We survived our first competition! I have to say I feel so relieved that it is over, and I am really looking forward to the next one. I am an epic stress-pot when it comes to competition because I want everything to go well (don't we all?). Last week definitely did not go to plan. The first training session on Monday produced more problems than solutions and I left feeling very down and sad that evening. I was struggling to get the halt, the simple changes and the cadence in the trot. It was all just not working! I was putting pressure on myself to make sure that the test was perfect, and it was not going so well.
The next day things didn't improve much; and I was getting frustrated. My legs were lacking strength and it was like the entire three weeks of training each day had caught up and my muscles just shut down. By Wednesday I was pretty certain our test would be a disaster! Lotus, however had other ideas. The training session went better than I could have thought possible, and she decided that she understood all my aids. I was feeling quite confident for the next day.
Lotus all ready to go.
We arrived at the stables the next morning to wash Lotus and plait her. I took my time, making sure everything was perfect only to have Briana say that she would have to teach me how to plait the 'German way'. Moment was deflated! We drove to the competition which was about an hour and a half away near Osnabrück. Once we go there, we got Lotus off the float and took her into the stables where I was able to saddle up and take her for a ride into the competition arena to get her used to the atmosphere.
The atmosphere was huge. As a rider, I didn't even know where to look as there was so much going on in the arena. There was a restaurant at one end, judges everywhere, plants, trees, clothing stalls, seating along one side, velvet curtains on the other, lights, speakers and music. Lotus took it all in her stride and was perfectly behaved. The warm up was another story! I have never seen so many horses in one arena. It was madness, and I collided with another horse on more than one occasion. Briana was talking in my ear the whole time via the headset, and it was really helping me to stay focused.
The very crowded warm-up. We are up the back with the pink blanket.
In the middle of another volte, this lady came running in saying I had to go in the arena. Apparently they were 10 mins early; so much for German efficiency! Briana stripped off my warm up boots, tugged the headset out of my ear and shoved me into the arena. I’m sure I looked like a deer-in-headlights as we trotted into the arena.
In we go!
You don't greet the judges here, and the commentator just announces you over the PA. It was a little weird to hear them announce me as riding from Australia. The test started very well, and the trot work felt amazing. Unfortunately for our first canter transition, we had a miscommunication and a loud bang startled Lotus right as I dug the spur in. Our medium canter was more like a hand gallop, and we then snowballed. I couldn't bring the canter back enough to do the movements well, and it sort of fell apart. We missed a few simple changes, and a counter-canter loop. On the positive side, we finished with some super trot work and walk pirouettes but I was still disappointed with the canter. It was the only thing in training we had gotten consistently right and it just didn't happen on the day.
I guess people will tell you it is horses though. You never know what will happen! Our halts were perfectly square, so some small success from the multiple, hundreds and thousands of centerline-halt-centerline movements we have been doing. It was late by the time we had finished, about 8pm and Lotus was one hungry little monster. We finished mid-field in 18 starters, beating a Russian rider and some Germans so I guess it was not so bad.
The next day was spent walking Lotus out and letting her have a rest day. We let her have a munch of some grass, and she is like a lawn mower. I tidied my gear and got it ready for the next lot of competitions this coming week before heading off on another bike ride around the forests. The weather is getting cold here, on average less than five degrees, but I am making the most of the sunshine whilst it lasts. It is now dark by 4:45pm so we don't have a lot of daylight. Another reason for indoor arenas I guess.
The weekend came we had a great Saturday morning lesson. I felt more positive about our training than I did all week and I finally got the concept of keeping leg on! Briana takes my stirrups away immediately in each lesson, only giving them back when I have learnt to 'sit' properly in the saddle. I have really noticed a difference in my riding, using my core and seat to control the pace and the hands just support the front end. It is different, but very effective when I get it right.
Sunday was spent visiting family in East Germany. It is a four hour drive on the autobahn from Münster, and we cross the old border about an hour away from where the family live. It is always nice to visit and get away from the horse scene for a while! My cousin, Rike, surprised us with some exciting news saying that she and her husband are expecting a little baby next May. I really enjoy my time in the East; and it is still so different to the West as the buildings, towns and mindset is very different.
Driving through the East German town of 'Solpke'.
Sunday night we said our goodbyes and headed back to Münster. This coming week will be spent training very hard and getting ready for our first M level test this week. We will also do the L test we did last week, and I get the opportunity to correct our disaster canter! The stable move is looming, with all our gear already packed up in crates ready to go. The new stables look amazing, with even bigger facilities than what we currently have. I am very excited to use them, but I really like the current stables as the people we share with are amazing.