We are home from King Oak. And it was a Day of Almost.
We arrived bright and early to get Zeus settled in to the atmosphere and scope out everything, and to our surprise (and delight), he was downright calm, short of a few whinnies and spins when we arrived.
Just past the halfway point on cross country, Zeus decided the water jump was not something he wanted to contend with. At the end of the day, we were eliminated due to his refusals to enter the water. However, it wasn't a "Screw you, I'm not going into this water and you can't make me," kind of refusal, it was more like, "I don't know how to navigate this and I'm a little afraid." There was no yelling, punishment or attempts to force him in - that would have been a step backwards in his training. Instead, we walked away from it, and back towards home - ready to try another day.
However, he had moments of brilliance today - moments of sheer joy and triumph for this horse who was performing in only the second horse trial of his career. He improved his dressage score from our test at Riga Meadow by an astounding 8 points, leaving us in 8th place after dressage. We even got a 7 (out of 10) in our Freedom and Regularity Collective Marks. A 7!! It took a year or more to get a 7 on anything with other horses, let alone the collective marks.
Stadium jumping was a twisty, turny, narrow course with colorful jumps sandwiched between two exciting jump warm-up areas, the announcer's booth, and one of the galloping lanes for the cross country course. He was foot perfect through the combination. He handled tough lines and tight turns with ease, despite his size. I was over the moon. We had a clear round, which moved us up to 7th place!
The cross country course was tough but fair. There were two combinations on course, and a number of jumps that made the horse and rider act as a team and have a strategy. Over every fence before the water, Zeus soared. He took me to the fences and was relaxed and having a ball. If he had gone through the water, we would have ended the day in 4th place.
So, now I have homework to do. The season is winding down, but we will be crossing every puddle, stream, creek, and lake available to us until it bores him to death. Although we didn't complete the day, he was light years more relaxed than he was at Riga Meadow, and so much more focused on the task at hand. That in itself is a victory.
Nothing worthwhile is easy, and we'll get there. One foot in the water at a time.