Two weeks ago my friends Sheryl and Margaret asked me if I would be the test ride for Morven Park's advanced combined test division, a combination of three- and four-star riders who didn't want to run cross-country. A test ride is done at a lot of the bigger championship events to help the judges get calibrated with each other; they judge the test ride and then chat, and then they're "warmed up," as it were, for the first "real rider." I'd get all dressed up and ride the four-star test and be on my merry way.
But I'm never one to just go for the bare minimum. I wanted to be prepared.
Enter eventing training.
(cue Eye of the Tiger.)
Step one: fitness. Fender's been working great, and with the battle on his anhydrosis won due to a combination of the Equiwinner patch, Horse Quencher and Uckele's ProLyte electrolyte, I knew he was ready.
And conveniently, I am doing a triathlon this weekend, and so the final weeks of tri prep would coincide brilliantly with my Friday dressage test. How did I prepare for this triathlon? By eating an absolute boatload of pizza and pie on my birthday to the extent of nearly entering a diabetic coma, then throwing my back out and being unable to do more than walk and one 20-minute bike ride for nearly a week. Yesssss.
Step two: dressage. Easy peasy. The four-star test is roughly a third level test, so I should be fine, right?
Oh. Except there seems to be quite a bit of turning in this test. Like, lots and lots of turning. Eight-meter circles at trot. Five-loop serpentines, including some loops in counter-canter. Medium canter on a 20-meter circle. Fender, who is 17 hands and still learning how to move without falling down over his very fancy legs, thinks all these things are rather mean. Not to mention having to canter-halt on the centerline, twice, AND reinback INTO canter.
Well, game on.
The most important part of dressage practice was fashion-related; the four-star test is done in a shadbelly, and I haven't worn one on Fender yet, and I didn't want to find out the hard way that he was terrified of the flapping tails of my coat, so I practiced riding in it one day, looking like Captain Dork of the Weirdo Squad. (And, of course, he was perfect.)
And then, step three: jumping practice.
I bet few of you know about my jumping credentials. In college, I participated in two semesters of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association's hunter equitation classes where, one time, I placed sixth out of seven in the open flat division. (The rest of the time I placed seventh, but that's just because I had the wrong brand of breeches, obviously, and they didn't recognize my awesomeness.)
BUT BUT BUT. What's important here is that I also ROCKED OUT the 18" crossrails division, often beating one or two other riders who'd only started riding about 20 minutes ago and could barely steer. So, obviously, I was totally qualified to teach Fender to jump, as you can see from this video.
Game day came. Fender really put in quite a good dressage test, and I'm kicking myself for not making someone take more photos, because I whipped out my lavender points from Dameron Enterprises, which looked SO SHARP. Fender is still mastering the balance required of an FEI horse, but he got nothing but 6-7-8 for a 48.8, which equals about 67.5 in DQ terms. We had a grand time, met lots of Very Famous Eventing People, and got a lovely bouquet of beautiful flowers from the organizers, and since I've never gotten flowers at a dressage show I think we might be onto something here.
And in the end, I decided to withdraw from show jumping. I mean, this was supposed to be a confidence-building outing for a lot of these guys, especially the lovely Lynn Symansky, who was doing the four-star stuff to get ready for her trip to Pau, France, and I didn't want to, you know, rattle her cage by totally owning the jumping and coming from nowhere to kick some butt, as I clearly would have. The organizing committee understood.
But next year, baby. It could be our year. I could color-coordinate my bell boots and my airvest and my helmet cover TO MATCH my shadbelly points. Wowza.