Downtime has been nonexistent since I moved home in June following my first attempt at Prelim. at Waredaca and my subsequent first completed Prelim. at Plantation Field.
My life the last few years has been cyclically transient and nomad-like. I move home for the summer and fall to work at the beach while the season is in full swing. Once things slow down I pack up and move 100 miles North to the Southern Chester County area. Within this cycle is the sub-cycle of my riding progression which usually peaks shortly after returning home and doesn't regain until I am back North receiving proper instruction. I have fought myself throughout this down time to continue progressing, or at least maintain. At times it feels like a lost cause. At times it feels brilliant. And so goes our life with horses, the great humblers.
In July I took another shot at Prelim. at Loch Moy about 3.5 hours away. Our dressage is still in a "no shot in hell chance at being competitive" stage. Add to that a solid warm-up that was followed by a show jump round riddled with refusals and rails. However, things came together on cross country and we jumped a clear round with a few time penalties to move up almost ten spots.
My next attempt at Prelim. was in September at Seneca about 3.5 hours away. Our dressage had been an issue all summer and it really surfaced in the slick-bone dry-grass rings. The trailers were at least a 15 minute hack/walk from the rings, so once I knew I needed studs it was too late. Hope started slipping which got me upset and depending on my hands too much. Soon enough we were off course. We finished the test without any brilliant moments or one real positive mark, which was incredibly disappointing. However, the judge went out of her way to follow me back through the warm-up to let me know that she thought the mare possessed significant upper-level potential and that everyone has an off day. Stadium was tough but we had a great ride. We pulled two rails mid-course and I took a more open distance to the triple which got us in deep for the next two elements to pull two final rails. I made the decision in the start box to finish cross country with a productive ride and we did just that. I backed off the speed knowing we were last to begin with. She was strong to the first four fences so I put her in deep and when she finally backed off she gave me the most confidence-boosting ride as we loped around what was our hardest Prelim. course in true hunter fashion.
Seneca was far from a complete disappointment. Grace came along to contest her first Training. Studded for dressage she turned in a 39.5 (my second best score ever). She turned in one of the few double-clear stadium rounds and went on to jump clear around a very difficult cross country with only 1.2 time penalties to finish 6th o/o 24. I wasn't quite sure of this mare's capabilities late last spring, but as a I learn how different of a ride she is from Hope we are progressing in leaps and bounds. My plans for selling her shifted to the back burner with this performance because my confidence is hit or miss with Hope as we work through the stadium baggage. I have every intention of making a bid for Prelim. on this mare come late spring or early summer.
I have now just finished settling in at my wintering location near Fair Hill in Maryland. Grace and Hope are back in work after a brief vacation which included a ride on the beach at home in Delaware! I am not agonizing over competition plans and the springplanning, but am looking forward to some lessons with Molly and some new trainers once she heads South for the winter.
My goals for the winter are to really improve my flatwork with both mares and to get Hope out to as many jumpers shows as possible. I have depleted what was left of my Worth the Trust funds so it looks like working 60+ hours a week is all too eminent, but if I am able to improve I don't mind the work!
I find myself feeling stuck in this post graduate gypsy routine between locations. At times I feel like I am putting my professional life on hold to pursue horses. At times I feel like maybe my professional life should be horses. And then there are times when I feel like I am investing so much with not enough to justify continuing the pursuit. And the most frustrating point being that I don't really have an answer other than to keep doing the things that make me happy, regardless of the workload to support it.
Cheers to progress and answers, but most of all happiness.