Paradise is my favorite Aiken Event, the courses are always maxed out and technical, everything is beautifully maintained and decorated, and the dressage is always on nice sand footing. However, it seems to always have bad weather! This year it was freezing cold (literally, ice in the water jump!) and raining on Saturday, and bright but very breezy and cold still on Sunday. Check out the pictures of all four horses on the Brant Gamma website under Paradise Horse Trials, they should be posted soon. (Beacon #13, Ari #258, Diem #298, and Devi #297 http://brantgamma.exposuremanager.com/g/events )
Beacon had his first outing of the season and while he was obedient in his dressage test the 30 degree weather had him quite tight and a bit... um.... forward! He put in a double clear show jump round, but I honestly wasn't as happy with it as I had hoped; he was still a bit sloppy and if they had been at Intermediate height we certainly would have had a couple rails. Cross country continues to be his favorite phase and I must say he put in a foot work perfect and effortless round. This horse is a dream to run xc, it's just so easy for him! I however, was less than stellar and steered to the wrong rolltop and got us TE ed!!! Dang it, those dark green numbers look the same as the black ones! I wasn't alone at least, Doug also jumped the wrong fence; however he wisely thought it didn't feel right and circled around to jump the correct one before continuing on, thus racking up some time points but no penalty. I jumped the training jump and in the air I remember thinking how small it seemed..., and then galloped on to the next fence. Oh well, at least we got to jump around and get a good first season run in prep for Pine Top this coming weekend..
Ari was actually very soft and obedient in the dressage ring although her score doesn't show it. She was being so soft and relaxed that I didn't want to interfere to much and I let her be a bit too long and low, which as it turns out, this particular judge hated and docked me at least a point every movement. It was unfortunate because she really deserved a good score, but next time I will need to be a bit braver and push her up into a more uphill and ground covering step. Her show jumping was double clear and the last line was lovely, she just needed to work out that first course of the season stickiness. (Beacon, Ari, and Devi were supposed to run a CT at Sporting Days to get in the ring once before they competed but it was unfortunately cancelled so Paradise was a dry run for all three of them). She was stellar cross country though, breezing through every question with ease.
Diem had a bit of a rough first day, he couldn't really seem to settle in the electric atmosphere and he unfortunately had to ride his dressage test in the freezing rain (not helpful to encourage looseness!) By the end of warm up he was actually traveling pretty nicely, but lost his relaxation transitioning into the ring. The CT that he went to earlier in the week had a very laid back atmosphere so he had none of the show jitters there. The test wasn't bad at all, he was obedient and trying, but just tense, and the judge nailed him for it. An hour later in the show jumping warm up he was much more relaxed and starting to handle the pressure of a larger venue. Unfortunately when we went into the ring he wasn't paying attention and tapped the first rail. I reprimanded him and O.M.G. he was most definitely NOT going to touch another rail. He jumped the rest of the track over the height of the standards!!! The pictures tell the story, there's one of a rather funny face I am making that made us laugh when we reviewed them. That pony can JUMP! Sunday was his day to shine though, and he ate up the technical novice track. Everything was footwork perfect out there and he was a breeze to gallop between the fences and rock back for each question. Good thing I was wearing a watch because he was being so efficient in covering the ground that we were almost too fast. I was extremely pleased on a whole with him Sunday, he was super relaxed and unphased by the warm up and the atmosphere, and stayed really relaxed and rideable throughout the day. I predict that now that we have gotten the first jitters out of his system he will be able to really shine at the next outing!
Little Miss Devon was the star of the weekend finishing on her dressage test of 27.4! This little lady has become so easy and consistent it's amazing. The dressage judge actually stuck her head out of the car at the end of the test to inform me that Dev has an AMAZING walk! Her show jumping started a little quick but she worked out the first track of the season jitters before we got half way around and finished up in a lovely rhythm. She was a dream cross country! Possibly, with the exception of Ollie, the easiest cross country round I've ever ridden. She was super relaxed and every question was effortless for her. I also almost went to fast on her, and it only felt like we were loping around! Her stride is so ground covering and efficient it is effortless for her to gallop over the terrain. She is turning into quite the competitor.
Well, now it's monday morning and everyone is enjoying some time off relaxing in the sun. Beacon has to work on the flat this afternoon, Stew has a cross xountry school, Kate will lesson on Ari, and I'm heading to Marissa's farm to ride Carino. Happy riding everyone! And stay warm up north!!!