Camilla Mortensen is an amateur eventer from Eugene, Ore., who’s made the trek to compete in the novice level three-day. She’s sharing her weekend with us with some great blogs!
My sassy 15.1 Irish Sport Horse Cairo and I have arrived at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Mont. Rebecca is on of the biggest events in the United States, with divisions from novice through CCI***, and for me just getting here a couple hundred miles from Oregon is a big deal. The event is beautiful, with the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park in the distance.
(Full disclosure: I made getting to the show a bigger deal by first losing Cairo’s Coggins and health certificate and then forgetting to bring the spare set of shoes that’s on the list of items you should have with you on cross-country day if you are doing one of the classic long-format three days that Rebecca offers. My farrier is a saint and sent the shoes UPS and my vet also gets a halo for rescuing me on the paperwork.)
Today, July 22, we start getting underway with a mix of a horse inspection, trot-up and some steeplechase practice for eventers like me who have never done a long format. My trainer Meika Decher will also be trotting up for the CCI* and her working student Letty Moreno is doing her first long format with me, so Letty and I will be flailing through this together.
This is Cairo’s second year competing, and last year she was a super good girl doing novice here at Rebecca—we were clear cross country, though same rails went flying in stadium. So this year I decided to go for the classic long-format novice three day. It’s a challenge but not too overwhelming for Cairo at age 6. In all honesty, given her bold attitude, there’s a better chance I get overwhelmed than she does!
Cairo is precocious at jumping, particularly cross country, but dressage is a slow process for us. At our first event of the year we were last after dressage, though we moved up into 11th after cross country and stadium, and at our second we were second to last after dressage and moved up to 10th after cross country.
I tell myself coming from behind is fun, right? My goal is for us to improve our dressage score, both for Cairo’s ridability and also because then we don’t have to come from quite so far behind. Luckily the dressage test for the novice long format doesn’t look much harder than our usual dressage, and endurance has been one of Cairo’s strong points.
Basically the long format introduces young riders and adult amateurs like me to the old way of three-day eventing, with dressage the first day, endurance—roads and tracks, steeplechase and cross-country—the second, and stadium the third.
It’s the four phases on the second day that make most of the difference between this and a regular three-day event. Phase A is road and tracks, B is steeplechase, C is road and tracks again, and finally D is cross-country. Cairo and I have been getting fit for the past six weeks with 20-minute trot sets and gradually increasing gallop sets every couple days mixed in with our dressage, jumping and hacks.
Cairo being fitter than ever has made our already challenging dressage even more special: Cairo’s favorite way of dealing with the world is by charging at it full-speed ahead. This is an attitude dressage judges do not seem to appreciate.
As part of the long format event, we will also be trotting the horses for soundness today and again after cross country, doing a pre-ride vet inspection and have a 10-minute box after phase C and before cross-country where the horse’s heart rate, recovery and temperature are checked.
I’ve never done any of this before—though because Cairo tends to the spicy, I’ve been practicing taking her temperature for a week or two. She’s not always amused at activities around her rear end!
Because these long format divisions are also educational, today Rebecca Farm is offering a steeplechase school and “horse inspection 101.” I will blog about how the long format plays out over the next few days.