After such a nice run at Champagne Run at the Park, I decided that Stromboli was ready to move back up to the Preliminary Level, so we entered Feather Creek Horse Trials.
I decided to try a new warm-up routine at this event --NO WARMUP AT ALL. Shocking, daring, and controversial. I actually did warm him up a bit at the walk and did a little trot since our test was at 7:37AM and I didn't want him to be stiff. He trotted beautifully around the arena, even allowed me to sit the trot, and I thought for sure I was in for a beautiful test. What a surprise, he entered the ring like a drunken fish, did a mini-rear, and then was resistant and tense for the entire test. But we got through it. And I wasn't disappointed or tired and didn't spend hours preparing for this stressful event. We got a 47, slightly better than the usual Prelim score.
With dressage behind us, we headed to a tough looking stadium course. Luckily I have no idea how tall 3'7" really is, so apparently I've been jumping much higher at home and the course didn't look huge, but was quite complicated. We did exactly what my coach would have told me not to, and came in with not enough energy to the first jump and tapped the rail. He was great through the rest of the course, but I mis-read the last fence horribly and we also tapped that one. Two rails down! Not great, but not horrible!
The cross-country course looked ok, although a few combinations seemed nearly impossible, especially an ABC coffin with a HUGE wide ditch in the middle and a very tight turn to a narrow C element. The water also had a very large duck with a steep drop into the water. I will have to write an entire other post on how big my fear was going into this course, but all of it vanished the second I left the start box. Stromboli absolutely sailed through the course. I don't think he missed one distance, he never once fought me on any turn. The ABC coffin rode perfectly. I felt like I was riding a Rolex horse as he dropped into the water with perfect form. He handled the HUGE square tables by taking off at the perfect place and jumping a good 6" over them. I had to slip my reins to give him his head to get down some very large double drop banks and came upon the right hand turn to the corner with no right rein at all, but he turned off my left leg/left rein and jumped it right out of stride. I stupidly veered off the trail at the wrong place at one point, costing us probably a good 10 time penalties. I am still kicking myself for that air headed move, but he was right on my minute markers until that point and I know we could have come close to making the time if not for that stupid maneuver. We were one of only two people to finish the course without jump penalties!
With the time, rails, and really bad dressage, we ended the weekend in 3rd place. But the placing didn't even matter. I completed another prelim, and did it proficiently. No scary jumps, no near misses, no hanging on and hoping for the best, just a really nice honest ride. There's no better way to say it than to quote Michael Jung, "He gave me a really good feeling out there!"