Flash-forward to November: Never Ceasing had been a consistent performer for more of the season and steadily improved in his training. I thought about entering him in the Novice at Texas Rose, but we decided to play it safe and do one more BN.
For dressage, he was relaxed...maybe a little too relaxed. Our test lacked impulsion and was b-o-r-i-n-gggggg. We still earned a 36, putting us somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The XC course walked well, but I knew the first water, situated on top of a hill after an up-bank, was going to be very surprising. We cantered out of the start box, and had to ride aggressively to the first fence --not at all like the easy galloping XC course I had a month prior. Piney jumped the first 5 fences, but was SLOW & staring at everything. The nice thing about this horse is he is not a dirty stopper or spooker, but he is a little stubborn, when he decides it's time to go slow to check something out for "safety," there's almost nothing that will change his mind. We jumped up the up bank, Piney saw the brightly colored dyed water, and I could feel his giant heart beating out of his body with terror. He slammed on the breaks, staring at the water....I'm not sure if he stepped back or shuffled his feet, but it was the longest 10 seconds of my life standing there trying to reassure him to walk into the water. He finally went through the water, but was highly suspicious of the next few fences. At one point he saw a golf cart parked near a fence with people INSIDE THE GOLF CART MOVING and completely put on the breaks. I could not get him to focus on the fence at all. The rest of the course was similarly messy, and we picked up another stop at the second water.
My coach, Cynthia reminded me that I was on a very green 5-year old and this was the kind of thing that happens and I shouldn't beat myself up over it.
I was so disappointed in myself and spent the whole night thinking of how I could have prepared differently or ridden the course differently.
The next morning, I pulled Piney's wraps off and found a small swelling on his RF. He jogged sound, but already being at the bottom of the score board, it did not seem like the time to risk injuring or further injuring my horse. We withdrew and headed home, majorly defeated.