I had to withdraw Danny from the competition today because he has a corneal ulcer. Usually caused by blunt force trauma, we can only assume he bashed his head on something. Ugh! He'll make a full recovery in about a week.
As a result, E and I had a lot more downtime than expected! We met some really great people today - god, I do love eventers - and watched both the Novice stadium and the CIC** cross country. Whooeeeee those horses are FUN. There was one rider who half-halted with his ENTIRE BODY. His upper body went back, hands went up, and lower leg went way forward. It was pretty funny. I felt he could have been a bit more effective if there was some more stability but hey, I'm not a two star rider so I probably shouldn't say too much.
When we got Bert into the warm up ring (which is turning out to be a mess all on it's own, I'm a little worried about the start box tomorrow...) he was a total maniac. Much like yesterday. There were fewer unexpected lateral movements, which was nice because I had to apologize to other people a little less.
Bert definitely thought about refusing the warm up jumps a few times but between wearing spurs and judicious use of the crop I got him over everything, although when we landed our first oxer in the warm up and he bolted I felt certain we were all going to die. It was just this weird, unreliable, ground-eating canter thing. Bert's inability to actually connect with the bridle made for a strange ride. He doesn't properly take a contact because he's been trained to "be on the bit" and who cares what his back is doing. It'll take time and proper riding to fix that, but I've really only been riding him properly and regularly for a few weeks now.
So here he was, galloping about, head in the air, and if I took a firmer contact he'd only contract further, and if I lengthened the reins a bit, put my leg on, asked him to come round, he'd drop his head into "on the bit"-mode. Then I'd try to establish a contact so I could have some control (any control, please?) over our pace, and he'd immediately go camel mode.
It was, to quote a bystander, "a precarious ride".
Then we went into the ring.
Jump 1 we sort of ambled into. My leg was on, and I'd even asked with my spurs, and Bert was all "wait does the leg mean something? Why are we surrounded by jumps? Can I keep trotting?"
So I bapped him with my crop and off we went. Jump 2 was fine, sort of a funny angle for us to take it at even though it should have been very straightforward, jump 3 was fine as well.
Bert looked at jump 4 and said, "Woah, that's an OXER!"
And I said, "Yes it is, and you will not be refusing it." So I sat back a little, applied more leg than usual, and tapped him with the crop.
Mildly offended, Bert replied, "I had no intention of refusing it!" And it resulted in the above photo.
Jump 5 was this really awesome zebra stripe and leopard spot jump, I promise I'll get a photo of it up when I'm home. But it looked really spooky and it was another maximum height oxer so I rode it pretty aggressively. I think maybe Bert was thrown off by my pressure as usually I just let him kinda do his thing and I only talk to him after fences, so when we landed off jump 5 Bert was totally in his own land. We were turning back towards the entrance and I think he legitimately thought we were done.
He was completely counter-bent coming into 6 so I really had to push him over with my leg and use my body to shape his focus because I was certain if he didn't lock on to this jump we were going to crash it in spectacular fashion. Somehow (maybe it was because we were galloping so fast?) we cleared it.
Then the 7a & 7b combination, which rode really nicely, except Bert had already checked out and tried somewhat half-heartedly to drift out of the combination.
And then, as we landed off the back of 7b, I thought to myself, "I feel done. What next?"
I totally forgot where my last jump was.
I kept him straight for a few strides, hoping it would come to me.
Then, of course, I remembered where my last jump was all in a rush, and I pulled him around and let him bomb down to it.
We went double clear, I'm happy to report. Rode the whole thing in 67 seconds.