I shook my head as I looked at the placing, that can't be right. I found my name again and slid my finger along the paper to make sure. Yes, my name. Yes, my horse. Yes, that crappy 40% dressage score and our 9th place placing. Yes we went double clear in cross country but that still can't be right. I stared at the board, we were in third place.
Apparently after 1 elimination, one rider with 20 jump penalties and 5 riders with time penalties, we were suddenly sitting in third place. OMG!!! Talk about a dark horse in the race, I never dreamed I would have moved up that much and was going to be very pleased with a 4th or 5th! Now in an adrenaline high, RB4 and I walked back, finished tacking TWH up and meandered over to stadium to watch how the course was flowing.
The course was tight, very tight. The arena was only slightly larger than my own which made me think maybe I could in fact fit a crap ton of jumps in my arena. There were some refusals and and an elimination, I hoped it got better at Novice level. We warmed up and TWH was tired and not jumping well. I only jumped a half dozen times as I didn't want to tire him out too much but he was doing his infamous 4-footed canter step right before the jump (see pic in Part 2). That specific step he adds makes a very sudden decrease of speed which then throws me forward and he jumps awkwardly. And he wasn't fixing himself despite my adding leg.
Quickly enough it became our turn to the arena and off we headed. Jump one went okay but jump 2 had a 4 footed canter step and things went downhill. Jump 5 was done at almost a standstill, a repeat performance from our "lovely" fence 2 display during cross country. Amazingly enough he did jump it and we didn't knock anything down as we got a hard kick to show my displeasure and he kept going over jumps. At fence 9 he was tired and bunny hopped it and hit the pole but thankfully it stayed up, we came in under time by 2 seconds. I took a second look at the arena, yes all of the jumps were up. Double clear again??
I hung around the exit gate for a few moments to confirm and yes, I overheard a walkie talkie say my entry was double clear, ready for the next rider. Wow, I was impressed. TWH was exhausted. I was exhausted. I rode like crap. I knew there wouldn't be a single stadium picture I would like from the official photographer (I was right too!). But somehow we managed to ride a double clear round despite jumping from a standstill and having a lot of 4 footed canter strides. I had trained TWH to go over whatever I put in front of him regardless and he did. I trained him to trust me and he did. Suddenly the placing wasn't as important as the accomplishment. He jumped things he hadn't ever seen before, in a competition, at a division higher than we have shown before and he still did it. He did it because I asked him. He not only did it, but did it well enough that we moved up in rankings to get a pretty ribbon. I am so proud of my horse!
We stuck around for the placings and we were pinned third. I am so, so pleased with him. Me? Not so much, but him yes. We got TWH home and poulticed up and turned out. He took a long drink of water (because water brought from home isn't as good as water at home) and then actually threw himself on the ground to roll and roll. He is getting the week off and then it is back to training, we have 3 weeks until his next show the first weekend of June and I WILL be a better rider for the next show. That is a promise.