Well what a comeback the boy has made. After building up his fitness slowly the goal was to qualify for the Elementary Regionals in February - the same level as last year but given the large period of time we had off I felt this was most fair on us both.
Well five months since we last went competing and one operation later Stanley and I were back between the white boards. Boy I felt rusty - it is amazing how quick everything comes up when you haven't been practicing. Our first outing was a freestyle test; it was a little interesting as he got so excited and had a small rodeo half way round, but the good bits were good and despite the judges not liking our music (time for a change I think) he scraped a qualifying score by 0.3%! Alongside the test we did just before his operation this meant we were now qualified for Elementary Freestyle. One off the list now to start collecting points for the straight class.
Elementary 59 next, a couple of mistakes from myself but he really focused this time and we were THRILLED with a score of 69%. Five points and a shiny red one in the Silver section and a 2nd in the o/a.
We had a couple of lessons after this working on perfecting some of the rusty mistakes from Wellington and finding more power and engagement. I have also been doing lots of invaluable hill work in all three paces to try and redevelop his muscles over his hind end as these were what disappeared most during his time off.
Next, we went to Cholderton to try and gain some more points. As it was a week day, there were a lot of Gold section riders out in force and warming up amongst their incredibly talented young horses was very intimidating on a little Stanley! However, it was a case of Mission Complete for us gaining another 10 points on this outing. This meant he gained all his qualifying points in just three tests.
Ele 40 we were 3rd overall with 68.08% - he felt good but dropped a little behind my leg; not enough for the judge to comment on but it did affect his suppleness. This then let the dreaded spook creep in and we lost marks for diverting round the light patch on the floor a few times!
For the next test I really ensured he was thinking forwards outside and it made a difference and he didn't drop me. Ele 53 is very busy and this kept him interested but also highlighted how rusty my test riding is – whoops! Slapped hand for lack of preparation throwing away easy marks. Thrilled to finish overall 3rd again on 69.17% but only 0.5 a mark behind the winner.
We had a couple more competitions planned for the end of the month but after a whirlwind 10 day’s we decided that there wasn't a need to go, so we spent our money on some more lessons instead. It was lovely to catch up with Sara-Jane Lanning who has helped me right from the start of our eventer-turned-dressage journey. We had a fabulous lesson working mainly on the Medium movements. He has come back stronger and better than ever and some of the work feels so grown up now. Together we decided that there is no reason we shouldn't push for our Medium qualification too. While he is green at this level he doesn't find the work hard and we have until February to perfect it!
So, a busy and productive month for us and a busy one planned for November as we try and squeeze qualification before the last day deadline!
Hope you have all had a successful and fun month with your horses and ponies.
Hannah & Stanley