Sooooo, it's been awhile. I've been a little busy. We have a new horse living with us at TMF (more on that later), and the past few weeks have been spent preparing Zeus for his very first horse trial. Which took place on Sunday. It was an event sanctioned by the USEA, the US Eventing Association, at a farm in upstate Connecticut.
The day was hot. Really hot. However, Zeus didn't know this. He let everyone know that he was born and raised in Florida, so heat in the Northeast means nothing to him!
From the moment we unloaded him from the trailer until we pulled out at the end of the day, Zeus did not. Stop. Moving. He walked for the entire day. We wanted him to graze, and relax, and he just couldn't possibly graze when there were so many exciting things to see!
After a bit of walking, some spongeing off (because of the heat and the walking) and more walking, it was time to get him ready for the first phase - Dressage. Getting him ready was an exercise in itself (literally) because he wouldn't. Stop. Moving. So Matt would hold him and I would dance around with all of his gear and basically toss it on a moving target. Getting his bridle on was a two-person event, but after a few attempts, we were tacked up and ready to go!
His dressage test wasn't spectacular because he was a bit unfocused and definitely frazzled by the atmosphere, but I expected as much for his first event. Our one major faux pas was during our final halt at the end of the test. It didn't happen. Zeus wouldn't. Stop. Moving. Oopsy. We'll try that again another day.
I should add that the judge, Rick Pearson, was a fantastic judge. For Dressage, you get your test scores back with comments from the judge. Most judges would just say "tense" or "not straight" in their comments. Mr. Pearson actually wrote constructive comments that I can practice, hone, and improve my next test. He also added that Zeus was an "Attractive horse and very capable!"
Well Mr. Pearson, thank you, and just wait. "Capable" will be an understatement when you see us again!
After a quick turnaround, we were on to the second phase of the event - Stadium Jumping. I'd walked the course the night before and I'm glad I did, because I wouldn't have had the time to do it the day of the competition. The course had a great flow and I thought Zeus could definitely handle it.
He jumped everything like a gazelle, without fear or uncertainty. We had a clear round - no jumping or time penalties! As a matter of fact, Zeus thought the course was downright easy. While we were jumping everything, he decided to be a tourist at the same time - he'd look left, crane his neck to the right...."Oh look! There's a horse over there!" ...."Oh wow, an ambulance with people standing around it!"....."Oh happy day, here's a jump!"....and he'd bound over the jump with ease. I think I had the only horse in the entire competition who barely looked at the fences he was jumping, because he was so busy looking at everything else.
After yet another short break, we geared up for the third and final phase of the day - Cross Country! I knew we'd have the most fun during Cross Country (after all, this is why eventers actually do this sport!), and although there were jumps that Zeus had never seen before and looked a little scary, I thought he'd handle this phase the best.
I was right.
Here we are, off to the start of XC - and the next 6 minutes were spent galloping across fields and over solid fences - a few moments of complete unity and trust between horse and rider.
He was incredible.
Every jump, every question that faced us as a team, Zeus rose to the occasion and trusted me enough to not steer him wrong or overface him. He soared over every single obstacle with ease and confidence.
We didn't end up getting a ribbon for the day - no award, no trophy. But I came home with a horse who, at the end of the day, had a blast doing the sport that I love. That's the ultimate reward. He's only going to get better from here, and we are already looking ahead to his next event on September 10th.
In the meantime, we'll go out and practice some more and have some fun exploring, trail riding and hunter pacing.
Our successful day wouldn't have happened (or gone nearly as smoothly) without the help of some people: Margaret Korda and her horse, Logan Go Braugh, who walked alongside us before our Dressage test to keep Zeus calm and to give him some assurance; Carla Lord, who assisted as a groom and running to get my dressage scores and doubling as a nurse, making sure I stayed hydrated; Pete Calabrese and Anissa Zellman, who lent their hands when needed and let us borrow their Monster Truck to haul Zeus safely; and to my parents, Mom and Dad, who raced back from a family visit in New Hampshire to give me an encouraging word and for being there - it meant so much to me!
The ultimate thank you goes to my wonderful, amazing and should-be-sainted husband Matt, who held Zeus while he walked...and walked....and walked...and didn't lose patience in the heat and sun. I don't know what I did right to deserve you, but I am so grateful!
And so is Zeus. Who finally stopped moving when we got home, yawned, and immediately took a good, long nap.