Friday, October 29, 2010

The BIG Day - Jumper III

A really fun (but not easy) course and potentially awesome jump-off... as long as I can remember the courses! (Are we noticing a trend here?) Thankfully, Wednesday's course was a Table 2IIa, which means everyone jumps the first course before anyone does the jump-off. Awesome - this means I really only have to remember one course at a time!

It's do or die time, figuratively speaking. By my rough calculation, Star is in the running for the reserve champion title... and currently in the lead for it. Annoying, however, is the fact that MM is again after me in the posted order of go... I really should be closer to the end, and she should be before me. Dammit.

Upon walking the course, we find that the combination at 3 is literally set on 2 1/2 strides. I walked it a couple times, came up with the same answer, and decided that I had walked it wrong (or calculated wrong), and decided I would resort to my usual strategy in this type of situation: let my horse find the distance. (Sometimes, you have to be willing and able to just sit back and let your horse do the thinking... and thankfully, I have a horse that can think). After walking the course, MM and I spoke briefly, and she mentioned that her horse could not do it in two strides; she was going to have to add. Hey, so I did walk it right! As MM said this to me, after first being excited that I was not an idiot (in this instance, anyway), I thought to myself, "Star can do it in two," and the game plan officially changed. We were going to do it in two strides. Sometimes I can think, too.

The time allowed for the first round was 72 seconds, but you're kind of all over the arena, so it's not as super-generous a time as it sounds. I decide that in the interest of leaving up rails, I'm going to try for a slightly less forward pace than the day before, but save time by jumping some things on a bit of an angle, having neat, tidy turns, and not adding the stride in the combination.
A few other horses go, and then it's our turn. Just before we enter the ring, Oren informs me that the time allowed has been adjusted... to 62 seconds. Great. Guess our pace is going to have to be a little more forward than I'd thought. We take the straight approach to fence 1 (vertical), large-ish right to fence 2 (vertical), and continue the bend to fence 3, the combination (vertical to oxer). We kept a nice, forward pace, balanced, and Star jumped through perfectly: up, over, one, two, out. Another large-ish right to fence 4, a vertical set on a diagonal, which was followed by a rollback to fence 5. We jumped 4 on an angle to make a smaller turn back to fence 5, which was a decent oxer. Started turning back to the left over 5 to cut between 4 and 8 and save time running back to 6, a Swedish oxer near the opposite end of the arena (also on an angle). Jump 6 on an angle as well, taking a straight path to go around 2, making a right turn to 7, another oxer. From 7, a bending line to 8, an oxer set right on the center line going home. Land, one stride and we're through the timers, clean and under time! Star gets a HUGE pat, and we exit the arena, and I start contemplating the jump-off course.

The jump-off course was 1-7-10-11-6-8. I had learned something else during the initial... the fences are NOT set exactly as they are laid out on the course diagram. In fact, fence 2/10 is set very close to fence 7. Hmmm... this could be interesting, as my jump-off plan had been to cut inside fence 2/10 to get to 7. Hmmm...

It's our turn for the jump-off, the time allowed for which has also been adjusted to 38 seconds. We approach fence 1 on an angle this time, to minimize the time between passing through the start timer and jumping the fence... and to set up for the turn to fence 7. I knew that it was taking a BIG risk, but I also knew that I have an amazing horse. We stuck with the plan, and Star perfectly made the super-tight inside turn to fence 7, perfectly jumping the oxer on an angle. And then I promptly forgot where I was going.

The plan had been to make a hard right and quick left back to 10, but that didn't happen. By the time I remembered where I needed to be going, we were somewhere down near fence 4. Oh, shit! So I do the only thing I can do at that point; I tell Star to GO!!! A sharp right to get turned around, somehow manage to not cross my track, gallop to 10, set-up, over, and gun it. Gallop for 11, taking the shortest path possible and start turning left in the air over 11 to make the turn inside the timer to go back to 6. I will admit, that one was close; I wasn't sure we were going to make it inside the timer. I'm pretty sure it was sheer determination that made it happen. No longer in danger of knocking down the timer, I tell Star to GO!! again, and we gallop up to 6, the Swedish oxer. Set-up, over at an angle, immediate roll-back to the right to finish with fence 8. I push Star about as hard as she can go, yelling, "Go, go, go, go, GO!!!" the whole way. Again, she gallops up the fence, we set-up briefly, and she flies over the fence. I am told that as Star landed from jump 8, she was landing even with the timer... which was set two strides out from the jump. The announcement came: "And she talks her way into first place with a time of 35 seconds." A chorus of, "Wow! Nice round!"s greeted us as we exited the ring. I was SO pleased with my horse... she absolutely rose to the occassion and stepped up to make up for my error; I could not have asked for better!

Now I just had to wait for MM to go. I didn't watch her round, but I heard a HARD knock of rails, and I prayed they would fall. I am also told that MM almost fell off as well at another jump. Neither the rails nor MM fell. Nor did MM get lost. With a jump-off time of 29 seconds, MM won the class, and Star and I finished second... but NO ONE else, not even MM, attempted the inside turn from 1 to 7 that Star and I had made. Apparently, when others saw what we were doing, they were in absolute shock and disbelief - "No, no she's not!" "She's not making that turn!" "Omigod, she is!" - afraid to watch and fascinated at the same time and absolutely amazed that we successfully did it.

I was very pleased that we made the difficult turn successfully, but I can't say I was amazed... but then, I already knew that I had an amazing horse, and for an amazing horse, amazing things are the norm.

Ribbon Tally:
Hunters: 2-4th, 1-7th, 5th Overall High Point
Jumpers: 2-2nds, 1-4th

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