Eventing is a game of peaks, and valleys. The higher up you go, the higher the peaks but the lower the valleys. This week was a peak-and-valley sort of week. Last Sunday, I decided to finally put a horse in the trailer and go to a show, and was rewarded with some prizes at the Fair Hill Thoroughbred show. Then the work week was busy and difficult as usual, and the valley got seriously low with a really below-par ride on Wednesday on George, who was very irritated with me and did not want to be ridden in the least. Spent half the time trying to buck me off and the other half running towards the gate. Yuck. Thursday was also a struggle to find time to ride, clean tack, start getting the trailer packed because I found I had a 9:00 a.m. dressage time at the Fair Hill Starter Horse Trials Saturday morning. I was up until 11:00 p.m. in the barn working Thursday (combed out Hamish’s tail, clipped him, cleaned stalls, got stuff ready), then had to be on the road by 8:00 a.m. Friday. An added work task on an already-planned-out Friday made my day longer and more stressful, but I did get to walk the course Friday night. Then I raced out of Fair Hill and zoomed home but unfortunately hit traffic. Then I got stuck in more traffic. And more. And more! Passed two accidents, more traffic, tried two different roads….it was terrible. Got home after 7:15 p.m. and rode Hamish in the dark, had a bath under lights, and I was just about all in in terms of strength. I laid down from about 9:30 p.m. to about 11 pm and then got up and went back out to the barn and did some more work until I don’t know when I finally got to bed, somewhere around 2:00 a.m. Got up at 5:20 a.m., grained my skinny boys in the dark, loaded Hamish in the dark and took off for Fair Hill.

Good thing I was ready to go in the morning and only had to stop for gas, as I arrived with a few minutes to spare and Hamish had almost taken off his right front shoe in the horse trailer. He sometimes paws when he is by himself. I could not find anything where he might have been caught, so he just tweaked it off somehow. Fortunately, Jake was by himself and had nobody in line, he put the shoe back on quickly, and we went to warmup for dressage with 10 minutes to spare. Actually, that’s quite good for Hamish, since I should not be over warming him up anyhow, he poops out.

Dressage: Hamish was quite good, very steady, regular, but could have been more forward. He was reacting a bit to the spurs, and ready to buck a little but held it together. It is a fine line with the draft cross types to keep the steady and forward yet not over do it before they lose patience or turn off the spigot. I thought things were pretty good but not super, the free walk was not as good as he could have done. Well, both Susan and I were both shocked when we got the test back, as he scored a 23 and had mostly 7’s and 8’s including a final 10 for the last halt. (Eeek – I’ll never repeat that!)

Stadium: I hacked up the rocky trail to the field, and trotted over to the show jumping warmup, putting my number in to Kevin who was helping run the warmup. I trotted an X, then cantered it, cantered a couple of verticals then got Hamish too close and he dropped the rail. There were no other warmup fences except an oxer. There was only one horse in front of me so Hamish had to canter around and jump the oxer, and he did it OK and I had no time to jump any more as they wanted me to go in. The field was set with two courses, a larger one on the other end. That was our course which included the scary aqueduct wall and a couple of good sized 3 foot square oxers without ground lines. (Eeeek!) I knew it was large for Hamish and that I needed to gallop. He was great over the first three, then I buried him at the little skinny in the turn, and did not help him enough to recover and get round by the next fence and he also could not clear that one but jumped the next jumps very well. He took a BIG look and overjumped the aqueduct, making the turn to the two stride in and out a bit squeaky. I was happy he tried and jumped for me the way I rode him but I need to ride him better in show jumping! So two rails down. Others in front of me and behind me went clean so I was pretty sure that would put us down a couple places but it is worth doing, because you do find out what you have to do to get better.

Cross-country: Well, there is nothing like a wonderful old cross country machine horse cantering around a big grassy field jumping jumps for you to put a smile on your face. Hamish was a star. He nipped around over everything and was really understanding getting to the base and hopping up and over. It was a busy little Novice course and he was just outstanding in handling every question. We had a rather large harvest stand for the second fence and another big table in the back field, as well as the biggest bench in the treeline, a black flag option with a downhill drop on the bump, a trakehner, the blind jump into water and then up the bank out, the downhill coffin and the biggest train of the train jump. I just had a great time and he did so well. So after chatting with Susan and making a fuss over him and letting him graze a few minutes we wrapped up the day, went and checked on scores, and got him put away. Finally the scores were posted and the division placed and lo and behold, Hamish won with a total of 31 and change even with the rails! Now that’s impressive and I am so glad Susan got to come and watch him go. I had a blast.

Postscript: Hamish pushed the screen open and stuck his WHOLE HEAD out the window right in the middle of Dover on the way home and I couldn’t pull over until I could find a parking lot after the split to go and close his door….so he was like a dog poking his head out the car window as we cruised Rt. 13 in heavy traffic, saying hi to all the little girls waving at him out their car windows!