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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Riga Meadow H.T. 7/19/09: Contemplating

It's been the better part of a week since Riga now, and I'm finally breaking my silence and writing about it. In all honesty, rehashing it over and over in my head hasn't done much to make it any clearer. But thankfully, as the week went on, I went from feeling completely miserable to much, much better and way more positive after getting to ride with Eric Horgan for two days (awesome and tough). I'll have more about the clinic later (and videos, yay!).

It all started out just fine at Riga. It was a gorgeous, warm day, not too hot and not too breezy. Gogo warmed up very easily and well for dressage, but as per usual, we were a little pokey (even though it felt like we had plenty of forward... something we'll need to really work on) and were in first after dressage with a 34. The higher score came entirely from the lack of push from behind, which was more laziness on her part and me not wanting to push the envelopen than anything... just wanting to have a good time. We did get an 8 on our freewalk though FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER! And she got an 8 on gaits, the cheeky thing :) Once again we were poised to win our fourth one of the year, right? Stadium went well, although it wasn't as smooth as it could have been. My position has been suffering over the course of the summer, and I was trying hard to compensate for it and ended up giving her much less of a smooth ride than I wanted. I have video but I haven't actually looked at it yet, so we shall see what it really looked like. I came off the clear round feeling pretty good, and really looking forward to XC.
And then, of course, we headed out and warmed up for our run. She was dead quiet this time compared to at Old Chatham, which was good, and I was feeling quite positive about the whole ordeal. Over the first eight fences, she was just awesome - had a huge gallop between them, was super game and rhythmic to everything, didn't look at a thing, even the bigger and lookier jumps. I was feeling pretty awesome as we came over fence 8 and approached fence 9, the up bank. Now, Gogo has always been a pro at up banks. Always. It was the first cross-country obstacle I ever introduced her to, and she got it right from the start and never, ever hesitated, not then or since then. She was jumping up and down them before she had ever even put a full stadium course together, before she really was cantering many fences even. She's always been super at them, and I could always count on her to take an up bank. So when we got to the very base of the bank, I was completely shocked when she did exactly the same thing that she did last week, only in the other direction - dropped her shoulder and spun. This time, I had my leg on. This time, I rode her strongly to everything. Was I getting a false sense of security? Did I relax, did I do something to make her lose her confidence? We shall never know. What I do know, however, was when she did the 180 spin, she got a nasty jab in the face from me clinging to whatever I had in order to not get slung off again, and after pitching a small Gogo Fit, I represented her to the fence and rode her no differently to it. She took it. Easily. Which is later why I questioned something like Lyme - why would she bail on something so benign and easy, and then come back around and be like, "oh hey, a bank! I didn't notice that before!" It was like she got to the base of the fence and drew a total blank even though she KNOWS banks like the back of her, well, hoof. We took the up, took the down, took the fence after, and continued to cruise around the rest of the course like it was a piece of crumb cake, no hesitation or bobbles anywhere - combination, ditch, and looky final fence included. It was SO WEIRD. I was totally thrilled with the rest of the course, but geez, wtf happened?

And I still can't figure it out. Was it the way I was riding? Did she see something totally weird? Was she trying to pull crap on purpose? Is she Lymey? Is she fresh/tired/hot/cold/sore/sad/happy/weird? I cannot for the life of me put it together in my head. If it was a spooky fence, yes. If it was a challenging approach or a difficult question, yes. But it was on a straight line and she had a ton of time to look at it, and she knows what needs to be done at a simple question like that. I had my leg on. She went over it totally fine the next time around. I just... don't get it.

We did pull a Lyme titer and a Western blot on Monday, much to my wallet's dismay. But since then, all week she hasn't given me much of a reason to further suspect Lyme or her eyes, except for when she oogled at the pile of jumps in the arena. But she just does that sometimes. So I dunno. We went from first place and another potential blue ribbon to last place in that one totally weird moment. Oh Gogo....

There is much, much work to be done, much work. We shall see what the Lyme titer says, but I am also very aware of the fact that my equitation needs a serious overhaul out on XC. We are going to get out there and SCHOOL LIKE CRAZY over what courses we have available to us - Walkers, Town Hill, Mystic, Riga, whatever we can find. And we're going to try and pick up another event in August, most likely Huntington, just to make sure we can confidently get around a full course before the AECs. The clock is ticking down and the opening date is just days away. I know we are worthy and we've worked so hard all year to get to this point. It's just sad that my level of stress has finally overwhelmed both of us, even if it is just temporary. But after getting my butt kicked by Eric these past two days, I have a new outlook on things and am feeling better than ever. We can do this, we can rebound. That mare skipped around at 3'6" like she was sleeping yesterday, totally quiet and round and lovely, and I did a pretty good job myself. I don't need to win every single event to know that I've got a damn good horse beneath me, and that we're going to go far even if we have plenty of challenges to face along the way.

We have tons of homework, and with my room finally carpeted, painted and with furniture back in it after an entire month of complete misery and half-homelessness, I am putting everything back together, getting some REAL SLEEP, sorting out the plans, and getting us back on our feet. Now, if only the rain would stop....

Winning the dressage.


PonyParty said...

First time poster but I love your blog and Gogo is GORGEOUS!! I'm glad your clinic went well w/ Eric.

One of the ponies at my barn was a great event packer pony at BN and a few novice events. After stopping at several fences, all jumping into the shade, he had his eyes checked and it turned out he was going blind(or he had some kind of problem distinguishing colors, I can't remember exactly). What we think happened was he would canter around and wouldn't see the fence until the last second and wouldn't be prepared to jump it. Keeping this in mind, the kids would trot him into any shady fences, giving him more time to see it coming, and he would usually slow down to check it out, then hop over it no problem. We retired him from jumping about a year later-even though he was jumping colored poles fine he started stopping at unpainted poles, and I didn't want to risk the safety of my students. I went back to look at the picture of the up bank, and it looks like there is a tree shadow behind it. Any chance the shadow was over the bank at the start and she didn't have a clear view of it?

Possibly she was intimidated when she saw the down bank on the other side and thought the whole thing was a jump? I can't remember if you said it was the first time she had done an up and down. I'm glad your going to school xc and can hopefully introduce her to some more challenging fences w/out the stress of a competition.

Good Luck with the SuperMare!!! I know you guys will kick butt at AECs.

Anonymous said...

Lovely picture - you both look great! She's still somewhat green and these things happen - don't overthink it, just keep riding and focus on what (a lot) is going well. Every time you go out it's another opportunity to learn and develop together. She's a great horse and you're a pretty damn good rider (IMHO).

Ambivalent Academic said...

Glad your clinic went well! Keeping fingers crossed for the titer.

You're asking a lot of questions about *why* Gogo pulled a U-turn at the up bank, which is a great idea because it can uncover training/soundness issues. (which of course you already know, or you wouldn't still be thinking about it.) But sometimes it's just that horses will be horses. Sometimes they will look at stuff they've seen a million times before. Gogo is obviously a phenomenal young mare, but she's still green - I'm surprised (and delighted for you!) that you haven't got more of this already...but then, I've not always had such nice horses as Gogo. I also had the same thoughts about the shadows across the top of the bank as your first commenter (not that her eyes are going, but that the shadows were a factor). I once had a total ass-saving done-it-a-million-times never-spooks-at-anything horse pull a similar stunt over some shadows, on an up-bank, at his home farm, which we popped over every day on our way to the outdoor. He was just surprised by the shadows one day. Your plan to do some more XC schooling is a great idea - let her see lots of stuff so nothing's surprising anymore.

Sounds like the rest of your course went really well though!

Daun said...

Great write up, thanks for putting this together. I am so relieved that you had an encouraging round with Eric and you are not letting these hiccups cloud your judgment. You do have a damn good horse under you. We should all be so lucky, but you've worked your ass off for every ounce of your success.

Rock on, Gog and Andrea.

Anonymous said...

This comment is probably not going to sit will, but I do believe it needs to be said, and I hope you can take this with a grain of salt.

I have been following you and GoGo since the beginning of this blog, but I've never commented before. I've always thought, and still think, that you have an amazing, talented horse and are a consummate horsewoman and good rider all around. All that being said...

Your horse refused a bank. Whoop-dee-do. Sure, she might have done it a bit dirty and wigged after, but she refused a bank. It was apparently the only jump she refused on course.

I really don't think that one refusal is worth getting this animated and worked up about! Just because a question is simple and the horse/rider team are prepared doesn't mean the horse isn't going to refuse. Just because you and GoGo have an iron-solid bank foundation doesn't mean she won't refuse one.

The cardinal rule of cross country that I've always had drilled in to me is that the horse can always stop at ANYTHING. Even if it's a question the horse is extremely well schooled in, or if there is absolutely no reason for them to refuse. Even if the horse has jumped that same bloody jump a hundred times in the past!

Stressing this much about something so small is really overkill. It's always nice to see a rider questioning themselves instead of blaming the horse or ignoring a problem, but I can't see a problem! I honestly believe you rode the bank fine and GoGo is 100% healthy. She had an odd moment. They're horses, they have odd moments! Try to take it in stride and move on.

Andrea said...

Nah, it sits just fine, Anon. After chilling out about it for a few days, I do feel like it was just a weird fluke. Gogo is very good at picking very odd moments to do very odds things - after all, she is a mare! She's just keeping me humble you know ;)

Anonymous said...

Glad I didn't offend. And congratulations on winning the dressage!

Sarah said...

If there is one thing I have learned about horses and eventing in general is that you can never be too humble. hehe....You can NEVER know what will happen at the last minute!

Even upper level riders have slip ups, and it's usually because the horse didn't understand the question, right? So maybe this bobble was a little more complex than you originally thought, and oh well. At least you guys will see another day!

One thing I do want to bring up....It seems like it's been all Go Go Go (hehe, no pun intended) with no downtime with Gogo. I'm wondering if maybe she's just a tad sour. I know *I* get tired of going all the time, even though I LOVE to compete.