Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fair Hill Recap - Looking Forward to Lexington!

Look closely in the background and you will see many Team Lily supporters! 
Photo Credit: Gayle Hughes
We have just wrapped up a somewhat soggy yet successful weekend at the Fair Hill International CCI*** in Elkton, Maryland.  The weekend started off with fairly temperamental weather through the Jogs and Dressage days.  We would have brief periods of sunshine, followed by thunder, downpours and wind.  The cross-country course designed by Derek DiGrazia could not take much more water on the track, however it surprisingly dried up just in time for the 3* cross-country on Saturday.  We were lucky to have another sunny and cool day for the show-jumping on Sunday.  

I of course set out on the weekend to compete well and finish in the top ten, but the larger goal in my mind was to get my last qualification for Kentucky next spring.  I had a good run around the CCI*** at Jersey Fresh this past spring, but as many of you know I had too many rails in show-jumping for it to be a qualifying result.

The weekend started off fairly well for me and Bucky with the first jog and an early dressage test in the CCI*** division.  He jogged really well on Thursday, if anything just a bit too fresh.  He has come to understand the lead-up to these CCI competitions and he get very excited once the competition is underway!  He warmed up well for dressage, and as he had been schooling well so I had high expectations for the test.  Once we got into the arena, he was ready to perform and I unfortunately made a few mistakes!  I have never had him too engaged and balanced as I did in the ring, and I got too tight on him a few times which made our movements a bit less spectacular.  We scored a 54 which put us in the top 20 going into cross-country.  

The cross-country course was definitely the largest and toughest track I have walked around thus far in my career.  The footing was looking very wet, so there was much concern about how well the horses would run around the track and how quickly they would tire.  I was glad I had Bucky as fit as I did, as the two-star horses who rode before us were looking really fatigued by the end of the course.  

I had a foot-perfect round with the exception of one very costly fence at the Chesapeake water, the main water jump in the middle of the course.  We had a duck in the middle of the water four strides to a line of one-stride angled brushes down a hill.  I had ridden the combination exactly to plan, but I think I had more faith than I should have that Bucky would pick up on the second brush fence.  He ran down the hill past the second brush without ever seeing it.  I was able to come back around to the second brush and finish the rest of the cross-country well, but the 20 jump penalties there were costly on an otherwise perfect round.  I unfortunately needed a good reminder that Bucky and I are still green at this level, and though he is very honest to jumps I need to be harder on him about making sure he sees what he is jumping.  We sat in 23rd place following the cross-country going into Sunday's competition.  

I was really pleased once again with Bucky's performance in the show-jumping on Sunday.  He was feeling fresh but I'm sure he was masking a bit of fatigue from the Saturday's ten minute XC course.  He felt very nervous and tense going into the course, as he tends to when there is a lot of atmosphere surrounding the show-jumping arena. This usually bodes for a disastrous round where he rushes at the jumps.  He did feel a bit rushed in the arena but still maintained his shape over the fences to finish a great round with just one rail down.  He is definitely developing confidence at this level and is getting much more consistent in the way he jumps.  With that show-jumping round, we were able to finish the Fair Hill CCI*** in 20th place with a qualifying result for the Rolex CCI**** next spring!

Now that I have wrapped up my fall season on Bucky, I am looking very forward to the Midsouth Three-Day competition at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Abigail Wilson will be competing in her first CCI* with Fernhill Flag, while Annelise Aurillo and Your Lucky Day will be competing in the Training Three-Day as well as Julie Henk and Regal Dancer.  Though it looks like the weekend might start off rainy and cold, I am looking forward to coaching these girls though a very serious competition that they have been preparing for the whole year!  Stay tuned for updates on Mid-South.

I also want to say a BIG THANK-YOU to all of Team Lily who came out to support me this past weekend at Fair Hill!  Success feels even better when I have you all around to enjoy it with me.  I would not be at this level today without your support!

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