This past weekend I packed up the truck with Bucky and headed south to Red Hills Horse Trials in Tallahassee. Bucky and I were entered in the Advanced division there, and I am pleased to say we finished up our second successful start at the Advanced level!
The dressage was held on Friday afternoon, and the competition in the Advanced division was quite stiff. Bucky put in a good effort scoring a 37, however he was fairly nervous with the level of spectators and atmosphere around the ring. The test had some good parts to it, as well as some parts in need of improvement. This event was the first time we saw a high level of spectator attendance and atmosphere, and I will look in the future to find a way to keep him more relaxed in that type of situation.
I got the chance to look at the cross-country course on Thursday afternoon, and I have to say it looked tough! The course at Red Hills has been historically difficult, as it is designed as a CIC course for each level. The Advanced course had a few breaks from the CIC*** track, but it was still quite difficult. When it came time to ride the course on Saturday afternoon, I set out to give Bucky a good, confident ride. I am pleased Bucky made my ride easy! He took to the track really well, and was not in the least bit distracted by the spectators. The time had been impossible for any rider to make at the Advanced and CIC*** level, so I was pleased when we finished around a minute over the optimum time. I let him gallop as fast as he wanted to in between the fences, and I took my time at the jump combinations that required tactful riding. After a few ice sessions, he was looking well recovered on Saturday evening.
The show jumping course on Sunday was beautifully designed and proved to be a difficult one. There was a high level of spectator attendance and atmosphere at the ringside, and it made for a tricky ride. Bucky was still buzzed up from his cross-country ride on Saturday, and I had some difficulty settling him in the jump warm-up. I unfortunately was unable to relax him in the ring, and we had three rails down in our show jumping. I was still pleased with the way he jumped the bulk of the course, and he just had rails down when he got too forward at the fences. The next few events I will make a bigger effort to get him in a better mindset prior to the show jumping so he can focus on jumping well 100% of the course.
With this sixth place finish in the Advanced at Red Hills, Bucky and I are now qualified to compete in the CIC*** at the Fork Horse Trials in April. We will have one more Advanced run at Southern Pines in two weeks before that, and I will look to give him another confident ride there. We are both still green at this level, so day by day we are working out the kinks! Please stay tuned to the blog for updates at Southern Pines in two weeks!
Photos courtesy of Lisa Thomas