Another busy week down in sunny (and crazy rainy) Aiken. After Paradise Beacon, Diem, and Devon enjoyed a Monday off while Stew worked on the flat and Kate rode Ari practicing her first ever dressage test. Tuesday was a soggy day where everyone got very wet, and Kate had her first ever cross country school which her and Ari rocked. Wednesday Stew and Ari took a field trip to the Hitchcock Woods, Devi and Diem had a flat school, and Beacon and I tuned up our dressage test getting ready for this weekend. We worked with Therese, another trainer wintering at Sandy Hills, who really helped me pinpoint a couple key points to help improve my right haunches in and lengthenings. Thursday was a super busy day, Diem and Ari shipped out to Apple Tree farm so Kate could finish up her Aiken experience with her first ever combined test and she finished third on a nice dressage score! Diem dominated the warm up arena and seems to have those competition nerves sorted out. We got back to Sandy Hills and worked Stew on the flat and then I took jump lessons on Devon and Beacon with the wonderful Debbie Banfield. Carl had recommended that I look her up while I was down here and I am so glad that I did! She has a wonderful eye and very good corrective exercises; I got a lot out of working both horses with her. We have made plans to work together weekly and hopefully we can get her up to Valinor in the Spring!
Friday and Saturday was Pine Top in Thompson, Georgia! Beacon and I ran our first Intermediate of the season and he was awesome, even in the less than stellar weather. Friday was Dressage and Cross Country while Saturday was Show Jumping. He warmed up beautifully for dressage even though the footing was straight mud. In the test we had a marked improvement in both haunches in and lengthenings (thank you Therese!) scoring lots of sevens and even eights in the walk and extended walk! In the canter at home I've been schooling a lot of flying changes for the jumping and unfortunately it carried into the dressage arena this weekend where we put in lovely flying changes of lead where we should have done counter canter (dang it!). The break in the movement means we could only score a four, but the canter was lovely; the judge even put a frown face after the four with "flying change" written, it should have been another eight! In one of the most inconsistent score wise tests I've probably ever ridden on Beacon (ranging from fours to eights) we still finished with a 40 in ninth place out of 18 or so competitors. He was a good boy and I was happy with the test, I just can't school flying changes the day before dressage in the future!
Cross country he was an absolute machine, attacking the complex questions and big fences with ease. This was a very big and challenging Intermediate, particularly for so early in the season, and I was so proud of him for clocking through everything. I made a big rider error at the coffin, however, that cost us 20 and some time. He galloped up and rocked back to his coffin canter beautifully, jumping the A element with ease, and then for some stupid reason I dropped my eye and focused on the ditch while looking away from C. He jumped the ditch fine and then I realized I wasn't looking for C and yanked my eyes up only to realize we were now way off the line- Dang! We just circled and jumped the C and continued on, but what a silly mistake!!! Always look for the final element in a combination and ride all the way through the question! Poor Beacon didn't deserve the 20, and without it we would have moved up to second! As it was we stayed in ninth place carrying the 20 penalties and some time for circling; it was a hard lesson to learn, but I won't do it again!
Saturday brought more rain and Show Jumping. The Stadium phase has been hard for us recently, and I worried that he would be tired after a hard track the day before, a long busy week, and a lot of trailering back and forth. I am super pleased to say that he jumped splendidly and we finished the event with only two rails. One was mine, I moved him up past a distance, and one was his where he dropped one rail with a hind leg. It looks like all the work we've put into the stadium jumping is finally paying off! Funny enough we still finished in ninth, just out of the ribbons, and although some mistakes were made throughout the weekend they are nothing that a little tweaking can't fix. Namely: don't school flying changes before Dressage, LOOK where you are going XC, and don't make too much of a move up to a distance in the SJ (because Beacon WILL get there, and if I push at all then he's way past the distance). I am very pleased with our first big track of the season completed, and even though we weren't competitive this time, we will be for Full Gallop in two weeks!
The rest of this week is focused on the mares and Diem moving up to Training at Sporting Days, and getting Stew out for a bigger xc school. There is a combined test Wed that I will probably take the two boys to at Training, and the girls need to get out to Full Gallop to school some Training level questions and tune up before the weekend. Beacon will enjoy a little down time and then we plan on working with Debbie later in the week again, and Eric on the flat.
The sun is finally back out again and it's planned to be a high of 73 degrees today!!! Hope all you folks up North are staying warm!