, I needed a little leg. By this point, Chip was developing a little doubt about my ability to get us around, and he slowly came to a stop in front of that corner. “Mom, if you wanted me to jump that, you probably should have had a little more impulsion to my canter. Just sayin’.” We cantered back around and hopped over it with no issues. But when he landed? I felt the switch in his brain. He grabbed the bit and might as well have told me to “sit down, shut up, and hang on.” He locked on to 12, took a quick glance, read the fence, and ate it for breakfast. 13AB was a log pile with a nearly 90 degree right hand turn to B, a skinny log. I sat up and prayed he’d come back to me, and my green little horse had an adult moment. It rode so beautifully. Angled cabins at 16? A breeze. We finished with 1 refusal at 11B and a few resulting time penalties. I was so thrilled with him. There are no words to describe the feeling of sitting on such a brave horse who will willingly jump obstacles that should scare the life out of him. And so, without further ado, enjoy the photos and videos from our Pine Top experience.